Sunday, July 12, 2009

come hail or high water

It rained from lunch onward, then miraculously it stopped. This after 24 days of rain in the month of June and the beginning of July. But who’s counting? I hadn’t been until someone brought it to my attention. Last year we joked that it was our English summer because then there was also rain in June and the roses were fat and sodden, and our young cousin Claire came to live with us for a few months to garden and work in the restaurant. We made jokes that we were introducing her to local society and that we must find her her own Mr. Darcy. This summer really has been like an English summer, and more so. And all on account of the water. Ha! I meant to write weather.

It is July now and we are hosting the first of our summer outdoor degustazione, or wine tasting events—la garagista. Only a few days after the 4th of July. The 4th of July passed as a long day of rain with a fire in the woodstove just to get the chill out of our bones. Where are the hot 4th of July’s I remember? When the evening is still so warm and the air thick like cream that it is a relief to hold a cold glass with ice in it next to your cheek or along your own jugular vein? Where is the 4th of July when we ate dinner under the locust tree, just the two of us, dressed in linen because it was so hot, and watched the fireflies illuminate the meadow? No, this is the summer of cold and damp.

It has been hard to keep up with garden chores and clean up because of the inclement weather, and worse yet trying to prepare the earth for the 300 or so vines that have arrived in cardboard boxes with packing peanuts and stuffed snuggly in black crates. Our clayey soil clumps with wet and is too drenched to properly till. We have yet to open our terrace for the season. There’s been no reason to hunt for the shade of the rose pergola. Two cushionless chairs sit forelornly against the wall, and the gold painted chandelier with the two remaining bobeches hangs high and candleless just like it did all winter. At least then, the glass beads caught the light and looked like icicle or snowflake. The light on these rainy days has been too flat to reflect anything.

The weather report for the evening of our tasting calls for heavy downpours and thunderstorms with the threat of high winds and the possibility of hail. Hail, the vineyardist's nightmare. But we forge ahead. We open the terrace bringing cushions and furniture. We lower the chandelier and fill it with candles that I know, even on a good day, will never stay lighted. But I am forever the optimist. We move potted roses and lavender, and finish weeding. We pretend that we will have a nice day. For a moment, we balk and think to move the event to the restaurant, but that defeats the purpose of having guests wander the gardens and plant a grape vine, or toast to a visiting winemaker’s new vintage in the garage. So, we hold fast and feel courageous. We’ve already had 23 days of rain. Will anyone really care if they are out in another?

When the rain stops , we wipe off the wet tasting tables and chairs, set up the candles and torches, and put out the white table clothes. We put a tarp on the balcony covering the terrace (we have big plans to put a roofed pergola on top of the balcony which will also shield the terrace, but have yet to get around to it…), the same tarp that covered our house when we took the roof off in order to rebuild it and made every precaution to keep the house from the elements, and it rained, and rained, and rained, and the rain came in the windows and down the walls, the same year I made my first rosolio. For a moment, while we are writing the suggested wine pairings on the black board, and lighting the torches, the sun even comes out. We are all dressed for the evening, and dressed for the weather, our rain boots either on, or ready to be jumped into.

Miraculously, the rain holds off while the clouds gather. Guests start to trickle in, parking in the field and walking across a plank bridge over a gushing swale. The flower garden is spectacular in the gray and dying light, all the flowers and roses shown off to the most dramatic impression against such a drab background. Guests joke about good luck, and say, “I think it won’t snow tonight!” Chris Granstrom, our featured winemaker from Lincoln Peak tonight, from our own Vermont, shows off his stellar line-up of Vermont grown and produced wines –the whites and reds and dessert--to great effect. No one can quite believe such lovely wines can come from Vermont.

At precisely 7:30, the official close of the party (but all good parties never end when they are supposed to--) a huge clap of thunder. I am in the vineyard with a few people planting vines. I go to the garage to get more stakes, and I am caught inside. The rain comes fast and furious. The wine table in the stone garden where Chris and his wife Michaela were pouring tastes comes flying into the garage, along with wine boxes and half-soaked guests. The sky has darkened. The candlelight is bright. Someone’s car gets stuck in the field, and a help party is dispatched. A small river of water speeds down our entrance past the garage and toward the house. Someone hands me a glass of wine. There is laughter and good cheer. We will not be defeated….


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