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From Memphis with Love

Tastings are a node of our digital city.


Under the warm Memphis in May sunshine, I stood on a platform, leaning on a rail under the merciful shade of a giant structure.

Across an expansive green lawn, I see event structures, some of them two and three stories high. All have their themes. I think one even had a bouncy castle. 

But the event at our tent was something that had never been done in the city.

The StartCo Hospitality Tent. 

It was a 14-bottle natural and ancient wine tasting, curated especially for the guests of our hosts, Start Co. I see the Chairman & CEO, Eric Mathews, and Jillian Friot, one of the impresarios building Orbit, the leading open source community-building platform, climb up the stairs to the second story of the event structure.

We are all buzzing with anticipation. Cornelius McGrath, founder of Everyday Entrepreneur and my co-conspirator, is precision pouring the first selections into the Start Co. branded glasses.

I was getting into the zone.

Pour me a glass, or 30. 

I picked up a bottle of a selection I was going to present. It was from Puglia, sometimes spelt Apulia, and pronounced a-POO-lia, with stress on the second syllable. I dunked my hand in the cooler, grabbed the bottle, and pulled it out.

The sound of the crunching ice was a refreshment unto itself. “a-POO-lia,” I said under my breath as I recalled what I had gathered from last night’s reading. “No POO-lia, a-POO-lie.” I put the bottle down on the table and uncorked it. I love the first smell of a freshly opened bottle. It can be dangerously therapeutic. You close your eyes, imagine a place, maybe “a-POO-lia”, inhale and wait for the volatile compounds hit your olfactory nerve. I like my mind to be as straightforward as possible because I try to be conscious of the absolute first thought that my brain registers due to this neurochemical alchemy. 

Wines at the perfect temperature.

I bring the bottle down from my nose, the Primitivo from Apulia and my mind goes to the amphora that transported wine in ships across the Mediterranean. I wonder how a freshly opened clay pot of Egyptian ritual wine would have smelled. Wine served an enormous array of purposes for the cultures of the Mediterranean basin.

In the Valley of the Kings, Tutankhamun was buried with a massive wine cellar with wines to help keep the Pharaoh. Sealed clay jars were graded as “sweet” or “very good” wine. There was even “wine for taxes.”

Unfortunately, you couldn’t avoid taxes in ancient Egypt, even in death. And, of course, you would not give the state your best stuff, so you gave them “Tax wine”, which probably tasted as good as it sounds. King Tut was also provided wine that was “for merrymaking.” Perhaps for use after finding out he still had to pay taxes.

Our guests having the time of their lives.

Thankfully for us in Memphis, tax wine was the furthest thing from our minds. After the third pour, the wine tasting began to run, and I got to know our guests.

You rarely discuss natural wine and medical device startups, Blues music, real estate tech, and Moroccan wine. That was just a highlight of what I experienced. Multiply that experience, however, across the 28 other people who shared their stories, ideas, collaborations, and phone numbers, and things get non-linear. This is how you transform a wine tasting into a node in a project to build a digital city.

I remember one of the last bottles, a pétillant natural, fizzed over and temporarily made the place look like an F1 podium. That is how much that space was buzzing. This was undoubtedly the best event at the “Olympics of BBQ” in 2022. 

Making history with natural vino.

Ancient Memphis was the centre of the world.

It was the axis around which the world turned. Its people collaborated, celebrated, and had their barbecues. In today’s Memphis, innovation continues. A city on a massive river surrounded by fertile plains, a central node in global trade, exceptional hospitality, even better music, a group of talented people creating the products of the future, and enough wine to make it all happen.

Come to Memphis and feel the love. 

Othman is a PT based in Memphis. 

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