Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dear CCR, About that wine I gave you ....

Bottling the Estate 2012 "Merleatage"
a dreamy Rhone-style wine with
character, perhaps our best ever.
Dear CCR - The One and Only,

Together we founded The Bootlegger's Express. We didn't realize it at the time and didn't call it that, but we crossed state lines and brought wine to the people and the people were pleased.

It was June 2005 and I siphoned a few bottles of wine from the barrel of Syrah, our first batch ever. We drove this precious cargo to Las Vegas along with our products to exhibit at the INFOCOMM trade show and after each guest saw our document camera, LCD annotation tablet and cherry-wood lectern, we pulled out a clear plastic cup and served anywhere from a sip to a glass of that purple nectar. This, in spite of the unions, the inflated convention center wine prices, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Nevada's alcohol laws. How illegal was that? It was wine for the people and a way for us to show gratitude to our business partners who talk about it to this day.  We had arrived in Las Vegas baby, not leaving it, and after our work at the exhibit hall we crashed the Crestron Party held at the musical "We Will Rock You" and at the finale we stood up and danced in the aisles and shouted at the top of our lungs to Freddie Mercury's music "we are the champions of the world!" and the next day hungover with excitement as visitors walked by our booth we chanted in hoarse voices "We Will Rock You!" because we had rockin' good products.

You will be happy to know that both the wine - and products - have improved. And the spirit of the Bootlegger's Express lives on.

You knew Bluey the Australian Shepherd from the time he was a puppy and he was always excited to see you.  He was a dog, after all. I could never look at you the way some dogs and other men did - there are laws against such things since we were work colleagues - and though I would flaunt laws designed to thwart bootleggers I would never violate the laws of being a gentleman but I will say when we were at an exposition or a client meeting and you put on your makeup you were transfigured from California hippie into California beauty. Inside, you always had the most beautiful heart. And I am always grateful I was sent an angel to help our business.

When I wrote the story about Bluey's last days I said this is not a story about a dog; it's a story about us, and when I think of you and how you cared for your father your story is so much more noble. Your papa asked your mom, "Are you going to date another man after I'm gone?" Bluey had asked, "Are you going to get another dog?"

I remember you taking care of your papa and your "boyfriend" - as you called him but to us he was your husband - when he had cancer and that is so much more than caring for an old dog. You were a saint. You were such a great care-giver you even looked at care for the elderly as a career option.

If I summarized your memorial service it is this: You are Love.

For me, wine is love. Through wine and the inaugural run of the Bootlegger's Express, together we brought love to the people.

About that wine I gave you ... it is perhaps the best wine we have ever made. Here's how it came to be. I was visiting my dad a couple of years ago and he said, "I have this wine I want you to try. It's an expensive wine I usually don't drink but I'd like to share a bottle with you."  It was a Rhone wine from France, a 2009 Vacqueyras made from 75% Grenache grapes and 25% Syrah and the fruit was pronounced and it was the most enjoyable wine I've had from France and since we also grow Grenache I said "I want to make a wine like this!" So when our 2012 harvest came in we had enough Grenache juice for almost 3/4 barrel and to fill up the barrel blended in Tempranillo and when I tasted it after fermentation it resembled that Vacqueyras wine.

We aged it 19 months in a hybrid French-American oak barrel and when I heard the other week you had made the grade, oh boy, I was just numb.  I thought that was because we had lost Bluey recently and had lost the Queen of the Vineyard for a while - but she came back by the grace of God and CPR from the paramedics - and that my tears were dried-out but I realized the reason I've shown little emotion at your news is that I know you are with the Lord you love. In the fullness of time we will all understand "the why?" but secure in the knowledge you are comforted and healed, last Saturday was the day to reflect on your life while bottling, bottling the best wine we ever made. We're calling it "Estate Merleatage 2012"

Now that the bottling's done I'll figure out a way to get this wine up to Santa Barbara where it may nourish the pilgrims of your memory as they gather to reminiscence about the joy you brought to all the people you met, where ever you went, while dancing to the beat of African drums.

(Originally published on 5/17/2014 for CCR, the one, the only)