Saturday, May 23, 2009

In Vino Veritas

  • You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7
In my last post, Biblical Enology, I mentioned how the Scriptures often speak of wine in a positive light (unless, of course, it is imbibed in excess quantities or to the point of addiction), and how the fruit of the vine was a major part of biblical culture. Like the rest of the Mediterranean basin, my homeland of Italy also has a rich viniculture, boasting of some great wines which, in my not so humble opinion, are preferable to the over-rated vintages of its next door neighbor, France. Some of my favorite Italian reds include: Piedmont wines from the north, particularly the three “B”s, Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo; any decent Chianti from Tuscany; Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from the heel of Italy, and Nero d’Avola from Sicily.

The previous post also mentioned that I would be thrilled to carry on the tradition of my grandparents’ generation and keep some vineyards, but that is not in the cards, at least not now. But I have been making wine lately, even if the process has nothing of the thrill and romance (and hard work) associated with growing one’s own grapes, crushing them into must, fermenting, clarifying, aging and bottling. A few years ago I described my winemaking process to my elderly Italian cousin, who together with her husband had been tending Zio Nino’s old vineyards until she herself passed away last year. She stared at me incredulously and said, “It sounds like you are buying bulk quantities of already made wine and putting it in your own bottles!”

It’s not quite like that, but she probably wasn’t too far off the mark. This is how it works: A group of friends and I periodically venture over to Annapolis Home Brew (, a wonderful establishment that supplies all the ingredients, equipment and accessories a vintner could ask for, including wine presses and crushers for the professional or old fashioned folks like my forbears. For amateurs like me, they have complete wine making starter kits. Once armed with all the equipment and paraphernalia, all you need are ingredients, which also come readily packaged in kits consisting of vacuum sealed containers of juice, yeasts, clarifiers and other ingredients designed to enhance and preserve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Biblical Enology

  • Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Ecclesiastes 9:7
I am sure I am not the first to notice, but it seems to me that wine is a thoroughly biblical drink. On the one hand, the Bible obviously has a lot to say about alcoholic beverages, with no lack of admonitions against drinking to excess or otherwise being mastered by alcohol. It is particularly negative about beverages on either extreme of the alcoholic content spectrum; that is, I cannot find a single positive reference in the Bible to beer on one end, or to distilled spirits (“strong drink”) on the other.

Wine is a different story. Though the Scriptures abound in passages warning against drunkenness and addiction to wine, they have a number of positive things to say about wine in general, as in the verse quoted above. The beverage is usually associated with joy and celebration, particularly at the time of harvest. In the Old Testament it is often part and parcel with sacrifices and offerings, and of course is an integral part of the Passover meal.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I still miss my Dad

It was three years ago today that my father passed away. I am thankful that he lived to a good old age and we had a great relationship, and I have nothing but fond memories. But I still miss him.

Yes, losing loved ones is part of life, and time does have a way of tempering the loss. Furthermore, my faith assures me that I will be reunited with him. But every once in a while it hits me like a ton of bricks that he is no longer around. But then, the renewed sensation of loss is quickly followed by a bittersweet joy that reminds me what a great dad I had.

At his funeral it was my privilege to give one of the eulogies. After rereading what I wrote at the time, I realize that I would not change a thing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Manifesto" a Worthwhile Read for Reasonable Minds

The left loves to hurl epithets at conservative talk radio. They have a right to their opinion, but I think they would get a lot more traction if they tried to engage in serious debate about the actual assertions and ideas expressed as opposed to just ranting and raving about Rush babies, ditto heads and Hannity’s insanity. My suspicion is that the louder and more persistent they are in name calling, invective and mockery, the less likely it is that they have ever stopped to listen and consider what is being said, much less engage it in serious debate.

I don’t get much of a chance to listen to talk radio unless I happen to have a day off in the middle of the week, except I do manage to catch a few minutes of Mark Levin while driving home, just after the news at the top of the hour. And Levin is probably my least favorite talk show host, not because I have any substantive disagreement with what he says, but because I don’t care for his style. He strikes me as a bit shrill and sometimes stoops to the same level of invective that is more typical of the left, prematurely cutting off debate with his infamous line, “Get off the phone, you big dope!”

It’s for this reason that I was somewhat hesitant to pick up a copy of Levin’s latest book. But after hearing one rave review after another week after week as it remained at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, I finally picked up a copy of Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto (New York: Threshold Editions, 2009). I quickly learned that whatever defects I might find in Levin’s spoken delivery on talk radio is more than compensated for in the written word. The book is persuasive and well documented, and does an excellent job of educating the reader about the people and ideas that inspired our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and how those ideas have ever since been under assault and have ever so slowly eroded over time.