Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Sean Thackrey :: Wine Maker

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Another story, about wine and its bureaucratic discontents:

Many years ago, when I first applied for my basic permit to make wine, the neighbors who owned the substantial meadow in front of my house were Juergen and Anne-Marie Ruesch. She was then perhaps in her late 60's, had been brought up in Berlin, left for the obvious reasons in the late '30's, but retained the splendidly ironic Berlin-Jewish sense of humor and its accompanying accent that ensured we'd get along perfectly, which we did.

Anyway, on this occasion, she came by on her horse, Punky, and we chatted over the fence, as usual. I had just gone through the ordeal of applying for my basic license, and had had no clue in advance what I was getting into; firgerprints, FBI background checks, inspections, charts, and so on; it was quite overwhelming, particularly for one who doesn't take well to regulation in the first place.
So when Anne-Marie asked me, "Tell me, Sean, iss zair any regulation of vine in ze United States?", I really had no idea how to answer. But Europeans were always amused by the name of the agency then involved; so I replied, "Look, Anne-Marie, I don't think I can do any better than simply tell you the name of the department I'm dealing with; it's the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms".

She looked a me for a moment, surprised and bemused, then replied, "Vat? Nozing about sex???".

Told this to my then-supervisor at ATF, Lennie Goldstein from the Bronx; she snapped, "not around here, honey, I can tell you". She was more than enough to make even so grim a bureaucracy amusing. How could even I resist a plea such as, "Sweetheart, just get all your missing Form 702's in to me by Valentine's Day and we'll still have a beautiful relationship". Unfortunately, I never even met her in person…

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