I recently combined my winemaking hobby with the reverence I have for my ancestors who served in the military. Specifically, I made a batch of wine as a tribute to my three great uncles who were fighting in World War I one hundred years ago. These uncles were Mel, Pat, and Arthur Brandt of Postville, Iowa, who fought as infantry soldiers with the United States Army in the battlefields of France. Mel and Pat served valiantly and then returned to Iowa to be respected as veterans of a hard-fought conflict. Art wasn’t as lucky, perishing in the battle of Meuse-Argonne in October of 1918, and being posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism.
Even though he died young, Art’s reputation in the extended Brandt family has always been larger than life. In 1921, the first male child to be born after Art had perished was given the middle name Arthur. In more recent times, I also gave the same middle name to a son. A carpenter by trade, Art possessed an impressive and well-stocked tool chest, which is still found in the family.
Because of the location of my great uncles during the war, I thought it would be fitting to go to my favorite local wine supply store and pick up a high-quality wine kit of French Merlot. Still a relative newcomer to the winemaking hobby (I was in my third year at that point), I was determined to give this batch my best effort to date in honor of my uncles.
I enjoyed making the wine, and enjoyed even more the rich aroma every time I worked with it. The highly observant notes I took during the process included, “Smells great”, and my favorite, “Continues to smell great.” After several sessions of working with the wine and taking detailed notes, I bottled the batch and affixed the labels, which bore the simple name of the wine — Doughboys. Although this name is slang for infantry soldiers of that time, I view that name with pride, knowing that my great uncles were anything but sons of privilege, and that they had thrust themselves into an adverse situation, persevering in the face of the enemy.
Four months after bottling, I examined the wine and found no sediment. There was nothing but clear, dark wine. I opened a bottle and was impressed by the rich aromas and smooth, medium-bodied taste.
I then started distributing the bottles to my siblings, children, nieces, and nephews. I told them how to store the bottles, and to be ready to toast our great uncles on October 18. Not only is this date one day after Uncle Art’s birthday, but it also marks the 100th anniversary of his death. Additionally, I provided pictures I had taken during a tour with my brother and daughter of the Postville American Legion Post, named for Art, of which Mel and Pat were charter members. Finally, I provided web links that told the story of how Art fell in battle, and I gave information about the cemetery in which he is interred.
As the bottles find their way to those who will participate in this remembrance, I look forward to being a part of the extended Brandt family who will raise a glass as a reverent toast to these three Brandt brothers, their sacrifices, and to our freedom they helped preserve. Cheers to Art and all the vets out there!