(Note: I began writing this post about a week ago, the first night we were in our rental house — in case any details seem a little post-dated).
I am typing these words at a borrowed kitchen table in a borrowed kitchen. It’s a beautiful kitchen, in a house that we will be renting for 10 months. I’m looking around at boxes, bubble wrap, crumpled newsprint, and a 5-burner gas cooktop that I cannot wait to break in.
Our trip up to Indiana has been good, but utterly exhausting. The only reason I’m not already in bed is because our sheets are in the dryer. My body hurts, by brain is functioning at about 50% capacity. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and tonight I am so thankful that the bed we will be sleeping in is the same one we will have until May.
We’ve been staying for a few nights with an extremely generous family in town, friends of friends. They welcomed us with open arms on our first visit to the city, back in April, and have done so again; they alone have made this transition one of the easiest and exciting we’ve had. Last night, they had a few friends over for dinner to help welcome us to town. And while I’m sure the lovely people we met last night are kind enough to have perhaps come to dinner with that purpose alone, I’m also guessing it had to do with The Wine.
See, our host likes wine. He likes really, really good wine. He’s into wine the way I’m into homemade ice cream. He doesn’t settle, and while he still believes you can get a good bottle for under $10, I’m quite sure that Charles Shaw has never met the wine tool in his utensil drawer. The first night we were there, he opened for us a bottle of Silver Oak that was reportedly not being released to the public until the next day (he credits a “facebook friend” with a wine shop in California with the pre-release delivery… I guess you could say he knows people?). It was unbelievable. It is wine we’ve never had. It’s wine that you can sit around and talk about, for a good long time, because it actually changes as you talk.
Last night, at the dinner with friends, we enjoyed another Silver Oak and a reisling (can’t remember the name, because it was shadowed by “The Oak” as they call it). We had perfectly-cooked maple-plank salmon and rare steak, along with sweet Indiana corn and a fingerling potato salad (my contribution, which paled in comparison to everything else at the table). We had a sorbet to cleanse the palate (the dinner wasn’t as uppity as it sounds — how could it be, with two 3-year olds and a 5-year old watching Cars in the adjoining room?) but I brazenly convinced everyone that I could guess the sorbet flavor, and they took my bait… I guessed cranberry, then rhubarb… only to be quietly and graciously defeated by another dinner guest who correctly guessed pomegranate. We had dessert: homemade peach-blueberry crumb-top pie, with vanilla ice cream. And then. We had a dessert wine that I might not ever get to taste again; but it was a taste of heaven, so I’m hoping to have it there in eternity. It was a 1994 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. I had no idea what this was, and had in retrospect shown my ignorance a bit earlier that day when I’d picked up the bottle and asked our host “why is this wine so yellow?”
Think nectar. Crazy, mouth-coating, sweet, golden, fruity nectar. I’ve never considered myself a fan of sweet wines — but, like many things I think I don’t like, I’ve just never had good sweet wine. It’s its own thing, and once you think differently about it, it can be remarkable. I had a similar experience, drinking a lambic ale a few weeks ago at a beer-tasting. The lambic is in a category all its own — not like beer at all, in some ways — but I had to make the mental switch before I got it. The same with this wine; once I stopped thinking white wine, I was good to go. It was apricots and honey, and somehow at the same time musty. This mustiness results from the unique way it is made: you can read more about it here, but basically the wine is made in a small region of Bordeux, France, that is near a river. The mist from the river causes the grapes to rot (yes, rot), and the wine is made from the rotted grapes. Who thought of this? I like to imagine a poor, destitute winemaker who moved to the region only to find out that all his crop rotted on the vine. He’s so desperate to support his family, he makes wine anyway. Lo and behold, it’s this unbelievable ambrosia-like liquid gold. He and his family are saved, and live happily ever after.
Which is exactly what I was thinking I was well on my way to doing, after having a glass. And it wasn’t just the wine; it was the warmth and generosity of a person who opens one of his nicest bottles of wine for a brand-new family moving to town. This was part of his family’s way of welcoming us to Indiana.
I think we could like it here.