Saturday, March 26, 2011


Armed with a glass of wine, I am ready to do battle in the cultural wars over the issue of “values”. Forget the role of wine in the new testament, since it is clear that only really crazy people take the bible literally, and some of them still use grape juice in their sacraments. I will make my case solely on my own personal experience which, with all humility, I consider to be very valid.

Wine to me means family. As a young boy I helped my father and grandfather pick the grapes in our vineyard. I wish I could say that I stomped around on them in my bare feet, but alas, that pleasure was denied me. I did however play in the huge upright barrel that remained from the commercial wine making days; access was through a small door that opened near the bottom. I remember it as huge, but it was probably about 8-10 feet tall and 5-6 feet across. But I digress.

Like so many first generation Italian-Americans, my father made wine every year, even long after the grapes were gone. In fact he did so his entire life excluding the few years his health prevented it. There were always 5-6 barrels of wine in our cellar. In later years the wooden barrels were replaced by 5 gallon glass and plastic vessels. A gallon of red wine was a fixture in our kitchen, often on the floor by my father or grandfather at dinner time and the wine was sipped from small juice glasses, never the wine glasses we see today.

When aunts, uncles, and cousins came to visit they never left without first having coffee, wine, and more often than not, food. For many years I would visit my uncle Ferrar and the visit always began with a glass of wine along with some bread, cheese, and perhaps peppers and/or salami. Of course he made his own wine, as did my uncle Ren (Communardo, but everyone called him Ren...quite understandable.) who left the farm and moved to Long Island and soon had his own grape arbor in the back yard.

Wine means the warmth of friendship and sharing. I do enjoy a glass of wine alone, at the end of the day, but I enjoy it more when I am sitting with one or more friends and neighbors in our kitchen or on our porch. It is a quiet way of saying, “I am glad your here with me”. It is a gesture of friendship and hospitality.

Family, friendship, hospitality...sounds a lot like love to me.

Ferrar, Ren, and Spartico (my father) sometime in the 1980s

the same three as they were way back when..

A partial family gathering at Uncle Ren's. The grape arbor can be seen on the right.

1 comment:

Villager said...

Enjoyed this post very much. A lot of my Portuguese friends in NJ still buy grapes and make their own wine. Growing up in Portugal, I too picked grapes AND stomped them! Funny how similar the traditions are across Southern Europe from Portugal all the way to Greece. Maybe it's the Mediterranean climate.
Might that smart looking young man sitting on the grass be Dr. Renzulli?