The aura of BrooklynGuy’s table

June 18, 2010

From the “through a glass darkly” department…

Above: Anyone who reads BrooklynGuy’s blog knows the “aura” of his famous table. Tracie P took this photo of through a wonderful glass of Jura that he poured us when we visited with him and BrooklynFamily on a beautiful spring day in late May.

Alice has sat there. McDuff has sat there. Eric has sat there.

I just can’t convey the delight that flowed through my veins when Tracie P and I were invited to sit there last month while sojourning in New York City (once my home, too) in May.

For the life of me, I simply can’t remember why or how I discovered and started following BrooklynGuy’s blog. Over the course of the two years or so that I’ve been a fan, I’ve found vinous and culinary inspiration, buying guidance, good-natured humor, and an honesty and integrity of writing that are rivaled solely by the genuineness and purity of the style.

Above: There it is, the famous table, the one the appears in many of BrooklynGuy’s posts. Can you feel its aura?

But perhaps even more thrilling than the thought of sharing a glass of wine with BrooklynLady and BrooklynGuy and meeting the BrooklynChildren was the prospect of sitting at the storied table that appears in many of his posts and experiencing its aura.

The bottles that grace and graze that surface have passed the Litmus and acid tests of BrooklynGuy’s impeccable palate. It’s a classic case of Benjaminian mechanical reproduction. Through the repetitive appearance of the image of this simple wooden table in BrooklynGuy’s blog, the object itself has attained an aura that assumes its own unique meaning within the paradigm of ritualistic wine tasting.

Above: Look to BrooklynGuy’s blog for great tips in growers Champagne, the “mine field” of affordable Burgundy, and the often uncharted nuance of the Jura.

Over the course of these two years or so, BrooklynGuy’s become a friend and our visit with BrooklynFamily the other day revealed that not since Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner have two schlubs enjoyed the company of two such beautiful and simpatico wives.

Thanks BrooklynFamily for the wonderful Saturday afternoon visit, for the great wines and blog, and thanks — most of all — for the friendship.

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.

Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.

Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot cause we’ve hot him on the spot, welcome back,
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.


The whole worlds speaks (indigenous) Italian

October 21, 2009

montille

Above: Where does one take one of the greatest winemakers of Burgundy for lunch? City Meat Market in Giddings, Texas, of course! That’s Étienne de Montille (left) and John Winthrop owner of Veritas Imports enjoying some smoked sausage in Giddings yesterday. It’s been fascinating traveling with Étienne and hearing him talk about his wines, biodynamic farming, sexual confusion, and whole cluster fermentation. More on that later…

It seems the whole world speaks indigenous Italian these days: check out this article published yesterday by Bloomberg on the growing interest for indigenous Italian grape varieties in the U.S. (with a quote from you-know-who).

Seems a lot of folks have San Francisco and its love of European wines on their minds: check out Eric’s post here and SF native John Bonné’s post, where he asks “do our wine lists ignore California?”

I’ve got to hit the road again today with Étienne but stay tuned…


Petrarch and the unbearable thought of life without the wines of Burgundy

June 7, 2009

From the “Sunday poetry” department…

Above: In this Renaissance illuminated manuscript (painted book), Petrarch and Laura appear on the banks of a river. Laura, the river (the Sorgue), and the laurel tree (also depicted) are central to Petrarchan iconography. Petrarch knew the wines of Burgundy well but he liked the wines of Italy better.

Petrarch (1304-1374) knew the wines of Burgundy well. He spent most of his early life in and around Avignon, where his father followed the Babylonian exile of the papal court, and where the wines of the Côte d’Or already enjoyed considerable fame. It wasn’t far from Avignon where he first saw Laura, for whom he would write 366 poems, later gathered in his Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (Fragments of Vernacular Things, the title he gave to his Canzoniere or Song Book). Their first meeting took place in Vaucluse in 1327 (according to his own mythology).

Petrarch spent much of the latter half of his life trying to bring the papacy back to Rome. After one of his appeals to Pope Urban V, some of the cardinals argued that a return to Rome would be unthinkable: how could they survive, they told the pope, without the health-enhancing properties of the wines of Burgundy? Petrarch responded with one of his most famous political letters and a passage, often cited but seldom revisited, in which he chastises the gluttonous cardinals. But in the same stroke, he invites them to experience the wines of Italy:

    Is it not a puerile ambition to malign the many types of wines, so plentiful, found in all parts of Italy? … Let them come and see for themselves — all those for whom life would be unbearable without the wines of Burgundy! They will find copious amounts of grain, olive oil, wines, plants, and fruits. Here there are fruits unfamiliar to you and unknown in your [colder] climate. The woods, beasts, wild animals, game, and food and spices are so abundant that no one dies of hunger…

    Seniles 9, to Pope Urban V, August 1366 (translation adapted from Aldo Bernardo)

In last week’s Sunday poetry post, Petrarch flowed the rivers of the world together in verse. Laura is absent and he longs for the river where she appeared: no other river, he cries, could quench the fire burning in his soul.

In this week’s post, he happens upon Laura by a river, innocently washing her veil. She is more beautiful than the huntress goddess Diana who turned Acteon’s dogs upon him when he happened upon her bathing nude in a river.

Magridal 52 is one of the most exquisite compositions in Petrarch’s Rerum. As summer temperatures rise here in Texas, there is a someone special in my life, too, who can still make me “tremble with a chill of love.”

    Not so much did Diana please her lover when, by a similar
    chance, he saw her all naked amid the icy waters,

    as did the cruel mountain shepherdess please me, set to wash a
    pretty veil that keeps her lovely blond head from the breeze;

    so that she made me, even now when the sky is burning, all
    tremble with a chill of love.

    (translation by Robert Durling)

    Non al suo amante più Diana piacque
    quando per tal ventura tutta ignuda
    la vide in mezzo de le gelide acque,

    ch’a me la pastorella alpestra e cruda
    posta a bagnar un leggiadretto velo
    ch’a l’aura il vago e biondo capel chiuda;

    tal che mi fece, or quand’egli arde’l cielo,
    tutto tremar d’un amoroso gelo.


Poetry for Sunday: Petrarch’s musical rivers

May 31, 2009

People seemed to enjoy last week’s Poetry for Sunday so I thought I’d try another one this week…

A quick search online revealed this wonderful gallery at the Beinecke Library (Yale) site. Petrarch’s script inspired a generation of Northern Italian amanuenses and calligraphers who developed what would later be called “humanist script.” The inscription at the top of the folio reads: “Here happily begin the songs in verse in elegy of Laura by the illustrious poet Francis Petrarch.”

When I lived in Italy in the 1990s as a graduate student, I had the great fortune to meet a number of twentieth-century Italian poets, including Giovanna Sandri, whose poetry I translated for a collection of modern poetry published by my dissertation adviser. One day, when I was doing research for my dissertation at the Vatican library, she invited me over for a lunch of rice and baby shrimp — “translation and risotto di gamberetti” she wrote playfully in a dedication she signed in a copy of one of her books that she gave to me. Her primary literary interest was the group of Roman poets and the Gruppo 63 poets among whom she had come of age literarily and literally. But when she asked me about my studies devoted to Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca, fourteenth-century Italian poet and humanist) she fondly remembered her favorite sonnet. She loved the way that Petrarch ingeniously listed the great rivers of the world in meter (in this case, rhymed hendecasyllables — eleven-syllable lines, the classic meter of Italian medieval lyric).

The following is Robert Durling’s translation of the sonnet and the original Italian. Even if you don’t read Italian, try reading the lines out loud to hear the music of Petrarch’s verse.

The tree in the poem is central to the body of poetry and the new poetical language that Petrarch created for his beloved Laura: the laurel tree (do you hear the paronomasia between Laura and lauro or laurel?), the tree so dear to Apollo the god of music and poetry (among other things) because his beloved Daphne had been transformed into a laurel tree so she could escape his amorous advances.

    Not Tesino, Po, Varo, Arno, Adige, or Tiber, Euphrates, Tigris, Nile, Hermus, Indus or Ganges, Don, Danube, Alpheus, Garonne, the sea-breaker Timavus, Rhône, Ebro, Rhine, Seine, Elbe, Loire, or Hebrus —

    not ivy, fir, pine, beech, or juniper — could lessen the fire that wearies my sad heart as much as a lovely stream that from time to time weeps along with me, and the slender tree that in my rhymes I beautify and celebrate.

    I find this a help amid the assaults of Love, where I must live out in armor my life that goes by with such great leaps.

    Then let this lovely laurel grow on the fresh bank; and he who planted it, let him — in its sweet shade, to the sound of the waters — write high and happy thoughts!

    Non Tesin, Po, Varo, Arno, Adige e Tebro
    Eufrate, Tigre, Nilo, Ermo, Indo et Gange,
    Tana, Istro, Alfeo, Garona, e’l mar che frange,
    Rodano, Ibero, Ren, Sena, Albia, Era, Ebro —

    non edra, abete, pin, faggio o genebro —
    poria ‘l foco allentar che’l cor tristo ange
    quant’un bel rio ch’ad ogni or meco piange
    co l’arboscel che’in rime orno e celebro

    Questo un soccorso trovo fra gli assalti
    d’Amore, ove conven ch’armato viva
    la vita che trapassa a sì gran salti.

    Così cresca il bel lauro in fresca riva,
    e chi’l piantò pensier leggiadri et alti
    ne la dolce ombra al suon de l’acque scriva!

What does wine have to do with any of this? In his prose, Petrarch wrote famously about wine and in particular about the wines of Burgundy, but that will have to wait for another post. Today, let’s just enjoy his musical rivers.

Thanks for reading…


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