Giving Thanks: Time for a toast

Kelly Hayes

Of all the holidays, none is as conducive to the concept of a toast as Thanksgiving. It is a day that we are humbled by the recognition and contemplation of all that we have in our lives and all those who we love.

The origin of the toast harkens back to communal drinking gatherings among the ancient Greeks, who would raise their glasses of cheer in drunken revelry to honor “the gods.” Of course, gods loved them. It was the British who would take the act of combining a wish for good health and fortune with good drink to the level of art form. By the time Shakespearian England came ‘round, the act of toasting had a name. At the time, wine was often augmented with a piece of toasted spiced bread, added to the glass to improve the taste.

In the bard’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” John Falstaff orders up a quart of spiced wine and suggests, “Put a toast in it.” The Brits became so enamored with the art of the toast that an actual profession, that of toastmaster, arose, giving those who were blessed with both the gift of gab and the “Fare Thee Well” spirit a platform to perfect the act. A toast to people, places and things that we love makes not only those toasted, but the toastee, feel warm and fuzzy.

That said, as it is the time of year for expressing appreciation, I would like to give a nod of the noggin, an appreciative wink, a tip of the hat, a raising of the goblet and, of course, a clink of the glass in recognition to all those in the wine world who have allowed this column to exist for well over a decade now.

Let’s start in the vineyards and those who make the wines that soothe our souls and satiate our thirsts. It has been a trying time for winemakers, to say the least. Global warming has made farming more difficult and unpredictable. Fires have ravaged parts of wine country for five years and counting in California and the Aussies are still trying to recover from some of the worst fires in their history.

But still, I find that the virtual interactions that I have had this year in interviews for stories have revealed both hardy and happy souls. One of the great joys of writing about wine is meeting and getting to know people who recognize the value of the lands they work and who strive to make the best wines from them. Winemakers are a unique combination of farmer, chemist, marketer and tastemaker. In an evolving society they are a breed apart.

Then there is the local Aspen wine community. From the wine reps to the retailers to the sommeliers, we, as a town, are blessed to have a cadre of professionals who are passionate about the wines they both drink and sell. The camaraderie that exists here in the valley, a result of a combination of our relatively small size and our broader exposure to the greater wine world, is special. I learn from these people every week and their generosity of both wine and spirit is appreciated.

Of course, the entire point of being a columnist, something that I identify myself as proudly, is to write something on a weekly basis that will both entertain and inform readers. Not as easy a task as it may sound. But each week I work to “have a take” that has value. And whenever I hear, in voice or digitally in email or text, that something written has resonated it gives me such great joy. The readers are the reason to do this and I give thanks to all of you who have taken the time to scroll through even a paragraph of the close to 700 WineInk columns that have run in The Aspen Times over these past weeks and years.

And finally, the biggest and spiciest piece of toast must go to the people who are responsible for publishing this column each week. It has been a devastating decade for the print news business, exacerbated by the current turmoil. But somehow The Aspen Times, published in some form since 1881, has found a way to survive, serve and prosper. It is a community gem.

And the Times has recognized the value of wine to this particular community and provided a place in the Aspen Times Weekly to celebrate it. I have been honored to occupy that space. Kudos and thanks to Samantha Johnston, publisher of the Times, WineInk’s art director Jordan Lugibihl and especially to my editor, Andrew Travers, who patiently provides corrections, questions my intention and most of all offers encouragement.

On this, the day for giving thanks, a hale and hearty toast to you all.