April 24, 2015 will be the sad one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. While I do not normally do any political statements here, because this is a Wine Blog; I feel that it would not be proper if I did not mention it. Two of my Grandparents were born in Armenia as well as some of my other relatives. While they did not speak much of the atrocities that they witnessed and suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Empire (now known as Turkey), it has always been in the background of the family and our ethnicity. They came to Canada with nothing and started a life anew, with no knowledge of a new language or the customs or the mores of their new land, only with a determination to make a life and some happiness, after so much pain and sorrow.
So allow me to digress from my usual writing and mention a few things for fun. I went down to my cellar today, in hopes of finding a label that is pasted on the wall with many other wine labels, and there is a custom built wine rack that is mounted on the wall. I could not find the label, but it is a label for Ararat Brandy from the Yerevan Brandy Company and this is as close as I will be for a wine related story; after all Brandy is distilled wine. They use thirteen varietals in the production of the Brandy and the three main ones are Voskehat, Garan Dmak and Kangun. I had a bottle of it, but I had to get an image from the internet, because I could not find my label, and the name Ararat is for the most famous of the three mountains in Armenia and the site where Noah’s Ark landed after the rains subsided. The other great thing about Ararat is that it is my late Father’s name in Armenian.
I have never had any wines from Armenia, but one day I am sure that I will. On one of my trips to see my children in Las Vegas, my daughter was so excited that she had a bottle of Armenian wine for me, but alas it was from the neighboring country of Georgia. One of interesting discoveries I made years ago, doing a paper in college was that the first recording in history of beer was by Xerxes on his way to another battle and he wrote about a wonderful draft that he had in Armenia mid way on his travels. There are several different beers made by Yerevan Brewery and the brand is called Kilikia, which is the Armenian pronunciation of Cilicia, which is historically known as Lesser Armenia, and one of the Holy Sees of the church was originally from Cilicia.
A fellow that I met through my association with my junior high school reunions who writes about beer and food send me an email a few days ago. He was having a meal at a Mexican Taco Trailer and the group he was with had ordered four plates of food. The neighborhood that I had grown up in Detroit now has a majority of Mexican families. As he was finishing up a plate of Chorizo Tacos, he was crumpling up the wax paper and noticed the writing that was on the plate underneath, and he wrote that this plate had my name all over it. He was able to get the plate from the eatery and it will soon be in my possession. As soon as I saw the plate in the accompanying picture I had to laugh, it is the old style industrial porcelain dishes from another era and it had a picture of and scroll in English and Armenian of the Armenian Community Center in Detroit 9, Michigan. Detroit 9 was a mailing code that was used in Detroit for sorting and was a precursor to the Zip Code that is now in effect. The Armenian Community Center was the home of my old Armenian Church and where I went to Armenian School. There was also room in the basement of the hall, one side had a coffee shop for the men to get together, and on the other side were rooms for the Armenian Youth Federation. I remember all the years that I went to Armenian School and the classroom that I was always in was directly above the coffee shop, and occasionally when the men had enjoyed too much “coffee” and were playing cards or backgammon there would be arguments in the most colorful Turkish that one would ever hear; there are no curse words in the Armenian language as when there is a need to curse they have always used the more foul Turkish language and I can remember how my teacher, who was the Priest’s wife would turn red when those expletives would be heard from the floor below. In between the two sets of rooms was the smaller banquet hall with the kitchen adjacent to it and there was a dumbwaiter that was used to send the prepared food from the kitchen up to the main floor where the grand ballroom was located. I remember the plates being in the kitchen when I was a kid; in fact that is where I had my high school graduation party. Years later when the church built a new location, the building was sold to a Latino self-help organization. I would have forgotten about those plates and I am wondering how a Taco Trailer ended up with some of them.
So I thank my readers to allow me to ramble off a bit, and I will get back to more words about wine the next time. I just felt that it was honorable to remember the past and hope that some good will come from all of the suffering and deaths that had occurred. A toast to the fallen, and may God bless their souls.