I gave the Wine Goddess my Christmas gift list the other night.
I sat her down in a big, comfortable chair in front of the fireplace, poured her a glass of Chauteau St. Michelle (Indian Wells) Chardonnay (I took a glass of 10-year-old reserve Fladgate Taylor Port), put Dean Martin’s Classic Christmas album in the CD player, and gingerly moved Bella the cat to the far end of the couch so I could take a spot for myself.
The Christmas tree was all lit up and decorated. Seventy-five Christmas dolls, including a collection of Santa Clauses dating back to when I first met the Wine Goddess in 1987, filled the fireplace mantle and several flights of staircase-like staging above. A Janet Lambert-Moore original of the State House, blanketed in snow and decked out for the holidays, hung on a wall nearby.
The setting definitely said “holiday spirit.”
And the Wine Goddess was responsible for every single wonderful touch in the room. Even Bella, a stray bobtail cat she was feeding in a vacant downtown Lowell mill building until she finally took it home. That was seven years ago, on Thanksgiving Day.
“Isn’t this nice of you to do this,” said the Wine Goddess most graciously.
I had done nothing but sit her in a chair, and pour her a glass of wine . I did this so I could get her into the mood of gift giving — for me. I started to feel guilty. The feeling lasted about as long as it took Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to score two touchdowns in the closing moments of their miraculous 27-26 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
“I know what I want for Christmas!,” I blurted out excitedly.
Bella, startled, woke up, yawned and used what was left of her spent energy to curl up like the black, furry ball that she is. I thought about rolling her off the couch but caught myself. A move like that would certainly doom my plan.
The Wine Goddess didn’t blink. “That’s lovely,” she said. “We only buy gifts for the children and now you want something. If we’re going to do that, there has to be a limit. One hundred dollars. How’s that sound?”
I truly love this woman. I got her to move from “no gifts” to $100 of spending. If only Congress could compromise like this. Or maybe not. Anyway, $100 was a good start.
“I know, I know we don’t buy a lot for each other. I just feel … Christmasy this year.” (Christmasy? I wanted to punch myself. Who uses such a blasphemous word? If Father Nick Sannella found out I uttered such a thing he’d keep me in the confessional weeks.)
“You obviously want something special or you wouldn’t have brought it up,” said the Wine Goddess, bearing down on me. I poured her a bit more chardonnay. She accepted it but I thought I saw the angelic halo behind her head fly off in the direction of the Lambert-Moore painting.
When we were first married, we’d buy dozens of gifts for each other. Most were small, but precious. Of course, I’d always throw in what she’d end up calling a “Jimmy gift” — something I’d give her but really wanted for myself. I could never be sure she’d get it for me, so I’d buy it, wrap it, let her open it, and then she’d put it in my pile under the tree.
“So what is it?”, she said.
I stood up from the couch, moved to a spot in front of the Santas on the fireplace, and unveiled my Christmas wish.
“I would like a vineyard, just a few acres, so I could make my own wine. I want to put Bella’s face on the label (not really but I needed leverage). I’ve got this list here that I want you to take a look at. No rush. Just look at it. And if you love me, you’ll do what you always do — surprise me.”
The Wine Goddess is never phased by my singular — and brief — moments of abrupt insanity. Instead she is very endearing.
“OK, hon, let me see the list. I’ve got 13 days to do it, so I better get started right away,” she said.
It came from a story in the Wall Street Journal about Manuel Pires, a self-made millionaire from Connecticut who bought an exclusive Napa Valley hillside vineyard for $10 million. He’s had to put in another $5 million to produce his own wine, Gandona, which is highly rated an sells for $190 a bottle. I didn’t want the Wine Goddess to go overboard, I told her, so my list had vineyard properties in California, Oregon, Washington State and New York that were on the market for $2.7 million to $8.65 million. Small places, the kind I could manage with the Wine Butler, Mike Pigeon, who cuts the lawn, tends to the pergola and then shares a bottle of wine with me.
The Wine Goddess now has the list. She hasn’t said a word about it. Everything’s normal. Which means something’s going on behind the scenes.
Will I get my dream vineyard? Probably not. But there is one thing I know for sure: Come Christmas morning the Wine Goddess will deliver to me a glorious surprise. She always does — and for that I’m truly blessed.