One of the tremendous benefits of teaching is that, if you’re any good at it at all, you’re also doing a lot of learning as you go. I pride myself on learning from my students, and they never seem to mind my asking them to present their ideas or share what they know with the rest of us. Inimitable, brilliant humans each, they know so much, and I am ever pleased to reap the benefits of their life experiences. Half of the students in the graduate level course I taught this past week were special education teachers. This week, I learned a lot about sensory perception, amongst other things. My inability to sit comfortably with my legs crossed, my low tolerance for chaos and noise — these things my peers assured me ran deeper than mere personality quirks.
Perhaps this is truly what I find irresistible about wine? It engages so many senses: sight, smell, taste, touch (you can even hear it) — and it often conjures thought and, better yet, memories as well. A few nights ago, we had our friends Matt and Maggie, along with their infant child, visit us. I have known Matt since undergrad, now nearly two decades ago. We’ve stayed friends since graduating, though he and Maggie live in Chicago and we rarely see them, so when we learned a while back that they’d be coming through town for the night, we jumped on the opportunity to have them over for dinner.
I have always admired Matt for his catlike ability to walk the line between silly and brilliant. He is almost always playful and relaxed, yet almost ineffably sharp and able to quickly shift gears into the serious or important when called upon. This makes him a fascinating conversationalist, and coupled with eighteen years of common history, there’s rarely a dull moment when we’re together and chatting. After he and Maggie got married, I suggested a few places they visit on their honeymoon, which just so happened to be it he same little grape-growing valley where Sonja and I had ours. And one of the places I always suggest people visit is the Volker Eisele Family Estate. I was enamored with the little winery the first time that I visited (read about that here: https://itheewine.com/2016/04/15/volker-eisele-family-estate-review/) and just two weeks ago Sonja and I were fortunate enough to catch up with Alexander and Catherine Eisele, the late Volker’s son and daughter-in-law, over lunch. We love them, their winery, and their wines, and we were beyond excited that Matt and Maggie got to meet them as well.
Matt and Maggie took me up on the offer to connect them with the Eisele’s, and they loved their time at their winery as much as we did. So when they came for dinner, knowing we’d be joined by friends who were able to share this special memory, I opened up a magnum of Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. The lush mountain fruit had aged terrifically, and became expressive and increasingly vibrant as time went by. As Sonja, Maggie, Matt and I ate dinner, and later sat around in the living room chatting about life, we sipped at the amazing wine which was, in my estimation, about as perfect as Cabernet Sauvignon can be. Though we rarely spoke of it, everything from the earthy plum and subtle tobacco notes to the gentle yet persistent tannins transported me back to a fog-covered vineyard high above the Valley floor in the Chiles Valley AVA, and I knew that it was yet another memory shared between myself and my dear friend Matt.
Eventually, with our kids in bed and our wives sharing war stories and battle scars from pregnancy, Matt and I crept down to the wine cellar, a more private space, where we perhaps felt freer still to reminisce. I don’t recall all that we spoke that late evening as together we drank the lion’s share of the magnum, but I remember thinking that if it took another year of waiting to see our friends again, it would be worth it. Perhaps one day we’ll visit the Napa Valley again and take them with us, or perhaps we’ll continue to share our memories of that space in an altogether different one, our sensory perceptions highly engaged, our minds fueled by memories and our bond strengthened through common experience. However it plays out, I am ever grateful for the people in my life who have been instrumental in constructing so many wonderful memories, including the Eiesle’s, Matt and Maggie, my wonderful Sonja, and so many more.
Cheers to the memory makers. Have a wonderful weekend.