WINE AND I
It's amazing that growing up in a family of teetotalers, I became a wine enthusiast and collector. I'm not certain where it started. Certainly not in college when alcohol had no other purpose than getting totally wasted. There used to be this cheap wine called Thunderbird you could buy for around a dollar. It was our go to during finals. I don't know what kind of grapes they used, if they used grapes at all, but it did the job, got you totally drunk. In fact, in the morning, you could drink a glass of water and get drunk all over again. It must have had something to do with food, since after graduation we frequented a lot of restaurants. I do recall the first time I ordered wine in a restaurant. It was at a French bistro in Hollywood called Cafe de Paris. As I perused the wine list, I came across an exotic sounding wine, Pouilly Fuisse and decided to order it. I had taken French and knew how to pronounce it, but I was awfully nervous when the waiter took my order. I said "We'll have a bottle of Pussy Fwille." He almost collapsed with laughter and obviously shared it with the rest of the wait staff because they all spent the rest of the evening looking my way and giggling. More importantly, I liked it.
At the beginning of my wine education, I didn't have a lot of money, so I relied on bargains at places like Trader Joe's. I also loved going to Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Among the butcher shops, produce departments, and fish mongers, was a liquor stall which had unusual wines from Yugoslavia, Hungary, and other unexpected locales. They were cheap and I tried them all. I had come to love wine so much, that a friend bought me the classic "Vineyards and Wines of France," which I read over and over, deciding which wines would be in my future. A number of trips to Napa Valley played a crucial role in my education. My wife and I were given a personal tour and private tasting with Robert Mondavi when his winery had just opened. There wasn't a lot of traffic in Napa at the time and wine tasting was free instead of the heavy cost nowadays. At Beaulieu, we were the only ones in the tasting room and our cabernets were poured by the legendary Russian wine expert who we later read so much about.
The coup de grace came when my wife bought me a 300 bottle storage unit which I filled with wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, Spain, the USA, and Australia. I've been collecting and tasting ever since as well as preparing meals to match the wines. When we moved from Southern California to Morro Bay, we were nestled into the growing wine regions of Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. We've probably visited at least half the 300 plus wineries, all within an hour of our home, and made relationships with several of our favorite wineries. Was it Thomas Jefferson who said, "A day without wine is a day without sunshine?"
Perhaps it was. I would prefer to say that after books and music, wine and good food are at the top of the things in life I look forward to and probably couldn't live without.