I often speak and write about the personal and connective aspects of wine. It is not always about specific wines and reviewing them, but sometimes wine as a catalyst or a backdrop for a specific experience. These experiences can at times be very emotional, and in this story, also flattering and humbling.
I received an email recently from someone who met me once in passing, and after reading an article I wrote, thought I might be the right person to reach out to. Her husband passed away recently and far too soon. He had a small, but well-chosen collection of wine and a deep knowledge of and passion for his little collection. Wine was something they enjoyed together and these special wines he would always tell her were for them to share some day.
That day sadly never came so she invited me into her home to look at the collection to see if I thought it was of any value to anyone. What I got was a window into the history of some storied wines, but more importantly, a window into a very wonderful relationship. I looked over the bottles, many in very good condition, some not so good, mostly from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Included were some of the more prominent names from Bordeaux (ever hear of Haut Brion, Latour, Margaux?) with a smattering from Burgundy, Piemonte and California.
I told her she should hold onto a few and she said through tears that she had to get rid of all of them because they were chosen and saved for both of them to enjoy, and that was no longer possible. She apologized and I said she had no reason to do so. I said from what she had told me and from what I could see in the home her and her husband put together over many years, it was clear they had a deeply loving relationship, and she wouldn’t have traded that to feel less pain now…and she agreed. What I felt bad about though was that wine — something that is supposed to bring joy and pleasure, and that her husband intended to bring mutual joy and pleasure to them both — was now a source of pain and sadness for her.
Even though I first told her to give me a list of the wines as I was heading out, I instead turned around and said I would check over them all with her. We pulled up a couple of chairs and went through them bottle by bottle. Some bottles brought more tears, but some brought smiles and chuckles and stories. She talked about how people were being very helpful as she readied her home for sale, but that it hurt when some were trying to be efficient yet emotionless about getting rid of items that had strong personal attachments to her, regardless of the condition they were in.
I do believe many of us have at least one good wine story. Often they are celebratory or happy, but yes, sometimes they are bittersweet or poignant. It makes them no less special and memorable, and certainly my experience yesterday was very much all that. I know she appreciated that I sensed the emotional connection these wines held for her. I treated every bottle with care and respect, even holding the wine made in Rockland County, New York in 1972 that surely is past being vinegar at this stage, not just the bottles of first growth Bordeaux. Wine is personal and these were perhaps some of the most personal bottles I have ever held.
The last blog I wrote was almost three months ago, it was for Mother’s Day and was about my mother’s wine influence on me (through her Alsatian heritage) and a story and connection I shared with her about a winemaker I communicated with in her father’s hometown who knew members of his family (http://thegrapesunwrapped.com/wp/?p=399). My mother died shortly after I shared that story with all of you, and with her, and admittedly, although I have a backlog of pieces to write, I haven’t really made the time or found the motivation. But as this woman and I discussed, life goes on, and it has to…there is no other real alternative, or shouldn’t be.
As I left her house, her eyes welled up again as she hugged and thanked me. I got a little teary too. I thanked her for feeling she could reach out to me without really knowing me…that was the flattering and humbling part for me. I also felt she would be fine. Talking with her about plans I had in the works to organize a group trip to Tuscany and Umbria next year, she said a trip sounded like a great idea.
People always say I am lucky to do what I do…I agree all the time, especially yesterday. I like how it makes me feel and that it makes me feel.