You will often hear winemakers talk about vintages in long, in-depth sentences starting with budbreak in early Spring and continuing through the summer with flowering, fruit set and veraison and then ending with harvest, the grand finale.
And just like in life, the spring can be wonderful, the summer can be scary, and the fall can be hit-or-miss.
It all depends on Mother Nature and where she wants to take the year. Or the vintage, if you’re a wino.
January of 2001 started out with a huge bang. It was then where I was promoted from Beverage Manager to Beverage Director of Windows on the World. At the young age of 25, I truly thought I couldn’t get any higher than where I was. The wines flowed like water at the top of One World Trade Center, and I absolutely loved every single aspect of my job.
February and March were cold and blistery, but life was so wonderful it didn’t matter. I lived just across the river in Brooklyn in a Brownstone with two besties from NC, and when we weren’t working, we were enjoying all of the vibrant life New York City had to offer. I guess you can say when it was time for budbreak in the Northern Hemisphere, we also were breaking out of our winter blues and coats and heading full throttle into outdoor bars and leisurely walks in the park.
Late spring was a little rocky when one of the girls in our threesome told us she needed to go back to graduate school in Raleigh to start on her Pharm D. Of course, we understood. We had been in the city for three years, but it was a sad time nonetheless, and we all cried the days leading up to her departure and the days following it. The fruit was setting in the vineyards and it was setting in our lives. We all knew it was about time where we were going to have to decide what direction we wanted to take our careers. If you had asked me then, I would have told you I was never leaving Brooklyn.
In June, as part of my task as Beverage Director, I organized the wine and spirits for the Central Park Conservancy Gala held in the middle of Central Park with about 1000 guests. I was offered complimentary tickets, and my new winemaker-friend Jeremy Seysses from Burgundy was in town so we went together and enjoyed Manhattan in June, one of my most favorite months. Life was grand, and I was flowering.
July was hot, but full of energy, and with August right on its tail, I received yet another fantastic wine invitation. Paul Grieco, then wine director at Gramercy Tavern, invited me to the Niagara Peninsula to learn about the new wines of this part of Canada.
It was a trip where “the” sommeliers of NYC were asked to attend, and I felt like the biggest whig in the world getting to go along.
Right around this time, I was also hosting my sister’s engagement party at our apartment, and when she and her bridesmaids arrived in Brooklyn, I don’t think I have ever been more excited. We had rented a private room at Greatest Bar on Earth right beside Windows on the World, and we went up there for dinner and drinks before renting a limo and driving all over the city. It was all magical and perfect and heavenly in every way.
The next morning, I took a cab to the airport to get on a JetBlue flight to travel to Canada with 10 other sommeliers.
Veraison: when the grapes change colors. In Canada, the grapes were beginning to do just that in August, and I was able to see it happen right before my eyes. I was changing too. I was ready to commit to my job as a sommelier, and I had signed up to take the Advanced portion of the Master Sommelier exam in San Francisco in October.
What became of our harvest?
There was no harvest in my life that September. Or October. Or November. Not even a little around the holidays in December.
My harvest did not come that year nor did it come for a countless number of others.
I, along with so many others lost the harvest in 2001, and those grapes will never be recovered.
Thirteen years later, I can remember the first eight months of 2001 as being as close to perfect as any time in my life. So fun. So exciting. So young and so in love with life.
While many wineries were getting ready to pick grapes, the unthinkable happened on the east coast of the United States.
And with that unthinkable, the world changed forever. And for everyone.
One of my favorite wines we have at On the Square right now is the La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva 2001 from Rioja, Spain.
The wine is fun and exciting and beautiful and full of energy. It very much reminds me of the wonderful part of that year for me.
Life goes on. We can nor ever will be able to stop time. The only way we can cope is to embrace it. To embrace the precious memories and not dwell on the horrific ones.
In wine, the vintages are what help us produce these memories. Not just of what the season was like at the vineyard, but what the season was like in our lives.
In September of 2004, Stephen and I harvested a beautiful baby girl named Cynthia who will turn 10 on September 12th. She is a constant reminder of how life can get sweet again even though we never thought it could be.
In July of 2007, we had an early harvest with our son Stephen who is a constant reminder of how life can get fun again even though we never thought it could be.
And for the harvest of 2014, Stephen and I celebrate 11 years of marriage and 12 years of running a business in the town where I was born and raised.
The harvests are still coming, regardless of if we are ready for them.
For those of you who have had years where there was no harvest (and we all know how painful those years can be), please be assured that one will get here.
It may take more time than you expected, but I assure you the harvest is coming.
Just wait for it because it could be the vintage of your life.