Sunday, April 15, 2007


If you'll indulge me for a moment…more Wine School soon.

The Sweet Partner in Crime arranged a wonderful pre-birthday getaway for me -- I just got back today. After a trip to
Keeneland (where I broke even, as opposed to the haul my friend Judy brought in), we headed to Natural Bridge State Park for a getaway weekend.

My family joined us for lunch and I put together a wine tasting for everyone afterwards. That particular adventure will be covered in more detail when we get to the Riesling column in a couple of weeks.

The star of the show, as always, was Gerta, my 95 year-old grandmother. My paternal grandparents immigrated from Germany to the United States during WWII, narrowly escaping the Holocaust. (Literally. Their ship left the harbor just before the Rotterdam Blitz.) That piece of my family history is fascinating in and of itself -- but that's not related to the story at hand.

Gerta, my last surviving grandparent, is nothing short of wondrous. I hope I have her genes. She's in incredible physical shape. She swims every day and can set a walking pace, even with a cane, that will challenge anyone. We worried that she might have some difficulty getting to our cottage at the state park, since the front door was up about four flights of steps, slick with rain.

When my folks and she arrived, she opened the car door, pulled on her rain hood, grabbed her cane with gusto, and started charging up the stairs -- with my father giving chase with an open umbrella, calling, "Mom! Mom!"

Aside from her physical attributes and unbelievable capacity for expressing love, what I admire most about her is her mind. She's sharp, quick-witted, and plugs away with a lust for life few can match, Iggy Pop included. She's amazingly inquisitive, still asking pointed questions in her thick German accent (Gerta and Dr. Ruth sound remarkably alike).

By now, you may be asking yourself what all this has to do with wine.

After a little Kahlua in her post-lunch coffee and a sip of my father's birthday gift of cognac (which she identified immediately), she started telling stories about her family.

Gerta grew up in the Rhineland. She said she remembered both her grandfather and father being winemakers.

"My grandfather in Ockenheim had big vats down in the basement. All the neighbors would bring him grapes and he would make wine." Apparently, he never sold it. It was a hobby. "They'd bring him the grapes and then they'd come back and he'd give them the wine. Everyone loved it." She also mentioned that he "carried a walking stick with a big grape carved on the end."

She grew up in another town in the Rhineland, Idar-Oberstein -- about two hours west of Frankfurt. Her father was a butcher, renowned for his spiesbraten. "He and my mother loved wine and beer. He cut the meat for the good hotel in Oberstein, and every Sunday, he and my mother would get dressed up and go to the hotel for a bottle of good wine that they would give him as part of his payment."

There was more along this line, fascinating family history I'd never heard before -- and I won't recount it all here. I'm happy to learn that I come by my interests honestly and genetically. She amazes and inspires all of us. Ich liebe dich, Oma.

On an unrelated note, longtime readers might note an addition to the "benefactors" section. "Whatzup" Magazine, the entertainment weekly in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has generously decided to give the Vine some new terroir. Start date TBA…