Success

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“Look at all my trials and tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine, don’t disturb me now I can see the answer, till this evening is this morning life is fine.” I’ve always received comfort from those lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar.  Well it’s called a challenge and so it is, the theme is “Success.” I think the only thing I know about success is how to live without it, and enjoy it with others when they achieve it.

Even that statement isn’t exactly true. One of the quotes on success that I found from David Brinkley says, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the the bricks others have thrown at him.” Over the years I’ve built quite a foundation and like the Elton John song says, “I’m still standing.”

Wine is my Balm of Gilead. Over the past three years I have taken solace in the fruit of the vine. Wine has cooled my anger, eased my worried brow, and medicated a broken spirit. I have rejoiced and sung with it during happy times, meditated while looking deep into a glass of red or purple, and pondered life the universe and everything with it. Wine is my mantra, and I recite it one sip at a time.

I’ve started counting my blessings by counting corks: here’s the cork from when my Grandson Beny was born, here’s the one from when I celebrated my daughter’s new job, here are the corks from vacations Josephine and I took all over the world. I have corks for the birthdays I didn’t think I was going to have after my heart attack, and from when my son-in-law and I drank that fantastic wine from Long Island or Spain. And of course, the countless corks from times spent with family and friends doing much of nothing but saying thanks for being my friend and really saying I love you.  I count my corks as my blessings, and count my blessings like I count my corks.

David Frost says on the topic, “Don’t aim for success; if you want it just do what you love and believe in it and it will come naturally.”  I can’t say I can buy this one totally.  I would love to make my living drinking and telling people about wine, but so far I haven’t made a dime.  But I have gained a wealth of wisdom, been paid in passion, and loved every second I’ve spent doing it.

The thing I love most about wine is the story the each bottle tells you.  I enjoy the success of others as I sample the product of their labors in their wines.  My latest obsession is Penfold’s.  I’d love to drink my way through all of the bins.  I wonder did Max Schubert think he was a success, or was he just doing something he loved?  I wonder about Don Ditter, John Duval and Peter Gago who followed him at Penfold’s. Is what they have accomplished together a job, or a passion?  Is it both?

Before Penfold’s I was into Gaja.  For about two months I read about Angelo Gaja, drank Barbaresco and Barolo, (not his, I can’t afford them, but others) so at least I could attempt to understand what he was trying and obviously succeeding at creating: a definitive wine.  To get an idea of how Gaja and his right hand man, Sori San Lorenzo, do what they do and why, read the book “Making a Great Wine” by Edward Steinberg. You’ll spend the year 1989 from grapes to bottle in making one standout vintage Barbaresco.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm,” said Winston Churchill.  As I read the history of wine its mostly of what didn’t work and the exception that did.  To get an idea of what the early California wine producers did to attain their level of success read “Judgement in Paris 1976” by George Taber or watch “ Bottle Shock.  These guys didn’t just succeed for themselves, they opened the world to not just better wine, but to great wine from around the world.

Go back further to Dom Perignon.  Did you know he was trying to learn how to get the bubbles out?  After years of trying and learning how not to accomplish that, in a fit of inspiration (and frustration) he gives up, runs into a hall, calls out to the brother Monks “I am drinking stars” and the rest is history.  See, sometimes you just give up, declare victory, and make a success out of what you’ve got.  And while we are talking about Monks, let’s praise the Benedictine and Cistercian Monks whose painstakingly labored to establish and define countless little parcels of land that over centuries would become the best vineyards in Burgundy, and give the world the concept of “terroir” and “vigneron” the grower.

“Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value,” Albert Einstein.  This one I can agree with.  I struggle with a desire to be successful and maybe I miss the fact I already am!  I was complaining to someone that only about 40 people read my blog.  They looked at me and said, you have 40 people who are interested enough to take time and read what you write and listen to you?  Wow, and some of them are your kids!

I do find a value in wine.  Freedom of expression, science, art, history, passion, hope,  desire all wrapped up in a bottle waiting to be explored.  Wine has added value to my life, and in many ways helped me to become a man of value.  It’s possible that wine and I are alike in that both of us are sunlight and water held together by love.

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