What We Are Thankful for This Thanksgiving

In the past I have written a buyer’s guide of sorts on what to drink for Thanksgiving, but considering every newspaper, wine blog and major wine publication has already covered the topic ad nauseam, I will simply list the people, places and things from the wine world that I have been thankful for over the past year.  Chances are I will forget something important, but like Mr. Vargas asked in Fast Times, have a heart – I’ve only had one espresso so far this morning.

In no particular order:

The Opportunity to Speak with Joe Dressner

When Joe Dressner passed away a few weeks ago, I wrote a bit about my limited relationship with him.  And as the sadness of his passing was replaced with feelings of appreciation for his efforts as an importer and friend to so many, his friends, family and colleagues drank themselves silly on wines that he helped bring into the US market for countless numbers of wine drinkers to embrace and enjoy.  What I am most thankful for taking out of the handful of conversations I had with Joe was his honesty and uncompromising point of view that great wine should be celebrated for what it is – an expression of vineyard, winemaker and tradition.  And what we should all be thankful for regarding Joe is the impression that he has left on wine drinkers, retailers, sommeliers and up and coming importers and distributors as so many in our business are attempting to emulate his formula – bringing in honest and representative wines into the marketplace for many to enjoy.

The Hill of Madone

The Hill of Madone

Located in the Beaujolais village of Fleurie, the Hill of Madone provided not only the most spectacular view of all ten of the Crus, but was also the first place I have been to in quite some time where it was completely quiet.  No planes, cars, phone calls, text messages or alarm clocks – only wind, and the rustling of swaying Gamay vines.  And the hike down the sun-baked hillside into the town of Fleurie with the promise of carafes of young Beaujolais awaiting us was the perfect ending to an unforgettable afternoon.

Visiting Lopez de Heredia

A winery lost in time – that is the best way to understand what I saw at Lopez de Heredia in Haro, Spain.  It wasn’t difficult to imagine how prior generations made wine there as Maria Jose follows the same practices and uses the same equipment that her father and grandfather did before her.  Like walking into Notre Dame in Paris, you really haven’t been there until you walk in the front door and let the aromas of time and tradition overwhelm your senses.  The walk to dinner from the winery was unforgettable – as was the party in downtown Haro afterwards. I am not quite sure I will ever have the opportunity to participate in a quarter mile long conga line ever again!

Jorge Posada

ot every Yankee fans appreciates how well Jorge Posada played during his tenure in the Bronx.  Though I wanted to throw my remote at the television when he pulled himself from the Red Sox series earlier this year, Posada is one of the best catchers to ever man the plate on 161st Street.  A borderline hall of famer, Posada is a throwback to another generation and his batting glove-less doubles into the right center field gap will be missed.

Endless Chablis in Noyers

Patrick Piuze, winemaker in Chablis, hosted us when we visited him this past summer.  Instead of the usual winery tour, he took us to the top of the Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’ to explain his winemaking practices and to give us a tour of the rolling hillsides of Chablis.  Afterwards, he gave a magnificent party in the medieval town of Noyers.  Hosting a barbeque until four or so in the morning, Patrick hospitality was second to none on the trip. And the setting couldn’t have been more wonderful.  Noyers, with buildings dating back to the 13th century, gave me a glimpse into the storied and permanent sense of place that some Europeans towns still maintain today.  Getting up a few hours later for the bus ride to Champagne, now that was something I wasn’t very thankful for…

Our Tomato Garden

Our Tomato Garden

For the first time in a couple of years, Mother Nature cooperated and provided my wife and I with a bountiful crop of tomatoes from August through the first few days of November.  Though we still lost a few vines, our backyard tomatoes were a staple at nearly every meal this summer.  I am not a farmer, but the few minutes each day that the garden gives my wife and I to escape are priceless.  Soon enough we will be starting next year’s vines in the hallway!

Authentic Wine

Jamie Goode, author of The Science of Wine, and Sam Harrop, winemaker and author, teamed up to write a wonderful book on responsibly made wine.  Though it is far from a dogmatic manifesto championing all things sulfur and cultured yeast free, it is a well written and accessible guide to all types of wine, while working towards a specific goal – helping wine consumers understand why wine that captures a sense of place should be consumed and enjoyed with curiosity.

Born to Run

In the past year, I have taken up running.  I participated in the Philadelphia Livestrong Event in August and I am training for the Rutgers 13.1 in April.  After a recommendation from a friend, I picked up Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  The only way I can explain how wonderful of a read this book has become is to compare it to Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch.  It’s hook is unavoidable and it was one of the quickest reads I’ve ever picked up.  As my curiosity and sense of wonderment was heightened by Lynch, McDougall has hit the primal note in me and caused me to embrace the innate pleasures that I have for running.

Drinking Wonderfully Delicious and Responsibly Made Wines

I believe that the world has evolved into a bat shit crazy corner of the universe and as the hysteria over greed, power and ideological fanaticism grows, we need a place to escape.  That is why I embrace sense of place.  I believe the best wines in the world capture a sense of place and tell a story with a voice that is distinctive and true.  The best wines don’t need to blow your hair back, they simply make you take pause and exhale.  That brief moment of release can be blissful, even if we don’t know it.  Few beverages can provide this experience and at the top of the list is expressive and honest wine.  We should all be thankful that these wines are readily available in both retail and restaurant settings.  We should all also be open minded enough to give them a chance in our glasses.

Being Able to Share These Wines with Friends and a Loyal Customer Base.

Perhaps what I am most thankful for is the opportunity to share these wines with family, friends and the loyal customers that invite me into their shops and restaurants.  I suppose drinking great wine without friends and family is similar to a tree falling in a forest without anyone around to hear it come down.  And for those in the business that understand their role in bringing vinous delights to their customers, it is comforting to know that wine hasn’t been completely commodified to the point that we haven’t abandoned tradition, story-telling and the romance associated with wines that capture a sense of place.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember, with Turkey and various side dishes – Riesling, then Cru Beaujolais.

-John

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