Before turning 40 a dark cloud appeared over my head and would not go away. I hadn’t cared about turning 30 – it came and went without any sort of emotional response. But 40 wasn’t pretty. But I had no idea why. One day, while driving with Kris, I burst into tears. “Is this about your birthday?” And finally, the situation crystallized.
“Back in my twenties I was a train wreck. During my thirties I got my shit together, and now they’re over!”
There’s something about recognizing that you’ve become a functioning adult who’s unpacked her baggage and organized it neatly, learned a few lessons about what she is responsible for carrying, and grown. It’s awesome. And the idea of leaving that time of my life because, arbitrarily, your forties are a different decade from your thirties, was killing me. I liked the head space of my thirties. Being taken seriously by other people – something that had never happened – felt good. I liked knowing that I had worth and was valued by the good people I’d brought into my life. It was an honor to have people who loved me. Who trusted me. And who came to me for advice, or with their woes.
This me that emerged in my thirties, though, didn’t just magically appear on March 14, 2007. No. I started getting my shit together far earlier. It started as far back as March 14, 2002.
The Daffodil Project
I was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. I was three years into the dumpster fire of my 20’s and in more danger I’ve ever been in my life. It wasn’t the attacks — the carnage and violence erupting in my city — that jarred me onto the right path. It was what came after.
After the attacks daffodil bulbs were planted all over the boroughs with the idea that they would bloom about six months later – honoring the victims and reminding the survivors of the hope that is always there. I heard about this at some point in the dead of winter and became obsessed with a website that had been set up to track them.
As a March baby and lover of spring, I’ve always had a deep connection to daffodils. They’re my favorite flower and I cannot help but be happy when I see one. Even in the darkest times, when I thought my depression would push me over the edge, seeing a daffodil happily stretching toward the sun, gave me a little moment of peace.
On March 14, 2002, the website alerted me that the first of the 9/11 daffodils had bloomed in Brooklyn. My 25th birthday. I took this as a sign that if I wanted to, I could also bloom from the wreckage. I looked around the entire day for clues as to what would help me get out of a bad situation without ending up in one worse (as had been my pattern throughout most of my life). And I found it. By the next week I had made a plan to get away from everything that was wrong with my life. It was time to leave a job I hated, get away from toxic relationships, fix my floundering finances, and stop being such a disaster. It was the first step in having people take me seriously. And it meant leaving the place I’d considered home. A place that abandoned me.
Speaking of Taking Things Seriously: Forget Everything You Think About New York State Wine
Many a drunken college night were spent with girlfriends sharing bottles of Bully Hill’s Love My Goat. That wine was our go to with its drinkability, cute label and the memories we created over it. We didn’t take ourselves, and especially not New York state wine, very seriously. It’s been a long time since those days, though, and since about 2015 I’ve given New York wine another chance. And just like my own second chance proved that people, and other’s perceptions of them can change, I have consistently had my perceptions of New York wine changed.
New York Wine: The Three Regions To Know
New York State is a reputable wine-growing region. It’s also an old one.
The Hudson River Valley
The first vineyards were planted in the Hudson River Valley in 1677. The valley spans Westchester county in the south to around Albany, NY in the North along both sides of the Hudson River.
The Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes region sits West of the northernmost portion of the Hudson River Valley. There are 11 long, skinny lakes that create an exceptional climate for growing vinifera, native, and hybrid grapes. While much of the area is cold, the deep, thin lakes moderate the temperature and make it perfect for small vineyards making exceptional wines from chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer – including some of the best examples of orange wine in America. Production began during the Civil War.
The North Fork
Long Island first brings to mind a certain medium, awesome accents and Billy Joel. It’s also home to one of New York’s youngest wine regions: the North Fork. If you think of the island as a fish with its head near Manhattan, travel all the way to the east and stay north when it splits. Vineyards popped up in the 60s, with commercial growing starting in the 70s. Its proximity to the Atlantic has encouraged winemakers to plant grapes that thrive in Bordeaux, like Merlot and Cab Franc.
Sixteen Years Later, Daffodils Still Matter
Last weekend I attended the Daffodil Celebration and Wine Weekend at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. In honor of the bloom of their nearly 700 thousand daffodils the garden showcased wine from around New York. When I received an email about the celebration, I thought it was at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which also has a Daffodil Hill. After all of these years, going to places my former self haunts in Brooklyn causes me anxiety. There’s so much weight in the memories of those years that it’s still hard to go back. But after all this time — after all this growth — it happened again. The daffodils were a sign. In their blooming glory they had a lesson: just like my transformation started before I hit my thirties, my forties don’t mean I’ve lost anything that I gained. In fact, all evidence points to the fact that I’m living my best life. And while New York definitely ate me up and spit me out, the daffodils let me know it would be okay and it could still be mine.
“Thunder and lightning won’t change what I’m feelin’/And the daffodils look lovely today.”
New York Wine Tasting Notes
Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery
First up were vegan wines from a vineyard that supports the environment and endeavors to use sustainable practices.
Wines of Note
Island Rosé: This was one of my favorites. The balance was incredible and the wine incredibly fresh and smooth. I know the temptation is to drink rosé super chilled but if you want to really get the full effect of this pink drink, let it sit in your glass and warm up a little before sipping.
Malbec: You might not realize the grapes were grown on Long Island when you enjoy this Malbec. But they were – a sign that New York wine deserves a second chance. 2014 vintage, malolactic fermentation and 14 months on American and Hungarian oak yield a great glass of red. The nose is primarily black pepper and berries with cherry and vanilla notes rounding it out perfectly. Another favorite from the tasting.
A Brit and an American who started their life together in Copenhagen are now making some pretty fab wine in the Hudson Valley. You can read the full story here. With a varied portfolio, there’s something for everyone. My favorite New York wine of theirs, the Hygge, is not on the website currently but keep an eye out for it.
Wines of Note
The Queen of Clermont: Nice and fruity; a delicious aromatic white.
Riot: A nice blend of fruit and spice. Spice, with nicely incorporated tannins to give it structure.
Cab Franc: Nice on the nose. Jammy on the palate with a soft mouth.
Hygge: Fantastic! Grapefruit, stone fruit and grapes plus a beautiful mouthfeel. If you need a sweet wine in your collection this is a great one.
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
Thirty years experience and accolades from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal help define Millbrook.
Wines of Note
Cabernet Franc: 75% cab franc, 25% merlot from Long Island with good structure from soft tannins, spice and incredible finish.
Overall, this was my favorite winery of the day. It is obvious they know what they’re doing as shown in their philosophy which highlights history, terroir, dirt, rocks, fruit and wine.
Wines of Note
Dry Riesling: I like dry riesling to begin with but this terroir-driven version is exciting and fresh with surprising notes of black pepper.
Bacco: Made from 67-year-old vines this was the star of the day. If you’ve ever wondered about terroir this wine has expressions similar to the unique garigue flavors expected in wines from the south of France.
Chelois: Another great example of terroir with a similar south of France feel to the Bacco.
Lindenwald White: Herbal and sweet with honeysuckle and white flowers.
Located on the Hudson River Valley’s only fjord winemakers at Fjord are working with their microclimate to grow and produce exceptional wines.
Dry Riesling: Very interesting nose – crisp with citrus, minerals and stone fruit. I got notes of flowers and grapes.
Chardonnay: Slightly oaked. Nice balance.