soloioIn May 2006, I did a 3-week study abroad in Florence, Italy as an elective for my Masters. It was a course in art librarianship, and about a dozen of us from universities all over the US ran around Tuscany for a few weeks getting backstage tours of all the museums and libraries, eating like crazy, and collecting stories about the insane little force of nature who was our Florentine professor (let’s just say she liked wine more than most Italians). It was my second trip to Italy and the kind of experience that made me want to just stay there forever.

The first weekend there, a few girls from my program took a wine tour through Tuscany. It was so awesome, and we spent many conversations later trying to figure out whether to drink our wine or try and get it home without breaking the bottles. The best vineyard was this tiny family place called Casa Emma, where the younger son told us the story of his older brother begging their father to give him a small piece of land to grow Merlot grapes. Their father stalwartly refused, saying this is Chianti country and that’s all they will grow. The brother was convinced that the weather was perfect for Merlot, and he finally wore down their father. When he produced his first Merlot some time later, he decided to call it Soloìo, “Only I,” to remind his dad whose idea it was. We were told it’s become their most popular wine.

I don’t know if it was the story (told while we were sitting at picnic tables in gorgeous weather, surrounded by fresh bread and bottles of their own crazy good balsamic vinegar and olive oil), or the wine itself, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. So I bought a 2003 bottle, managed to get it home in one piece (wrapped in about 20 t-shirts in my checked luggage), and it’s been in our wine collection ever since. I’ve been terrified to open it for anything less than An Event, and afraid to leave it too long and have it turn to vinegar.

So anyway, for my birthday on Tuesday, Adam took me to a surprise dinner at this really cute little eatery in Red Bank called Dine. It’s BYO, so he suggested we crack open this bad boy and celebrate. And we did. And it was great. Not just the food and the company, but it was cool looking forward to my next ten years of adventures while remembering the last ten, too. And this trip was definitely one of the highlights. And the wine was still great, I’m finishing off the last glass from it right now (we didn’t quite finish the bottle over dinner). Despite one small, tiny, almost entirely forgettable little meltdown this week about being 30, I’m kind of loving this time right now.