It was Rose Marie Hanson who first showed me wine. For that, and for the countless other ways she has influenced and loved her family, I'm grateful on Mother's day, and on all days.
Wine, from the time I can remember, was part of the landscape at our house. Dad taught us about Charlie Parker and Lincoln Steffens but it was Mom who was responsible for the heady aromas of homemade pizza and French cooking. And for wine with the popping of corks and clinking glasses when friends dropped by. My Father Michael enjoys wine but was more a beer and bourbon guy when I was growing up. That left mom to demonstrate how to use a corkscrew, to serve wine, and to sip, without pretense or haste. Drinking wine wasn't about a lesson; it was just part of the day, but one of the best parts. It began as Mom's thing and later on, it became a keen interest of mine.
Mom's long restaurant career really took off in the early 1970's at Andrea's, a pioneering French place near Madison's capital owned by legendary local restauranteur and neighbor Andrea Craig. Mom ran the floor there and soon, the French cuisine and wines from the early lists there began to flow into our own kitchen. 1970 Chateau Montrose, early vintages of Clos du Val and BV's Georges De Latour Cabernets, and new, well-chosen everyday bottles were appearing in the Madison market at this time as staple wines of the period began to change. Mom discovered these new wines much in the way she began to use olive oil in her kitchen; liberally, experimenting without guide books, and with an intuitive awareness of the way food and wine flavors worked together.
When I became old enough to work my first job - bussing tables at Madison's Fess Hotel in 1978 - I worked under the auspices of Mom, who had moved on after Andrea's was sold. By the time I was 18, I was buying wine at a local shop with the tips I earned on weekends. Yes, the drinking age was lower back then. And the selections were terrific even by today's standards.
Mom saw my interest in wine history and culture. She could have scolded me for bringing home Calon Segur, Figeac and Chateauneuf - all very affordable back then - and for keeping a tasting journal. Instead, she recognized a quest for knowledge absent a desire for underage over-consumption. And she welcomed these very wines at dinner parties and family gatherings.
We shared wine with a sense of discovery, mostly around the dinner table at Hammersley Avenue.
As the years have clipped by, not a whole lot has changed. I still work in the wine business. But that's nothing compared to Mom who, lively and robust at 75, still manages the floor at a popular downtown Madison restaurant, now on a part-time basis. Mom's tastes and excellent palate still lean to Loire, Bordeaux, and southern France, but she makes room for a glass of many things new. In a recent call, she crisply noted the wine highlights of her week: Chinon Rose and Bourgogne Blanc, both recommended by Mom for spring consumption when the lilacs are blooming in Madison.
We still share a glass whenever the occasion arises, and a lifetime love of wine, without too much pomp. She could have been a teetotaler and I'd love her just the same. But she's been Mom and wine mentor, and for this, I toast Rose Marie Hanson.
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