Why does a short vacation away from home nearly always heighten the flavors in the food we eat and the beverages we drink?
Why are the warm days and cools nights of autumn always resplendent with fun and adventure and even romance?
I asked the Wine Goddess that very question. We were sitting in comfortable chairs with headrests and cupholders on the sands of Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine about an hour’s drive from our Lowell home. It was a sparkler of a day – blue sky, blue water, radiant sun and hardly a soul in sight.
“I think it’s simple,” she said, slowly moving her moist lips to the glass of Prosecco in her right hand. “You enjoy it when I take care of you, every minute of the day, making sure you relax, have a nice lunch, your books and magazines are packed and that you can’t find your laptop from work.”
She’s so sincere and so right. I do have a fondness for being pampered once in a while. But who doesn’t?
We drank Prosecco, from the Veneto region of Italy, in crystal flute glasses that had been meticulously secured in bubble wrap.
Our recent four-day getaway to Kennebunkport was for the purpose of celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary. A year ago we traveled to Napa Valley, intent on visiting Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay – and how it bested the elite French burgundies in a blind wine tasting in 1976 – was the subject of George Taber’s excellent book, Judgment in Paris, and the entertaining movie, Bottle Shock.
In holy honor of the pilgrimage (Father Sannella please forgive me!) we planned to drink a bottle of the 2009 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay purchased a year ago and which now accompanied us to Kennebunkport. This is a well-made wine, crisp and clean on the palate with influences of kiwi, lime and a buttery finish. It’s elegant, pure and simple. To my surprise, however, the Wine Goddess selected Prosecco with our lunch of soft cheese and prosciutto sandwiches, and a caprese salad (Buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil). Later, after a nap, I awakened to a see a plate of homemade pecan biscotti before me while in the distance a woman and a young boy were riding horses along the shore. How exquisite it is, I thought, when your dreams come true.
At 6 p.m., we went to the Cape Arundel Inn, a fabulous hotel just around the corner from George (’41) and Barbara Bush’s magnificent compound on Walker’s Point. We ordered martinis – hers a lemon drop with vodka, mine a Belvedere with olives – and sat next to the fireplace. After a cool sip or two we moved to a couch that offered a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean and the rocky, wave battered shoreline. We talked, time passed, the sun began to set. It was time for dinner at 7:15.
We quickly made a joint marital decision.
I pointed to a bottle of 2009 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon on the wine list for $80, a 92-pointer worth every penny. Gaining her approval, I asked if she would be so kind as to pair this juicy gem with an outstanding entree. She did not disappoint: A prime sirloin with char-grilled roasted seasonal squashes, potato pave, and banyuls with veal demiglasse was the selection. I could not wait, but first came the baby Iceberg salad with a Shropshire blue dressing, grilled bermuda onions, wintergreen tomatoes, candy cane beets, and crisp radishes.
The Montelena cabernet, its ruby color and layers of berry and spice notes, was beginning to seduce us. I asked the Wine Goddess to dance, requested two songs from the piano player, and on the first key of C from Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” we were off on a cloud. Dean Martin’s “Innamorata” came next and the only thing missing were the crooner’s words:
“If our lips should meet, innamorata
Kiss me, kiss me sweet, innamorata
Hold me close and say you’re mine
With a love as warm as wine.”
We ate dessert although I truly can’t remember what. What I do recall most vividly, however, is the wine’s taste growing richer as the evening wore on and my wife’s beauty glowing greater and greater, my innamorata.