“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world” – Thorin, The Hobbit (p290)
A valuable lesson I have learned from a life of reading is that quotes are just swell. People and characters have a way of engraving a tidbit of wisdom that can stick with us a lifetime. As I said in the previous post, the experiences shared with wine (and the memories that remain) have been just as influential to us as tasting and learning about it.
“Clearly, the pleasures wines afford are transitory – but so are those of the ballet, or of a musical performance. Wine is inspiring and adds greatly to the joy of living” – Napoleon Bonaparte
This may be counter-intuitive to those familiar with the buffalo theory, but I firmly believe that wine is tied to memories just like taste and smell. I eventually came to the realization that wine is so much more than a simple drink. It is a shared enjoyment with people around you, a trusty companion with a meal, and a trigger for the mind to escape to faraway reaches in your memory.
It was around Christmas 2008 when I shared some Glühwein in Germany at the Siegen Christmas Market with three very good friends as we kicked off the most wonderful time of the year. Glühwein is a warmed (red or white) wine made by adding cinnamon sticks and sugar, traditionally enjoyed in the weeks leading to Christmas. (I have noticed that the Germans have a way of fitting a whole slew of drinks into most of their traditions; gotta love ‘em!) On that particular frigid morning in 2008, amongst the crowds of people, Christmas trees, merchants and decorations, we had our first drink of hot wine. The warm, sweet liquid immediately reminded me of apple cider and all things Christmas.
I kind of (sort of) distinctly remember a warm summer night back in college during a visit to Stover and my first taste of the famed Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. I was with my brother and my good buddy Jim as the clock approached 2:00am, and with supplies running low we discovered it. This ended with passing the bottle back and forth while singing a certain Metallica song at the top of our lungs. It was this very bottle that shaped my young knowledge of wine and the reason I shied away from anything that didn’t taste like it for years. To me, this was wine, and anything that was the color red that didn’t taste like it was garbage.
“You haven’t drunk too much wine if you can still lie on the floor without holding on” – Dean Martin
We arrived at a hotel in Chicago to celebrate Katy’s birthday in April of 2012. To our surprise, there was a bottle of rosé (ro-zay) moscato waiting chilled for us with a nice welcome note. I remember the view of the city, the sweet and sparkling taste of the wine with citrus at the nose (best way to describe the smell or aroma of a wine is the “nose”, because frankly, scent or smell are generally terms with negative connotations). Just as important were the relationships that led to this. I had a good friend at work, he had a brother-in-law, and the brother-in-law had a friend that worked at a hotel. That simple bottle of wine waiting for us in the room and the note reminds me of the importance of chance meetings with new people and the power of doing nice while expecting nothing in return.
Wine pairing was familiar, as we had tried it many times before with various cheeses and chocolates while researching; but, it wasn’t until an earth-shaking moment early in 2013 that I had my first true wine pairing experience. Katy made a delectable creamy mushroom risotto and used a few splashes of Chardonnay in the mix, and since the bottle was now open, we decided to have a few splashes ourselves.
Chardonnay: Green-skinned semi-sweet to dry white wine varietal. One of the best known white wines around the world, originally grown in the Burgandy region of France, and used as a component of many sparkling wines, including Champagne. It is planted in more wine regions than any other white varietal.
Upon eating the risotto and following with the wine, I could taste the combination through all of my senses. I paused for more than a moment to take it all in. Pairing is an art, and it is one worth learning and practicing. It is simply amazing how a well suited pair can enhance the experience of both food and wine. There will be much more on this as our venture develops in the form of future posts and suggestions.
“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food” – W.C. Fields
Now, any time I have a warm wine or apple cider I instantly arrive at that Christmas market in Germany taking in the atmosphere with my pals. It’s been many moons since I have had the pleasure of a decent vintage Boone’s Farm, but I can almost guarantee one drink from the bottle and I will be back to that moment howling Metallica like its 2009. It’s impossible to have that same Chardonnay and my mouth not water as I am taken back to sitting on the apartment floor with Katy and the Risotto. One sip of rosé moscato and I’m in that high-rise hotel looking over a river and onto a city, thinking about how interconnected the world really is, and appreciating for a moment how every minor encounter can change your world in major ways.
“What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile” – William Sokolin, noted wine merchant
Wine is a personal experience and there is no wrong answer. Different people have different tastes and different tastes lead to different emotional responses. My favorite wine could taste like dirt water to the next person, but we are both right. These are the feelings and memories we want to create. We see bottles of our future wine alongside music, food, and laughter. Then, months or years later, when sipping one of the same wines, people taken back to a memory of Dale Hollow.
I will admit I am a bit of a visionary. Right now we are not actually seeing any of these things, instead, a field of holes that double as tiny ponds after a good rain. Asher and Ana are both working, raising a wonderful daughter (unless she decides 4:00am is time to wake up), all while enduring rotations. Katy and I are taking on a new city with relatively new jobs about two hours from the vineyard with a wedding just around the corner. However, it is difficult to contain the excitement… and it still never hurt a guy to dream. We talk about it with friends and as you will see in the coming posts, even make some honorable attempts at our own wines from juices and berries (not for sale yet, mind you, in case any fine TTB folks are reading this). These feelings and experiences have played a pivotal role in our shared dream.
That’s it. The background of our tale is all but summed up and we can get into the exciting stuff…But wait! What about the chance conversation mentioned in the previous post? I haven’t forgotten, and as it turns out, it is the true turning point in the transformation of a dream into the reality of Dale Hollow.