A couple of weeks ago, I spent time with a friend who had moved his family to San Diego. We had worked closely together for five years during the second half of the 1990’s and into the early part of this decade, until the company we worked for was sold. He and his wife were very close to my wife and me, as we all shared a passion for food, wine, film, hiking, travel and lively political discussions.
I flew down to San Diego shortly after learning that he was losing his battle with cancer and had been placed in a hospice facility. His cancer had recently metastasized from his blood stream to his brain and nothing seemed to work in slowing it down.
My friend is a decade younger than me and has a one year old daughter that will never have any memory of her wonderful father; and a seven year old son who doesn’t understand why he is about to lose his parent. The rapidity in which this has spread and worsened has been surreal. Six months ago, with his cancer diagnosed as “in remission” my friend was very excited and signed up to come along on this year’s Port Harvest Tour.
An eternal optimist, I went down to SD still with the hope that somehow my buddy would rebound and beat the unhappy ending that he was facing. When I arrived, I drove right to the place where he was being cared for. I had spoken to him two weeks earlier but he was no longer able to speak on the phone as his voice had weakened. I had been in touch with his wife and sister-in-law a few times prior to my arrival.
I camped out in his room for several days that week and gave his wife and family a break in the action, although they visited him every single day. I spent a few of the nights there in his room and we had some very personal conversations about life, death, our families and dreams.
Knowing that I would have one night free, I joined a trio of local guys for a wine offline. In addition to bringing along a 2004 Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte, I brought along a 1967 Dalva “Rui Paula” Colheita Port. On the day of the event, coincidentally, I learned that my good friend was born in 1967.
The sheer luck of this was great and I told the others at dinner, that they could all have a taste of the Dalva, but explained how I’d learned earlier in the day that this was my friend’s birth year and that I needed to save as much as possible to share with he and his family and of course, they understood the importance of this wine.
On my last evening spent in his hospice room, my friend’s wife and his parents gathered along with wine glasses for all of us including my friend and we toasted to his life. Always a Port enthusiast, he loved this Colheita and I was so pleased that although he would never get to see Portugal, his last sips of wine would be from that bottle of Port. I will never open another 1967 Port without thinking of my friend and our time spent together and his happiness in sharing that bottle of Dalva!