I am an admittedly idiosyncratic traditionalist, in that I am rarely much for traditional traditions, but am conversely rather boffo for my own rather less-than-traditional iterations thereof; which makes it all the more of a personal revolution in the offing that I am posting these words today.
This is, of course, the rambling preambling to the preamble of my annual “Things I’m Thankful For” post; which I traditionally, per the terms of my own tradition, post on the 23rd of November. Which I was dead on track for doing again this year. Except here it is, Thanksgiving, and I’m feeling all thankful-laden, and it simply feels odd not to commit these lines to the blog-o-web on this most gratitudinous of days. Yet it’s the 22nd, a proposition that defies convention. But blast it all, tradition be damned, what? On with the show! Pip Pip!
When I ponder the word Thankful, I see my wife’s face. As I do when I ponder the other following words:
Fortunate, Blessed, and Grateful.
These are of course self-referential. When I simply ponder her, as opposed to how I feel when I consider the blessing upon me that is she, these then are some of the words that come to mind:
Wise, Beautiful, Magical, Powerful, Amazing, Fragile, Astounding, Tender, Perfect, and Love.
I am so thankful for my wife. My friend, my lover, my partner, my wife. I am so thankful for my wife. One can define the almighty in whatever ways one wishes, of course; but if the definition of God has something to do with that which gives life to life, that which governs all, that foundational being that is the alpha and omega of all things, then she has dominion over all my world. She is the Bodhisattva come to help me, the Savior come to save me, the God come to raise me. I am so thankful for my wife.
And I am so thankful for my daughter, before whom I am a positively helpless puddle of mush. What hasn’t this small, beautiful creature given to me? There is no shade of blue in the sky, no streak of green in the sea, that she has not alerted me to. No whisper of wind in the night, no chirp of bird in the day, that she has not called my ears toward. There is no tear duct in my eye she has not drained of its feeling, no cavity of my heart that she has not filled. What hue of autumn leaf, what scent of springtime blossom, has she not drawn me to? What a thing, to have a daughter! I am so thankful for my daughter.
For my wife, and my daughter, I am so thankful. A Love Supreme.
Which reminds me that I am also distinctly grateful for John Coltrane.
And wine glass sizes drawn in fractions. Like 19.75 oz. glasses.
And the wines that inhabit them.
Like, perhaps, the 1981 Monte Bello, which tasted so fine just this past Sunday.
Which would also taste so fine in, for example, a flat-bottom glass.
I am so thankful for people who drink red wine from flat-bottom glasses.
And grandparents. There is no insanity like the insanity of grandparents. That my little family of three – Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear – has two hearty and hale sets of grandparents, is a blessing beyond compare. To watch our little girl in their blissful company is a gift unimaginable. I am so thankful for our parents; grandparents to our wonderful daughter. I am so thankful for this.
As I am for the knoll at Monte Bello. Such a place to stand and contemplate the void, to be temporarily one with the ancestors staring at the walls and seeing truth.
I am thankful for poetry, and the wines that have, through time, lubricated its fragile and complex gears.
Like, for example, the 2004 Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel, which tasted so fine just … yesterday.
There are few moments greater than the moment when your father and your wife bring to their respective lips the wine you have poured for them. I am thankful for these moments.
I am thankful for Haiku.
I am thankful for people who do not ask me to throw away their chewing gum upon their arrival at the Monte Bello Tasting Room.
In fact, I am thankful for people who do not chew gum.
I am thankful for wooden canes, and limping through vine rows relying on one.
I am thankful for Amy Monroe, Sam Howles-Banerji, and Kirsten Anderson. If you’ve ever come to Monte Bello, and accordingly felt a bit of magic enter your soul and there take up permanent residence, there to be called upon whenever your worry and care threaten to overwhelm you in the pursuit of your conventional happinesses, it is likely because you were moved by Amy and/or Sam and/or Kirsten. They are in the practice of providing memories that will last forever, and they are rather excellent at this endeavor. They have given me so much to be thankful for, and are to me canonical saints in the pantheon of Monte Bello magic.
I am thankful for the word canonical.
And the word Vertical. And the thing that is, in winespeak, a Vertical.
And the Estate Cabernet Vertical, which will not be available for much longer. I am thankful it is still available, because the 2004 Estate Cabernet, is, in particular, one of the best wines I’ve ever had. It was also one of my first loves upon joining the family at Ridge, and in it, I taste my good fortune.
I am thankful for P.G. Wodehouse, for having given to the world Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, of whose exploits with the cow-creamer, last night, were so delightful to read.
I am thankful that I do not believe in decent-tasting “entry-level” wines costing $10/bottle, any more than I believe in decent-sounding “entry-level” Telecasters costing $100.
I am thankful for windows that lock and unlock with ease.
I am thankful for wines that taste especially fine whilst standing at windows gazing out at trees in autumn. Like the 1992 Monte Bello, which, out of a 375ml bottle, tastes especially fine whilst standing at a window (open or closed, whatever, it’s easy to lock and unlock) gazing out at a tree in autumn.
I am thankful for candles.
I am thankful for bow-ties, which, perhaps come the New Year, I shall resolve to wear more of.
I am thankful for champys, and the people who use the term.
And for the people who drink champys.
I am thankful for champys.
I am thankful that Ridge has found a place in its heart to place me.
I am thankful that, in lieu of a manpurse, I wear sportcoats.
I am thankful for everyone who comes to Monte Bello in the summertime, and doesn’t comment of the fact that I am wearing a sportcoat.
I am thankful for Aaron, Antonio, Barry, Emma, Jane, Jenny, Karen, Kathryn, Kim, Lori, Michael, Nancy, Peter, Samantha, Sonja, and Tara. Because Hospitality is holy, and they are the true keepers of the faith. The foundational saints. The canonical hosts. To truly “host” a guest is an essential act of love, compassion, empathy, sympathy, faith, and kindness. I am thankful for these wonderful human beings, and for the generosity of spirit they so consistently offer.
I am thankful for the XTC song “Dear God.”
I am thankful that the new 2008 Mazzoni Home Ranch is such an absolutely excellent contribution to the Mazzoni canon.
I am thankful for high-quality buff cloths, and the wine hosts that know how to use them.
I am thankful for ritual, and what it teaches us, and I am thankful that the world of wine is so ritualized.
I am thankful for people who, when confronted by those who know a bit more than themselves about something, think first, “Wonderful!” as opposed to “Snob!”
I am thankful that I know so little, because I look so forward to learning.
I am thankful that a great deal of my “work” at Ridge is “learning” more about wine.
Learning more about, for example, the 2007 Monte Bello. For reasons soon to be revealed!
I am thankful for things that are soon to be revealed, as I do not enjoy surprises or secrets, though I am thankful for them. Thankful that they offer the opportunity for revelation.
I am thankful for Son House.
I am thankful for anyone who can figure out a way to work wine into a tattoo without looking like a rather foolish sort.
I am thankful for Syrah co-fermented with Viognier.
I am thankful that part of my “job” at Ridge involves sitting at table with people like Kathy and Ingrid, and “working” on food & wine pairings.
I am thankful that I very often have occasion, while at work at Ridge, to deploy the term “culinarily companionable.”
I am thankful that I get to write this blog. Not only is it a still-very-overwhelming honor, but it also allows me to make up a great many words; a great many made-up words that, when discovered and subsequently called out as being made-up, become the springboard for me to deliver my patented lecture on the true value of language and its purposes. Which no one needs to hear anymore.
I am thankful.
I am thankful for trumpet mutes, and the jazz players who deploy them.
I am thankful that Ridge makes wine like Thelonious Monk made chords.
I am thankful that Sumano’s bakery makes Watsonville Sourdough.
I am thankful for drinking wine, eating bread and cheese, and riding ferries.
I am thankful that Bellwether Farms makes San Andreas. And I am thankful for being able to taste it while sipping on 1978 Monte Bello.
I am thankful for harvest videos, and the opportunity to make them.
I am thankful for #Harvest2012.
I am thankful that I do not dream in hashtags.
I am thankful that if one Googles “Generation X Characteristics,” the very first entry that appears lists the following:
• Defy Authority
• Reality driven
• Distaste “touchy feely”
• Technology Competent
• Resist Hierarchy
I am thankful that I still manage to rarely use the word “Google” as a verb.
I am thankful for walking cities.
I feel thankful when I go walking in a city, and the person I am walking with says, “My, that looks like a nice wine shop!”
I am thankful for Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, and all the denizens of the Hundred-Acre Wood.
I am thankful for the poet Sharon Olds, because she writes about woman things in ways that can truly move a man.
I am thankful that as soon as we were installed in our little post-birth “hotel” at the hospital, my very exhausted and triumphantly beautiful wife called for Cava and Monte Bello.
I am thankful that when my wife calls for champys, she calls for Coupe glasses.
I am thankful for coupe glasses.
I am thankful for trains.
I am thankful for movies made before 1970.
I am thankful for music made before 1980.
I am thankful for wine made before 1990.
I am thankful for balsamic vinegar made before 2000.
I am thankful for books made before 2010.
I am thankful for wonderful exceptions to the above.
I am thankful for wine poured before I wrote “I am thankful for wine poured …,” like, for example, any of our Syrah/Grenache blends.
I am currently thankful for the 2008 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache, and I am previously grateful for all the other vintages.
I am thankful that my daughter just announced that her Grandpa “stinks like Thanksgiving.”
I am thankful that some people still roller skate.
I am thankful for limousine drivers that do not park in spaces reserved for the disabled.
I am thankful for wine drinkers that are not drunkards.
I am thankful that calm, clear-headed, self-possessed, serious, alert, concerned, cool, exacting, rigorous, thoughtful, vigilant, and pure are all synonyms for “sober.”
I am thankful that, while it’s today in the news that it’s going to happen, Nikki Sixx’s “Heroin Diaries” is not yet, in fact, a Broadway Musical.
I am thankful that, for the fourth year in a row, I have the opportunity to praise Haig’s Hummus. I am thankful for Haig’s Hummus. And I am thankful for the way Haig’s Hummus tastes when it’s in your mouth, wrapped up in a big balloon-size swallow of Ridge chardonnay.
I am thankful for Ridge Chardonnay. Especially the 2010 Monte Bello Chardonnay, which, when released, will F%*&KIN blow your mind.
I am thankful for %*&.
I am thankful that we have a President who likes wine.
I am thankful for Zen.
I am thankful for the Monterey Bay, and how it makes Carignane taste. Especially Ridge Carignane. Which always tastes so nice, but tastes especially nice when sipped next to Monterey Bay.
I am thankful for John Olney, and I am thankful for the Carignane that he makes.
I am thankful for everyone at Lytton Springs, and for the opportunity to make this appreciation public. I am especially thankful for my counterpart Sandy Johnson, because her greatness humbles me daily, and it is good to be humbled. And I am thankful for her friendship, because it is good to have friends. And I am thankful for her colleagues that I get to, albeit infrequently, work with, namely Jason and Eliot. I wish I got to see them more, because I am always thankful for the opportunity. And it’s good to be thankful.
I am thankful that I rarely see myself in the mirror making air quotes.
I am thankful for Paul Draper, Eric Baugher, John Olney, David Gates, Kyle Theriot, Will Thomas, Shun Ishikubo, and Muiris Griffin, for the absurdity of how much they’ve taught me, and how patient they’ve been with me.
I am thankful for when Petit Verdot gets ripe. Because if swampy and funky can become fragrant and floral, then beauty is forever possible.
I am thankful for every moment there is not violence.
I am thankful for funny instructions on fading paper, push-pinned to dirty corkboard, that say things like, “If you see a mountain lion, don’t bend over,” because who bends over when they see a mountain lion? And I am thankful that this is based on a true story.
I am thankful for true stories. And made up ones as well.
I am thankful for the opportunity to read poems that were written by people who were drinking wine while they were writing.
I am thankful to Ryan Moore, because he is my boss, and he seems to kind of like me. Which really feels good.
And I am thankful that the fates and powers that blessed Ryan with a wonderful wife have now blessed him with a beautiful, wonderful child, because I am very happy for him, and it’s good to be happy for other people.
I am also happy for myself, and am thankful that I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and a beautiful, wonderful child.
I am thankful that the obvious similarities between myself and my boss obviously continue.
I am thankful for the days when my boss calls and says things like, “Have you tasted the 2007 Dynamite Hill recently?” And I say, “No.” And he says, “Can you pull a bottle and taste it, and tell me what you think?” And I say, “Yes, boss.”
I am thankful for, in no particular order: Love, and the Lack of Hate.
Also for Charlie Christian, Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, Lester Young, Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt, Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Zoot Sims, and Grant Green.
I am thankful that Duke Ellington is the Monte Bello of Jazz, and that Monte Bello is the Duke Ellington of Wine.
I am thankful for what localism teaches us about being peaceful with one another.
I am thankful that wine from our estates makes people feel peaceful.
I am thankful for peace.
I am thankful.
I am thankful for the certainty that this list will never end, and that, when confronted with all the wonderful things I’ve inadvertently omitted from this iteration of this list, I will have another opportunity at some future time to make amends.
I am thankful for ancient Mountains-and-Rivers Poetry.
I am thankful that I work on a mountain.
I am thankful to Ridge, for forever altering my life in momentous ways I could have never imagined, for, above all else, affording me the means to support my family.
I am thankful to Ridge for trusting me to speak for Ridge.
I am thankful for Merlot.
I am thankful for pine cones.
I am thankful for rattlesnakes, and the ones that don’t bite me.
I am thankful to Penske, for renting me the truck that carried me from New York to California, for helping to prove in yet one more way that Northern California is indeed the promised land, for stopping when I needed it to stop, at that truck stop where I first got on the phone with Nicole and inaugurated the process that would eventually culminate in my being hired by Ridge, and for starting again when it was time to start driving again to California.
I am thankful for my parents. And your parents.
I am thankful for anyone who buys a fine bottle of wine for their parents.
I am thankful for parents who buy Monte Bello from the birth year of their children.
I am thankful for the poetry of Dylan Thomas.
I am thankful for every moment, in every corner of the world, in which someone eats a slice of pizza, then takes a rather healthy swallow of really good wine.
I will never admit it to her, but in truth, I am thankful that my wife did not allow me to name our daughter “Pizza” as I wanted to, because even though this would guarantee I would spend my life saying, “I love you, Pizza” over and over, it wouldn’t have in fact been particularly fair to our daughter, and if there’s one thing that being a parent teaches you, it’s that love means someone else.
I am thankful for pizza.
I am thankful for pizza and wine.
I am thankful for, not Chivas Regal in a $5 room (as Tom Waits had it), but pizza and a $400 Monte Bello.
I am thankful for art, and those who mean to make it.
I am thankful.
I am thankful.
I am thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good day.
I am thankful you read this.
I am thankful for that which you feel thankful for.
I feel thankful for you, whoever you are.
I feel thankful.
I am thankful.