Dolfi Kuker & a Bottle of Torrontés WineFriday, June 28, 2019
Subject: Buenos Desi Arnez
Today at the Mayne Island Trading Post I nearly purchased a bottle of Argentine Chardonnay.
My friend, Marv newland, that classical expert on old fashioned animation (free of computers and using the elaborate and painstakingly slow method using cells) sent me the above email today. Anything related with Mr. Newland will make anybody and particularly this guy smile. Newland could have a second career in police departments abroad as a mediator to prevent people from committing suicide.
Only someone who knows Newland intimately (I am not one of them) could figure out the purpose of his communication or why it was he did not purchase the Chardonnay.
Figuring out that Chardonnay thing is for me a tad more difficult since I am not a connoisseur of drinking or of wines. I divide wines into two categories. There are the ones that are acidic that make me shake and those (watered down perhaps?) that do not.
The reference to Argentina and to wine immediately took me to Buenos Aires in 1966 when I arrived to Buenos Aires for my conscription duties. I “won” the lottery system and instead of getting 12 months in the army it was to be 24 in the Armada República Argentina (the navy).
At the time my first cousin and godmother Inesita O’Reilly had recently become a widow. She met and married the widower Dolfi Kuker. Between them they had 8 children. They would sit at a Hollywood film style table (very long) and accompanied by boyfriends, girlfriends and cousins. It was quite a table. I remember that there were finger bowls and the women ate their oranges and bananas with the help of a fork and knife.
Immediately Kuker offered his services and influence (for a while he had been the mayor of Buenos Aires) to prevent me from being sent to a post in the Argentine Arctic or in some naval base where I would be at the mercy from corporals up. He said that he could get me on the Argentine Navy training ship ARA Libertad ( a lovely steel-hulled, full-rigged, class "A" sailing ship). I told him that I suffered from terminal seasickness and motion sickness from swings and trams to cars and boat.
He then placed me as an aid and translator to the Serior US Naval Advisor Captain USN Onofrio Salvia. This ultimately saved me (except for boot camp refreshers) from those nasty corporals and I had a desk job with an Argentine/Irish secretary called Edna Gahan. I was the only sailor in the Argentine Navy allowed (or I simply got away with it) who smoked a pipe with imported Edgeworth Tobacco.
In the late 80s I went to Buenos Aires for a Toronto based magazine run by Malcolm Parry. Kuker got me access to everything including the Jockey Club. He took me on a lovely boat trip on the Paraná River delta Tigre.
Always he was a warm, kind and soft-spoken man whom I quickly learned to adore. Because Kuker was a staunch Roman Catholic and I had been educated in a Catholic boarding school in Texas we had many a discourse on Christianity. I remember giving him a copy of Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote in my silly attempt to show how some men ultimately doubted their beliefs. It is only now that I have learned to appreciate tolerance and that was something that Kuker had in spades.
It was sometime in the early 90s that in another trip to Buenos Aires, one evening Kuker told me, “I know you don’t like wine but I think you will like this one. It is called Torrontés.” He offered me a glass of a very cold Etchard Reserva Especial white wine. My first sip felt like I had just bitten a mouthful of green grapes. He explained that the grape was brought to Argentina and that nobody except Argentines used the grape.
So when I must offer friends and visitors wine I open a bottle of Kuker’s Torrontés. Why?
In the New Testament Gospels (my fave is the King James Version) Christ parts the bread at the last supper and says,”Do this in remembrance of me.”
And so it is with the Torrontés. I remember that kindly man. I would not know what to do with an Argentine Chardonnay.