Celebrate Your Life – Experience the World
by J “Kat” Loren : :
I am a lightweight. I get drunk on things easily – like the laughter and warmth of my fellow travelers on the bus during a wine tour of Taurasi Vineyards in Southern Italy, high above and beyond the bay of Napoli. The laughter draws me towards them then spills me out into the landscape of hills rolling into the distance, past the emerging property bordered by reddish lava rock walls draped by the long arms of thick dried vines cast lazily like a lover’s arm over the object of desire. Modern objects d’art interspersed with antiques on the vineyard property just coming into view capture my attention and I know its time to wander away from the crowd.
As soon as the bus pulled up to the winery, I walk off with my camera and into the landscape and drink my fill of beauty, dust, and hidden birds singing. But I’m not too drunk to notice an old winepress strategically perched at the edge of the property, probably the old vintner’s testimony of the past, a press full of memories of hard work and chasing skirts stained purple. A statue of a young girl edges near a cliff, her pale marble skin staring out at the distance, the old vintner’s mistress, his muse. A raging waterfall and pool still flowing beyond the summer and now, into this winter chill appears more rugged, more integrated with the landscape. More statues of women. Clearly, the owner loved women.
Despite my curiosity, I cannot linger long outside. A slow, cold November breeze caressing my hand leads me back to the others now warmly sampling the latest’s vintage.
I see the crowd beneath the arched stone doorways that lead into the cellar tasting rooms where The Vintner Himself stands, so European in stance, so hospitable, so scripted. Shaking hands with the men, a delicate kiss on the cheek of every woman who passes by, his white head bobs and visage beams truly glad to see us, he waves us into the tasting room. The herd of 40 tourists shuffles along obediently.
His son, a middle-aged man approaching 50, stands behind the counter placing glasses before each guest as he translates his father’s greeting into passable English, thickly tainted by his accent. I linger in the back of the crowd, half-listening to the history of the vineyard, how the war took out all the houses and the previous stone house and cellars, and how they rebuilt, stone upon stone, through the years. His father, an architect by trade, designed the tasting room and cellars in a classic mix of old building materials with modern glass and thick wood beams. He lives now, in this castle constructed out of his own imagination.
As the man continues speaking, I glance behind me to the left and see an art store full of tourist trinkets of a higher end than most shops. Typical of many small vineyards, there is no cashier. The large print photographs prominently on display draw my attention so I walk over for a closer look. Women. Desert sands. Black and white photography of women in sand. A naked woman in her 20s lying on her side in the curvaceous dunes of Africa. Her curves perfectly in sync with the wind ripples of texture – her breasts and hip, the curve of her shoulders blending with the rolling hills of sand, white flesh on white sand, waiting to be swallowed by the next storm. No doubt the vintner’s photography, remnants of days gone by, I muse. Correctly as it turns out. The old man himself suddenly appears by my side.
“You like?” he asked, his eyes drifting towards my camera, letting me know that he considered me a worthy guest, a connoisseur of the arts, like himself.
“Si.” I smile.
“I took them many years ago,” he continues with eyes hinting of sorrow, or longing for his youth, perhaps both, I could not tell. “Come. Taste my wine,” he says, taking my hand and leading me to the head of the pack until I stand before his son.
With a nod towards his father, the son pours me a glass and explains the wine. I study his face. Not a hint of his father’s intellect or artistic ability shows in his eyes. I glance at his hands as he places the glass in my hand. A laborer’s hands. His clothes are the clothes of a man who works behind the scenes, his creativity revealed in the blend of wine, the caring of the vines, a non-competitive line of work that ensures the continuity of a father and son business. Not many accomplished fathers raise accomplished sons. They are too busy building their own kingdoms to encourage their offspring to succeed on their own, in their own areas of interest. Or, they establish a place in the family business and shape the will of the son to carry on in the role assigned from birth. The vintner’s son will inherit the business. It is in the father’s script. He was born for the role. The father stood over the landscape, imagined and dreamed. The son placed the stones, tended the vineyard and made it a reality.
And I swirl and sip and inhale the deeper complexities of a generational wine. A hearty wine, a manly wine made from a single grape –a bit of gamey, earthy notes tempered by hints of dark cherry on the nose, whiff of cigar, memories of nudes on sand dunes, something undefined in the volcanic terroir, something that could be drunk young, but for sure, a little patience will smooth out the rough edges, the calloused hands of a son who longed for the smoothness of young skin and eye for art and a father who would have let him fly.
J “Kat” Loren is a Pacific NW-based journalist and author of more than a dozen books. She currently focuses on writing health, fitness, and travel articles. Her blog “Crazi Culture” is a popular read among those who like eclectic topics and travelogues about odd places and adventures. http://www.craziculture.com Jloren.firstname.lastname@example.org
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