The Pleasures of Summer
by Francis Fecteau
Sex, ice cream and other little deaths.
The sultry wines of summer lead me down a very kinky road. Surprise creeps in on tiny cat feet and leaves my mouth confused in a Rosicrucian (mystical/confusing) cats-and-dogs-living-together sort of way and the aromatics leave me, well…rapt. I am dizzied; elevated even, and the confines of the Universe are now a little larger.
Editor’s Note: We welcome Francis Fecteau to CATALYST. Francis is a wine connoisseur and a wonderful writer. As founder of Libation, a wine brokering company, he helps raise the popularity of organic and biodynamic wines in Utah. To learn more, see our story about him in the April 2009 issue of CATALYST.
* * *
Call the roller of big cigars /
The muscular one, and bid him whip /
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds
Wallace Stevens, poet, sits over my shoulder of late, he does, he and his “Emperor of Ice Cream.” Ka Ka Ka, say it out loud, Con – Cue – Puh – Scent – Curds, and feel your mouth twitch and quiver at the consonants’ tingle. Then,
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress /
As they are used to wear
and I dare you not to imagine the melting of ice cream on sweet warm skin. How much a thing of summer it is to blend sex and ice cream and all those little deaths of pleasure and the comforts of seeming trivialities. It tells me at the very least that quiet men are capable of great thoughts and that oral fixations are indeed the proverbial “way to go.” Misinterpreting great poetry is the least of my formidable skills.
* * *
The sultry wines of summer lead me down a very kinky road. Surprise creeps in on tiny cat feet and leaves my mouth confused in a Rosicrucian (mystical/confusing) cats-and-dogs-living-together sort of way and the aromatics leave me, well…rapt. I am dizzied; elevated even, and the confines of the Universe are now a little larger. I have met wines and winemakers that should not be: Joey Wagner’s improbable Belle Glos “Los Alturas Vineyard” Pinot Noir ($34); Tim Spears’ Jabberwockian Clos Mimi “Petite Rousse” Syrah ($20) and the pornographic (in the very best dirty-filthy-blushing-in-the-dark sort of way) Atrea “Old Soul Red” ($20). Summer is a self-indulgent primordial soup.
* * *
I am on the road now, where and to what end I do not know. The windows are down, the sound is up. An East Coast boy by nature and birth, this broad-shouldered West won me over and the only thing I want to do on this summer road is point the car west and drive until I hit water. Granted, I drive a gutless Prius (admit it, 50 mpg is the new macho), but I have Springsteen on the stereo mind you, “Rosalita,” and I can do anything. (I am still New England street trash, after all, so never you mind.) The heat saps any cares I might have had and all I want to do is sniff the lavender in the garden and watch the day roll by, but no, that is not to be. Movement is the natural response to agitation, threat, the incomprehensible and the unfamiliar. I find myself surrounded by agitation, unsettled by simple things. Even my daily yoga practice forces me into strange country. New senses are at work, fighting old impulses; one sense bullies another into new comprehension. I ride through the city and where once there were buildings, I am stunned by the new sky. I need a steel guitar.
* * *
I fuss. I obsess. I overthink. It must be a function of the season or my own deficient brain chemistry. I suppose I should have gone ahead with the prescription; I say no. Something unfortunate about phrases like “mood leveler” and “anti-depressant.” I crave the highs and lows, the stimulation, the compulsions. Last January, a legendary vintage of Premier Cru White Burgundy was on sale; my longing took on a ripe, blushing, irresistibly warm summer hue, choices were made, the rent was two months late. Sizzle is a must, you see, and Summer was waiting.
Who hasn’t been both accused of flaw and been flawed to the bone at one point or another? Oh well, sigh, I digress. Moses supposes his toeses are roses, as Gene Kelly sang. Whenever the pressure is on, I think to myself how would Gene Kelly respond? I am sure he would reply in a manner both clever and alliterative—and snicker all the way to the bank. I am a sucker for the clever response to the unreasonable. Bend, flex, return to form. Never let them see you sweat, never be flustered, never return the agitation, at least not in anger. Water the plants. Smile. It’s summer.
* * *
I seek out the Zen-like comfort of repetition. I hit baseballs, one toss-and-crack after another. I lose myself in the lilt of a Jacques Brel tune, “La Valse” if you must know, and it reminds me to enjoy the graceful vigor of my imaginary youth. Summer and red wine and the odd cigarette going in waltz time; one two three, one two three. I focus on the elegance of pedaling the Colnago. I doze in my chair to the dulcet tones of John Sterling, recounting the dragon encounters of the day from Yankee Stadium (wherein the pinstripers win, lose and most always persevere). I sit in the garden, digging and picking and snipping at the dirt and the green tendrils poking this way and that, me and the gleeful yellow trumpets of my allemanda vine. I look out for them, and they look out for me. It’s an ideal relationship of perfect reciprocity; plants don’t respond well to fraud.
* * *
Summer finally rose with a deep breath of aromatic greenery, a sip of balanced fruit, a deep sigh, dirt grubbed into the hands and life just fine. The smell of lemon buttercream, talcum powder and jasmine in my glass (Latour St Veran les Deux Moulin 2006 $15) anchors me. I have been waltzing through Burgundy all summer long, grateful for my myriad weaknesses. (Ever hear Al Martino sing “Al di La”?) I move on to a bottle of Puligny from an old hilltop truffle bed called “Truffiere.” It makes me catch my breath and hold its perfume; it’s the Northern Lights and a thousand and one perfect summer moments, it’s fields of jasmine and lavender and fireflies blinking in a jar, it’s the smell of crumpled bedsheets and sun. Why settle for a wine that does anything less? I sit in the garden, late in the night, admiring the evening hues of my city. My roses smell like ice cream, and I think to myself in the shadows of my night that summer is indeed blissful and sweet.
Francis Fecteau is a wine educator and the author of “e-Libation,” an online wine newsletter. firstname.lastname@example.org. He lives in downtown Salt Lake City.