Take the Cannoli

As we enter another new year, the signs of transformation, renewal, and resurrection are everywhere.  From the annual ritual of dense January crowds of resolution-wielding neophytes sweating away on my cardio machines at the gym to the near give-away sale pricing at the soon to be bankrupt retailers, it's clear that we are awash in the season of rebirth. And so, it was with little surprise that on January 2nd we found ourselves on the periphery of one individual's very personal transformation.  While visiting with relatives over the new year, the conversation turned to everyone's holiday experiences.  With a heavy sigh, our relatives detailed their non-traditional holiday season.  They'd spent New Years Eve staging an intervention for a good friend who long suffered from alcoholism.  With the blessing and aid of their friend's immediate family, they successfully placed their friend into a rehabilitation program. 

As we congratulated them on their resolve and commiserated with them on the difficulty of such an emotionally draining experience, someone uttered the following offhanded remark, "And to top it all off, the family just dropped off eight cases of wine that they had to get rid of.  What the hell are we going to do with eight cases of wine?  We don't drink wine, and they don't want it back..."


Now, I try to think of myself as a generally empathetic person (although some may disagree), and I really wouldn't want to benefit from the bad fortune of others (well, there are some whose bad fortune I would very much like to benefit from, but that's a whole other issue).  But, really, what would you do?  Eight cases of wine.  The person is in rehab and returning the wine would only tempt fate and beget failure on their arrival home.  The "custodians" of the wine don't even want it around; it's only taking up their much needed storage space.  So, isn't it a win-win-win situation for us to ease some of our relatives' pain by relieving them of their unwanted guardianship.  Isn't it the honorable thing to do?  Heck, it's practically a mitzvah!

OK, OK, even I'm not that delusional.  Nonetheless, Kerith and I exchanged glances across the room and, sensing her shared view, I humbly suggested that perhaps we could help out our relatives a little bit.  And they jumped at the offer.

Feeling like a couple of vulture-jackal hybrids, we were led to the storage area and left to our own devices.  We immediately agreed that it would be wholly inappropriate to simply abscond with all eight cases.  That would be just ridiculous (and frankly, we didn't have room in the car).  But taking too few bottles wouldn't be much of a favor.  So we tentatively settled on taking a case of wine for ourselves and then "compensating" our relatives by separating the remaining stash into wines that were worth saving to give to others versus those that should go into the recycling bin.  Good plan, right?  Well, we thought so. And then we started going through the cases.

I guess when you have an alcohol problem, access to any alcohol trumps access to highly acclaimed, ethereal wines of notable vintages.  Suddenly the Christmas morning-like glee of having full run of eight cases of wine turned into the disheartened discovery of a proverbial lump of coal in our stocking.  We quickly realized that we'd be lucky to salvage 12 bottles of any quality or pedigree. 

The line from The Godfather came immediately to mind, "Leave the gun.  Take the cannoli."  And so we did.  Selecting only varietals we'd never had or wines from geographic areas we weren't normally exposed to, we filled our case and sheepishly beat a path back to our relatives to report that we had done all that we could.

What was our take?  It included a red blend from Argentina of 85% bonarda and 15% syrah, a vinho verde from Portugal, a pinot noir from Germany, a riesling from Monterrey County, and a muscat canelli from an undesignated area of California.  We're looking forward to trying some of these out, and we'll give you our tasting report in the coming days.

I'm tempted to close out this entry with some statement about the cycle of life being reflected in the passing of this noble wine from someone who could no longer have it to others who will fully appreciate it.  Or how the wine itself is a metaphor for all of the suffering endured by this person and their family, and how its removal is hopefully the first step in a recovery for all.  Or maybe, that like the growing season of a vine in the vineyard, the alcoholic friend is entering a period of needed dormancy from which they will hopefully emerge as a new bud - stronger, healthier, and ready to take on a new season of living.

But, let's be frank.  Any Talmudic-like attempt at philosophy in this case is pure self aggrandizing puffery.  We fell into an opportunity, and we took it.  Nobody was hurt in the process and, hopefully, we did a little bit of good and maybe ended up with some drinkable wine. 

In other words, we decided to just shut up and take the cannoli. 

And after a rough 2008 for many of us, that's a resolution worthy of a new year.