Wine, (no) Women, and (bird) Song

By Robert Brown
Guelph, Ontario


It's late afternoon and I'm home alone. Cathy is in Florida visiting our new grandson. I venture down into my wine cellar and look through my older bottles of wine that probably are nearing the end of their useful life and found a 2006 Barolo. To be precise it's Barolo Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 2006. It was given to me by one of my masters students upon graduation and I laid it down and forgot about it. But I rediscover it today... so I open it. I'd love to be sharing it with my 'wine-appreciation friends' but I'll just have to describe it to you.

While I search for a cork screw I notice that the chickadees that live year round in our yard are taking turns at the Niger seed feeder. The first bird takes a single seed and flits off to sit on the grape vine and eat it. The next one arrives, diving out of the sky like a torpedo and opening its wings at the last minute to alight on the roost. Poetry in motion.

I pour the wine through an aerator into my balloon glass and swirl it around. It's not as dark red as I expected and is actually a translucent ruby colour. It doesn't look all that imposing but has nice legs and as I stick my nose into the glass and inhale deeply I'm rewarded with a complex aroma of ripe cherries and a surprising floral note. Although the wine is eight years old it's still very tight and full of tannins. It has a great mouth-feel and the flavours are magnificent - flavours you don't often find in wine like licorice, leather, chocolate, figs, and prunes. I would call it a 'sophisticated' wine - the kind that you'd love to have ordered when you're out for dinner with a valued colleague who is visiting for just one evening. Especially if he's paying.

I'm now in the dining room where I can see the black oil sunflower seed feeder. It's being visited by our resident goldfinch family. They were such a brilliant yellow this summer but those colours have faded and they're now wearing their muted winter plumage. They like to linger and eat seeds one by one. Fortunately there's room for several birds to feed at the same time. They're apparently in no hurry as they expertly open the sunflower seeds with a flick of their bills, take a look around, and dive in for another seed.

I decide to taste the wine with food. The first test is a five year old white Ontario Cheddar and it is perfect. The sharpness of the cheese balanced by the intensity of the wine. I wonder about some Mennonite smoked sausage that I had purchased at the St. Jacobs Market. Not a good match! I rummage through the fridge and find some leftover beef stew and heat a small bit of it for the tasting. It matched even better than the cheese.

A nuthatch has just arrived at the feeder and apparently doesn't like to share. The goldfinches scatter and the nuthatch crawls all over the feeder, head pointed downward, pulling out seeds and eating them. He has the feeder to himself until a hairy woodpecker arrives and takes over the feeder. All the other birds find roosts nearby and wait patiently until it's their turn again.

The last bit of wine in my glass gets swirled and sipped. It's a disappointing finish. Barolo by itself is not nearly as good as with food.

I think I'll just have to heat up some more of that stew and pour myself another glass.

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