Friday, January 11, 2008

Ruminations on the 1988 Dunn Howell Mountain

Why do we anthropomorphize wine? Wine can not literally be like a woman or a car or any of the myriad other descriptors wine geeks use everyday. So what is the point? It is because you can't really share a taste, a smell or a tactile sensation with someone without creating an analogy to a shared experience. What raspberry means to you as opposed to me is likely quite different. Is it wild raspberries? Is it the frozen kind? You see what I mean. That brings me to the 1988 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet and my late grandfather.

My grandfather, my father's father, although a college graduate, worked as a foreman, a carpenter, a laborer, among other jobs. He rode the rails out West during the Depression and built PT boats during World War II. He grew up poor, which taught him to save any money that came his way; he died with rather impressive personal wealth like a squirrel that was saving for the next Ice Age. He was a smart man, but not an intellectual man. He taught me that any job worth doing is only worth doing right. He was a hard man, as you can imagine, and physically one of the strongest men I have come across. Not in a hulking sort of way, mind you, but sinewy and lanky. He went to the gym every day well into his 80's and took pride in showing up the younger men in the weight room. But, he got old (as men do) and he developed heart disease and he was almost mystified that his prodigious strength was abandoning him. The last time I saw him, as I was explaining to him why he couldn't do all the things he had once done, he took me to his basement and explained to me that his basement was once unfinished and that he had sheetrocked the ceiling...by himself. It remains achingly heartbreaking. I am glad for that though, to know him like that, to see the vulnerability of age mixed with the reminiscence of the power of youth.

I was thinking about him when I was trying to describe the 1988 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet that we enjoyed on New Year's Eve. It was a wine that was a shadow of a different age when it was most likely massive and backward, imbued with raw power. I didn't know it then and can only go by accounts of others, as I had heard stories of my grandfather. Aromatically, it was interesting and complex showing some dusty cassis and herbs, as well as a bit of fennel. Savory and soft in the mouth, it showed good focus and finesse without any true elegance. Not lithe like a dancer, but more like lean, muscular, slightly withered older man. A hint of a once more powerful self. It had a nice earthiness to it, but it finished with a slight astringency that was distracting without ruining the overall impression. Like my grandfather...

1 comment:

CLONYC Grand Poobah said...

Great story Ben. He sounds like he was an amazing man. The wonderful role models in our past help make who we are today.
Thanks for sharing.