I can remember from my youth an aging man in a cardigan sweater singing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Won’t you be mine?” to me as he removed his shoes after coming indoors. The show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was a staple in my house, perhaps because it contained little questionable material. Aside from the introduction and famous phrase, I don’t recall much about the show, save for that I preferred Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street on the rare occasion that I had my toddler druthers.
Fast forward thirty-some years and I am struck by an observation that Sonja and I have made since moving from our old house to our new one. Three years ago, we lived in a house that was part of what I unaffectionately refer to as a “communist” neighborhood, the slander directed not at communism or Karl Marx, but instead at the wretched bloc architecture that characterized much of the USSR and Soviet-occupied Europe. I used to say that I could walk into any house in that neighborhood and find the bathroom, washing machine, or anything else you might want. People would chuckle when I said it, but I wasn’t joking. All of the houses were the same. And yet, that was nowhere near being the most offensive thing about the place. What it really lacked was a front porch.
I don’t know when American architects, or maybe just Americans in general, let our collective xenophobia bleed into the floor plans of our dwellings, but somewhere along the line we decided it was more important for people to see our garage on the front of the house than to have a porch to sit on. Before we moved to the home we live in now, I didn’t know any better, and would sit on my back porch ignoring the one irritating, nosy neighbor whose own rear deck was near enough that we could speak. The front of our house was about fifty-percent garage, and I thought it was ugly, but didn’t realize at the time how antisocial it was making me. From the two years I lived there, I sadly can’t tell you much about any of our neighbors.
In the neighborhood we live in now, we sit on our front porch, as do so many of our neighbors, and I can’t tell you how incredible it is. On Sunday, Brian and I were sitting out front after running the Lincoln race, when Stephen walked by with his dog. We invited him up for a beer and communed in the beauty of Nebraska’s spring weather. Then last night, the very next day, Sonja and I were sitting on the front porch again, and we looked across the street to see our neighbor Ann sitting out front. I sent her a quick text and she walked across the street and joined us for a drink.
What we had to drink was rather extraordinary. Winemaker Michael Trujillo released this white blend, Madelynne White Wine Cuvee 2016, in very limited quantities, but we managed to get some here in the Cornhusker State. A creative blend of Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, it has the potent, telltale, white floral nose of Gewurz. Sonja picked it out right away — she’d be a master somm if she wanted to, damn her palate is impressive! Anyway, from there, the Gewurz on the palate is almost muted by the Sauvignon Blanc; I told a friend that I think the Sauv Blanc does for the Gewürztraminer what Merlot often does for Cabernet Sauvignon in blending, softening and refining it. An off-dry blend with just a tiny hint of sweetness, it’s a beautiful patio wine, and paired perfectly with our front porch and a little mozzarella and humus.
Three years of experience tells me that visits by our neighbors onto our front porch, or us visiting them on theirs, are likely to continue frequently all summer long. People walk by, see us out front, and wave. We usually call out and invite them up, and I go inside to get another wine glass to share with them whatever we happen to be enjoying that night. We get to know one another while we take advantage of the seasonal good weather, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of living here.
I hope that if your own dwelling doesn’t have a front porch, this post doesn’t make you feel bad about it — we all live where we do for various reasons, and we all have different preferences, in wine as in architecture as in life. I will simply say that for our part, should we ever leave this home for another house, right next to “wine cellar” on my list of requirements will be “really big front porch”. This summer, if you’re in Omaha, stop by and visit us on ours. We’d love to introduce you to our neighbors.
Cheers to great neighbors and big front porches,