Wine, Chorizo, Regina Carter, and the Love of a Dog

Another dreamy Bay Area evening of no particular import

Photo by Jos Speetjens on Unsplash

I’m cooking up chorizo on the stovetop. Chorizo from… Gilroy. I was hoping to see the name of some quaint (or at least quaint-sounding) Portuguese village on the label, but no, this chorizo is from our very own Gilroy, California, by way of Costco. The fact that it’s from the U.S. makes me trust it less, I’m afraid. I don’t trust many of the foodstuffs here, where shareholder satisfaction is more exalted than, God forbid, a person’s health or wellness.

That’s just a fact of life in this country.

But that’s not what this essay is about. This essay is about jazz, and wine, about sizzling, and rutabaga, and saffron-scented rice, and… what else do I have going? Oh! A pot of white cannellini beans simmering with a yellow onion and two bay leaves.

This is the milieu of my kitchen tonight. Regina Carter’s Love Theme from Spartacus plays while Daisy watches me intently from her position beside the stove. If I glance her way, she’ll begin to gather her legs under her to come to me, but she’s getting old, and it’s an effort, so I try to admire her surreptitiously. It’s not working. She’s trying to come to me, so I immediately drop to the floor to show her I am here, I see her, I understand she loves me, I am not calling her, I do not need anything from her. That she need only continue to be beautiful and noble beside the stove just as she is doing.

And then there’s the other one pulling on my attention. “Mama!” he calls, twice, since I began writing this brief, impromptu essay. “Mama! Something about Oprah rubs me the wrong way! I don’t know what it is!” “Okay, let’s talk about it later, I’m writing,” I holler, making my way back to the kitchen. A minute later, “Mama!” I retrace my steps. “Remember when we talked about The Big Bang Theory? This is how it starts, look!” B. raises the clicker and points it to the TV. “No, no,” I say, “I’m writing. Show me later,” and flee back to the kitchen.

I’m drinking a natural, biodynamic wine from Humboldt County. It’s a 2017 Pinot Noir “Willow Creek.” The winemaker is “Hardesty,” or that appears to be the vineyard’s name anyway. I took one sip and sighed in relief. I could immediately taste that this wine is free of sulfites and additives. It’s murky, unfiltered, and I must admit with some embarrassment the word “quaffable” rose to my mind as I sipped it, and sipped it again. This wine was… I’m sorry to say… indeed “quaffable,” a probably silly word I’ve heard applied to wine before but rarely agreed with.

What I mean by it is that the wine is friendly, not overt, not thrusting itself at me, not harsh. I am sure I can’t “taste” the chemicals of modern wines, but I can feel them, and as I get older I feel them more and more, and it’s becoming distinctly unpleasant.

I bought the bottle this afternoon from a wine shop called Ordinaire on Grand Avenue in Oakland because I signed up a couple of weeks ago for a virtual wine tasting, my first since the pandemic kicked off, and I was lazy and never went to purchase even one of the wines we were to drink. When I got to my local wine shop in a hurry an hour before the event to pick up one of the three wines we were to taste, I was dismayed to find it closed.

The wine shop on Grand Avenue had no wines from the highlighted wine maker Brianne Day of Day Wines. They recommended a natural, biodynamic wine from California’s Humboldt County as a stand-in for the natural pinot part of the evening. I (clearly) acquiesced and raced home to open my wine and join the tasting on Zoom.

The conversation with Brianne was charming, fascinating, and very cool. She spoke of her beginnings, how she got into wine, what drew her, how she educated herself, how she began. Her influences.

“Mama!” B. is in the kitchen now. He’s watching Family Feud. He came to tell me about the six things a man going on a date with a hot girl has in his pockets. He wanted me to guess them. I guess money and a condom. He said I am right, but that one of the things I might not think of was, “A boner!” Then, he says, “In Spanish, we don’t have a word for that. We would just say ‘your genitals are excited.’ I used Google translator, and the French say Gaffe, but in Spanish that translates to a having your leg up in a funny position, it doesn’t translate at all.”

Good to know. Now, the great Shirley Horn fills my little kitchen with her stunning, breathtaking A Time for Love. Horn sings, wistfully, as time goes drifting by, I’ve known a time for Spring, a time for Fall, but best of all, a time for Love.

Brianne had many wonderful things to say about her life, her story, gathering her courage, and wine-making. Especially wine-making as a woman. One of the 15 attendees of the tasting said that with more women entering the field, wine-making has become more bio-dynamic. I’m not entirely sure what the correlation or significance is, but I think it’s there, and that it’s important.

B. is calling “Mama” again, and the dinner is ready, and this lovely song called The Monarch and the Milkweed by the Maria Schneider Orchestra is winding down. Daisy has moved to the dining room, still no more than five feet from me, her snout resting on her paw. I rip my sweater off because it’s suddenly hot. I pull the blue-and-white-striped silk scarf from my neck and tie it in a bow around my waist, forcing myself to pull in my abdominals a little.

And with that, I’m out. It’s time to serve a dinner of chorizo, rutabaga, saffron rice, and white beans with a Humboldt Country Pinot Noir called Hardesty. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will impart what I learned from the lovely Brianne Day.

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