Finding YOUR RELIGION or DON’T Rescue Me!
A wise Pastor once said that values define character and character is what defines a man. Reputation, on the other hand, is merely other people’s attempt to define you.
Parker’s reputation certainly precedes him.
A great many of us fell in love with his stories and points of view and many built their cellars around them. Others were about a different sentiment entirely, in fact some wanted to save us from “Parkerisation” a dubious if not entirely ridiculous undertaking, (not to mention the elitism it’s predicated upon and the obvious hypocrisy of nominating oneself to the task)
I, for one, would rather be saved from their arrogance and presumption.
Envy, and resulting vicious attacks, on extremely successful and popular public figures are nothing new (yet never ceases to annoy).
As the background noise swelled (evoking the old adage “the dog barks, caravan keeps moving”) the RP ever evolving popularity gave much ammunition to nay-sayers. Typical, and nauseatingly redundant, (if I had a dime for every “over-extracted,” “overhyped”, “overblown”… I would have a large enough fortune to be tempted to convert it into a small one in the wine industry)
He evoked and stirred a spirit of something deep within and much needed. The wine world is chock full of enough politics to demoralize many. Parker provided a breath of fresh air; he represented a new, real, agenda-free approach. He may have been miscast, alternatively ravaged and revered, but say what you will, he was and continues to be his own man. No one can claim his reviews are about pandering to any palate, point of view or perspective. His character is revealed thru his words and actions; they are not only distinct but in fact interchangeable and therefore credible.
When California wines broke the ranks, Parker legitimatized them. Until then, it was all about European establishment that often is a drain on the wallet and too often winds up going down the drain. RP saw what ripe fruit can offer, properly managed and harnessed, recorded it and offered it for the world to experience and noodle over and hence became the world’s foremost Palate Master.
Single-handedly changing a whole generation of wine drinkers (no small feat in the category of beverages he is reviewing) he set a powerful standard. He captured the yearnings of a group of wine drinkers who want to be counted, who genuinely fell in love with New World wines and who previously were, frankly, greatly under-served.
Remarkably unassuming and free of dogmatic point of view he helped us “un-mask” our own palates and peel away the puritan guilt. He taught us how to embrace the unadulterated pleasure we so often seek yet can never clearly define.
Whether he consciously realizes it or not, Parker is a leader. He didn’t conform or look over his shoulder for approval. He believes in what he says and is unapologetic in his points of view, true leadership qualities. He is a true force to be reckoned with, the one that comes from deep within called “authenticity”… yes that remarkably overused term that holds true today and always will.
“Mr. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL” or an Accidental Warrior
I never met (the “Gipper”) Reagan (well, I was in the same building with him once, during Gorbachev’s visit), but I feel that I know who he was, as in what his values are. I know his life’s mission was to protect and preserve liberty and empower the Individual. (There are those that insist on attempting to cloak themselves in his cloth yet it is plain to see how naked they truly are as without solid values of their own.)
In his arguably most famous speech, he asked Gorbachev to tear down a wall that symbolized the horrors of tyranny, an eternal enemy of liberty.
A mere mention of the speech still sends shivers down my spine and often makes me think of the walls we erect ourselves… in our lives in general and wine lives for that matter.
I don’t believe Reagan initially saw himself as a defender of freedom and liberty, nor did he deliberately seek that role, yet in a manner worthy of George Washington, he fully embraced his mission as it revealed itself. Somehow Parker’s seems to have inadvertently wandered onto a path that was on the collision course with the “establishment”, the status quo and he found himself in the unlikely business of challenging walls.
I did meet (the “Palate”) Parker on a few occasions. He is gracious, plain-spoken, pretense-free. I didn’t detect any “Jesus complex” (perhaps since the full allocation went in to Camille Grammer there wasn’t enough left for the rest of us) or any hint that some divine intervention gave him palatal superpowers.
I did get a sense that he believes that we all are endowed with Palates, (and my hunch is that only some of us use our own instead of his or other critics) he happens to use his to tell stories from the very source.
Wine is in many ways is his religion, with palate being his greatest asset second only to his strong sense of self.
That is what made Parker a lasting phenomena. His message was framed with genuine affection and fundamental belief in individual talent and tenacity, not rooted in dogmas and empty ideology. That is what makes his message resonate. It is not a bag of tricks.
At the end of the day, many of us don’t have sufficient confidence to pick out our own dress shirt let alone a bottle of wine… we feel some primal need to run to some self-appointed “king or queen of all social media” for sage advice. We follow trends and keep trivial scorecards. And we miss what truly matters.
THE THRILL IS GONE?
Authenticity isn’t a mere flash in the pan, it is a sustained effort, staying true to one’s values through thick and thin. Unlike Monsignor’s Matthews “thrill up the leg” moment that proved to be rather superficial, not to mention fleeting, it is an intentioned, daily, if not hourly struggle to maintain tried and true, to not be seduced by the easy and populist demagoguery.
I still get a real thrill out of Parker’s CA reviews after reading them for 12 years… and without him that thrill may be gone.
At the risk of sounding pessimistic (my role model Reagan was a true optimist!) and with a dollop of “wistful” trepidation, I am hopeful for the bright critical future. However, what I eagerly and continuously look forward to is what California wineries and winemakers are about to accomplish with or without Parker’s watchful eye. In the end that is what matters most and I am confident is paramount to both Parker and Reagan’s general philosophies. Their optimism was rooted in deep seeded belief in the goodness of human nature and the immeasurable talents of individuals. There is an abundance of that in California viticulture.
WINE and CAKE
The cake paired beautifully with one of my all-time favorite bottles of California Cabernet, (and coincidentally, one of Parker’s favorites as well.) It was a 1997 Shafer Hillside Select that I have been saving for a while.
My first glass was raised… for the Gipper.
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