over a bottle of red!
She’s ninety-six years old and loves to tell a good story over a bottle of red wine. Her narrative evokes images of simpler times as the only child of a larger-than-life wildcat oilman father who dragged his nuclear family through dusty western towns in search of liquid gold. Time moved slowly as she rolled around the back seat of the rambling sedan, staring out the window and imagining a more glamorous life; one that resembled the Hollywood talkies that could be found playing in movie houses on every main street.
Her father worked with his hands and surrounded himself with hard working immigrants – mostly Italian – who didn’t mind laboring in the oil fields all day only to return home to gather their garden crops and make a party out of cooking for family and friends, preserving their produce and sharing homemade wine made in crocks in the basements of their homes.
My mother’s taste memory was indelibly stamped with the aromas and flavors of those times. Her red sauce spaghetti and meatballs, dusted with Parmesan cheese shaken from a green can was always my favorite dinner as a child. Every time she cooked the dish, her stories would become more colorful with each glass of red wine and she would always finish the story with a wistful recollection of how much she loved those homemade wines and how the wine in front of her was just a shadow of those hearty, rustic beverages.
As years flew by, I would proudly open our wine for her only to receive a measured response designed to not hurt my feelings. I would try to persuade her that the wines we make are better because of the care we take in growing and crafting the wines and that they are better with food. However, she is convinced the flavor of the homemade wines the old Italian immigrants would let her taste as a child is the flavor of a great wine. I don’t think I will ever be able to change her mind and I don’t have the heart to tell her that the flavor she remembers is a flaw known as volatile acidity or “VA”…as in, a touch of vinegar. So instead of fighting it, I just either get her a bottle of cheap Italian red or leave a bottle open for a while before serving. She’s happy, I’m happy, and each glass of wine keeps the stories flowing.