When Patrick & Marlena walk to the lighthouse for an evening swim, they invariably bring a bottle of their home-made wine to enjoy a glass as the sun sets behind the Catskills. They are happy to share, so I’ve tasted more than a few glasses myself. Among their vintages, one in particular is reserved for trips to the lighthouse. Nicknamed “Lighthouse Sludge,” it’s bottled from the dregs and is often heavy with sediments. Why bring a substandard wine to the lighthouse? Patrick explained, “The lighthouse is already so transcendental, it doesn’t matter about the wine.”
Last night, I gained insight into the wine-making. In Patrick&Marlena’s basement, friends gathered to crush the grapes. Empty wooden crates of wine varietals: Syrah, Cabernet, Alicante Bouschet, Muscate. Fingers stained purple from separating grapes from stems. Into the hopper and with a turn of a crank, the grapes were crushed into a large vat. Making this year’s vintage involved consuming quantities of last year’s and a large evening meal. During several rounds of toasting, we raised our glasses to everyone in sight, from the vintners to the microscopic Dionysian yeast that convert sugars to alcohol. In vino veritas. Wine is the drink of philosophers, so dinner segued into a heady conversation. We explored the finer points of what Patrick calls “the great debate about whether to enhance your own grooviness or join in the larger struggle.” We never arrived at definitive answers, but maybe in the future, after a few more sunsets at the lighthouse, a few more glasses of “sludge,” we might take care of a few of our own troubles if not the world’s.