“Enjoying fine food and wine at the family table, surrounded by your loved ones and friends, is not just a joy – it’s one of the highest forms of the art of living.” Robert Mondavi
I consider myself very lucky. I have a wonderful family who loves to be together. Sunday dinners are common, family gathered around the table during the holidays sipping wine, every birthday celebrated together – all a normal part of our family life. Except this year things are a bit different. There is a huge void at the dinner table during Sunday dinners. My Grandfather isn’t sitting at the end of the table talking about wine and politics. We lost my Grandfather Jack Somerville in June. It was devastating and a huge blow to the family. We are sad and heartbroken. Now we talk about our memories we have of my Grandfather. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful stories, those are what we hold on to.
You may know how my love of wine started. Then again you may not. During a Sunday dinner about 17 years ago (yikes!) my Grandfather decided that it was the time to start teaching me about wine. He poured me a glass of Burgundy, he asked me what I thought and what did I taste. I was fascinated by the wine and what my palate was picking up. And it was as simple as that. My love for wine and curiosity started right then and there, and it has never changed since thanks to my Grandfather.
My Grandfather would send me newspaper clippings of wine articles with a little note in the corner, it was always the same – Alison – Thought you would like this. – Grandaddy. I’ll miss getting those in the mail. He would call me to talk about finding wines at Total Wine or at Costco. One of the voicemails I saved is from Thanksgiving of last year. He called and left me a message asking me to check out the prices of “our Chardonnay” at Total Wine because he wanted to bring it for Thanksgiving dinner. My grandfather and I both LOVED Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay. It was our favorite.
However, we didn’t always agree on the wines. He was a hard sell on Malbec’s which I fell in love with years and years ago. I did manage to find one he liked or considered “drinkable” – Catena Malbec. My Grandfather was known at our Sunday dinners to say “This wine is drinkable”. It was an ongoing joke with our family. We would all wait for him to take a sip to see if he would utter “It’s drinkable”. It got to the point when Grandaddy brought a wine for dinner, I would sip it and look at him and say ” I guess it’s drinkable”.
Grandaddy turned me on to one of his favorite Pinots from Oregon, Adelsheim. It quickly became “our Pinot”. He was a Burgundy and Oregon Pinot fan through and through. He disliked Merlot and was not fond of Bordeaux. Much too heavy for his liking and he knew what he liked, Burgundies and Oregon Pinot Noir. It wasn’t hard for Grandaddy to turn me onto certain wines. He would bring this amazing bottle of Rose over every time they would come to dinner during the Summer. Grandaddy would sit and tell me Rose is only good if it comes from Provence. That is how I became a Rose snob. It was wonderful sitting on the patio sipping Rose from Provence with my Grandfather discussing anything from politics to football. This Rose became the staple of our summer dinners.
I appreciate that we have so many memories with my Grandfather. My Grandparents had a wonderful farm on the Eastern Shore where we spent a lot of our time growing up. We went during every season and even spent some holidays there. It was always so great driving down the lane and seeing my Grandfather on the tractor. While in the hospital, he told my brother and sister he really was the happiest at that farm.
I am grateful that my Grandfather got to know my husband so well. The moment he met Lee he loved him. The moment he found out Lee went to Saint Andrews in Scotland and loved scotch, he told me I found a good one. My Grandfather would call me and after asking me how I was doing he would always ask how his buddy was. I’ll miss walking downstairs to the bar in my parents’ basement and seeing my Husband and Grandfather yapping about cars, Scotland, horses, bourbon, and anything that was interesting to the two. When my husband switched from working on the Hill to the car business, my Grandfather was his biggest supporter. They really did have a special bond and that to me was the greatest. My Grandmother tells me all the time how much my Grandfather loved Lee. It was very apparent. I couldn’t be happier that my husband got to spend time with my Grandfather and has those wonderful memories to hold on to.
Holidays will never be the same, birthday celebrations, Sunday dinners, and other dinners – just because. It is a strange part of life when you lose such a big part of your family. Although there is a huge hole in our hearts, we have become closer and stronger during this time. We see more of my Grandmother now which is wonderful and we still do Sunday dinners with wine that is “drinkable”.
Cheers to a wonderful father, husband, friend and grandfather (wine teacher extraordinaire).