Talking with Fred always made Nick feel good. They met in the fourth grade, shared a birthday—only 15 minutes apart—and spent the better part of their youth in and out of trouble together. Fred had the silver tongue and Nick had the good looks; they were a great duo for picking up girls on the beach, in the park, at the Italian feasts that came through the neighborhood, and in school, on the days that they didn’t play hooky together. Each was best man at the other’s wedding—more than once!
“So, Nick, now that you are going into harvest and getting ready to make your first vintage wines, are you also ready to talk about the label design? I’ve got a few ideas for you.”
“It’s still a little early for that, Fred, but to let you know what I’m thinking, our logo has to be prominently featured at the top of the label, and I was hoping to get a drawing or picture of our property in, too.”
“I see, old friend. I was thinking modern graphics but you are thinking Old World symbolism. Right?”
“Right, Fred, for now.”
The name of the winery was Noah’s Slope. It was a biblical reference to Noah’s first activity after the rain subsided and he was able to leave the ark to explore Mount Ararat: he planted a vineyard.
Nick envisioned the slope of his vineyard that surrounded his home as the right image for Noah’s vineyard and he figured that his house nicely represented the ark, as it was both a home and an old wood frame structure circa 1827.
Fred envisioned a modern graphic treatment of the concept of the ark and the land. Fred saw everything in graphic treatment.
“Listen Nick. I’d like to come up for a visit in two weeks or so. Why don’t I Fedex you the drawings I made so that you can look them over. When I get there, we can discuss it. Fedex goes to your region, right?”
“Geez, Fred. Where do you think I’m living—in the Amazon forest? Of course, we have Fedex delivery service.”
“What I meant is that since you have a rural box address they may not come to your door.”
“Oh. Good point. Maybe I’ll have to pick it up at the nearest Fedex office, which is about 40 miles away.”
“Forty miles away! Manhattan takes up less than forty square miles. You ARE rural. Never thought I’d find you living that way.”
“I never thought so either, Fred, and sometimes it does wear me down to have to drive forever just to shop for groceries or go to the movies. But you can’t operate a vineyard without land—lots of it—and you can’t be too far away from the vineyard when you make wine.”
It certainly was a lift to talk to Fred and to know that he will pay a visit soon. Nick felt so good after hanging up the phone he almost forgot about Sassy.
Sassy was Nick’s vineyard dog. She came with the property. The previous owners were retired and moving into a small retirement community. Sassy had been with them for many years but they could not take her with them, and they didn’t think she wanted to go either. She loved the vineyard land. When they suggested that Nick and Theresa take Sassy, the couple agreed without hesitation.
She was a mutt, a mix of Labrador and some small Spaniel type. Her body was husky and round but it rested atop four extremely short legs. When she walked, she dragged her feet and wobbled wildly; with jet-black fur, the walking dog looked like a land seal.
Sassy knew that Nick was going out to the vineyard when he put on his winter overalls and high boots and then grabbed the pruners and the Walkman. As he made his way to the rows, Sassy wobbled close behind. When he stopped, she plopped down at the head of that row and waited patiently for him to move to the next row where she established herself all over again.
Although Nick and Theresa had two dogs of their own when they moved in, he had taken to Sassy. He knew she was old and near the end of her time, but he didn’t think about that until that morning when he could not find her. Normally, she was right there whenever something was going on in the vineyard. He figured she’d be there for the Catawba harvest just as she was there each day during the Aurora harvest a few weeks earlier. But when he made his way to the vineyard to meet the harvester, Sassy was nowhere around.
After the harvesting was complete, Nick looked around for Sassy in the many usual spots that she liked to lie down or explore. He called out her name a number of times, something he usually had to do only once to get her to come wobbling to him, but she did not come.
After talking with Fred, and still in a heightened mood, Nick decided to look once more for Sassy. This time, he took the two other dogs with him. Sheba and Elf were also mutts and as far as he could tell, they had no hunting talent in them, but they had noses and they had ample time to familiarize themselves with Sassy’s personal smell. He hoped that they might help find their stepsister.
After the better part of an hour stalking the property and beyond, there was no sign of Sassy.
When the previous owners handed over the deed and Sassy to Nick and Theresa, they told a story of an earlier vineyard dog that they once had. As the dog grew older and closer to its end, it seemed to stalk the property more and more, vanishing for hours and even for days at a time, until one day it walked away and never returned. Could Sassy have taken the same route? After three days, Nick figured that she had.
A few days later, while walking the vineyard to assess how best to start pulling up the Catawba vines, as he turned the corner of one row to make his way to the next he instinctively looked toward the end of the row as he had done every time he worked in the vineyard to signal to Sassy that it was time to get up and follow him. This time, he saw only an empty row through blurry tears.
It would be only a few months before Sheba and then Elf were gone. A few days after that, Nick and Theresa had a new vineyard dog; his name was Henry and he was just in time for the spring season. But before that day, there was the winery’s first fermentation to attend to.
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2010. All rights reserved.
August 2010. All rights reserved.