The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day 19 — “Wherever, Whenever”

I walked in the door from my last meeting of the night in time to eat dinner with the family. Sonja made a casserole using entirely leftovers, which was both delicious and necessary as space in our refrigerator is at a premium these days.  We ate and we chatted and I harbored some hope that we might watch The Grinch for the umpteenth time, but the rest of the family wanted to go up to the playroom and play with all the new toys from our Christmas in Rome, so of course I acquiesced. Sonja immediately got to work setting up a Hotwheels pinball machine. Titus and Zooey got in her way, while I watched and appreciated this ritual from a short distance.


Once the night had ended, I beseeched Sonja to join me in front of the fire for a glass of wine. It wasn’t hard to talk her into it. With the temps in our wine cellar being so low right now, I have to plan far in advance to drink wine we have in the cellar. I hadn’t. So I looked around the countertop in the kitchen and saw the bottles people had brought as gifts to our Christmas party. One caught my eye.


My friend Steve had come, and had brought a bottle of Gabbiano Chianti Reserva 2015. He told me it was from a castle he and his wife had stayed at on vacation in Italy. Normally, a bottle like that I would hang on to for a while and do a bit more research, but it was at room temperature and I needed that in the moment. Additional intrigue was added by the fact that our friends Christa and Ryan are having us over Friday night, and they are big fans of Italian wine. I, on the other hand, am a bonafide knuckle dragger and can scarcely tell my Chianti from my Super Tuscan, so the chance to sip on some good Italian juice prior to hanging out with our friends seemed like something I should embrace. I pulled the cork, grabbed a few glasses, and lit the fire in the living room where my wife was already seated.


Drinking the Gabbiano Chianti last night made me wonder why I don’t drink more Italian wine. The aromatics were killer, the bouquet bursting from the bottle even before I poured the first glass, and the wine itself robust, almost hearty, and as full-bodied as any I’ve had with coarse tannins coating the front palate after every sip. Prominent flavors of bright bing cherry were underpinned with pleasant hints of cigar box and cinnamon, and the finish had some real staying power. More than once I remarked upon how good the wine was, and Sonja agreed.

Often during the conversation, a quiet came over us. I don’t know for sure what Sonja was thinking in those moments of silence, as the fire flickered in the background and we sat petting Mollie and sipping our wine. For my part, I was giving brief thought to the fact that for the first time I can recall, I’m enjoying winter. The holiday season with kids has been a treat, yes, though our nightly one-hour ritual of sitting and talking in front of the fire I think has become something I look forward to with as much enthusiasm as I do the long walks we take after dinner in seasons of better weather. In a way, our fireplace — and of course a few nice bottles of wine, are helping me to see more clearly that I am able to be happy whenever and wherever I find myself, and for that I am grateful.

Cheers to being happy wherever you are, whenever you’re there,


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