CONFESSIONS OF A WINE ENTHUSIAST
Having come from a family of teetotalers, I probably didn't have my first drink of wine until I graduated from college, unless you count the cheap Thunderbird we had after our last final each year. My first bottle ordered in a restaurant was an embarrassment. I'd taken French and knew how to pronounce Pouilly Fuisse, but I was so nervous I asked for a bottle of "Pussy Fwill." Most of the wait staff was doubled over with laughter. For a long time, I couldn't afford much. While in the army in Massachusetts, I developed a taste for Taylor's New York wines and their "foxy" taste. Returning to California and having a job, I found bargain wines at Trader Joe's or Grand Central Market downtown Los Angeles. A friend gave me a copy of the wine classic The Wines and Vineyards of France and inside inscribed it to me as "To the best friend of the vineyards." I devoured the book and started buying wines mentioned within.
After the divorce of my first marriage, I moved into a small house. It had a cellar and I was thrilled. One entered it from the backyard. It had a dirt floor and I bought some wine racks and started buying all kinds of foreign and domestic wines to age, including some top growth Bordeaux which in those days were not so expensive as they are today. Unfortunately, when the weather turned warm, so did the cellar. It was not that well protected from the elements. I was forced to consume everything I had in rapid fashion. Now, I had to simply buy wine as needed.
A godsend was a Christmas present from my wife, Joyce. It was an electric wine storage unit holding 350 bottles. By then, the children were our of the house and our finances were looking up. I began frequenting the best wine stores and stocking my storage unit with wines from France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany, and the U.S. I even got into buying futures. People began to look to me for wine advice. I became quite adept at matching food and wine.
When we moved to the Central Coast of California, we were within an hour of over 300 world class wineries in a relatively new and suddenly popular wine district, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. We became acquainted with several fine wineries and joined their clubs, adding a local flavor to my international collection.
Having done a lot of wine tasting at wineries here and at Napa Valley, I have to say that there are a lot of obnoxious wine snobs. They tend to dominate the conversation with those who pour the wine, often ad nauseum. Like the experts, they come up with all the terms for what they think they are tasting, hints of tobacco or pencil shavings or strawberries or grass or licorice. I'm not that good. I tend to be one to say good or bad, strong or weak, delicate or overpowering. I had one funny experience. The pourer at a winery I was familiar with was filling my glass with a red blend. He asked me if I could tell what grapes were in the blend. I knew what grapes grew in the vineyards so I said, "I taste some cabernet, zinfandel, merlot, and syrah." The went almost orgasmic and screamed out loud, "My God what a palate!" He rushed all over the building looking for the winemaker, so he could introduce him to this genius who had in reality just taken an educated guess. This whole discussion is making me thirsty.