Invited to Sting’s private party
|Two months ago we had an appointment with one of my all-time heroes, Sting! Sting is, like myself, a passionate wine lover and owner of his own winery. Sting in Tuscany me in France. Due to a number of different misunderstandings (see: Slurp 85) we arrived at his estate ‘Il Palagio’ in Tuscany while he was in New York recording a new album. But we said we’d make up for it in August.
And so we did.
And spectacularly so.
|Tuscany is as beautiful as when we left it. Actually, perhaps even more beautiful because once a year Sting hosts a private party at his winery, and this time we have been invited.|
|As a welcome gift for Sting’s wife Trudie, we pick some roses from his own vineyard.|
|A freshly mown field has been upgraded to car park. No entry tickets, no wristbands, no security, only Luigi, the tractor driver, who helps the guests to find a parking spot.
Sting’s neighbours, winegrower Salvatore and his lover Antonia are there too. Their combined age is 148, but they still walk hand in hand.
|In the courtyard of one of the outbuildings a small crowd has gathered; staff members of the winery, a few neighbours and a handful of friends.
The sun is busy setting in an apricot coloured sky, while a soft breeze carries with it the summery scent of dried hay. All around us the sound of merry Italian murmur blends with the tinkling of wine glasses. A current of anticipation electrifies the air.
The atmosphere is friendly and casual. At a makeshift table between a couple of wine barrels, two alert village youths offer the guests a choice between Sting’s peach-coloured rose or his crimson Chianti. No bubbles, no beer, no cola; just great wine. And some Italian spring water if you really must.
”Keep it simple,’ Trudie had ordered castle-chef Mario. ‘Simple, but Italian.’ So Mario has fired up his wood-burning oven and Giulietta, the castle-waitress, is trotting around with trays loaded with Italy’s global culinary phenomenon.
|‘No grazie,’ smiles the winegrower, ‘I’m going to stick with one of these lovely organic grapes from your vineyard!’|
|The winegrower’s lover too, decides to pass. She has her eye on a much more appetizing snack…|
‘Scusata, signor Bob,’ approaches mayor Massimo the knighted rock star. ‘I am sorry to bother you, but would you mind…’
‘No problem!’ says Sir Bob and wraps his arm jovially around the beaming bureaucrat.
‘Twins?’, the winegrower makes conversation with Sting’s son Joe.
‘Yes’, confirms Joe. ‘Suzy and Wuzy. This is Suzy. Or….hm…hang on a minute…’
‘Daddy, that man is scary!’ A frightened Suzy (or perhaps Wuzy) snuggles closer to her father.
‘Shall I comfort her?’ the winegrower offers. Upon which the poor little one bursts out in an ear-piercing cry.
‘Gosh.’ Sting’s wife Trudie is clearly impressed; ‘So you brought these beautiful roses all the way from Holland for me? How sweet!’
‘Quick, Alessandra, finish up! The Comtessa Margerita is on her way!’
When Giulietta serves the Comtessa she is on edge, experience has made her wary.
And yet it happens: the cheery waitress got distracted for the briefest of seconds and sure enough her tray has been swiped clean…
Contentedly scoffing a sizeable slice into her trap, the noblewoman makes herself scarce. Her exorbitant Gucci bag oozing with the booty.
|What exactly do you mean by ‘working together’?’ Sting would like to know.
‘Well you see, you make great Chianti, I make a nice Bordeaux. But both of us are bound to those traditional regional names.
So how about I drive a refrigerated truck full of Bordeaux grapes over to you during the harvest?
We could make a whole new wine together: Chideaux!’
|While Sting is contemplating his colleague’s proposal, matters take a different turn…
The winegrower’s lover enters stage left. In an instant Sting loses all interest in the business ideas of the winegrower and dedicates himself wholly to the charms of the grape-princess.
Before things can get out of hand, Trudie grabs the microphone to ask for a round of applause for their oldest and most loyal employee, Beppe a man built like an olive tree. Almost his entire life he has looked after the vineyard as if it were his daughter. Now he is retired, but he still pops in every day to check on his babies, the grapes.
Afterward Trudie announces the highlight of the evening: a live performance by her husband.
But just as Sting is about to pick up his guitar a wild honking is heard from the road.
‘Stop, Sting! Hold it!’ Trudie calls out. ‘The Marquis de Carabas is on his way!’
|All eyes turn toward the edge of the forest and indeed: the 87-year old aristocrat appears, preceded by his bodyguard.|
|Totally at ease Sting takes a seat on a rickety stool, assumes the position and strikes a chord. For a brief moment he assesses whether the guitar needs a tune up and adjusts the low-E string just a touch. Then he kicks straight off with the confident intro to Message in a Bottle.|
It is an experience that etches itself deep into the cerebral cortex: a private concert by Sting for an audience of roughly 50 friends, and to witness that as a simple winegrower. From barely 6 feet away I see, hear and feel the almost extra-terrestrial power with which Sting plays and sings. Every note sounds as if hewn from marble.
Clear as a bell, solid as a rock and as impossible to resist as the devil himself. Every now and then he lets rip the full range of his voice with a power that blows your socks off. That’s when you catch a glimpse of the hurricane that resides inside this man.
|The winegrower is overwhelmed by the experience of beholding such an incredible global rock star. Suddenly he becomes forcefully aware of his own insignificance and feels his knees give way. And when a surprise guest adds his unexpected performance (see movie) he is overcome by his emotions and keels over.|
|But with the help of a glass of rose and the loving care of the winegrower’s lover and Trudie, the unfortunate grape-basher is soon back on his feet. He and his lover can be seen later among the last people to leave this unforgettable event.|