Conversation with client 'un disastro'

I was sitting down here in the cellar making up a few cases of wine to send via FedEx when a gentleman came in and stood around until other clients had paid for their wine and left.

I had asked him a few times whether he needed help with something, and he politely said no, he would wait until I was finished. In retail this can mean a couple of things: He had a bone to pick with me and wanted to do it privately; or he wanted something from me. He was dressed in a long overcoat with a very bright scarf, and I began to remember him from some years back as a pretty good client.

The other clients left and he asked me to sit in the corner with him. He had a proposition for me and wanted immediate feedback. He said he was a musician living in California, had purchased wine from me, had remembered I was conversant in Italian and had a "project" he was working on. He asked if I would like to be involved. It went something like this (I swear that none of this is made up):

Gentleman: "I am writing a musical, more of an opera, really, on a winery."

Me: "Really?"

Gentleman: "Oh, yes, and I want you to be involved on a couple of levels. Your knowledge of Italian and of wine would be very important for the opera. I'm very excited about this."

Me: "Oh."

Gentleman: "It's a tragedy, un disastro, really, of great magnitude centering around a cluster of chardonnay and a cluster of cabernet sauvignon. The chardonnay is a full, buttery mezzo soprano and the cabernet is a basso profundo, very masculine and virile much like the wine itself. Are you following this?"

Me: "Yes."

Gentleman: "So, we have a spirited con vivace overture with dancing bottles of wine with vintage dates letting the audience know that this is an old, established vineyard. They sing of earth, sun and rain while pushing away the evil, hated hail. Then the preludio moderato, where we first see our grape clusters, she on one side of the fence and he on the other, and of course they fall in love, he singing 'Uve da Paradiso,' which blends into a duetto pianissimo d' amore, maybe more of a romanza lento. Do you see this?"

Me: (thinking) What is this guy on?

Gentleman: "So, the bent, old grapevines are trying to warn the clusters about their future and bid them not to fall in love with a spirited presto misterioso, they hint of disaster but allow the clusters to really fall in love. We see them basking in the sun, filling with sugar, embracing life. We, of course, the audience, fall in love with them at this point but know that they will ultimately be (literally) crushed and pressed.

"Doom begins to fall on the vineyard as the pickers arrive singing risoluto lento triste the aria 'Viene tutto alla casa vinicola' (come all to the winery.) They stoop as gray figures with sharp scissors with a backdrop of winery workers, hands on press handles as they move resolutely in a small circle. At this point I was thinking of a dark modo oscuro, but I might have to steal a requiem from Verdi as a base tune, perhaps a massa profunda of sorts."

Me: "You're kidding, right?"

Gentleman: "What, too dark? Well, wait until Act III, the crush, press and fermenter act with witches as winemakers, I mean it was all thought to be witchcraft for centuries, right? I already have the aria, 'Le Streghe gira il vino' (the witches stir the wine), very Romeo-and-Juliet sadness almost to the end. But of course, the clusters arise again as gorgeous bottles of wine, a re-birth of joy, with a final happy chorus of 'Siamo qui per vostre tavole' (we are here for your tables). Well, it's in the formative stage. So, what do you think? Are you in?"

Me: (complete and utter silence)

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at

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