When the Wine Goddess told me several weeks ago she was planning a major announcement I reacted with a simple, inquisitive retort:
"Should I break out Champagne, Prosecco, or the 2007 Ledson Cabernet Sauvignon from Anderson Valley?"
She was amused.
"How do you know if it is worthy of celebration?," she said. "It could be a bad announcement," she said.
I didn't waver.
"Good or bad, we're having a toast -- a toast to your major announcement, because in all likelihood it involves me, right?
The Wine Goddess smiled. "Oh, yes it does involve you. It will involve you a lot."
Uh oh, I thought, this could be ... a concern.
She wants to take up golf and wants me to teach her.
Then again the Wine Goddess would never spend four to five hours of her precious time hitting a little white ball toward a hole in the ground when she could be gardening in the backyard, sinking her gloved hands into the dirt and nurturing her prized daylillies.
A major announcement? With me involved?
Oh, mio Dio, she's pregnant!
I reached for the bottle of bourbon on the shelf and was getting ready to chug it when her hand intervened.
"What are you doing? It's 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning. This is not a Don Draper moment," she said.
I put the Blanton's down.
"OK," I said, perspiration forming on my lips, "just tell me it doesn't involve baby clothes and planning for a college education."
She laughed. "I'm planning to retire."
The relief overwhelmed me. No husband-wife golf. No miracle child.
This was definitely worthy of champagne.
"So, why the planning to retire?," I asked. "Why not just do it?"
The Wine Goddess said it was a difficult decision. She liked what she was doing, working Lowell General Hospital's marketing department, yet she needed to enter a new phase of her life.
"I'm going to meet with my superviser and ask her if I can work part-time, maybe three days a week. I just can't stop (working) overnight. I've given this a lot of thought."
Indeed, we drank champagne that night -- several weeks ago.
And this coming week marks Mary Lee Harrington's grand finale as a full-time worker, for the first time since she was 20. That's when she kissed her parents goodbye in Pompano Beach, Fla., and entered Trans World Airlines flight training school in St. Louis. Lyndon Johnson was still President of the United States. Eventually, she was one of two dozen young women selected to become a stewardess and to fly the world on brand new jumbo jets -- something she did with style and grace for 38 years with TWA and later American Airlines.
I met her in 1988, on a blind date, and we've been together ever since.
When she was flying, especially on international routes, I anxiously awaited her safe return, sometimes for days. The sound of her footsteps coming up the stairs always made my heart skip a beat. They still do.
I'm delighted with the Wine Goddess' major announcement, which means she can dive into a bucket list of things she's always wanted to pursue, like perfecting her creme brulee and tiramisu.
So now it'll be my footsteps coming up the stairs and she'll be there waiting for me -- hopefully with two wine glasses and a bottle of her own choosing.
The 2007 Chateau St. Jean Reserve Merlot received a 95-point score from Robert Parker, and costs $90 a bottle. The Sonoma Winery's 2009 Merlot costs $25 and is just as rich, jammy and plummy as the reserve. I have no trouble making my choice: three bottles of the 2009 with $15 left over for a nice hunk of French brie and crackers ... Yakima Valley's 2011 Lone Birch Red Blend ($14) went well with a grilled cheeseburger and nachos yet I was expecting a fuller mouthfeel ... The history and wines from Sonoma's Buena Vista Winery will be featured Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at the Wine ConneXtion in North Andover. The 2011 Pinot Noir ($13.99) is a real bargain, a nice balance of cherry, strawberry and chocolate flavors and silky finish ... Ledson Cabernet Sauvignon is for a special occasion. It is only available from the winery's website and well worth it. The 2007 ($70) is an intense, exquisite wine, full of lush blackberry fruit and complex layers of taste ... Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa ($16) packs a tropical fruit punch and coats the palate with crisp kiwi and grapefruit. It settles nicely in the glass. Zesty finish ... The 2009 Sequana Pinot Noir ($40), Russian River Valley, fills the nose with a stunning lavender aroma and gets better with cranberry and cherry tastes. An amazing creation that could sell for twice the price ... Tomaresco Chardonnay 2011 ($12) is produced in southern Italy where quality, inexpensive wines are not a secret. Crisp, clean with green apple and pear flavors, this is worth chilling and cranking up Dean Martin's Italian love songs ... Lost Angel Chardonnay 2010 from Paso Robles ($12) is distinctively different from the previous offering yet no less satisfying. A blend of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc adds fruitiness to the unoaked flavors. The label is great and so is the juice ... For a taste of elegance, try the Rhone-style 2011 Treana white ($17-$19) from Hope Family Wineries. A balanced blend of Marsanne and Viognier, this is well-structured to last a decade but why wait. It smells of jasmine, the texture is gorgeous and the flavors are tropical and spicy. Something new and exciting for summer sipping.