When we speak of wine grapes, we are most often talking about “vitis vinifera” which are European. Most of the vinifera we love most in the United States, such as Cab Sauv, Merlot, Sauv Blanc, and Chardonnay, are French. In addition, in my part of the world, we grow French hybrids such as Marquette and Frontenac; the label is pretty clear as to their origin. And if that’s not enough, the best wines made in America are still aged in French Oak (that’s obviously an opinion, but an informed one) and the methods we use to make wine are also largely a gift from the French. As a lover of wine, though I am hopelessly devoted to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys of California, even a limited sense of history and place are enough for me to realize just how much gratitude is owed the French.
But we owe the French far more than just gratitude for our wine. As much as we like to puff out our chests around here and boast about our formidable military strength, we often forget that the rag-tag group of misfits led by General Washington would have been blasted back into the seventeenth century were it not for the assistance of the French Navy, assistance we refused to return not long after, which lead to the birth of modern France and at least one pretty good Broadway musical. I would never insult our military, especially not on Independence Day. That said, I think that most men and women I know who wear the uniform would agree with me that it is important to know your history, and that it is also okay to need help once in a while. Goodness knows I do.
And yet, be it the history of viticulture of the history of a nation, so often we forget our history. I rather suspect that sometimes we’re doing it on purpose. These days, we’ve forgotten that while Russians are amazing people, Russia is not our political ally, and what’s worse, we’ve forgotten who our allies are. I know Macron strikes most of us here in the US as something of an upstart, but how incredible is it to have founded a political movement and with that movement taken power of a major world superpower? God knows the Tea Party and Libertarians have been trying that for years here, thankfully with no success. A few days ago, maybe it was only yesterday, Macron proposed slashing the French Parliament by a third. Small government. We pay that notion a lot of lip service around here, but we seem unwilling to take any meaningful steps in that direction. The point is, the French are our allies, as are the British, most other Europeans, the South Koreans, the Japanese, and many more, and we need start acting that way again. We might also do well to stop slurping the Russian government, and by we, I mean our President, though that’s far from the most obscene thing he’s done, even in the past few days.
Last night I opened a bottle of Italian wine from 2003, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I wanted some red wine while I was making pad Thai, which I later paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa. I had low expectations for the budget Italian red wine, but in truth it was pretty solid, and after a long decant I found it really pleasant. In 2003, we were still reeling from 9-11 and adjusting to the new and frightening world that sprawled before us. We were on the precipice of two wars which have in all reality not yet ended. President Bush, though I recall most people I know being highly critical of him a that time, was leading us through one of the most difficult stretches of modern American history with dignity and a heightened regard for the rest of the world. For my part, I was finishing up my undergraduate studies, and it would almost surely not have crossed my mind to drink wine of any sort. It’s amazing how things change with time.
I pray almost every day. It’s a habit that has stuck, but more than habit, it is an opportunity for me to, as a friend of mine puts it, “Hunt The Good Stuff” in my life. It is a personal rule of mine these days that I do not ask God for anything, as if He were some sort of cosmic Santa Claus who, in spite of His own self-professed omniscience still somehow wonders what material possessions I might be wanting at the moment. Instead, I simply tell God thank you every day, hunting the good stuff and counting the seemingly countless blessings in my life, and relaying my gratitude to the universe that I am so incredibly fortunate.
Today, on July the 4th, I’ll remember to add “living in the United States” to my list of things for which I am grateful. I haven’t visited all 195 other nation states in order to qualify me to call this the “best” country, but I’ve lived here long enough to realize that it’s a pretty amazing place, even with a few glaring blemishes. I doubt I’ll drink much wine today, as I bounce from parade to barbecue to barbecue to barbecue, but whatever is inside my glass, I’ll be sure to remember to raise it to Lady Liberty today. (Lady Liberty, you know, that iconic statue in New York that was given to us by… who was it again? Oh, right: the French.) Happy Independence Day.