Your First Ah! Moment -- What bottle turned you into a wine fan?
Which bottle offered that magical sip that turned you from a casual wine drinker to a serious one? For me, it was in a little boutique wine shop in Pasadena. I was a poor college student but I did their wine flights as an alternative to going to the pub. The bottle that turned me into a serious wine drinker was a 1998 Domaine Font de Michelle from Chateauneuf du Pape. It was spicy and smoky and jammy and is still my measuring stick when drinking Rhone varietals. I could only afford one bottle at the time, but I kept seeing it on shelves at other wine shops for a few years afterward. I remember picking it up later (2002 at this point, I think) and it was like being re-introduced to a long lost friend.
So which bottle was it for you?
In 1976, I was living in Columbia, MO and had just been admitted to law school. I had been interested in wine a little bit, but had just started really educating myself in earnest. On a trip to a local liquor store, I found a case of magnums of '66 DucruBeaucaillou. Remembering that I'd seen it in the lists of Bordeaux crus, I examined furhter. The store, being an offshoot of a large grocery, liked to keep stock turning over, and since these hadn't sold, reduced the price to 17.99 per. I thought I'd take a flyer, even though that was a whole bunch of money to a starving student-to-be. Well, we fixed steaks and I don't remember what else, but that CDB was a revelation. I went back to the store and bought all 5 remaining bottles with my birthday money, and never looked back. We drank the last one in 99 and it was still pretty terrific.
Actually, I had two, within a month of each other. My wine guru, introduced me to a Taylor-Fladgate 20 Year Tawny Port. I though I knew port, and thought that I knew Taylor, but this was different. We’d always bought a gal. of Taylor California Cellars' “port,” to use as a base for our beach party punch, back in my "surfer" days. We’d usually throw in fresh seasonal fruit, a block of ice and add Rum and often soda water. Little did I know that there was Taylor and then there was Taylor [Fladgate & Yeatman]. Same with port. There is port, and then there is Port.
Within the month, we dined again with her and her hubby, at Victoria & Albert’s, at the Grand Floridian. I was having a Margarita, and she ordered a bottle of Vieux-Château-Certan, Pomerol. Since I had just spent the last few weeks learning all I could about Port, I had to try a glass of this wine. I put the Margarita aside and accepted a glass. It was quite interesting. A few sniffs and swirls and a taste or two indicated that I’d like this. As the conversation went on, and the first few courses cleared, I went back to my glass. It had changed! The black berry notes and smoky oak were now replaced by chocolate and cedar. I nursed that glass of wine all night, and marveled at how it changed in the glass, as the minutes ticked by. At that moment, I was hooked and could never look at a bottle of Lancer's or Mateus Rosé again. My wife still chastises this wonderful lady for creating Dr Frankstein’s monster in me. The moment that we returned from that Florida trip, the cellar was started, and I have never looked back. To this day, it’s still pretty heavy on Port and Bdx. Some years later, my wife *really* introduced me to white wines, which she loves, so at least the cellar is a bit more rounded now.
1988 Taurino Notarparano - This stuff was very popular with some friends of mine who were into wine back in college. They would purchase cases so their was lots of it around at parties and stuff so I drank quite a bit of it. It was during one of those times that I realized that wine wasn't supposed to be enjoyed like other beverages (i.e. cola, or punch) but that it could be appreciated almost like food is it being dry.
I was underage. A friend of a friend worked in a Berkely Wine store and had selected some wines for us to taste, probably my first official wine tasting. She poured a Cakebread Chardonnay circa 1980 and it was unlike any wine I had previously drank. And no, I had never tried Ripple or other similar rot. It was clear and clean and so refreshing in how it still stands out in my mind. I vowed then that if I ever had enough to dough to routinely spend such an enormous amount of money on wine (I think the bottle then cost $12), I would certainly stock up on Cakebread!
1) A Chalk Hill Chardonnay
2) An '85 Grahams Port
3) An 1980's something Caymus Special Selection (86?)
4) Some early 80's Chilean Cabs
5) An Amador County Late Harvest Zinfandel
6) A Guigal Cote Rotie
7) Some spanish riservas
these are inspiring early wine experiences I still recall today...