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The Winemaker’s Last Bottle

February 9, 2010
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My friend’s father unexpectedly passed away last week. He ran a bakery in town and I grew up eating his breads and rolls. In his spare time, he was also a winemaker who made delicious reds, whites, and dessert wines. When we hosted a New Years’ party last month, our friend brought over some of her dad’s wine to leave with us as a gift. My favorites were the two bottles of dessert wines. And while my wife prefers her red wine while she cooks,  I’ve gotten in the habit of saving those dessert wines to sip while writing late into the night and usually I finish my writing night by closing the manuscript, finding a good, mellow song to listen to in the headphones, and having one final, small glass of his sweet, sweet wine before bed.

That was before Paul passed away. Now, I have a quarter bottle of his dessert wine left, sitting in our kitchen, and I’m fairly certain I’ll never have any more of his wine once this last bottle is empty. Now that he is gone, I don’t imagine the family will be giving away his wine as gifts again. The wine has become even more precious after his death. And so I’m wondering what to do. This unnamed, unbranded wine made by a neighbor, has helped me get back into the writing of my novel in a very real way (and has even provided a new story line) and I’d love to drink it more tonight, when I am home writing. But I don’t want it gone. I wasn’t very close to the man. I only met him a few times, but it’s still so strange to realize that bottle of dessert wine is all our family has left of him. And so I feel like it should be kept, out of respect.

Then again, if I were the winemaker who had died, the most respectful thing I could think of is to have my friends and family drink my wine, savor and enjoy the flavors, accept the inspiration, and celebrate my life in their own minds, in a very real way through that very wine. Yes, once it is gone, it is certainly gone. But left unfinished on the counter, it becomes just another thing left unfinished on the counter. And what good is that?

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