Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Losing My Language

Richard beating it until it's dead.

Once upon a time I could speak the language of my people. Sort of.

Years ago, when my trips away were measured in quarters rather than weeks, I used to spend months at a time in Manila living The Good Life. Fast living, fast women, not too fast cars and the necessity to actually speak the language in order to work the bars and clubs.

Sadly, it's been years since I've been to Manila and lived that life. Which also means that my ability to speak the language has waned along with my extended stays at home in Maryland.

I relate this because I recently asked Richard to come and do some work for me and his Tagalog is better than his English, which means that I've been struggling to speak the language of my people once again in order to communicate my wishes. The difficult part has been remembering the vocabulary and not mixing it too much with the crazy language I pretend that is Spanish. It's tubig instead of agua, and bumalik ako instead of yo regreso, something that I'm still struggling to translate instead of "beat it until it's dead!!!"

In the end, there's a lot of English, a modicum of Tagalog, a sneaking bit of Spanish and TONS of hand gestures, but the work is getting done.

Sort of.

Nori Wrapped Arare

The irony of my daily existence is that I work all day but seem to never get much done. Today I'm doing my thing, getting things in order and decide to swing by and visit some friends. We chat, we laugh, we dance, we sing. Then the wine rep stops by for a sampling of new wines. I'm looped into the tasting (I would be lying if I told you I was looped in reluctantly) and we start tasting.

From there it's the usual litany of pouring, swirling, looking for "legs" and sloshing moderate to expensive wines in the mouth. I've never done a "real" wine tasting before and I'm watching my friend do his thing and I notice some curiosities. In some ways, wine tasting is like coffee cupping. There are rituals and styles, and I'm watching my friend execute his. I wonder if there's a particular method that I'm not employing and missing out on some aspect of the wines. The sloshing in the mouth is particularly long. The method of expectorating is stylish. I'm the neophyte and I think it shows.

It reminded me of the 2007 Taste of Harvest cupping in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when I cupped 75 coffees alongside some truly talented experts in our industry. Long rows of coffees waiting for serious scrutiny by some of the top buyers in the world and here I am trying to keep up. I really didn't know what I was doing at the time and I don't really know what I'm doing today.

The only thing that separates me of today from the me of 2007 is that my taste buds are more experienced and I'm tasting and experiencing interesting nuances in the wines. But the one that's most striking is the one from Sierra Madre Vineyards. In the nose I'm immediately reminded of nori-wrapped arare crackers. I'm thrown off a bit by the smell. It's weird. And mildly disconcerting. Wine that smells like rice crackers wrapped in seaweed. Fantastic.

Truth is, I don't know if I like it, but I do know that I'm fascinated by the smell and take a taste. Nori Wrapped Arare Crackers. It's amazing how this wine tastes like that too. What is going on in California? Are they dumping bags of mochi crunch into their wine casks?

The progression continues as we sample twelve wines. For the most part I've expectorated (in a decidedly un-stylish way) all the wine I've tasted, until the last one. The Prisoner is a celebrated wine that's big, fruity and large. I drink it greedily. It's good, but fleeting. And I've got to get back to work. At least the drive back will be pleasant.