Thursday, September 27, 2012

the humble, the understated


2010 Paolo Conterno Bricco | DOC Barbera d'Alba

When I can't afford to drink good wine, I try to go for the next best thing - find a good producer and look for their cheapest bottle.  Works like a charm, most of the time.

Humility is a virtue.  No, it might not necessarily make you stand out, but I believe that truly confident, successful people are also very humble, down-to-earth people.  I can share a personal story.  Many years ago, I met the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  He was giving a performance in Toronto, and I waited backstage for him, with his relatives.  Coming down the line, he was giving big hugs and back slaps to everyone, asking everyone how they were doing, and seeming to remember little details like, How was your vacation?  How's your niece doing?  Had any good wine recently?  When he finally got to me - a 12 year old kid, clearly star-struck - all I could manage was to ask for a photo and for him to sign my program.  And he actually took the time to talk to me, to ask what instrument I played, and if I'd be attending the opening of the Toronto Music Garden the next day.  It was his sincerity, and generosity that still stands out in my memory of that evening, nearly 15 years later.  One of the greatest living musicians in the world, if not THE greatest musician, was taking time to actually talk to me.  I mean, this was someone who performed for JFK, who's called upon for countless Inaugurations . . . President Obama even gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for chrissakes.  And yet he took the time to speak genuinely to a 12 year old boy who he didn't know, and really, didn't need to care for.

This single vineyard Barbera d'Alba from Paolo Conterno is an example that even the most humble varietals can yield fascinating wines.  At once coarse and wild, with lots of twiggy berry aromas.  Mineral and all that, but the most interesting thing was how it evolved over the 3 days I had it open.  Becoming more refined, more focused with air.  Tightening up a bit, but clearly showing an ageability as well as a great drinkability.  Barbera will never be mistaken for a fine wine - some varietals were never meant for more than simple table wines, and that's perfectly alright.  We need more of these wines, that give pleasure on the dinner table, and prove that true wine, like people, comes from a place of humility and understatement.

I continue to be a dumb fuck.  I tell my piano students all the time that when I criticize, it's to help them avoid the mistakes I made, and to get them to that point quicker and easier.  But of course, they don't listen.  And they shouldn't.  Everyone likes to give advice, but who really takes it.  I mean, really trusting the person critiquing you and adopting their experiences as your own.  So we make the same mistakes over and over again, but until you actually make that mistake and experience it for yourself . . . no, I'll have a hard time simply listening to what I should/shouldn't do.  So I let my students make mistakes, with the understanding that the important thing is to examine it, and learn from it.  My friends worry about me, and try to guide me on the straight and true path.  I've been so stressed lately from work and applying for school that I just don't know really how to deal with it.  Alcohol?  Running?  Punching things?!

The thing about me is that I, I makes mistakes but I never make the same mistake twice . . . I make it a hundred times.

- Marco Pierre White, Marco cooks for Albert Roux, 1989


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