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Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

Episode 19 Notes:

It took one very brave person, in this mountainous Italian town, to rise up and do what others could not. Listen to the incredible, mostly true story, of an epic battle between a monster and a hero. The result was a legend and a plant that lives on today. 

This podcast is done in conjunction with our friends at Carboy Winery.

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Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

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This episode is dedicated to Miles. He loved adventure and would have loved today’s drink of choice. So, here’s to you and your restless, wandering soul.

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The count watched his four year old son play in front of the mirror, which was leaning against the brick wall in his bedroom. 

“What’s all this noise?” He said playfully. The count put his hands on his hips and screwed his face into a smile. 

The boy giggled and stuck out his tongue, watching the mirror mimic the same motion. “It’s funny, daddy.” He laughed and looked at his dad in the mirror. 

“You’re such a silly boy!” The count exclaimed. He finished dressing and pulled a long cape over his shoulders. “Have fun and I’ll be back soon.”

The Count took his leave and exited his castle, looking out at the flowing fields before him. It was summer and his cows were mooing and grazing in the tall grass. His brow furrowed as he thought about how many he’d lost this year already and his eyes instinctively flicked to the pale castle positioned high above him in the ridge of the cliff. It might be a hard winter if things don’t change.

The, castle above him was built into a crack in the mountain behind the city. It was beautiful and in an excellent defensible position because of how difficult it was to get there. The strenuous effort it took to climb the landscape and ascend up to the location was also the reason it had been abandoned hundreds of years ago when this new castle had been built by the Mez family, who had once ruled this area before his family arrived. His grandfather had abandoned the castle because it was too exhausting to get to. It worked too well as a remote, secure position. At the time it was a smart decision. It still is. But, doing so also raised the anger of the entire village. 

A long wall, curved near the middle, ran straight out and then turned at a ninety degree angle. Behind the middle of it was a two story tall tower. The wall and the tower were filled with perfect, rectangle windows big enough to throw rocks out of. Or, to shoot arrows from if invaders happened to be so bold…and stupid, enough to try breaching the castle.  

There was a defense outpost too. Its own water source. And a church, because during medieval times like these, you, needed a church. And the entrance had a fresco, shaped like a shield, painted red, outlined in white. It had three symbols on it. A golden crown took the spot at the top of the shield, stretching the length of it. It rose and fell in sharp points and the gold band was inlay with beautiful, precious jewels. Antlers, wide and heavily pointed, were on the right, attached to a velvet, blue patch of hair. On the left was a dragon, a basilisk, a winged serpent, coiled and a hideous yellow with its mouth red and filled with rows of sharp teeth. Collectively, these three symbols, on the shield, represented the coat of arms.

The castle had been beautiful once. A long time ago. But, not anymore. Now the walls were crumbled and broken, ruined under immense pressure and force. The walls were blackened and covered in soot by streaks of fire. What once was a place of comfort and strength for the town was now a haven filled with terror. Something should be done about that. Someone should do something about it. 

The mooing of cows brought him back to the present and his eyes went skyward, searching. Finding only blue skies in return, he sighed in relief. His cows were just settling in. He saw his servants in the field too. One of them was tugging on the udders of one particularly large heifer and shooting milk into a tin pail. He heard the ting, ting, ting from here as the first shots hit the cold metal.

The Count’s mood sullied further as he thought of that fresco and looked at his spotted cows. He thought of things that hunted these fields, killing off his cows and sheep little by little, snatching up villagers and reigning terror across the land. 

Someone, needed to do something about that. 

It had been here for as long as his family had called Mezzocorona, Italy home. But, unlike now, back then it lived in the mountains further from town.  It took to grazing for food less frequently. 

Mezzocorona was a beautiful place too. Swampy, green marshland raced outward in two directions until it climbed steadily and rose to meet the wooded mountains. The land was rich and fertile, allowing for the easy and fast grown of plants. But, you also had the easy draining, gravel landscape too of the mountains. It made many different types of plant life sustainable here. 

They in the Northern Part of Italy and sat at the base of a steep, rocky mountain wall that protects it from the harsh, Northern winds that like to rip through this part of the country.  The much larger city of Trento was close by and  located less than 10 miles South of here. 

The abandoned castle in the cliffs was also a perfect home, which is why it moved from the mountains to the castle ruins. Plus, it had easier access to all those tasty snacks that it so loved…like sheep. Cows. And humans. 

Someone, needed to do something about that. 

Wait, he thought, why don’t I be that someone. 

But, how would he do it…if he had to do it?

How do you…take on such a creature.

He knew it was cunning and powerful. It moved faster than he could ever hope to move and, when it took to the air, there was no chance of him equaling it.

He, had to be smarter. 

While he walked the field, occasionally glancing up at the crack in the cliff, and the crumbling castle, the inklings of a plan started to form. 

He flushed at the idea at first. Out of embarrassment. It was silly. It would never work. Surely, it would not be fooled by such simple traps. Yet, the longer he thought about it, the more confident he felt that it would work. 

So, he went to bed that night determined to save the village, and ensure his own son could live a life without fear. 

He work early the next morning with sleep still in his eyes and the castle radiating cold through the brick. He’d slept restless, nervous about the day and what he was going to do. 

In the dim, morning light, for the sun had not fully risen yet, he slid into the heavy metal armor that covered his legs, arms, and chest. The armor weighed on him and already he was warming up. By the time he got to the castle ruins he knew he’d be sweating. 

He kissed his son on the forehead and paused for a moment to look into his face, etching every line of his brown hair and sweet, soft, round face into his memory. 

“I love you.” He whispered.

Then he took up his sword, strapped his shield to his back and took the mirror that was leaning against the wall in his bedroom. Finally, he stopped at the entrance of his castle and grabbed a bucket.

Outside dew was thick on the grass and it wet his armor. With the bucket in hand he made his way to the fields, seeking out the very large heifer. He found her, knelt and worked the udders until he had half a bucket full of milk. 

Then he took the bucket, took the mirror, grabbed his sword again, and started to climb the dangerous, difficult trail to the castle ruins in the fading stars of morning. Light was beginning to push across the sky now in a soft flushing of white. 

The Count kept his head held high and moved ever onward and upward toward the castle ruins, his stomach twisting in knots and fighting the urge to puke. Sweat poured out of him under his heavy armor and he had to fight hard to not spill the milk out of the bucket  

Finally, he reached the castle ruins. He paused for a moment, setting down the milk in the bucket and the mirror. He kept his sword with him, just in case. He fought to steady his racing heart, and his body was already numb with exhaustion from the climb here. 

The smell of sulphur and burn brick and cold blood filled the air and hung on the stillness of early morning in a way that terrified the Count. He sat there for a long time with his body pressed against the exterior wall of the castle, trying to will himself to do what he knew he needed to do. 

For the villagers. Who deserved to live in peace and not fear the destruction and devastation of such a horrible beast.

And for his son. Oh, his son. He wanted those brown eyes to always shine with laughter and never know an ounce of pain. 

This, was the only way. 

So, Count Firmian took up his sword, grabbed his mirror, and lifted the bucket of milk then stepped into the entranceway of the castle, beneath the coat of arms in red that was painted above the door. 

His heart skipped a beat at the size of the thing. It always looked smaller in the sky, a dark, menacing dot. But, here, it was so big. 

It could crush him with a single flick of its tail. 

When he entered it stirred so he rushed to lean the mirror against the wall. Then he set the bucket of milk down in front of it and retreated to the entranceway once more.

The animal stirred and let out a throaty groan that shook the crumbling walls and made Count Firmian’s heart race. He clutched his sword a little tighter and drew his shield. 

Then the animal was up, uncoiling itself and rising to its full height. Thick, impenetrable, yellow scales covered its body and it towered over him when it rose up. Rows of sharp, white teeth flashed when it chortled and turned to the milk. 

Wings whooshed out and closed again and the long talons pressed into the ground as it moved forward.

It sniffed the milk and recoiled, it’s eyes shooting to the sides. The Count recoiled out of sight and pressed himself hard against the wall. 

“I can smell you.” 

The count’s heart was in his throat now, but still he did not waiver. He kept his ground.

The beast turned back to the pail of milk and sniffed it once more. 

“Hmmmm.” It mused.

Then a long, red tongue slipped quickly out from behind rows of teeth and took a sip of the milk.

“Mmmmm…. Deliciousssss.” 

It took another drink, then, out of the corner of its eye, it caught the reflection in the mirror, bristled, and retreated.

It let out an ear ringing roar and stared at the monster staring back at it. 

When it lowered its head and snarled the creature staring back did the same thing. 

The monster swung its tail and the tail of the other monster swung out too. 

It turned back to the milk, wanting to take another sip, but also unsure of this new, threatening creature. 

The monster looked from the mirror to the milk. Then back to the mirror. And back to the milk. Assessing. Trying to understand.

Seeing his moment, Count Firmian mustered all of the courage he could, thought of his young son, and leapt back into the room, driving his sword up and into the belly of the monster. 

A howl tore through the air and the Count pushed upward harder, hearing the squishing and tearing. 

Blood gushed out of the monster’s belly, dark red and thick. It covered Count Firmian, staining his armor. 

And, as the monster fell to the ground, dead, Count Firmian looked on as the poisonous blood began to change him. He looked down, his hands and arms peeling away. Then he felt the rest of him tear apart too, little by little, molecule by molecule.

And Count Firmian, 

After slaying the dragon that terrorized the village of Mezzocorona, turned into a pile of ash. 

And on that exact spot where dragon’s blood was spilled and Count Firmian gave his life to protect a village, and his son, a plant sprouted. 

It thickened in the stem and turned woody with flaked bark. And the vine stretched upward along the castle walls, clinging to them for support, until small, round pieces of fruit appeared. 

They were dark red, ripe, and, when plucked, mashed, and, when fermented and strained, took on a quality that reflected the heart of Count Firmian.

This grape, a well known grape in Northern Italy, and much more rate in the United States,

Is produced in one location in particular by Carboy Winery.

It’s the Teroldego grape.

Teroldego

And the wine produced from the Teroldego grape at Carboy Winery has won multiple awards

For the bright fruit notes and hints of pepper and Earth from the Teroldego,

Speak to the bright, courageous heart of Count Firmian and the fiery, spicy dragon that battle centuries ago

And, in their deaths, gave the world a new grape varietal called Teroldego.

Anyway… I’ll drink to that.