I just returned tonight from The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers hosted at the Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena. A beautiful, educational, astonishing, vibrant, vista-opening week in multiple different ways, and I suspect that I may feel compelled to share something more of the experience over the next few days. Tonight, I am reflecting on the possibility of possibilities. I love “wine science” (an awkward name to which I often resort in the face of the even more awkward list of sciences involved in wine growing, making, and appreciation) and I adore trying to find ways to share wine science with non-scientists, but…well, I like to write, too. From time to time I even like to write things that have no relationship to science whatsoever.
In one ten-minute writing exercise at the end of a session (given in part by Eric Asimov of the NY Times, no less), we were all challenged to write something in the “voice” of one of the masters (Kermit Lynch, Hemingway, and Hugh Johnson, among others.) I knew that I wasn’t going to write about harvesting indigenous yeast strains or genetically modified lactic acid bacteria, so I let the right side of my brain out to play. This is what happened (completely unedited from that ten minute exercise, I’ll warn you):
I drunk the wine like a late-19th century romanticist. The brilliantly aged-carnelian liquor in my glass was brilliant, yes, but it was first and most importantly a vehicle for what I wanted it to be. I saw my companion – an older man with a younger heart – through the rose-colored glasses of that liquid. I saw the present moment through that liquid – an otherwise-ordinary Monday night with an utterly extra-ordinary bottle of 1964 Les Forts de Latour – and the liquid reflected back at me a life that was at once enchanting and purely ordinary in the most human way possible. I saw thousands of people living this experience before me, speaking different languages but expounding upon the same universal truths, feeling the same emotions in the same unique and powerful way, and all of these visions of my former selves only magnified the present moment, made the present moment more momentous.
My companion drunk the wine like a realist; the Henry James to my Hawthorne. He had lived this experience before, not just through the inherited memories of the men who preceded him, but last week in his tiny apartment behind his violin-making shop. And yet he had not lost hold of the sense of mystery in what he swirled, but he swirled his glass as a man runs his hand over the hood of an antique car or caresses a beloved canine. As the glass was for me my lens and mirror, so to him the glass was his flame. I could see him basking in its glow, his warm, round face soothing and shining in its garnet light.
And it was fun. I might even do it again sometime.