Sunday, October 19, 2008

la garagista

On the evening of the Harvest Moon, we held a wine tasting. This was the first of what we hope will be many soirees in our meadow on Mt. Hunger. The few days before the weather had proved difficult, showering us with cold rain, and rather violent winds. That morning, the sky cleared, but the wind still howled and pressed. The bean trellis had been blown down, its old wood covered in a tangle of green leaves and vine. We expected this. We went about our chores as if the evening would come off without a snag. We collected and arranged flowers, set up tables, procured the food, set out wine glasses. Would it rain? Would it be too windy?

The outlook for the day improved. We ate a take-out lunch on the porch, the wind nearly spent. We felt almost confident, and at ease. I looked at the sign on the barn that we had hung yesterday. We had christened this project of growing grapes, making wine, and sharing our gardens and fledgling vineyard la garagista after the rebellious French garage wine makers of the '80's. Yes, I thought, our celebration would happen. People would come. We would open bottles of wine. We would share the harvest together.

I set up the sign-in table in the barn. We had spent months cleaning and organizing this space. One wall was lined with stacked firewood for the winter, next to a wine rack filled with bottles. The floor was dirt, but in the center stood one of our wine tasting tables set with glasses and an old French-style candelabra that is very elegant. Light poured in through the narrow, long windows. Our friend Gina had loaned me a copper wine trough that we filled with ice and water and bottles of a sparkling rosé that would usher in the evening. Iacopo, Rafael, and Winthrop, our friends who would show the ten wines we would be featuring tonight, opened and tasted the bottles, then lined them on the table in the stone garden.

Iacopo, our friend from Italy, would be representing the importer of these wines. Rafael owns the small company that brings them to us here in Vermont. Winthrop had recently started to work with Rafael. Michael, another friend volunteering for the evening, joined Caleb to set up the bruschetteria, and began to tend to the big open fire on which to toast the bread for the myriad toppings they have prepared. Caleb’s mother Carol lit a small fire in a galvanized metal tub, our version of a fire pit, so people could warm themselves in the stone garden as the evening cooled. Claire, and our friends Anthony and Christy, lit all the torches and candles. Conversation and laughter bubbled around the house and barn, and we feel as if we had dodged the wicked weather until 5:25. Five minutes before guests were to arrive, clouds crested the hill above, and it began to rain. Oh, well, I thought, what a shame. We’ll just have to stuff everyone in the barn. No one spoke.

But then, like a tease, the rain stopped, and the clouds thinned out into mare’s tails. There was a collective sigh, and a couple of people laughed away the tension. Guests began to arrive. The energy was high.

It turned out to be a beautiful evening. The wines were sublime and showed themselves off. The tastes that Caleb and Michael offered were lively and married the wines well. Guests walked through the gardens, sitting and contemplating or conversing. We all watched the moon rise, a fantastic harvest moon. No one really noticed the downed bean trellis that never got rebuilt during the course of the day, there not being enough time.

Then, after all the guests left, fifteen of us, a combination of family and friends who helped coordinate the evening, stayed for dinner. We lined four of the tasting tables down the center of the barn. Someone accidently knocked over a bottle of open wine. The wine spilled and puddled on the wood, and I thought how perfectly it christened this table for our first of what I hoped woulde be many dinners in this barn. We set the long table with fine china and silver and the two baroque candelabra. We pulled chairs from around the property and inside the house. We set up a buffet to serve a purea of zucchini and onion soup made from ingredients in the garden, and plates of a silky, sliced pork belly seasoned with wine and sage, served with small, pearl white beans. On the table were plates of oysters to begin, and the last of the bruschetta. Countless bottles of wine had been opened, and everyone tasted and retasted the stars of the evening. Iacopo brought the last of a wine made from a cru selection of grapes that he helped make in Tuscany; and I opened local wine maker Chris Granstrom’s Cove Road made from Marquette, St. Croix and Frontenac. We toasted and congratulated each other for an evening well-done.

It was time to open the first bottle of my own first vintage made from grapes all the way from Italy. A true “garage wine.” The glass was plain, recycled from a bottle of my favorite Aglianico made in Campania. I was hopeful that the bottle, once being the home of a great wine, would elevate my own effort. Iacopo teased me because on the handwritten label I had hung around the neck, I had written La Garagista, Vintage No. 1, 2008. “What do you mean 2008?” he asked. Flustered, I took my pen and crossed out the 8, and wrote in a 7. I wasjumping ahead of myself. I hadn’t even received my juice for this year’s vintage yet. (Patience has never been one of my virtues. Is impatience the vice of any new wine maker?)

I uncorked, and poured. I was nervous that my wine may have turned to vinegar. We tasted. While my first endeavor was simple with a soft finish, it was smooth with the flavors of red currant and warm, sweet spices.

Aloud, I deemed it drinkable.


1 comment:

Chris said...

Hooray. Love it all.