Home. It’s a word that conjures a multitude of images and a concept that has been on my mind. I’ve just returned from a visit to my hometown, and although nearly all my family has joined me in Texas, there is a warmth, an ease, a familiarity there that cannot be easily replicated.
If you are fortunate, as I was, home is a safe place to grow. It is where you began to explore, where new are concepts introduced and wonder abounds. As the trip neared, I realized that I was due to write my hundredth post. I wanted it to have significance. To stand out in some way. I also realized that in the previous weekend, I had enjoyed three wines from three very important places to me, my wine “homes,” so to speak. It made perfect sense.
In the Montessori theory there are three basic stages of learning: Absorbing, Connecting, and Conscious Application. It is a process we go through every time a new skill is acquired. We repeat the cycle, growing more each time. With the right guidance and scaffolding, the process is a joyful one and increases our desire to grow. With the right environment, where you feel capable and inspired, the brain is ready to absorb. A place like home.
There aren’t many places that can inspire like Italy. The beauty of the land, the enthusiasm for life, and it is a gastronomic playground. There is a reverence for the land and what it produces; mealtime becomes a nearly spiritual experience. Both the wine and the food tell a story that honors the soil, the family. Tending the fields, stirring and slicing, are acts of love. Slow down and enjoy, commune, feed your body and your soul. Although my family had always prioritized meals together, my trip there in 2000 with my parents allowed us to break bread in a whole new way.
I recently enjoyed a sample wine from Asti in the Piedmont region. The Barbera grape has always been a favorite and this 2010 Giordano* did not disappoint. Bright cherry, medium body, with a soft and spicy finish. This wine had a touch of smoke and earth. At $13.99 a bottle, it is a bargain.
When I visited again with my husband in 2007, Piedmont was towards the end of our trip and a favorite. After nearly three weeks of planes, trains and automobile, living out of a backpack and dashing from one place to the next, Piedmont provided and slower pace, a peek into a less tourist-driven economy. Piedmont was the place where we lingered over dinner for four hours and absorbed every moment. It was the place where, despite the language barrier, we connected over Barbera and Barolo and left a little more in love.
It had been nearly twenty years since I’d been to the Finger Lakes region when I returned last January. My parents had both been reared an hour away, in opposite directions, but I hadn’t been back since visiting with a friend that went to Cornell in 1994. It is where I visited my first winery Hazlitt 1852 Winery, a 21 year old with no prior knowledge, and where I would visit another winery, Lamoreaux Landing, for the first time as a “writer.”
It is the area of the country where we’d go to make Stollen at Christmas and “Pop’s” corn in the summer. It is where we’d chew on the Beech tree’s wintergreen and explore the remnants of the old Studebaker in the woods. The Blue Spruce and the fallen snow bring me back to my grandparent’s kitchen and the barren Birch conjure memories of peeling the soft bark, swirl after swirl.
I was not familiar with Lemberger until I participated in a recent Finger Lakes tasting event. Also known as Blaufränkisch, this wine is a great red for summer. Fox Run Vineyards* makes a great Lemberger. Red and black fruit, some good acid, a bit of smoke in the finish. This wine could be paired a variety of ways, grilled meats to a cheese plate, or enjoyed by itself.
Another cold-hearty variety that I was not familiar with, but really enjoyed was the Seyval Blanc. When I left the Adirondacks in the mid-nineties, I was not aware of any wine industry in the area. They are now in the process of creating a new AVA for all of the wineries in the Lake Champlain Valley. The Champlain Wine Company makes a Crab Island White with the grape which is a great summer wine. Great citrus notes balanced with the roundness of melon. Off dry, but not sweet, this wine would appeal to a variety of palates and at $13.99 it is equally accessible.
I hadn’t returned home in six years and I had never brought my children there. Flying over Lake Champlain always warms my heart and gives me pause. It is truly breathtaking. As we exited the airport and I smelled the cool air, holding my son’s hand while my daughter skipped ahead. This is home. It will always be home and I always feel connected and safe there. “Are those ‘happy cries,’ Mama?” “Yes, baby, ‘happy cries,’ indeed.”
When I moved to Austin in 1995, I had planned on staying for two months. Obviously, that changed. Austin changed as well. At the time there was no traffic, free parking downtown, and only a few wineries. Today, the road from Austin to Fredericksburg is lined with vineyards and tasting rooms. The amount of Texas wine being produced has increased dramatically over the last ten years and, with that, the quality.
I’ve written several times about my affinity for Sonoma and thought that, if I ever wanted to be connected to the wine industry, I would have to move. I thought wrong. Since I began writing, I have been able to connect with, learn from, and enjoy the company of some amazing people here in the industry. I have been able to take the time to learn more about the industry here that I ever imagined. I try to apply that information in my writing, not only about Texas wine, but about the wine world and life in general.
One of the first wineries that I visited in Texas was Driftwood Estate Winery. The views are hard to beat around here and they are making some very nice wines. One that has received several accolades is the Lone Star Cab.* For Father’s Day, it only made sense to open that for my favorite Texan father. Big enough to hold up to the grass-fed strips, but not overpowering. The green and peppery notes played off the arugula nicely. A great pairing.
As I continue to taste and learn, learn and share, I am grateful for the people and places that provide the scaffolding to grow. With every bottle, every meeting, and every adventure there is opportunity to absorb, connect, and apply. Here is to the next hundred posts and to wherever you call “home.” Cheers!
Lake Champlain at Sunrise
*These wines were provided as samples, gifts, and for particiaption in virtual tastings.