My Grandmothers, Helen and Phoebe, were two sides of the same coin – impeccable examples of strong, smart, and elegant women. Though different from one another, they were equal in stature and quality. As our Chardonnay program has expanded to be as engaging and varied as ever, the idea was hatched to incorporate these two important women into the program. The idea of honoring my grandmothers by making and naming wines after them felt curiously fated and lovely. Now it is time to share a piece of that with you!
We will be introducing two new Chardonnays — Helen & Phoebe. We’ll reserve Helen’s story for her release next year.
For now, this is Phoebe’s story. Phoebe was born on May 5, 1905 in Jamaica, Queens. She graduated on June 23, 1923, with honors, from the Academy of Holy Cross; she attended Katherine Gibbs, an executive secretarial school in NYC, while working at Hudson’s Bay department store in NYC.
I’m not exactly sure what year she and my grandfather met, though I do know she had recently called off a marriage engagement. She and my Grandfather were introduced by mutual friends and married on December 31, 1941.
Phoebe had a quiet cultured presence. Never pretentious, but wise in a worldly way. She and my Grandpa Kelly loved to travel. Earlier she and her girlfriends from the Academy sailed to Europe following graduation (unchaperoned!). She always spoke of the importance of travel and was convinced we should all know a foreign language. Keeping in mind we lived in a very small town, many had never left the area much less learned a new language. She never held herself above anyone and had a kind spirit, knowing full well the complexities everyone deals with. Both she and my grandpa were merciful and generous. She met her own challenges with honesty and a pragmatic attitude. In the case that she couldn’t solve her problems she believed in the acceptance of living with imperfection and without complaints.
My memories of Phoebe are that she was warm and nurturing, wasn’t the greatest cook despite doing it anyway (the roast was always dry, cookies burned on the bottom) and she had a funny magnet on her fridge that read “housework is a bummer”. She stored bananas and Cool Whip in the freezer for way too long, she kept the plastic cover on the couch and dragged us off to church whenever she could. She even didn’t mind if Grandpa had turned his hearing aid down. Phoebe drove her Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra like a champ, even when she could barely see over the wheel.
But my fondest memory will always be of having a cheerful nip of peach Schnapps with her just weeks before she passed away (she curiously initiated it and was not a big drinker). I came later to realize she knew she was leaving soon, and this was her way of starting to say goodbye to the full and wonderful life she had led. She was a picture of grace to the end.
This wine is a way to keep Phoebe alive in my family’s hearts and perhaps channel her spirit to all of us.
Please enjoy. Tyson