For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of helping a small but growing fund-raising effort to aid So Others Might Eat (SOME), a Washington, D.C., charity that helps feed the homeless. This benefit dinner, held on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, began in 2007 in boom times, but has grown dramatically since the economy faltered in 2008, a testament to the dedication and hard work of its founders, a young couple named Kristopher and Tracey Schroeder. And well, maybe also to the generosity that wine inspires in all of us? This past Thursday, Uncorked DC had about 130 people gathered at Clyde's of Gallery Place, at $100 a plate, to eat turkey and the trimmings and sample seven wines Kris and I selected. I was the nominal headline speaker, but of course people wanted to eat, drink and have fun, so I kept my remarks short. I didn't totally wing it, but I didn't have my remarks written out in advance either. So these are what I said, filtered through my memory of how I said it and how I wish I'd said it:
“Wine is bottled poetry,” wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Like poetry, wine can inspire us and reveal hidden meanings - in what, I don’t know. Perhaps it can lift the veil from our inner thoughts, or give us an insight into life that we had nearly but not quite perceived. In vino veritas, as it were.
Wine also inspires generosity. I’ve never met a miserly wine lover. Spendthrift wine lovers, to be sure - I’ve met people who live in apartments cramped and stacked floor to ceiling with cases of wine, who wear clothes until they fall apart no matter how many trends ago they were - if ever that sweater was fashionable. And yet these same people will come up to you and say, “You’ve GOT to try this grand cru Burgundy!”
Good wine demands to be shared. We don’t like to drink it alone - at least, most of us don’t, although it is nice to enjoy the last bit of a fine bottle after your guests are gone. We all have a special bottle or two that are dying a slow and ignominious death in our cellars, our closets, wherever we keep our wine, because we don’t know who to share them with. The Johnsons are coming to dinner. Oh no, not them! They aren’t special enough for THAT bottle! Why not open it tonight? What, with MEATLOAF?
You don’t see beer dinners for charity, or whisky auctions to benefit the homeless. Wine, however, does somehow spark such largess. There’s the Napa Valley Wine Auction each summer, and a rival one in Sonoma County, and proceeds go to charity. Here in Washington we have Heart’s Delight, a three-day Bacchanal that I am affiliated with, and if you feel charitable next May, I heartily recommend it.
I see this generosity in all of you here tonight, willing to dine on the very same meal of turkey and all the trimmings that you will have next Thursday - and for several days after that - in order to support a worthy cause: to help feed the homeless. This is the fourth year for Uncorked DC, and the third time we have met when the economy has been unfavorable. That the dinner has continued to grow and is now overflowing this room is a tribute to Kris and Tracey Schroeder for organizing it, but also to all of you who have helped and supported them.
Wine’s generosity also inspires thanksgiving. Not so much the holiday, but the gratitude. As Ben Franklin wrote to a friend, the miracle at the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine, was not so special - because it happens all the time.
“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards,” he wrote. “There it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!