Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Winey Tasting Notes: Bully For My Firstie & Ring Weekend at West Point

As many of you may know, I am the Winey Mom of a West Point Cadet. GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY! (Sorry, that phrase is actually required of us once a day. Especially now that college football season is upon us.) Well, lo and behold, the time has flown by and now the Winey Cadet is a Firstie (or senior) at West Point. This is a wonderful thing for the Cadets. They get to wear a cool red sash, they get passes almost every weekend, they have their own bar (The Firstie Club) and right at the beginning of the academic year, they get their class rings.

Now you might ask why I am about to write about my son taking a ring out of a box and slipping it on his finger. But wait...this is a West Point class ring and there is so much more to it than that.  Let's start with the fact that each year, West Point graduates or their families donate their old rings to the "Ring Melt". It's part of the Ring Memorial Program and what it means is that each new ring that goes on a Firstie's finger contains a bit of gold from his or her brothers and sisters of past graduating years. So my son and his classmates are able to "grips hands" with those that went before them into The Long Grey Line. This year the 36 class rings donated range in class years from 1976 all the way back to 1914. Those rings were melted down along with a sample from all the years of ring melts and mixed into the gold used to make the Class of 2014 rings.

West Point Class of  2014 Ring Ceremony
The Ring Ceremony at Trophy Point
Then there is the whole significance of Ring Weekend. That's right I said "weekend". Because although putting that ring on takes about a nanosecond in Cadet time, there is an entire weekend dedicated to celebrating the fact that they've made it to Firstie year. The first ring weekend was held in 1835, so there is a bit of history to back this up. Each Firstie designs his own ring (the stone, the embellishments) but every ring worn by a Cadet and Grad has 5 elements on it: the Class Motto (2014: Forever One Team), class year, an eagle, a cadet with officer saber and the American Flag.

The rings are handed out on what this year turned out to be a gorgeous Hudson Valley evening. I absolutely cannot describe to you what I felt as the Firsties marched in, shining in their India White uniforms, to the Ring Ceremony. (Really, I can't..rarely do words fail me, but this time, they did. Let's just say I was glad I wore waterproof mascara and leave it there.) The ceremony is held at Trophy Point, overlooking the Hudson River (and one of my all time favorite views, anywhere).  Hundreds of family and friends looked on as the rings were handed out to each Firstie. And then it was class dismissed and let the fun begin!!
West Point Cadets wearing India Whites, Ring Ceremony
Some random, yeah, "random" Firsties march in
The Cadets run up to their families to show off the bling and take pictures. Most of them then went back to their barracks to change into civilian clothes (another Firstie perk) and head out to dinner with their families. BUT first, they had to get through Ring Poop. This is when the lowly Plebes (freshmen) rush the newly ringed Firsties (and by rush I mean mob), reciting this lovely poem:

"Oh my god, sir! What a beautiful ring! What a crass mass of brass and glass!
What a bold mold of rolled gold! What a cool jewel
you got from your school! See how it sparkles and shines?
It must have cost you a fortune!
May I touch it, may I touch it please sir?

West Point Ring West Point Mother's Ring Pendant
The RING and the pendant
I wasn't able to actually see my Cadet's Ring Poop, mostly because the Plebes were crowded into the portico to his room...a massive mob of grey and white....and the Firsties were swallowed up in it as they went through. (There is a close up video of the Winey Son taken by one of my braver friends, but I will refrain from sharing it since I love my Firstie. Plus,  I have a healthy fear of his revenge.) I will share the picture of my Mother's pendant, though. Firsties can choose matching rings, pendants, cuff links and tie tacks to give as gifts. I was not subtle in my desire for one.

The weekend culminates the next evening at the Ring Banquet. Full dress, black tie. It's held in Washington Hall, aka The Cadet Mess Hall. Washington Hall is anything but a mess though. It is a stunning cathedral of wood and flags and murals (think Hogwarts dining room, but without the pointy hats and magic). It feeds the entire Corps of Cadets (about 4,000) on a daily basis all at once, so we're talking HUGE here. But this night was all the Firsties and their guests!

West Point Ring Weekend 2014 wine glasses and bottle
We got wine glasses too!

There was a similar formal dinner held back when our Cadets were Plebes. You only get one Parent Weekend at West Point, and it's held Plebe year, right before spring break. It too, is formal but there is one big difference. Now that they are Firsties (and all 21 or older)...there is WINE at the Ring Banquet!!!!

Took a while to get to the wine, didn't it? Sorry about that, but I had to give you all the lead in as to why this is such a momentous occasion on which to sip!

The wine that was chosen to serve that night was, very appropriately, a New York Finger Lakes wine.
It comes from Bully Hill Vineyards and is called Goat White (NV, 11%, New York). For those of you who are familiar with West Point, I'll pause here for you to chuckle. For those of you who aren't, allow me to explain: At West Point The Goat is the Cadet who graduates with the absolute lowest class rank. Bottom of the barrel er, wine bottle, I guess. I can hear you now: "They announce this? How mean, how horrible." Ah, but wait: every member of a graduating class gives one dollar to The Goat, making that graduate about $1,000 richer at the end of the day. (I might add that being The Goat has no bearing on your career prospects after graduation: General George A. Custer was the Class of 1861 Goat, and he turned out okay.) Hence the giggles over the choice of Goat White. Each bottle was also labelled with a commemorative Ring Weekend label featuring the class crest. You bet I've got a few of them in the house right now!

Bully Hill Vineyards Goat White wine
Goat White
OK, wine review starts here. Goat White (a blend of Seyval Blanc and Vidal Bland) is neither sweet nor dry. It sort of lands right in the middle, especially if it's served very chilled (kind of hard that night, given that the historic mess hall is not air conditioned). The nose is full of light fruity flowers- think apple blossoms - very summery. Given that, I thought it would be a sweeter wine, but there was some green apple and some tart citrus that brought it over to the semi-dry side. It had soft feel to it. Not big and plush soft, more like a soft cottony feel. Very fresh and a little crisp. It was served with chicken Marsala and was a nice light pairing with the meal.

This is a great all around wine. Perfect for your next banquet for 3,000 people because it balanced perfectly between the "we like 'em dry" and "we like 'em sweet" wine camps. Oh wait, you're not going to have a banquet for 3,000 anytime soon? Buy it anyway. It really is a lovely, flavorful wine to drink alone or with a meal. Or with your Firstie as you realize that the little boy that stole your heart the minute he was born is now a leader at the finest military academy in the world. (BEAT NAVY!)  In 9 short months he will be commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army and move on to the next phase of his life.

But that night at West Point, he was still my baby.

Cheers to the West Point Class of 2014!

Pin It

1 comment:

  1. Wonderfully written... took me right back to the weekend. Congrats to your cadet (and of course to you).


Your comment will appear as soon as it is verified! Cheers!