Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good Spirits

You can pretty much always find my grandma in the same place on any given day at 5 pm. Sitting in her sun room with a cool glass of cheap Chardonnay. She lives in a historic home her uncle built over 100 years ago. "Nanny, it's wine time," she says in her little crickety voice, perched on her wing back chair. She is a good Presbyterian with an affinity for white wine. It doesn't matter if you are driving that evening or pregnant for that matter, if you are at her house at 5 pm she is going to try her hardest to get you to have a drink. Why? Because that means you are going to have to stay and visit just a little bit longer. At 87 years old, Sister, as we all lovingly call her, is pretty fabulous.

My grandmother reads the New York Times every day, as well as the Jacksonville Times Union, and she is totally addicted to CNN. She graduated from Florida State College for Women in 1942 with a degree in Political Science. A true yellow dog democrat, I really think the last election cycle revived her from death's door. She has read all of Barack Obama's books, and thinks Bill Clinton is a dear.

Sister has been living with breast cancer for the past four years, without treatment. I moved to Amelia Island after college to help care for her, prior to the cancer's encore appearance after being in remission for six years. In 2002 she was going through a rough time, and asked me to come, so I did. Call it a karmic debt. She cared for me quite a bit as a small child during my parents' divorce, and I thought it time to return the favor.

Sister was born and raised in Fernandina, the historic downtown on Amelia Island, and at wine time you can be sure to learn a bit about her life. She has a beautiful low country accent, and the poise of a true Southern lady. She was born in the house next door, a gorgeous Victorian that her youngest son lives in now. It is rare in America to have a family that has lived in the same place, much less in the same homes for over 150 years. That was part of the draw for me to move here...I wanted to learn about my roots, and my grandmother is a fantastic historian.

I have spent more "happy hours" with my grandmother than any other single person.  Friends and family know that if you visit with her in the hours of the early evening, a glass a white wine will be served upon entry, with perhaps "nibbles" of some sort. Stone wheat crackers and cheese, or seafood dip...or sometimes just a little bowl of Fritos. Her favorite vino is Chardonnay, but any white will do. For Sister, wine is medicinal. There have been times when she has been prescribed medicine that doesn't mix well with booze, and more often than not she will forgo the pill for a nice glass of Chard. At her age, it is hard to argue with that choice. I have tried to get her to switch to a red, because of the known health benefits...but living in a place that is terribly hot most of the year, she craves the cold crisp whites.  I think she sees them more fit for a lady.

Recently I learned that there are actually health benefits to white wine. In 2007, a group of Italian scientists did a study which showed that there are elements in both red and white wine that help fight the bacteria which creates tarter on your teeth, and sore throats. I asked Sister what she thought of this and she said with a big Chardonnay smile, glass in hand,

"Well, I think that's great, I just thought white wine had less calories. At 87 years old I still have a full mouth of teeth, so there must be something to it."

I think she is right. There is something to it.

Good Life Quest #2/ Chardonnay

*Chardonnays can be buttery, or not. They can be full of oak, or not. They can be light yellow, or honey gold in color. There are hundreds of Chardonnays out there, and they are all different. One of my favorites is Free Mark Abbey, which is from Napa Valley. This week, go to your local wine shop and ask the shopkeeper to pick out two Chardonnays within your budget. Ask for one that has a smokey oak flavor, and one that is more fruity and crisp.

Take them home and pour each into a glass. Notice the color difference. Give it a good swish in the glass and stick your nose in and see if you can smell the difference. a taste test and see which type of Chardonnay works best for your palette. If you don't like either, that's okay too...a lot of people don't. If you find one you love, recommend it in the comment box below. We are always looking to try a new wine! Happy sipping!


Kristen said...

What an amazing post and tribute..thank you for sharing that

Anonymous said...

That was a fabulous write up for one of the most spectacular people. Sister is the type of people that the world should know more about. Congrats for posting about her. Send her my love as well.

Shall let you know of a favorite Chardonnay when I find one.

Love you,
Ian Hays

Anonymous said...

Cheers to Sister!

Tara Meyer-Robson said...

Beautiful. It makes me miss my own beloved "gramma" all the more. You honored her, her spirit, her loves, her zest for life - and managed to wind in a great bit of culinary interest. Bravo, my friend. Love - Tara

Anonymous said...

I love your Grandmother! She is the bomb!