The celebration of a mother is a curious thing. As the story goes, the history of every American holiday with good intent winds up in the garbage bins of commercialization and bastardization. Anna Jarvis, the “founder” of Mother’s Day kicked off the tradition by holding a memorial for her hard-working mother…two years after she had passed away. Thus I guess that, all things considered, I’m glad my 14-year old is willing to celebrate me now and not two years after I’ve returned to dust. Jarvis eventually died in poverty, railing against what her brainchild had become, embittered that lazy American children hardly did more than buy a greeting card for their mom. Luckily, I can’t complain. I’m actually holding out for a freestyle rap from my kid this year that will most likely end up being a cross pollination of Eminem and Bob Dylan.
But rather than wait for Sunday, I sing a Song of Myself all weekend long, relishing in the pleasure that bubbles always bring to my life. No still wine. No beer. No spirits. The entire weekend is dedicated to bubbles, wherever they may call home. Easily the most intriguing bottle I had was a 2010 Causse Marines Preambulles from, of all places, Gaillac. Made with 100% Mauzac grapes, it was described by Jon Rimmerman (of Garagiste) as being “not for those seeking classic Champagne—this is for those that seek the outer reaches of our effervescent world.” Sold! The wine was lightly sparkling despite the fact that, upon opening it the wine geysered out the top. And I, in my infinite wisdom and wolf-like instincts decided to put my mouth over the top of the bottle and capture was was frothing out. Grabbing the wine glass that sat next to it to simply pour out the wine seemed to have gone right over my head for the first few seconds. Hence, about one glassful was lost. After tasting this eccentric petillant-naturel I sobbed a little silently at the loss of that one glassful. Petillant-naturel is sparkling wine made entirely with indigenous yeast (much like a lambic) and with only one fermentation instead of the two that give Champagne its bubbles. This is done by cooling down the wine in tank before the wine is completely dry, and then allowing it to complete fermentation in the bottle. Attempting to describe the Preambulles is akin to trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. It was cider, chalk, honeycomb and ginger all slathered on just-baked bread. It was beguiling. It was out there. Then it was gone.
But when I awoke this morning, eager to enjoy the stillness of a still-sleeping household, I didn’t reach for the bubbles. I reached for grape juice. Verjus. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes). And it’s why I sit here typing at 7:20 in the morning rather than sitting on my deck, keeping the happiness tucked in my back pocket. I had recently received 3 samples from Bonny Doon and one of them was a verjus (“green juice”) of their grenache grapes. I went to sleep last night a bit miffed because I had forgotten to put the bottle of verjus in the fridge, and by the time I realized it I was tucked just a little too deeply into my warm bed to have any inspiration left in me to go back downstairs. I slept doonly, quietly hoping the juice’s natural acidity wouldn’t bite my face off in the morning…Stretch’d and still lies the midnight.
When fine wines are made, it is standard practice to prune the grapes while they are green, thinning what is left on the vine so that the focus of the vine’s work is one on quality, not quantity. But it seems an affront to the grapes (and to my palate) to leave those trimmed grapes on the ground to become food for the worms. I like worms. But not that much. However if you wait just a bit longer, until the grapes have just turned color but are still busting with acidity, you can actually harvest what you prune and make juice. I have always hated commercial grape juice for it’s lack of grapey-ness. It is generally a clusterfuck of pasteurized concentrate, acids (malic and ascorbic) and “natural flavors”. It’s thick, cloying and ummm….purple. All things that grape juice should not be. Doon’s Verjus de Cigare is lovely—a word I don’t think I’ve ever used on this blog, so take note. It walks the fine line between acidity and sweetness, and it walks it quite elegantly, not like a drunken buffoon at a DUI test. My ties and ballasts leave me…I am afoot with my vision. Randall mentions that it’s a brilliant culinary tool for the chef’s toolbox, but I would add to that the mixologist’s toolbox as well. I can easily see myself scooping up what few bottles of this are left (439 cases produced) and hoarding them selfishly to make cocktails with all summer.
So this morning I raise a glass of lovely verjus and toast both the mothers that read this blog and the motherfuckers. You know who you are. Love your moms before they’re gone, and do not love them more after they’ve gone…love them similarly. Because our hearts should not be gilded by memories, but by the present. As for me, I’ve told my son to prune me while I’m young and still have just the right balance of sweetness and bite. You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, But I shall be good health to you nevertheless.