In wine, one beholds the heart of another.
- an old French proverb
He stood on the back porch of the family home, breathing deeply the heady smell of pomace - grape skins thriftily returned to the vineyards. He could nearly taste the wine as the vapors filled his senses. Beyond the shady yard and a stand of ancient oaks the vineyards stretched in neat rows, tinted gold, rust, and red. The evening sunlight caught the colorful vines in a blaze of color as the heat of the day gave way to cool Pacific breezes.
It was crush, a season of intense activity for the winery as harvested grapes began the transformation to wine. From the back porch of the family home the sounds of crush, snatches of conversation in Spanish, and noise of the machinery, rose faintly above the vineyards. At the winery, a gondola was being emptied of its precious cargo of grapes and the crusher hummed as it gently rotated the fruit, releasing juice.
The rhythms of the valley harvest rose up within him as if he had never left this place. The scent, the labor of harvesting under cloudless skies, the far-off laughter of men in the winery were as timeless as the art of winemaking and as much as he wanted to deny it, it was in his blood also.
The screen door swung open with a squeak and banged shut a moment later. It had to be Carrie, she was the only one at the big house besides him. He had retreated to the porch earlier when the awkwardness he felt around her had grown unbearable.
Now she found him and joined him at the porch rail, her shoulder nearly touching his. She held a glass of wine in each hand and offered him one.
“One of your brother’s best.”
Despite his earlier feelings of awkwardness he liked having her there, so near, almost touching. He reached for a glass, fingers brushing hers as he took the stem. There was no reaction from her, but his own fingers longed to continue contact, like some adolescent sneaking a forbidden touch.
It was a deep luminous red in the late afternoon sunlight - a winsome wine. He swirled the glass, letting the crimson liquid rise in the bowl and fall back again in a miniature whirlpool. Small rivers of wine clung to the bowl like mountain streams after a rain shower.
“Legs,” he said.
Carrie nodded. Then with a mock sigh and a little grin, said, “My husband obsesses over legs in oak barrels and ignores mine.”
He shifted his weight on the railing and leaned away from her. His eyes traveled the length of her legs, slim, summer-browned, and he remembered the silken feel of them under his hands. He ached to touch them now, especially the warm hollow behind her knees. She was ticklish there. He returned his full weight back to the rail and nudged Carrie with his shoulder.
“My brother’s a fool.” The comment, spoken in all sincerity on his part, made Carrie laugh.
He lifted the glass to his nose and inhaled the bouquet released from the swirling wine. It was a complex layer of aromas, young, smelling of fruit, but with the promise of deepening into something more earthy in time.
“A young wine.”
“Hmmm,” Carrie agreed. “Young, but aging gracefully.”
Her eyes rested briefly on his, their depths unreadable, then flickered away like a small bird avoiding a snare. But it was he who was seized as he continued to regard her. Aging gracefully, indeed. He touched his glass to hers, and the small chiming note carried into the twilight, taking with it the words he would not speak. To what we once were.