Nick’s time in John’s cellar frightened him. He wondered whether John had been that cynical when he started his winery or if he grew that way over time. He wondered, but he was truly uninterested in the answer. What good would knowing the answer do for him or for his future winery? The winery would be an extension of him no matter if he changes or remains the same as the day he began the journey. His was either to plug along or to give up.
That evening, at the winemaker dinner one of the winemakers brought with him an intern from Germany who was spending the summer in the Finger Lakes. It was reaffirming to hear a European aspirant winemaker express gratitude for the opportunity to work in a Finger Lakes winery. The intern told the group that since he had arrived a few weeks earlier, he was constantly being surprised and impressed by the quality of local Riesling, a theme that would over the coming years be expressed by many over and over—but this was still years ahead of that time.
As usual, the host and owner of the restaurant, Harold, provided a Pauillac as his offering for the dinner, an unclassified Chateau Fonbadet. It was among the finest reds of the evening. Right up there with the Fonbadet was a Renaissance Vineyard and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, which, when tasted blind, many thought was a Pauillac.
The whites at the table were ok, but none as spectacular as the two that the German intern provided: J.J. Prum and Donnhoff. Each of the wines was a Riesling and each had depth and dimension unrivaled in white wines of any variety. The Prum began with a whiff of sulfur dioxide in the aroma, but after that dissipated, the aroma was of fine flowers and the taste was both crisp and delicate. Rather than delicate, the Donnhoff was assertive, with tingling citrus qualities mixed with an intriguing mineral-like backbone and a length in the finish that never seemed to end.
At the table, if you weren’t quick and attentive you rarely got a second taste of the wines that impressed you—Nick was insistent on tasting more of the two Rieslings; he flirted with the thought of trying to slip them under the table without anyone noticing, but they were so good that everyone seemed to keep an eye on the bottles.
The evening was a great success at buoying Nick’s spirit. John’s earlier slap in the face at idealism hit hard, but the two German wines managed to soften the blow considerably. As he put his head down on the pillow that night, Nick smiled with thoughts of Riesling. It would be his goal to produce Riesling every bit as solid and great as the two he had tasted that night, and he thought that if he managed in the future to reach his goal, despite anything that might happen in his life thereafter, he would be prepared to die and do so as happy as anyone could be.
No cynic like John, no self-important wine geek on the other side of his tasting bar, no myopic banker, no befuddled bureaucrat, no amount of counterfeit twenties (within reason) would henceforth threaten Nick’s goal.
Thanks to two stellar Rieslings, Nick’s passion was revived.
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Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2010. All rights reserved.
May 2010. All rights reserved.