Grape expectations



Our niece, Ivy, prefers Log Cabin syrup to the real thing. Having grown up in California, where maple syrup must be imported, she finds the real stuff too intense. Her loss, yes, but … there you are.

Our own sainted mother, a dedicated drinker of black coffee, dawn till the 11 o’clock news, actually believed that the best part of wakin’ up WAS Folgers in your cup. Mom knew of no higher iteration of coffee. When we tried to introduce her to freshly ground Kenyan beans prepared through a French press, she declared it too strong and dropped in an ice cube.

And Dad … fuggedaboutit. The reversals he experienced during the Depression left him eternally suspicious of anything fancy or fine, up to and including wine, which he bought by the gallon jug. How fancy was this wine? Here’s a hint: We did not own a corkscrew. Once in a blue moon we would trick him into a glass of something that did not have squid or cigarette ash in the dregs. He would look up and quote his favorite line from Steinbeck’s “Tortilla Flat”: “This is not Torelli’s wine.” (Torelli was an amoral bootlegger and his wine was horse pee.)

We wondered what the old man would think of this 2015 cabernet sauvignon from Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley winery. The soils and microclimates yield intense, expressive grapes that are hand harvested and aged in barrels of French oak for 17 months. The resulting nectar is a sensual, richly textured, dark berry and spice cab that ennobles the Mondavi name.

It sells for $35, which would have been where the conversation with Dad would have ended. But don’t worry, we would tell him, it didn’t cost us anything. It’s a review copy from the winery. Whoopie!

He’d like that part. He loved a good deal. But how would he feel about the dried lavender and herbal complexity, the firm core of tannins, the bright acidity, the extended maceration and fermentation of the clusters?

“This is not Torellis’s wine,” he would say.

Then he’d drop in an ice cube.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]