Like a Nobleman Exiled From His Castle

The writer is not allowed to drink alcohol, and now he must bid farewell to the only person who made him sense the taste from just words.

There are people who can never die once and for all, because more than they are a person they are an institution. I was never really certain there was such a person - Daniel Rogov - until one day I entered a restaurant, and he called me over to his table and let me praise his columns to his face.

"Are you the real Daniel Rogov?" I wondered, and he was a bit surprised at this Levantine question, which was not really all that fitting for someone who was not really all that suited to this place. He always looked to me like the representative of some other place, like the non-resident ambassador of another culture, like a nobleman exiled from his castle.

Rogov -  Courtesy of the family  09092011
Courtesy of the family

The editor asked me, specifically, to write about him because she once heard the rumor that I am great fan of his, a regular and faithful reader of the column. The rumor is correct. Every Thursday I'd look for the column in Galleria and find it, and sometimes I would look on other days, too, just to be certain I wasn't missing anything.

You know, of course, what comes out after wine goes in. And this is my secret: I don't drink wine at all, to my regret as it could have gladdened my bitter heart on various occasions. I love wine and even try to be knowledgeable about wines, but I am not allowed to drink. It happened that I fainted a number of times after moderate drinking and my doctors do not recommend somewhat theatrical swoons in public, or even in private.

Rogov's learned essays served me as a compensation for the deprivations of old age and exhaustion. Because I no longer stretch my had out to the goblet, it could be said that from him I learned theory, not anything practical.

His columns were not only learned, but also far more than that: They brought pleasant fragrances and satisfying tastes, they had an aroma that dizzied the senses. I was drunk and not from wine. They implanted in me the belated desire to be a winemaker, or at least to cultivate vines.

Just a few days ago I told this to some friends and they laughed: We've never heard, they said, of a winemaker who can't taste his wine. Orchards and vineyards are the landscape of Rogov's homeland, and the whole world was his homeland as a man of the world.

He was from here, from close by, but he was also from there, from far away. He was from everywhere where people love the earth and its fruit, and nurture them both.

He maintained a special and good acquaintance with the vine and the olive, which refused to enter into politics, unlike me. It seems to me that this is what Rogov told me in order to express his rejoicing at my having left it, or maybe I am just inventing this now. As in the parable in Chapter 9 of the Book of Judges, the olive was not prepared to withhold its richness and the vine was not prepared to leave its wine, which cheereth God and man, and thus we are condemned to take refuge in the shadow of the bramble that has been anointed king over us but gives no shade.

Now we are informed that Daniel Rogov is dead and it is too late to explain why I will miss him, as will many of the readers of this newspaper. A mighty oak from which they make fine barrels has dried up, a fruitful vine whose grapes are trodden at a boutique wine press has withered.

I look around at the human landscape for another person like him, who sees us from the inside and from the outside, who was so local and so foreign, who produced from within himself unique tannins, which are solely his own. At the moment I am considering whether nevertheless to change my mind about my cure and raise a glass to the epicure's memory.