Published on jancisrobinson.com
It was that bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Francis carried it to the table so carefully, holding it out away from his body and keeping it perfectly upright like a piece of sculpture being presented to a head of state. Francis, looking effortlessly elegant with his slicked back white hair and his Havana shirt like he just stepped out of a Slim Aarons photo. We were celebrating as my studio had just finished shooting a video for his abstract musical composition about André Chénier.
Sitting down, Francis recounted the story of the installation of the French Pope in Avignon as he opened the bottle and began to pour, his beautiful wife Marta placing bread, cheese and olives on the table. Being in Francis and Marta’s home, eating at their table, hearing their stories, I felt so grateful to know them. The evening, like the wine, was filled with tales of mystery and adventure, the air filled witih song.
From that moment on I splurged for a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape whenever I had even the smallest reason to celebrate. A glass of wine was never a drink again, but rather a journey of discovery that became an obsession.
10 years later and here I sit behind the counter of the wine shop I now manage, my ripe and lucrative career as an art director shunted for a pair of clogs and some well developed arm muscles courtesy of the 40 lb. wine cases I regularly move. Chromeo blares from the Sonos speakers by the front door as this is Louis’s favorite band. Louis, who is now busy dancing, stocking shelves, and texting his girlfriend all at the same time. I’ve been here since 6:30 am. I’m reorganizing the part of the cellar I use for the wines I am aging. I’m mining these for candidates to be included on the wine list in the restaurant I am opening next month with friends—the wine list that will announce to the world that we are ambassadors for wines from smaller producers and unsung regions. At 2:00 pm I will leave the store to attend a training course in how to do the Heimlich Maneuver. At 7:30 pm I will change in the backseat of my car to attend a luxury wine tasting being held in a mansion. In between I will park myself at a Starbucks and write this article. And in every spare moment I will continue studying the fascinating connection of wine to the history of civilizations, geological evolution, agriculture, chemistry, language, and food. A connection that has enriched my life immeasurably and ties me to the extaordinary producers whose work is now so intertwined with mine.