Monday, December 04, 2006

In memory of zio Giovanni

Tramandare. Since my first visit here in Calitri I have tasted very good homemade wines; at the tables of my uncle’s Giovanni and Vincenzo, and one morning in February while navigating the narrow vias and vicolos of the centro storico. That morning, I paused to greet an old woman whom I met near a small corner chapel that I had admired yet never been inside. She just happened to be the widow of the pastor of chiesasetta Sant Antuono, and, naturally, had the key to the church on an iron ring just inside her front door. After the tour of the one room chiesasetta - probably the private chapel of a once noble family of the palazzo nearby - she invited me across the lane to her deep and rough-hewn cavern for a glass of wine. It was just past 11 am. The grotto was musty and damp and crowded with tools for the vendemmia - handmade utensils and instruments and coiled black hoses hung on the stone walls. Wine-stained wood barrels and green glass bottles of assorted shapes and sizes and a large wine press stood tucked in a far corner. A single bare bulb hung from a wire. Her middle aged son climbed down from a loft on a hand-tied ladder as we three gathered in a small damp space between the artifacts and from the three barriques stored deep in the back of their cantina, we tasted his wine.