Tonight I dragged myself out of a sick bed, dived into the Arctic temperature, heading to a loft on Essex street to listen to lecture #1 of the Metaphysical Lecture Series, given by ex-philosophy -prof-turned-winemaker, Abe Schoener.
There was a packed room, many of them collect his eccentric and wide ranging wines. Others pour them. Others presumably attended because their interest was piqued. But what struck me is that no one in the room, all 40 of them, were the kind of folk who cringe about the intellecutualizion of wine. They embrace it.
I am weary of the market-driven, rampant need to simplify wine, to make it accessible (drink it. Isn't that easy enough?). Why must it be reduced it to the LCD? Like the rest of the world which pushes the extremes, the image of wine is either super pretentious or day time TV. Few venture onto the other ground, to view and imbibe it as the magical substance it is; a vehicle of pleasure and thought.
Wine is a complex and wiry metaphor. Abe is one of the few, fresh minds who explore it from a different dimension. In fact, at times I think he might not actually be human, or at least a visitor from another time wrinkle. Some of my best friends might fall in to that category.
Think of it. A room full of those not afraid of him or of thought. Abe is determined to find like-minded folk as he takes this show on the road.
I'm home. I'm feverish. I'm headed to France in hours so I don't have the time to go over the lecture and give this the thought and review it warrants and deserves, and anyway, my nose is stuffed and I have a fever. Too much information. Yes, I know.
So, quickly; the structure was a lecture in five parts, entitled Wine and Loss. Why is wine by nature tragic, Abe asks. Why do we take wine so seriously, and then he goes on to do just that. There was nothing sentimental about this, of course, he is based in unsentimental philosophy. One of the best lines was, "Aristotle was like the Eisenhower of these (Plato..etc) philosophers."
Abe served wines throughout, making us swallow every last drop, the bastard, to illustrate headers like heartbreak.
I knew the second wine served had to be an Abe wine, it was imprinted with his initials. But which one and how? Its taste was very cinsault-like, it seemed true but it seemed to have his thought imprinted on it, which is great, because Abe is part of his terroir, wherever his terroir is. Turns out it was the 2009 Rhododactylos, old cinsault vine from Lodi. Track down a bottle, you won't be disappointed, unless you are. But that bring me to an unphilsopophical thought.
As he talked about the heartbreak of wine, which like the heartbreak of love--is because it is over at some point. Whether wrenching in life or wrenching in death. And wine too, at some point dies. He brought up the tragic loss of Soldera's vintages --the acclaimed and unquestionably profound wines of Montalcino. In December, a disgruntled employee snuck into the winer on a sunday night and opened the valves on six vintages, what would have been 84,000 bottles of sleeping wine, including the infant, 2012.
Why, Abe asks, wasn't there a lock on those casks. It is simple, no? Yes. Simple.
He came back to this tragedy twice in his lecture, and closed with it--before we concluded with the Coulon champagne, "Because if he had, he would have made a very different wine.'
If only for that thought, it was worth the journey. To lock up a wine, to lock up its preciousness, would have prevented Gianfranco's wines from greatness. The wines strike this magical balance of greatness and sidestepping bravado. For all of their expense, they have always been, at least the times I've been lucky enough to sip, almost humbling. And for that we need another Abe lecture to take it to the next level.
Abe has more lectures coming up across the country. Go. Sit next to your fellow drinker who loves to think about wine and how it connects to life, love and loss.