The Label Story

by Lori Sherwood

ax042708.jpgA few weeks after I met my future husband, he invited me to a fancy dinner party for some very dear friends of his from Milan – Neil and Maria Empson, exporters of great Italian wines. It was the early 80’s, Northern Italian cuisine and wines were just catching on and many of the ingredients he wanted for the dinner, including the wines, were hard to find. We spent almost a week shopping for the food and a variety of their wines to serve that Saturday evening.

I’ll tell you now that Neil is a dead ringer for the late David Niven – mixed with a dash of Inspector Clouseau. Originally from New Zealand, Neil is always getting into the funniest accidents (remind me to tell you about the spot remover that he accidentally squirted in his eye). A downhill racer, Maria was a very chic Italian American girl that Neil met and married while she was skiing her way through Europe in the late 60’s.

As we were getting ready for the party, our friend Steve arrived 2 hours early! I stopped to visit with him and immediately got sidetracked.

montepulciano.jpg After awhile, Richard – quite frazzled by this time (we were way behind in our preparations) passed through the kitchen and asked me if I wouldn’t mind tearing myself away from Steve in order to at least help a little – how about preparing the wines…what do you mean, prepare the wines? ”Well, could you please remove the labels from the wines?”.

That seemed like an odd request – I hadn’t known him very long but quickly concluded that since he was into minimal design (he’s an architect by training), maybe he wanted to show just the bottle, without any label. Never heard of such a thing, but – hey, why not?

So just to be sure, I asked him: “ok, so you want me to remove the labels?” – again, he said “Yes!”. I said once more  – “are you sure you want me to remove the labels?” He said – “yes” – I said again” the labels?” He said, “Jeez, Lori - do I have to say it in Spanish? Do I have to say it in Italian? Yes, yes, yes – the labels – can you just remove the labels!”. 

Steve was my witness – what did he know, he was a beer drinker.   I looked at Steve, he looked at me, Richard left the kitchen to finish getting the house ready, so I did the only thing I could do…I ran a sink full of hot water and put about a dozen bottles of white and red wine in the sink and soaked them until all the labels came off. Then I put the white wine in the refrigerator and set the red wine up on the counter.

A couple of hours later, the Empsons arrived, joining a group of our L.A. friends eager to meet them, and to enjoy the authentic Northern Italian meal we had planned.

After cocktails in the living room, we seated everyone in the dining room and started the first course — and the wines.

With great flourish, we poured the first of Neil’s white wines. Everyone waited while Neil sniffed and sipped – he pronounced the wine fit to drink and then asked what wine we were serving. Having purchased several types, Richard pulled the bottle from the cooler and saw that it was missing a label…he thought it might have ‘sweated’ off in the ice water so asked me what we were drinking (how would I know?).

tipibottiglie.jpg At this point, Neil and Maria thought we were conducting a blind tasting but I knew better.

Not satisfied, Richard got up from the table and took that long walk to the kitchen, swung open the kitchen door, another few steps to the fridge, opened the refrigerator door…then a long pause & I hear “Loooooori!”

He came back out to the dining room:  “What happened?”

“Well, you said to remove the labels…”

“….I meant the price tags!”

We had a great laugh over the years from this story. Hey – I’m just a chick from the Valley…when you ask me to remove the labels, that’s what I do (for sure)!


About Lori Sherwood

I'm just a housewife (and textile rep), married to a serial remodeler (worse than a serial murderer in some ways). Kind of a ranch-hand cook as well.

For now we make do with a crock pot, a microwave and a hot plate. My crew eats most
anything I cook though we did hit a snag recently with the "great lentil experiment" ---
not so great after all.

The other day Richard & I were watching an old Jimmy Cagney movie...he's talking to his
"Ma" in the living room of their tenement apartment (the kind that shakes when the train
goes by). She's a bit haggard (ok, -very haggard) - even though it's a black & white
movie, she still looks pretty drab. Old sweater, gray hair in a bun, cooking pork chops
in a skillet.

As the camera pulls back, you can see that she's cooking on a Bunsen burner which is
perched on a closet door, laying flat over two sawhorses. Not missing a beat, Richard
says, "Look, Lori --- she has the same stove as you!"  And darned if she didn't!

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