Vince Forcella (“Vincenti”) was good natured and lots of fun, a great fisherman, a worthwhile volleyball companion, a student of all edible things. He was my friend. We spent many hours together fishing, and he helped educate me in fruit tree grafting and general understanding of viticulture, as well as living in the moment. Vince’s wife Annie worked in agriculture for the University of California, Davis in their pomology department, but her academic education was nothing compared to his; a robust, land-educated Italian expatriate, connoisseur of fruit and wine and easygoing conversation. A funny thing about Vince, he was slight but about six feet tall. He had six inches and twenty pounds on me, but when I was younger, I was an elite wrestler in high school and college, and Vince got a big kick out of challenging me to wrestling matches. The amazing thing to me was that I could do anything I wanted with him. There was never a serious competition, only mutual amusement at his frequent challenges and pre-promises of, “This time I’ll pin you!”
Vince died of heart disease at age sixty, after we spent the afternoon together talking, he in his bed and me chairside. I was aware that he was not going to last much longer, so I spent the whole afternoon in a pleasant state of understanding and love. It was predicted that he had little time left, and I was grateful that he was so mentally and emotionally clear. Vince declined to speak of wishes beyond the moment.
Vince was always after me to grow some wine on my forty acres in the foothills outside of Winters, California. He loved cabernet sauvignon and insisted that I grow it. I countered that no one grew cabernet in the Sacramento Valley because it was too hot. This was one challenge that Vince won, and we picked out a place on a small, east-facing hill. Wow, did it work! The grapes were protected from direct afternoon heat as the sun set in the west behind the hill. Once our wine was tasted by Vince’s local expert friends, including internationally renowned wine researcher Maynard Amerine, it suddenly became popular to grow cabernet in the Sacramento valley on eastern-facing slopes.
PThree or four years later, I attended a retirement dinner for Doctor Amerine just before my personally-arranged sabbatical in and around South Africa, where I taught hand surgery at university hospitals in Bloemfontein, Pretoria, and Johannesburg. While there, my wife and I attended an orthopedic meeting at a beautiful vineyard belonging to Cape Town’s most prominent winery. I mentioned that I had just come from Doctor Amerine’s retirement dinner, and the winery staff went wild, escorting me here, there, and everywhere. Amerine was their star advisor! They had to carry me back to my group.