George W. Vanderbilt,
The Untold Story of the Early Grape Vintner
When in France, he could be found most days, swirling some aromatic elixir
around the inside a crystal glass. It wasn't always some huge Bordeaux hoarded for the elite as some might think. He would merely haunt the side streets just off merchants alley where wine and wine grapes flowed into the city on the arms of a capitalist octopus.
Could be how George got his nickname, Inky.
The best wine was almost always destined for the trained, moneyed palate. Inky, of course, could muster the title if he chose to do so. He found it more interesting and more to his liking to blend in with the liquid activity surrounding the local markets. There were treasures waiting to be discovered in some small bistro off the beaten path.Wineries, less well known, often sold their wares without waiting to be discovered, fearing making no sale and being stuck with inventory on into the coming winter.
Inky wandered the streets, speaking fluent French, inquiring of any one who would listen if there might be any unusual vintages for sale in the neighborhood? He was ignored as often as not.
"Excusez-moi mon bon monsieur, c'est qu'il ya du vin rouge spécial disponible dans le quartier aujourd'hui?" Inky put on his Cheshire Cat smile when asking his question.
"La Bistro is known to put back a few special bottles if you know how to ask,monsieur." The gentleman spoke perfect English recognizing the questioner as a Westerner immediately.
"What would be the secret word if I were to inquire about some stored vintage of a
special note, kind sir?"
"Upon entering the establishment ask for the wine steward's recommendation for the day. When he finishes rattling off some innocuous choices remain silent. Then tell him, ("Sir, I am quite serious about this!") He will smile back at you. You will place 10 francs in his palm casually. The steward is now your friend. Do not abuse his confidence."
"I believe you are having a bit of sport with me, are you not monsieur?"
"Certainement pas, monsieur, si dix francs pour cette information est considérée comme une affaire dans mon pays." He held his right hand out, palm perfectly horizontal prepared to accept Inky's donation for the information.
Inky placed the ten francs politely into the gentleman's palm. It disappeared into his jacket and automatically he tipped his hat toward the American and bid him, “bonsoir”, and walked away.
La Bistro was only a few steps away. Inky walked with great style, carrying himself as if he lived on these streets his entire life. Even those strolling behind him, without ever getting a glimpse of his face would know a raconteur was in the neighborhood. A bon vivant of a special nature. A gentleman who was used to getting what he wanted any day of the week. Naturally, he fit in with the other scoundrels roaming the city, though certainly a cut above the rest.
Inky was a gentleman of extensive substance. He was the youngest son in a family dripping in money and land.
(to be continued...