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Above: Nebbiolo currently on deck at our house.
During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, our weary days and sleepless nights were often filled with long phone calls and Zoom meetings with family and friends.
One of my weekly and sometimes daily chats was with a childhood friend, roughly my age (mid-50s), who still lives in my native Southern California. He’s a full-time musician, a composer and performer of electronica, and a teacher.
He’s also a health nut. Throughout our adult lives, he has been melodically in tune with his body’s rhythms and needs. And even before the pandemic, he was unerringly thoughtful about what he eats and drinks.
And he’s not a big drinker (like me). He’s the “one, maybe two glasses of wine with dinner” kind of guy.
During the closures, he was completely isolated. But his work, thanks to video conferencing, was robust. He could teach and contribute to recording sessions remotely and he would often stay up all night composing, recording, or collaborating with other musicians.
But his isolation also posed a wine consumption problem. For someone who had relied on by-the-glass programs at his favorite eateries (for that “one or two glasses”), it was frustrating to pick up a bottle curbside at his local wine shop only to discover that the wine would lose its vibrance after just one or two nights.
That’s when he started asking me for recommendations. I would scour his wine retailer’s website for wines that would suit his palate and budget.
But it’s also when I suggested to him that he spend a little more than he usually did.
“If you buy the right wine,” I told him, “it will stay fresh for many days, even more than a week.”
And that’s when I recommended that he increase his budget to allow for some classic-style Nebbiolo. At the time, there were some extremely attractive deals on retail wines. With just $35 or so, he could even afford the close-out Barolo or Barbaresco. Especially given the unsure times, he was reluctant to spend more than $20 on a bottle of wine. But he said he’d give it a try. His first big purchase was a Barbaresco by Castello di Verduno (a favorite of mine).
I’ll never forget the night he called me, a week later, joyous at his discovery that the Nebbiolo remained fresh over the course of even six days. He would drink one glass each evening. And he was even more geeked to report that the wine got even better over the course of the week.
And that’s how an all-night musician became a lover of Italian wine.
Yesterday when we spoke on my way home from a wine dinner I had presented in town, he talked about his discovery of “acidity” in wine and how that was the key to great wine — and wine that lasts more than a day or so once opened.
“YES! Acidity!” I told him. I couldn’t agree more.
I love my friend and the role he has played in my life is — literally — immeasurable. It couldn’t be more rewarding for me to know that great Nebbiolo plays a healthy and wholesome tune in his life.
One evening recently, after he had listened to some new recordings of mine, I shared my insecurity over my waning musical abilities. “No, no, no,” he said. “Your music is great! I love listening to it.”
“Thank you,” I told him, “that means the world to me. Nobody listens to my music anymore but you.”
“Remember,” he said, “I’ve believed in your music since you we were 12 years old.”
I’m glad that he believes in my wine recommendations, too, and I’m blessed to have him as a friend.