Lethargy, Clowns, and the Pope

Saturday. It’s been grey and rainy all day. I slept in until 10:00 AM, and didn’t really open my eyes until noon. Then I plopped myself on the sofa to read The Walrus, and promptly fell asleep. Or, to be precise, fell into a three-quarters asleep stupor until mid-afternoon.

To wake myself up, I scanned through the list of recorded TV shows on our Illico DVR to find something stimulating. I settled on the documentary Rendezvous with Death: JFK and the Cuban Connection. Far from another half-baked conspiracy theory, this documentary asserts – quite convincingly – that JFK’s assasination was essentially a counter-assassination act by Cuba, taken on when (a) the Cuban Secret Service realized that JFK and his brother Robert were behind all those recent failed assassination attempts against Castro, and (b) some guy named Lee Harvey Oswald (on referral from the KGB) essentially volunteered to take care of the problem.

OK, that kept me awake. There’s nothing like seeing video of people like former general and Regan Secretary of State Alexander Haig saying (and I’m paraphrasing) “We knew it was a Cuban job within 24 hours of the event, but for political reasons L.B. Johnson squashed the investigation and rubber-stamped the ‘Oswald-as-lone-gunner’ theory.” Haig says that Johnson feared a massive right-wing uprising in the U.S. if it got out that Cuba was behind the assassination, and as a result the Democrats would lose power for two generations.

OK, so now I know who killed Kennedy, and why, so the day was not a complete write-off.

Around 5:00 PM, I took a shower and finally got dressed. Martine was close to finishing up her second-last day’s work on her book project, so we were thinking maybe we’d go to dinner and a movie. Or maybe not.

“Not” won.

OK, let’s see what’s in the fridge. Some ravioli. A jar of canned cherry tomatoes left over from a recent meal. A few cheeses, some vegetables, and many little jars of this and that. Ravioli it is.

Normally I do ravioli “in brodo” with spinach, but we have no spinach and I felt like going the comfort-food (read: tomato sauce) route. So I sweated some shallots and garlic in a pan, deglazed with a bit of white wine, and tossed in the jar of tomatoes. I also tossed in some reconstituted and chopped up sun-dried tomatoes for texture and depth, and a bit of basil and oregano. Bubble-bubble…

As the ravioli boiled in another pot, I popped open a bottle of wine – one that Martine and I brought back from Italy in May. A 2001 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Sante Lancerio that we bought because it has a picture of a goofy-looking midaeval guy on the label.

I stirred some finely-grated pecorino cheese into the tomato sauce, then a bit of cream. By then the ravioli was done, so I drained it and added it to the tomato sauce along with a few grinds of pepper. I divided it into two deep plates, sprinkled some more pecorino on it, and rang the dinner bell.

Oh my. The ravioli was quite nice, but the wine was outstanding. Definitely one of the best we’ve had this year. I took a close look at the label and noticed that it says “Bottigliere di Papa Paolo III” in fine print. Now if ever a bottle of wine were to prompt a Google search, that would be it.

pope wine!

Brief investigation revealed that this is a Sienese wine from San Gimignano, and that Sante Lancerio was a wine expert and cellar master to Pope Paul III. Apparently, Santo Lancerio is the guy who convinced his Papal patron that wines from Montepulciano were rather tasty, indeed “most perfect, fit for gentlemen,” ensuring top-knotch product placement for the next 400 or so years.

He was, however, correct about the wine. But I’ll update his endorsement and say that it’s also rather fit for ladies too. Not to mention tarts and scoundrels. The wine is described here as:

Ruby red with bright garnet hues; very fine, deep, complex bouquet with strong taste of prune, cloves and cinnamon and hints of violet and iris; dry, savoury, attractively tannic, full flavour with a lingering aftertaste of plum jam and toasted almonds.

That’s nice. But here’s an even better description:

Dark garnet in color, this Tuscan blend shows sharp, pleasant tar and smoke surrounding black fruit and pronounced floral scents in a complex aroma. Full, tart black-fruit flavors and zippy acidity make for an appealing if oddball wine that makes me crack, “it’s like a Chianti wearing a clown suit.”

Perfect. After a lazy, almost surreal, day, followed by a comfortable dinner, we enjoyed a wine that was wearing a clown suit. That’s my kind of Saturday.

We have one more bottle of that wine downstairs, which we’re saving for a rainy day when Elvis shows up in a UFO. Unfortunately, that’s the end of the line for a while, as the wine is retailed neither here in Quebec nor in nearby Ontario. I guess we’ll just have to go back to Italy.