Through a Glass of Rose
Through a Glass of Rosé
I had never tasted rosé wine before that Summer. Sure, I had made the headache-and cotton mouth-inducing mistake of downing plenty of White Grenache or White Zinfandel back in the day. Of course, these came out of a box that required constant tipping—á la Kathy Griffin’s mother. So when my new boyfriend offered me a glass of this particular pink wine, I did not get excited to suffer through the wine or its aftermath. I had learned a little something over the years. Little did I know that rosé held the distinction of being the Official Wine of the Hamptons.
* * * * *
I met Patrick on the corner of 17th and T Streets in Dupont Circle. That Sunday, the powers that be had gifted our beautiful city with one of Washington’s exceedingly rare days of blissful sun smoothed by a cool autumn breeze. My friend, Keaster (blame her quirky Southern parents), called this type of perfection a “White Wine Day,” so we were headed to the bodega—the only place we could purchase wine on the Christian Sabbath.
Arriving at the wine shop, Keaster’s sister rang her cell phone, so we stopped short until she could “get rid of” her. I walked over to peruse the local rags, and there he stood, also on the cell. Tall, blond, blue and possessed of a fine figure, Patrick had an unmistakable glint in his eye and an obviously positive disposition. I could not help but overhear some of the conversation; he clearly owned rental properties and an English tenant was having trouble with the “sink pig.” He promised to stop later and take a look. As he hung up, I glanced at Keaster—still on the phone.
I pretended that I could not open the news box, and he stepped in and smoothly opened it. “Wow. It must have been jammed,” I managed to say.
“It’s OK. The one by the Social Safeway always does that.”
“Right place at right time,” I said.
We shook hands—nice firm grip. Southerners judge men that way, along with their shoes and watches, which are clearly the important things everywhere. Everyone knows that.
We started talking nonsense about the excellent weather and then worked through a couple of nearby restaurants with our reviews.
Just then, Keaster came over, triumphantly ready to get wine and get home. You see, White Wine Days require rooftop gardens for full enjoyment, and my building had one.
I shook hands again with Patrick, and he asked if I had tried the new Italian place on 17th. I had not done, largely because of its overly inflationary prices and paucity of decent servers. Welcome to Washington.
He gave me his number and said to call when I would like to go—his treat. I took special notice that he did not say “if.” He said “when.” I was smitten.
Keaster, always focused on something else and whatever is coming next, incapable of living in the moment, whether it not it may be one worth remembering for a long time. She rushed me into the shop. We came out with several bottles of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and one of Malbec. This may be a bodega, but this is Dupont Circle!
* * * * *
Although he spoke of the Hamptons with unusual frequency, I did not know for several months that he actually owned a home in East Hampton. I found out because he invited me to his “cottage” for a week. Thinking only negative thoughts about the playgrounds of Eastern Long Island, I demurred. He did not give up, and I finally agreed.
* * * * *
One thing that you should know about me: I admit that I hold on to preconceived notions for far too long.
Heading East, we stopped in Bridge for a Poxy Pie and a deliciously juicy red wine. The sunny day had given way to early evening, and given Patrick’s penchant for talking to complete strangers, we met a boisterously fun group at the bar. Needless to say, I could not imagine anywhere that I would rather be. The vague image that I had had of pompous Hamptonites evaporated. This was one of the most convivial places I had ever been. We then stopped for ice cream at Pierre’s—a strict no-no. One look at the bistro menu, and I knew we would be back on Sunday.
On another Bridgehampton excursion, we stopped for cocktails and signature haute macaroni and cheese at almond—back before they moved into the Village and established a successful Manhattan outpost. As I now know is typical, the place was packed! After all, this was a Friday, so there you have it.
Patrick introduced me to so many people, and we had a wonderful time. Patrick knew just how to take advantage of the best spots to instill the allure of the Hamptons. It was working.
But back to that first trip…. When we tilted into the left turn onto Main Street in East Hampton, floating past the moonlit Town Pond and the twinkling storefronts, I sincerely regretted that I had so harshly pre-judged this amazingly quaint and beautiful place. I would not make that mistake again when I am specifically told otherwise by someone whose opinion I respect. Truth be told, Patrick had not given the East End enough of a marketing push. I felt the most amazing sense of good fortune simply to get to be here.
* * * * *
The week flew by, but there were moments that—I am convinced—simply could not have come to pass elsewhere. The magic of the East End is everywhere—aged trees, lush green spaces, stately homes, delightfully quirky shops, beautiful beaches complete with the romantic, fallen fenceposts strung along the grass line….
Patrick proved to be the most romantic man I had ever known. We enjoyed candlelit dinners on the quiet deck of his gorgeous home. Because his house fell precisely between the two, we strolled to the Villages of East Hampton and Amagansett. He particularly loved visiting the Amagansett Farmer’s Market for early morning coffee. I loved Amagansett for the Tavern and Meeting House—rest its warm soul.
* * * * *
We had visited the windswept beaches several times, but that last night in East Hampton, Patrick came up with yet another piece of Hamptons life that I had to try. We swung by Domaine Franey for bottles of rosé, that pink concoction of which I was very skeptical. Patrick introduced me to Jacques, the deeply knowledgeable and Hamptons native proprietor. Making use of his expansive expertise, we settled on one from France and one from Wolffer—a beautiful vineyard just up the road in Sagaponack, which I later discovered contained the priciest real estate in America. To this day, I shop with no other wine seller. There is no reason to stray.
Grabbing the chiller bag from the back seat, Patrick and I walked down Cross Highway, through the estate section and its world-famous Lanes. We took a short detour onto Middle Lane to have a look at Patrick’s favorite house in all of East Hampton—the Ammon estate. I had read with a heavy heart the Vanity Fair coverage of the horror that had taken place in this seemingly perfect family home. There would later be a television movie documenting the atrocity, and I felt saddened all over again.
At the beach, my fisherman’s sweater felt very comforting against the brisk, chilly wind.
By this time in my wine education, I knew enough to know that French rosé was decidedly out of season, but I was up for anything after the fulfilling adventures of the past week.
The sky turned coppery red as Patrick poured the wine and brought out some feta and savory crackers. We held our glasses toward the waning light—such an intriguingly beautiful liquid; it seemed a star floated in the center of each glass, surrounded by streams of diamonds and a pink glow laced with gold.
He wanted me to experience this top-notch rosé in the way that he had first done—a nibble of a cracker and a bit of feta savored slowly followed by a satisfying sip of the wine. The salty flavors blended with the subtle sweetness, and I understood everything about this wine right then and there.
* * * * *
After more than a decade together, Patrick passed away from complications arising from a heretofore unknown genetic flaw. The years afterward dragged. Anyone would expect that. But no one ever understood why a glass of rosé and a tiny bit of certain crackers and feta lifted my spirits like nothing else could.
Now, I raise a glass, “Here’s to you, Patrick, for taking me into a completely different and quite wonderful world.”
Needless to say, East Hampton had become our very special place for just the two of us.