On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Gifts of Finest Wine
We couldn’t send them home, so we proceeded to drink them—one bottle at a time. First was a Haut du Médoc (2009), then a Mouton Cadet (2011), then a Gewurztraminer (2009) Vendanges Tardives from the Alsace region of France. The last one we opened was a Bordeaux, Chateau Grand Juan (2005). But there were too many gifts of wine and too little time, so the last one didn’t get drained.
It seems that Uncle Sam had once again imposed a punitive restriction on the importation of French wines into the United States. Brother Paul and the Footloose Forester had been gifted with six bottles of wine from the kind and generous members of Thu’s extended family around Paris, but unbeknownst to them, it was not going to be easy to get them out of France and back into the USA. Uncle Sam had slapped restrictions on French wine some time ago, but we found out too late to take corrective action.
It was the day before departure when we sought out the options to stuffing six bottles into our suitcases. Our bags were already buldging to the point of splitting the seams, not to mention already being over the international weight limit of 20 kilos, or 44 pounds. And taking them as hand-carried luggage was out of the question. Security personnel don’t even allow you to take a plastic bottle of water through the security check points. Besides, we each had arrived in Europe with pre-planned carry-on baggage containing personal things for our immediate needs.
Even stuffing the bottles into sparse crevices of our suitcases was running the risk of having the bottles smashed. It had happened before to the Footloose Forester. Years ago, he had departed from a California forestry conference with a magnum of fine Cabernet Sauvignon packed into his sturdy aluminum-shelled Samsonite suitcase. It seemed like a minor risk at the time. The metal frame of the Samsonite would surely absorb the shock of being tossed into the cargo hold of the airplane taking him back to his regular job in Pennsylvania. Besides, he had wrapped the bottle in soft clothing and stuffed it securely so that it would not dislodge. Yet, when he arrived home and opened his suitcase, he witnessed a pale purple interior and several articles of clothing now sporting random Cabernet Sauvignon dyed patterns.
Next option was to go down to the local post office to see if the bottles might be mailed. The post office had the boxes into which a few bottles would fit, but they did not have packing material that could cushion the inevitable shocks meted out by men and conveyor belts. Without the packing material, mailing was out. Next came a trip into the heart of Paris to seek out a United Parcel Service store that we knew specialized in shipping all manner of things, worldwide--including the packing materials that ensure their safe arrival. After finally arriving at the right location and waiting until the mid-day lunch hour was over, we were told that UPS did indeed ship things to the USA, but not wine. Once again, the long arm of Uncle Sam had found a way to put a stop to the potential enjoyment of the souvenir wine.
In the end, the gifts of French wine will not go to waste. Good wine is enjoyed daily in many French homes, and our hosts will surely enjoy that last remaining gift bottle that was left in their kitchen. As they open that special bottle, they will smile and recount the stories and events that led up to making all those wines so memorable to us all.