Thinking (nostalgia and regret) about the late, great Stanley Ellin (April 3). A twinge of nostalgia for great Amarones (April 4). Perhaps all this nostalgia is a result of the fact that April was a month of birthdays (Geppie’s, Ugo’s, mine and Maz’s and Silvio’s). Three wines stood out. Marcato’s Durello (April 26), a Refosco from Friuli (April 21), a wine from Poggio Verranzo (April 11).
April 28 Politicians renaming a park.
One of them looks like a werewolf in mid transformation. Can you guess the one to whom I am referring?
April 26 Anchovies A-go-go
Michael, Stanley and I go for a little late morning walk and eventually stop in at the Carroarmato to say hello to Annalisa, the owner of the osteria (and best woman at my wedding, lo these many years ago).
She offers us a glass of Marcato’s Durello – the one with 36 months on the lees. It is lovely, creamy, easy but elegant. She then asks us to join her for lunch…spaghetti with anchovy sauce. Exceptionally satisfying.
“It’s the anchovies,” says Annalisa, who proceeds to bring out a container of them. They are Acciughe Salate from the cooperative del Golfo and part of the Presidio Slow Food. (www.presidislowfood.it). Her fish supplier shows up as we are eating lunch and she gives us a package of fish fillets and a recipe for preparing them.
Stanley and I spend a couple of hours in the hammock on the back balcony – I read (Helen McGuiness), Stanley snoozes. What a dog – game to lie in a hammock. We are fortunate to have him.
April 21 My Birthday
April 16 Ugo’s Birthday
“I stopped celebrating birthdays when I turned 50,” says Geppy. Nonetheless, we meet at the Carroarmato and toast his day.
April 12 Speaking of Wine
Among the wines my merry band tastes (blind) are:
2007 “3” from Poggio Verrano A dense center of near blue-black tones. An uplifting acidity on the nose. A satiny texture. Again,the tight weave. Firm fruit: black cherries, brambles, black currants – so tightly knit it seems like one integrated flavor. Very nice.
Anselmi I Capetelli 2010 Golden yellow. Candied fruit, peach, pear. Long finish filled with hazelnuts and honeyed fruit.
April 4 Yet more Speaking of Wine
I take the bus to Parona to give my Wine Tasting in English course. There are 9 participants, one of whom – Elisabetta Bolla – did the course some ten years ago. She is at the class with her daughter who is joining mom-n-dad in the family business.
I bring a bottle of 2007 “Pietro 1904” from Tenuta Piccolo Brunelli. We taste it blind. The wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend. Nice wine. It goes down well. However, it is not as easy to identify as I thought it would be. The Cabernet character is subdued. It needs time to open up.
I subsequently tried the remains of the bottle on April 6 and find it very satisfying, indeed. Nice saturation of color. Full fruity perfume. Soft, velvety texture on the palate.
I go to the Osteria Carroarmato to to meet Linda and her husband and children for dinner. We put away a bottle of okay (nothing more) Amarone. Frankly, I don’t want to drink an Amarone with dinner. I still yearn for the Old Days when Amarone was potent and special. Nostalgia is overtaking me.
Many years ago I worked at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. It was there that I met Stanley Ellin, one of the best, kindest, most intelligent men I have ever known. I have many authographed books from those days, among them The Bind. Today I went to the back balcony, settled into the hammock and read.
Before I left for my first long trip to France (yes, I have lived an adventurous live), I asked Stanley to let me interview him. He showed up at the Greenwich Village (New York) brownstone of Donald Westlake, where I was house-sitting. (Whoever is reading this diary has seen a film based on a book by Don Westlake—trust me. He was the master of the caper novel back in the non-digital days).
We sat on the terrace, sipping wine and talking. I love this man. He said: “When you go to Paris you will find your French-self, which is not appreciably different from your American self. But when you are away you will be allowed to explore sides of yourself that would be impossible to discover if you stayed here.” I wish I could go back and re-live that evening. I also wish that he had lived long enough to see me established in the wine trade. Among the many short stories that he wrote is Specialty of the House, a deliciously disturbing story. He died during one of my long free-wheeling trips to France and England.
When someone died while I was away, the death did not register in my brain. I called his house when I got back to New York to tell him about my experience in London and Bordeaux (where I picked), and his wife told me he was dead. I did not handle it well. I was shocked. I stammered. I did not express my condolences to the wife he adored in the proper way for the simple reason that I could not speak. I also wish I could re-live that moment and tell her how much I admired and respected Stan. She, too, is now dead. Regret – it is the kind of tell-all-thing that happens in diaries. Forgive me.
A visit to Soave