Vino Veritas: A Chronicle of Love by the Glass

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Katie and Tony
The writer with her “future husband.”

The first dinner my future husband ever made for me was in what would become our house in Baltimore, late one night while I was living in Silver Spring. Wading through a tough time, he saw me trying to brave it out and offered up an ear, nothing more, as I sat at his octagonal kitchen table sipping white wine while he cooked greens and a beautiful steak. We drank a bottle of red something, listened to music and sat talking for the next four hours. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I don’t eat red meat.

The day my divorce was final, my future husband invited me over for dinner and, assuming I’d want to be with supportive friends, invited a few buddies from my wine shop to dine with us.  A bottle of Louis Roederer 2004 Blanc de Blanc awaited us, as did mountains of Indian food, and the four of us sat at the octagonal table together. The bottle I’d saved to commemorate the long, weary journey was Ruinart Rose Champagne, a beautiful bottle deeply pink and rich with a touch of sweetness, like a sugar kissed strawberry. The champagne quickly disappeared and a bottle of 2003 Chambolle Musigny sat aside a Rhone red on the table, all of us nerdily sampling the two back and forth between bites of naan and tandori. I got a tattoo of a sailboat earlier in the day and I saved a glass of champagne to finish the evening.

That year the fall was strangely warm and pleasant, and at the house the trees were shaking off the last of their leaves with every gentle breath of a breeze. It was nice enough outside to share a meal on the porch, so my future husband and I did, both of us just a step out of relationships we’d believed to be much more serious than they turned out to be and paddling into the rippling, dark waters of singleness. He opened a 2007 Keenan Cabernet Franc, an odd bottle that coaxed the often vegetal and grungy red into a plush, cool, seamless velvet of blueberry and perfumed aromatics on the palate. It tasted much like that specific fall, with its faux ripened summer fruit lingering and just a trace of sleek, cool mineral running underneath. With only the light of a candle on the table, I watched a tiny leaf slip from a branch and fall into his hair.

It was a rainy night and my future husband had asked if I’d join him for a supper of mediocre delivery pizza and good wine. We sat on the third floor, where the rain pattered dramatically against the roof and a mindless television show droned in the background. The first bottle of red was gone, and a second was hoisted from the basement. With a boyish, impish smirk that he only displays at the most celebratory moments, my future husband opened Errazuriz’s Viñedo Chadwick 2006, an extraordinary Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile not yet imported into the States. He knew I had a love of Chilean wine, and he knew I would have had nothing like this before. It billowed from the glass, huge aromatics of dense blue and black fruit, extracted, chewy, with a wild, brambly, smoky herbaceousness that always reminds me of a mountainside. Unable to keep our purple grins at bay, we laughed and drank for what felt like hours and I fell asleep in the guest room.

It was late August and the air was still warm, the burdensome Maryland humidity shifting back and forth with the sea breezes lapping at the boats in the marina. We sat outside on a restaurant patio, my future husband looking mostly at his hands and his plate, myself looking at the glass of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano I’d agreed to join him for and out at the water. The wine was rich but not heavy, telltale Sangiovese with bright red fruit and dried oregano, full but not cloying, almost cool in the late summer heat. We hadn’t sat down together in many months. Nervous, he shifted in his seat and I swirled my glass. “You see,” he said, “I’m in love with you.” I took a sip.

It was the morning of our wedding day and the only beautiful day February had to offer. Relieved by the sun and the break from this sopping, dragging winter, I looked out the window at flitting light as the branches pushed and pulled against the house. Today, I thought. There was already a commotion downstairs, already sounds in the kitchen, footsteps running up stairs, the straightening of flatware, clinking glasses. I got dressed and found my almost-husband in the kitchen making tiny baguette toasts with a little butter and fat, unbelievably decadent slices of black truffle on top. Two glasses of Pol Roger sat on the counter beside the plate, pale gold, fresh, the tiniest bubbles and a finish of buttery toast and powdered sugar. “Just a little ceremonial breakfast,” he said with that grin. “Some toast, mushrooms, and a little thin wine.”

Today I sit at the octagonal kitchen table with toasted cornbread and a glass of iced tea, both obligatory since this pregnancy began. With wine a central and important part of our daily lives, it’s a funny thing to suddenly be without its taste, but like someone who loses sharpness in one of his or her senses, the others seem to be heightened. The way the wine looks in the glass, the color, the aroma, the way it fills the glass, the sound of a bottle opening and pouring, it’s all still beautiful. It’s all more beautiful. The only challenge for my husband will be getting stuck with the same open bottle two days in a row and keeping me from naming our baby Rioja, Barbaresco, or Chardonnay.

Katie Callahan is a wine educator and former manager of  Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis.

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