Few things can satisfy, connect and inspire, yet remain as inexplicable, as a bottle of wine.
Few things carry with them such an encyclopedia of scientific knowledge that is invariably trumped by the simple power of nature’s almanac.
And for all of the things we love and write about, we are always a bit speechless to communicate the nuance of how a bottle of wine, uniquely special with all its details, is really only about our experience of it.
This strikes home when you have one of those serendipitous wine experiences that open up a stream of connected remembrances.
The other evening, this bottle of Grillo was the Proustian trigger that kicked this off.
I was at an impromptu family gathering at Taboon on 10th Ave in Hells Kitchen. Last minute call to celebrate a birthday.
Mediterranean food was piled high on the table. Plates of hummus, bowls of salsa, chopped salads, Baba Ganoush, Tabouli, grilled Octopus, Tuna, tomatoes, squash and pita to die for.
The big aha was discovering this almost-never-seen-in-New York bottle of Grillo from Nino Barraco, an obscure and quite wonderful natural winemaker,
I know this bottle well as five years ago this September, I had visited the winemaker with a group of friends and remember the jolting ride down a long, bumpy and soggy road to his vineyard where the salt marshes outside of Marsala, Sicily touch the steep cliffs above the sea.
There was literally nothing there but the Mediterranean in front of you, breezes rolling cross the sea from Africa and windswept untrellised Grillo vines everywhere. Unplanted almost nowhere else. Indigenous to this part of Sicily but still a rarity.
The group of us (see pic in this post) were hanging around a makeshift shack with Nino, the winemaker, in the warm afternoon Sicilian sun, drinking the very first vintage of Vignammare, 100% Grillo, grown in the tiny vineyard where we stood.
He laid out the feast on a wood plank along with fresh sea urchin and shrimp that the his family had harvested for us that morning.
Picture of a truly joyous and perfect day.
The sea, the grapes, the purity of fermented juice made with such passion and intent. As natural and non-interventionist as can be– organic, spontaneous fermentation. Unfiltered, unclarified, unsulphured.
And very special to me in retrospect, as this was still an early taste of skin-fermented white wine—somewhat new to me then, an obsession to me now–adding the minerality of the soil, the salt of the sea, the bouquet of the marsh and the bite on the palate as a pinch to memorialize all this together.
I shared this story with the table in the very noisy corner of the restaurant, heads shook with appreciation as they emptied glass after glass, after bottle.
I had them look at the richly golden color of the wine, held up against the candle light, appreciating that this was white wine, made like red.
They listened to my over zealous spin on why skin is the human touch of winemaking, where people meet the true depth of place, and somehow, it becomes the epitome of connection, perfect as the fingerprint of time, place, people, weather under the overarching shades of our own thoughts that color everything we do.
They literally drank it in.
My enthusiastic story of Marsala and my community of blogger friends by the sea wedded to this gathering of family in Hell’s Kitchen on a steamy, raucous and joyous New York evening.
This is the good stuff of wine and life to me.
Proust may have had his madeleine to spur a long and meditative tale.
We had our bottle of Grillo to celebrate the evening and ourselves.
This is my idea of perfect.
To experience my visit to Marsala, post here.