This is the third year in a row I’ve had the opportunity to write and present a “Things I’m Thankful For” post on this blog. Each year, on November 23rd, I have sat down in front of the typer and tried to find a way to express my gratitude for all I’m surrounded by, the blessings life has bestowed, the magic of it all. It’s impossible, but I’ve tried. And I’m going to do so again. It’s November 23rd, and this is what I’m thankful for (please note, there is likely to be some overlap with previous renditions!):
My missus, who did not so much save my life, as reinvent it for the drastic better. Who teaches me, everyday, why love exists. Who is perfect. She is who I was born to fall in love with. I am so thankful that she found me, and I her.
My daughter, who is proof that miracles do happen. The most delightful creature I’ve even known, my favorite person in the world. Who invents for me, every day, new ways to cry with happiness.
The chance to write this blog, because it means I get to write posts like this one.
The iPhone that Ridge gave me. Because while I am not, in any way shape or form, a tech evangelical, I do have to admit that Apple did a really, really good job with the iPhone.
Antonio Galloni. Because he gets Ridge, and he gets Paul Draper. Because he wrote, “Heretical as it may sound, I think the wines Draper is making today will prove to be far superior to the wines of decades past, many of which are rightly considered legendary.” Because this is true.
Grandparents, especially my daughter’s. Because this bond, this connection, this grandparent-grandchild relationship, is a friendship like no other, and a delight to watch in action. Because grandparents suffer from a most delightful strain of insanity.
Verizon’s cell phone service, circa 2008. For giving me a good connection when interviewing with Nicole Buttitta (VP of HR at Ridge) for the first time, from a truck stop in Wyoming.
Really awful looking old corks, in the necks of really old and awful looking bottle-necks, that somehow still protect really, really, really amazing mature wines. Lead-shrouded, moldy, juice-stained, and crumbling, but still doing their jobs to perfection.
Amy Monroe, Antonio Favela, Barry Campbell, Howard Hickok, Jane Occhialini, Jenny Merit, Karen Cai, Kim Korupp, Michael Riese, Nancy Tarng, Peter Yaninek, Sam Howles-Banerji, Samantha McMillan, Sonja Seaberg, Tara Einis, and Zani Nesvacil. Who have taught me that hackneyed corporate aphorisms like “”I’ve always found that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team” have within them the gold of truth, because I am of little to no worth whatsoever without the blessing of these fine people by my side. You know them as the Monte Bello Tasting Room team. I am proud to know them as inspirations; and more than that, friends.
Wine & Food pairing; specifically, Champys and Salt & Vinegar crisps.
Wine & Food pairing; specifically, Champys and other food besides Salt & Vinegar crisps.
The Owle Bubo.
Jazz Winemaking, as performed by Paul Draper.
Guests who do all the right things in the tasting room.
The 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay.
Drinking 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay in the fog while watching rabbits.
The Monte Bello Collector Component Tasting, which is one of the coolest tasting opportunities I’ve ever experienced.
The Vegetarian Lasagna from Bash Catering. To Chef Jaci Rossi and the Bash Catering team, a hearty congratulations; it’s very, very hard to make truly outstanding lasagna!
The 1995 Monte Bello, for so pleasantly surprising me by quite unexpectedly transitioning from one of the tightest, most angular, most intensely structured Monte Bellos ever, to this very poised, aromatic, beautific Monte Bello that I am looking at right now, feeling very, very thirsty.
People who don’t chew gum.
Really good wine bloggers.
People who believe me when I tell them Jazz, Haiku, and Winemaking are intimately related.
People who write me e-mails about all the amazing ways our wines have been a part of their stories: births, deaths, weddings, anniversaries, reunions, etc. These e-mails remind me that what we do really is something special; we produce that which ritualizes that which you will remember forever.
Wine Berzerkers. Which is pretty self-explanatory.
Three-day old Geyserville out of a flat-bottom glass, with pizza. Mushroom and Olive pizza. And Geyserville.
Our vineyard and winery teams. Watching them during the 2011 Harvest reminded me all over again about what Sam Howles-Banerji refers to as their “awesomeness.”
That Kyle Theriot and Will Thomas have joined the vineyard teams.
Lytton Springs. The place, the people, the wine.
People who understand it’s important to wear cool shoes when tasting wine.
Drinking the new 2008 Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel (which, in my estimation, is the most delicious vintage since the ’04) while wearing ankle boots.
Parents who understand how to go wine tasting with their children.
The way a properly set tasting looks before anyone has arrived. The shimmering glasses, the ordered plates, the small hills of freshly sliced bread, the cool perfection of the cheeses, the crisp diamond sparkle of the water in the glasses, the wine bottles standing at attention, awaiting their deployment …
My almost-three-year-old-daughter’s hysterical one word wine reviews …
My wife’s preposterously expensive taste in wines, and that fact that two-day-old Ridge wine still consistently appeases her …
My boss, Ryan Moore, who does not regurgitate hackneyed corporate aphorisms like “”I’ve always found that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” Who does occasionally deploy tidbits of corporate-speak, but always with a twinkle in his eye and a twist at the corner of his lips. Who consistently forces me to come up with new and ever-more hyperbolized ways of explaining just how great I’m doing. Like stupendaliscious, or outer-galaxial.
That my co-workers keep having cool babies.
Haig’s. The greatest hummus in the world. Perfection in pairing with our chardonnays. When experiencing a line-up of excellently selected and staged food & wine pairing selections, one might be tempted to deploy a hackneyed aphorism like “No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.” Except that when Haig’s is involved, one must conclude that the rugged individuality of the rowing is indeed deeply praise-worthy.
People who don’t wear cologne or perfume.
Carignane. Especially the John Olney kind.
The 2011 Ridge Vineyards Holilday Packs. Especially the Estate Cabernet vertical, for being so good. And, oddly enough, especially the Dusi vertical, which has suprised me immensely by being truly delicious. Not because they’re not good wines; they are. But because I personally like them so much. Because I am not normally a drinker of this style. But these are really, really, really good.
The fact that my post on this blog with the somewhat laughably lunatic title of ”Zoot! And Poetry, And Wine, And Jazz, And Steve Martin, And The Muppets, And Jack Kerouac!” remains one of the Top 5 most viewed posts of all time.
Honest people. People who say true things. Like, “Champys should only be drunk from Coupe glasses.”
People who drink Champys from Coupe glasses. Because these are people who obviously have perfect aesthetic taste. And are accordingly inevitably the sorts of people who will also appreciate the opportunity that our new Historic Vineyard Series release represents. People who drink solo-varietal Cabernet Franc. And Champys. From Coupe glasses.
People who, like my father, fell in love all over again with Merlot after seeing Sideways. People who, like my father, have refused to buy Pinot Noir ever since, even though it’s kind of silly, and certainly self-defeating. People who, like my father, deserve admiration for having principles like this. People who, like my father, remind me of aphorisms that are not all hackneyed, like this relevant one from Mark Twain: “Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed.”
That we are fortunate to oft be well-fed.
People who remember that not everyone in the world is well-fed; that in fact, far too many in the world have never, ever experienced being well-fed. And accordingly, I am thankful for people who not only remember this, but work to correct it. Or at minimum, at least walk the world with appreciation, as opposed to arrogance.
Humble winemakers like Paul Draper, Eric Baugher, and John Olney. Who are good enough to be arrogant, but aren’t.
Humble assistant winemakers like Shun Ishikubo and Muiris Griffin, who are good enough to be arrogant, but aren’t. Who are also good enough to be head winemakers, but choose instead to be part of something beautiful.
People who don’t wear skinny jeans.
People who understand that wearing skinny jeans while drinking good wine makes puppies cry.
People who listen to wine podcasts. Because that is serious dedication.
People who know that there are far better things to pair with red wine than chocolate.
People who pair sautéed mushrooms and garlic with red wine.
People who know you can pair red wine with Indian food.
People who understand that, despite the schtick, ZZ Top is actually a really good band.
People who know that Motorhead has their own wine now, and still don’t drink it, even though they really like Motorhead.
That Rex Stout’s immortal literary creation, the detective Nero Wolfe, insists on the use of Tarragon Wine Vinegar in his kitchen instead of sherry.
Good Poets. Because in this day and age of shallow superficiality, cultural devaluation, and emotional disconnect; in this age where protective irony and deliberate obfuscation rule the emotional day, we desperately need people who are still trying to connect our heads to our hearts for us.
People who understand what wine and poetry have to do with one another.
Really, really ridiculously hyperbolized wine tasting notes.
All wine writers who have not used the word “millenial” in the past year, if there are any.
Cecilia Aguilar, Chris Seguin, and Mary Devine; the dictionary definitions of Customer Service. And really nice people on top of that.
People who use terms like “coated tannins” in their tasting notes.
That I was invited to attend the Monte Bello Assemblage tasting, the greatest wine experience of my life.
Cellar Tracker, and the admirably obsessed people who use it.
That Elliot Nett and Jason Shelton are now esteemed full-time members of the Lytton Springs hospitality team.
People who drink wine both in formal wear, and naked.
Old men who keep their belts below their bellies, as opposed to above.
Whoever first described my approach to clothing as “hobo chic,” because it’s given me a way to explain away comments about my clothing.
Ties with subtle wine stains.
Wine stains that look like the profiles of famous classical composers.
Tasting Rooms that do not play baroque classical music or Santana.
People who are willing to let themselves love, because this is the bravest thing of all.
Having someone to love.
Having something to love.
People who, when asked “Don’t you want something to love?,” answer “Yes.”
That I have had the chance to love almost every single vintage of Monte Bello going all the way back to 1964.
The things people say to one another while drinking wine, like, “You know, socks are a really great idea,” or “Pass me another crostini,” or “Ayn Rand was wrong,” or “Has it ever occurred to you that some of our best memories involve autumn?” or “Wow, that is an amazing Syrah,” or “I love you too.”
And so many other things also, like Bud Powell, and Laura Chenel’s Melodie, and solid-color carpets and the people who love them, and co-fermenting Viognier with Syrah, and the Haiku of Issa, and Ah So Cork Pullers and the people who use them, and pacifists, and the Optima font, and typewriters from before 1960, and books, and wearing PF Flyers and a suit, and anyone who doesn’t have a mirror in their bag, and really weird and cool wine stores, and France, and fractured limestone, and grape sorting tables, and people who don’t iron their jeans, and very worn-in bandanas, and firefighters, and people who really aggressively swish while wine tasting, and the fact that spittoons are used by both oenophiles and cowboys, and romance, and candles that don’t have scents, and owls, and wine bars that don’t play house music, and restaurants that always bring out the vintage that’s on the menu, and Thai restaurants who understand that if you can’t make green papaya salad properly you shouldn’t be a Thai restaurant, and Italian restaurants who understand the same thing about gnocchi, and people who know first-hand that thirty-year-old cab goes really well with japanese-style barbecued okra, and friends of any kind, and people who don’t call me Chris after I’ve introduced myself as Christopher, and the movie Casablanca, and Ah So Cork Pullers and those that have them, and Watsonville Sourdough, and the days when one doesn’t have to cut one’s toenails, and dew, and that lunatic fringe cadre of loyalists who re-wrote the zinfandel rules, and sweet potatoes, and the taste of a wine spill being licked off the stomach of a lover, and December, and people with awful handwriting, and the paintings of Pissarro, and college radio, and really fine wine.
And most of all, I am thankful to Ridge Vineyards. By your dedication to me, and mine to yours, my family is happy, healthy and safe, and my heart is, accordingly, intact. Thank you.
And to you all, may all the best of everything be yours, and may you always have cause to be thankful.
To share a glass of wine is to share the experience of love. May you all be, feel, and share true love this holiday season.
To all at Ridge, please know I am so thankful for you.
And to every person, place or thing I have neglected to mention in this post, please know I am praying for ten thousand more years of writing “Things I Am Thankful For” posts, so that at some point, I might thank everything.