From the department of “school’s out for summer”…
That’s what a longtime Italian restaurateur in New York used to moan when his guests would claim that the opposite was true.
Was it because the Italians (and French) saved the good wine for themselves and sent only the crap wine to America? (Believe it or not, a lot of folks still think that.)
Was it because the best wines simply don’t travel well? (There’s actually some truth to that, especially when it comes to natural wines.)
No, he insisted vehemently.
In his view, it was because you are more relaxed when on vacation. You sleep better and you eat better. And so everything tastes better.
Beyond the purely technical and the aesthetic, can true greatness in wine lie in its ability to spark a beloved memory, evoke a cherished sensation, or create welcomed harmony out of the workaday?
Many wine purists wouldn’t consider my friend Hank Beckmeyer’s La Clarine Farm wines to be great in a technical sense. They are good and they are correct, they might say, free of the often overlooked flaws that you find in low-input, low-intervention wines like his.
But you’d be hard-pressed to find a wine that can inspire so much joy. And please trust me when I say: greatness therein lies.
As the Parzen mère, père et filles munched on grilled steak, grill-charred corn-on-the-cob and sweet zucchine rounds, wilted spinach dressed with California olive oil, and a favorite brand of Abruzzo spaghetti dressed with olive oil and kosher salt, the parents loved his Rosé Alors! (from Mourvèdre) so much that they saved the last glass for a libation — a true libatio, a glass to offer in sacrifice to the gods. The wine was that great: we couldn’t bear to drink the last glass. I know that sounds impossible and ridiculous but neither wanted to deprive her/his lover the last sip. It’s still sitting in a Bordeaux glass in fridge on Monday morning!
It was an early June evening and we were all a little sun-burned and puckered out from a day of birthday and end-of-school pool parties.
And the wine was pure joy, just like a summer’s eve in the countryside — Italian, French, Californian, or Texan. Greater than any other wine could have been in that moment.
Thanks again, Hank, for all the joy you’ve brought into our lives over the years. Saturday night, Tracie and I remembered, so fondly, tasting your wines for the first time at chez Alice in NYC more than a decade ago, on our way back from our first trip to Europe together.