Nantucket Essays

Summer Wine

by Robert P. Barsanti

I returned to Nantucket on a long delayed boat.  On this full boat, the seats were claimed early and I stood outside, hard up against the metal gate of the closed snack bar.  The wind and rain had built a substantial chop over the shoals in the middle of the sound.  The boat rose and fell into the waves and the damp dripped off the roof and rose up under my raincoat.  When Brant Point flashed through the fog, the boat slowed to a walk and we strolled into an empty Nantucket harbor.  Springtime on the island.

Spring has come back to us.  The ducks are leaving, the bass are arriving and the daffodils of February have collapsed into the lilacs and roses of May.  The mighty Whalers play as much baseball as the fog allows, Main Street is slowly opening, and the tradesman are working twelve hours a day, seven days a week to keep up with the bills and promises of the winter.

The wine festival has also come but we don’t have time for wine.  Essays need to be graded, gardens need to be mulched, and there is something poisonous in the trash cans.  The phone chirps within a minute of sitting down and we are off to clear out another flower bed.  I don’t have time for children or sleep, never mind a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Most of my wine glasses are in storage.  I have two from my father’s house that collect dust in the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet.   They were made with skill and craft; they are finely balanced and clear, with a spiral down the stem and the signature glob of glass on the step from its maker.  I suspect they were a Mother’s Day gift from my childhood that had been sufficiently protected and barricaded into a breakfront where they couldn’t be idly broken  by the young galoots that lurched, spun, and fell in my Mother’s house.

My parents did not drink wine regularly.  There was a time, during the Marriage Encounter years when doubles tennis and Gourmet magazine slipped over the house, when the two of them would fill their glasses with some red from the three gallons of Ernst and Julio’s Finest.  But for most of my life, wine came with linen, silver, and china.  It arrived at holidays and on birthdays, but spent most of its time hiding in a drawer.

This evening, their wine glasses are filled with reproach.  Actually, most of my apartment is decorated in reproach.  The books on my bedside table are frosted with it, reproach has drifted over my running shoes and it even speckles the red NetFlix labels.  Wine glasses, like running shoes, require time.  And time, which stretches out to the horizon at ten in the morning, contracts to three inches at sunset.

Wine is time, distilled, decanted, and poured.  You open a bottle when you don’t need to go anywhere, don’t need to do anything, and can share it with someone else.  Wine assumes that we are all going to be together, we aren’t taking things too seriously, we are enjoying these moments.

I push most of the quiet moments in life out into tomorrow. I’ll read this book tomorrow, right after I go for our hike through Squam Swamp and mail off the DVD’s.  Instead, I plod through a routine of duties and expectations until the kids go to bed and the bills are paid.  The wine stays in the refrigerator door, next to last summer’s gherkins and the  artichoke hearts we used to use to make that dip.  Foolishly, I think that I should get a medal for that.  I am too important for artichoke dip and zinfandel.

The life I lead makes more insistent claims on my time.  Papers, students, and highways press in on the time I might spend in a chair looking through the bottom of Simon Pearce stemware at someone lovely.  The duties of my life crowd out the pleasures with the dull insistence of a list of things to do and people to call.  No action item tastes as sweet as Chardonnay.

Were I a better man, I would drink wine every day.  I would pull the cork at five in the afternoon, pour two glasses, and proceed to the porch for an hour of conversation and idleness.  Perhaps it would be better to take retirement in dribs and drabs rather than in drips from a saline bag.

But the summer evening on island is made for wine.  You ease back into it.  You settle on the deck, call over the neighbors, open that Sauvignon Blank from the spring and you watch the grass grow in the salty sun of evening.  The sun can keep on working without you, as can the waves, the wind, and the fog.  For a moment in the evening, time can be found for argument, conversation, and contemplation of the fallen squirt guns.  We can look out, for a moment, at a world our fathers and grandfathers never dreamed of, when we would be on Nantucket drinking wine from New Zealand listening to the Red Sox finally winning a game.

Perhaps, in the end, this brings the Wine Festival back to Nantucket.  We don’t have acres of vineyards out amount the dunes and the rosa rugosa.  We don’t have the bone dry sun of France or California, nor do we have the ancient vines.  But, come the summer, we have decks and backyards that sweep away the action items of the evening, and then, with the soft edge of a cheese knife, bring us into the laughing moments of our lives.

Articles by Date from 2012