Blessed by Dr. Cosimo

Salice Salentino
The good doctor Cosimo Taurino was a hulk of a man. His son is a hulk, and his wife and daughter too. The last of the Titans. He came to visit the Pacific Northwest in the mid 90’s, while I was a salesman at Noble Wines, Ltd., in Seattle. Neither he, nor any of his family, spoke English, so we relied on a translator, but the real communication was through wine and gestures – the international languages. I had found two bottles of his 1978 Patriglione standing at attencione in a Safeway store on Whidby Island, lingering the slow death of misunderstood wines in an unappreciative market. They were relatively cheap, for wine nearly 20 years old, so I bought them.

When I found out Doctor C. was going to be visiting I brought one of the bottles to the meeting. A rookie then, I could sense the tension from my bosses when I asked the interpreter to explain to Doctor Cosimo that I had a bottle of wine I would like him to try to let me know if it was any good. The Patriglione label was different then, sporting the same blue and red colors as on the current Salice Salentino, and it was packaged in a funky half breed bottle more akin to the shapes you see in red wines from the Loire. I drew the cork out, noticing a deep purplish black stain saturated far into the core of the cork. I was relieved not to pick up any off smells, and plain grateful that the cork hadn’t failed after such a long time traveling to strange destinations. I poured the good Doctor a glass and waited. His countenance was similar to a mafia don deciding whether you were going to live or die. He tilted the glass to a 45 degree angle and inspected the purplish color of the wine, slowly lowering his giant proboscis into the small tasting glass. He swirled the wine deftly a couple of times then took a deep sip, holding the wine on his palette for what seemed a long time before swallowing. All were stone quiet at the table looking at The Boss. In a sudden movement of surprising grace and power for such a large man, Dr. Cosimo threw his chair back and stood up like a bolt of lightening – now towering like Zeus over the tasting room. Very quickly he crossed himself, looking directly at me.

Doctor Cosimo turned to the interpreter and began speaking rapidly in Italian. “Perfecto” was the only word I gleaned. “Did I have any more bottles which I could sell him?” the translator asked. “How did I come to acquire this bottle when he, the creator, had none left?” No, I had no more bottles, I lied. From the meager sample I poured myself, after sharing the bottle with the rest of the sales-force, I knew I wanted to keep my other bottle to myself.

I drank my remaining bottle a few weeks later. I had it with some lamb chops, broiled simply with rosemary and black pepper. The underlying sweetness of the strong wine was a perfect foil for the lamb, and it served double duty as dessert wine with some sharp cheese. I remember raising my glass – a solitary toast to distant shores – and with a crooked smile I thought to myself, “perfecto, Doctor C, perfecto.”
The Boss
“The Boss”

Published in: on February 3, 2008 at 9:08 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That was little sheepish of you, to hide the other bottle, and drink it with lamb.

  2. Beautiful characterization of Dr. Cosimo Taurino.

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