Issue #41, August 2022
As we work our way through the lazy days of August, I feel it is time once again to imbed this month’s wine choices in a little wine story. I hope this is good company for you with a glass of something and a lounge somewhere in the shade.
Forgive me for veering from our regular routine as I bring you,
The note was short.
With that, the lawyer executing my Aunt Edwina’s estate handed me the paper he’d been reading from. The words were hand-written with her perfect, cursive penmanship. Then he pushed over a plain white envelope containing the keys.
I was my Aunt’s only nephew and really, the only family member she ever chose to spend much time with. There was her brother, my Uncle Seymour, whom she barely tolerated and would only visit because of his well-stocked wine cellar, and only if I went along as her guest and driver.
A few weeks after leaving the lawyer’s office, I visited the cottagey home. It was too early to know if I would give up my rental and move in. But this visit was the first step to figuring that out. Also, I was intrigued by how she had signed off her message, “Drink it in.”
It was the smallest house on the street. But the most charming. Guarded from the quiet road by decorative shrubs and ornamental trees, the bungalow was clad in wedge-wood blue clapboard with crisp, white trim.
Inside, the first thing I noticed was a shiny, odd brass key in the bottom of a glass decanter on her dining table. A note was tucked under the decanter with my name on it.
Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2021
Malborough, South Island, New Zealand
After a hurried glass of the very tasty Mud House, with key in hand and very curious, I went to the door that lead downstairs. There was no key-hole and the knob turned freely. Down a short flight, I found myself in a tidy utility space with the usual accessories; washer, dryer, ironing board, some shelves with cleaning supplies, a compact gas furnace and a water heater. It was a small basement for a bungalow but I didn’t think much of it.
Her iron was perched on a wobbly, padded board. Out of habit I placed it securely in the wall mount nearby. As a boy, I nearly brained our cat by knocking an iron off its board.
About to leave I turned back to the iron on the wall. Had I seen something without realizing it? I lifted the iron. Just above the white bracket was a small tarnished brass plate with a circular hole. The key fit. I turned it left, then right.
A mechanized clunk sounded behind me, like it came from behind a wall; the wall with shelves holding various detergents, sponges, buckets and rolls of fresh paper towel. I turned around and moved over towards the shelves just as the wall they were mounted on remarkably swung inward revealing a large, dimly lit room.
Stepping in, I saw that it wasn’t just a room. It was a wine cellar!
“Drink it in,” suddenly made sense.
The air was cool. On three walls before me were rustic floor-to-ceiling, open cabinet shelves. Bottles lay neatly in each. There must have been 300 of them resting before me. What an amazing room! An old oak cask stood on end on my right just inside the secret door. On top of it awaited a letter.
La Chimera d’Albegna Raffaello Sangiovese 2018
I did as she told me. While sipping the wine, I read on.
I looked over to the shelf he had identified where three bottles lay. Anxiously, I continued reading Aunt Edwina’s letter.
They were covered with a layer of dust. The labels looked stained and smudged by time with faded words in the script.
The bottles just looked important. Beside them, lay two unsealed envelopes. I took a folded note out of the first. It was another note from my grandfather to my aunt.
Incredulous, I quickly opened the other envelope. Inside, was another note.
This one is from Edwina.
I stood there in the cool cellar grappling with disbelief and a case of the shivers while reading a final message from my aunt.
HER Shiraz 2020
Western Cape, South Africa
That day I left 3 Burgundy Lane for the first time knowing it now held not only the indelible memories of a very rare aunt, but also the rarest of treasures in a secret place my grandfather simply called, the office.
I hope you enjoyed that wine-infused detour. While the story was imagined, the price paid for the 1945 Romanée-Conti is fact.
That’s it for now. As ‘The Happenings’ sang in their 1966 hit, See You in September.
Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.
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