I find myself perseverating over the intersection of wine, food, and humanity on internet-less JetBlue flight #411 from Boston to San Diego. It is not as lofty a mind game as it sounds. I’ve just been thinking about how thirty-six hours at the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon this weekend might play out; mecca for a couple hundred digital wine fanatics looking to connect in real life, learn another thing or two about wine enthusiasm, taste a bunch of good and bad wines, advance blogging skills, and/or fulfill a host of other reasons that pull digital wine content creators together en masse. It would be wonderful to make the #WBC12 days personably memorable, mostly because mine are inconveniently shortened and sandwiched between a speaking commitment in San Diego and one very overdue fishing holiday in Alaska.
This perseverating is further exacerbated sifting through iPhone photos to pass some flight time. While I never consciously thought about it just this way, apparently I take a lot of photos of food, wine, and food/wine people. After all, food, wine, and people knit the sweater that comfortably bundles me in a life of wine enthusiasm. Remove any one of these threads of yarn and the whole proposition falls apart. Some of these food/wine/people iPhone photos get published here while others simply linger in bulging digital memory directories.
Like this one, for example, of a sake brewer struggling to communicate with me about his passion and knowledge for brewing rice and sake styles as if it was his last and most urgent responsibility on earth. He went on uninterrupted for five minutes. His energy spoke to me and I liked that; he moved me. I have been thinking of him over the last month when I drink good sake.
Or this one, of a bottle of 1968 Concannon Reserve. It’s a timepiece gifted to me by a man, at least thirty years my senior, who was once awarded the bottle as an anniversary present some forty years ago. He kept it in a dark closet all that time, but just before his death ten years ago he thought I might appreciate the wine more than he would. I’ve provided fine storage for those ten years and this picture was taken on the night of last season’s final blind tasting event that I host at my home every fall and winter month. I wanted to open this timepiece, spent or alive, with my closest tasting companions so we could all capture the memory of it together. The 44-year old California wine was surprisingly (considering its clothing-closet storage) very much alive and still full of good fruit; delicate and resilient dusty berries. I love the picture because the bottle both rekindled long gone moments I once shared with my generous friend and established new lasting memories for me and my tasting buddies to reminisce about in later years. The moment moved me.
Or this one of Vittorio Ettore in the kitchen of recently opened A Tavola, his second restaurant in Boston’s northern city-burbs. The restaurant is an outcropping of his very successful Bistro 5 in Medford, allowing Vittorio to flex his chef chops against a more regionally flexible Italian menu. A friend and I sat at the kitchen table while Vittorio took his time planning and customizing a surprise tasting menu designed to communicate why he needed A Tavola to engage his deep passion for multi-regional Italian cuisine. The seriousness of his dedication to detail produced precisely flavored and perfectly prepared fresh vegetables, charcuterie, pasta, seafood, and meats. Like musicians that become lost inside their instruments during moments of intense fluidity, Vittorio connected with his food and had it speaking to me in very purposeful and personal ways, somewhere in Winchester, MA.
I recognize that all this might sound very strange, or even crazy. But, these kinds of moments fuel my wine enthusiasm. They are the golden rings along a path littered with vinous learning and discovery. And, as I read through some of the blogs belonging to #WBC12 attendees for the first time, I see so many writers reaching to find and communicate their own special moments; those moments when writing and experience happen without thinking.
When I consider the kind of return I want from my thirty-six-hour investment in Portland, I think about these kinds of moments. Will I discover a blog and author that speaks to me off the page? Will I taste a wine with, or made by, someone that connects us beyond those shared flavor adjectives? Will I eat some food and drink some wine with other writers that elevate our experience beyond its physical existence? My (now not so) secret hope for every attendee of #WBC12 that comes to Portland as “enthusiast” first and places all other personal and business agendas second, is to indulge, discover, and recognize their own golden ring experiences.
I don’t know if I will trip over my own new moment of wine/food/human connection in Portland. While I don’t always catch giant fish either, I never stop doing the craziest nor most inconvenient things to put myself in more likely proximity of my next big fish. So here’s to thirty six hours of Portland, people, wine, food and looming golden ring moments.