I have written to you from our upper back deck on Liberty Street. From where I sat, the lawn moves gracefully from under the deck to end at a small garden that Tess has lovingly cared for. It was turning dusk and the popcorn-puffed clouds began to look like so many great sails sitting on a vast, blue-purple sea. To enhance the vision, pink and red began to show beneath the cotton puffs, which appeared like so many hulls attached to these dreamlike sails. The entire phantom fleet made its way slowly northward in the wind, bumping the rooftops of the mountains, and bobbed gently as the sun began its drop into the sea far from our little home. Ashland is special.




I had a glass of ros&

233; wine sitting on the rail and left it for a few moments to get the phone. When I returned to see the last of this splendid Venetian-like vision, I was met by an interloper. He was gray, older, somewhat ruffled, quite large and had his nose stuck deeply into my wine glass! I simply stood there and watched has he let his nose do the walking, moving back and forth, then pulling away from the glass. He looked up briefly at the art-filled vision I had just seen, then, without a word, stuck his nose again into my glass! I just stood there and watched as he really put his heart into the exercise, sniffing, looking at the color, then pausing to get the big picture. I knew this character lived close to our house but I had never seen him on our deck before. I tried to slip to the side and watch him at work without him noticing me and I was, thankfully, successful.




This wine appreciation class went on for some time and I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I also had no idea how he got onto our deck but I had to admit that I had seen him skulking around Robin and Tony Heald's (our next door neighbors) yard for some time and took off when he noticed me. I decided, at length, to sit down in the easy chair of the living room and see what this character had in mind.




It wasn't long before this guy very tentatively lifted his front right arm and stuck just the very tip of his finger into the ros&

233;. He held the finger in there for some time and looked straight ahead as I tried to make myself very small in the living room. Then, with just the slightest movement, he lifted the finger from the liquid, took his finger to the edge of his nose and sniffed the bouquet of the ros&

233;! I had never seen this technique used before in wine appreciation and wondered if it worked as well as he seemed to think it did. (I am, I should tell you, always open to suggestions and it did seem that this older, gray-headed guy knew something about the appreciation of a good glass of ros&

233;.)




He repeated the finger in the ros&

233; trick a few more times. Then, without warning, he stuck the wet finger in his mouth. (I am not kidding you, this happened right on my deck.) At this exact moment, with a shudder of gray hair, he closed his eyes and stopped breathing! It seemed like forever that he simply shut down and closed his eyes, gently, to savor this Spanish delight.




I really did not know what to do. I simply sat there and watched as he sat in deep meditation over this Spanish ros&

233;. I will admit that I did not know if I should break this somewhat reverent communion with the vino by shouting at him and demanding that he quit tasting my wine or maybe just offer him his own glass. The very clear truth of the matter is that, in all of the years of wine judging, I cannot remember a more dedicated approach or lovely technique (okay, maybe it was a bit bizarre) than I was witnessing at that moment.




Just the sublime look on his face told me that this was the real thing. I am almost jealous at the concentration this fellow could muster over just a slight sip. It was then that my daughter's cat spoiled the moment.




Shasta (her cat) made a guided missile shot toward the deck from the living room. Our gray haired wine lover looked down at her, turned (bushy) tail and leaped from the rail of the deck to our ancient crab apple tree. From high above the deck he looked down at her and chattered angrily then split. (If I knew the guy's name I'd ask him back and get a few wine tasting hints.)




This was a true story, just ask Shasta. See you next week!