May 25, 2009 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

When In The Months of Summer, There Was Yellow Tail


May of 2002: I would arrive in Brooklyn and would remain there until August of the same year. I would stay in a duplex apartment on the west side of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Carroll Gardens. There would be a backyard with a patio table and chairs set for many nights of talking and many parties that would end with the first rays of sunlight, pealing back the thin veil of night, breaking dawn.

There in the backyard from cracks in the concrete slab covering the earth would emerge a vine of green grapes growing haphazardly upon the fence bordering a gas station next door. We would not eat those grapes. We would instead, drink the juice of a grape that grew in a distant land where the inhabitants of that land spoke the same words I grew up speaking, and yet were we to meet, there would be no chance of understanding one-another. The people that I speak of are: Australian.

The grapes that I would ingest were theirs—grown in rich soil in fields adjacent to mountains, grapes unhindered by concrete, unaffected by gasoline-rich soil, grapes whose sole purpose was to stain the whitest teeth rouge in the thick of hot summer nights in the year 2002 in a backyard in Brooklyn.

This from on Yellow Tail:

“Almost a third of the grapes used for Yellow Tail are grown right in the Casella family’s own vineyards–almost 540 acres of vines in the Riverina region of Australia. Following the great Australian wine-making tradition, Casella also sources fruit from other superb growing areas throughout South Eastern Australia. A perfect accompaniment to this wine would be rich rare char-grilled beef and asparagus or a rich confit de canard to bring out its juicy palate.”

Here’s my version of this rather glowing review:

“Almost ten tenths of the grapes used for Yellow Tail are grown right in the Casella Family’s own backyard where their nearly 540 acres of vines grow in soil polluted by a faulty septic system. Following the great Australian Depression, Casella sourced its fruit from the bottoms of emigrant worker’s feet who were working better vineyards nearby. A perfect accompaniment to this wine would be rich peoples’ servants’ left-overs of street-grilled grade-C beef and grilled-asparagus that’s been sitting in the trash can since last year’s Memorial Day BBQ or a rich confit de confit to bring out its teeth disintegrating ADA approved juicy palate.”

But I did not know that then… My good friend James, a hot-blooded Sicilian famous for spending two months alone in the mountains of Hawaii, had invited me to take a vacant room for the summer.

James was working as a bell boy at 60 Thompson, a poshy hotel in Soho that stationed two bell men twenty yards away from the hotel in two directions asking people who were, “less attractive,” if they wouldn’t mind, “taking another street.” In the evenings, James would return to Rapelye Street with a wad of cash tips (never less than $200) and a magnum of Yellow Tail Shiraz. I was required to remain awake and attentive to his stories until the last drop of YT, at which point I was to scour the house for other possible sources of alcoholic intake. That said, it is without exaggeration that in the summer of 2002, I alone consumed roughly half a magnum a night for almost 90-straight days. That’s, 67.5 Liters, or 90 750ml-bottles, or 7.5 cases, or four times the average amount of wine drank by Americans in a typical-non-depression year, or to put it one other way: 17.8 gallons in one summer—enough liquid to put out a small house fire.

The result: I was unable to drink red wine for two straight years after that summer. The minor miracle is that I came out on top: no cavities.


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