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The "Ah-ha!" Moment


Joe Riley
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It occured to me today that one of the moments that I truly find rewarding in my job is when I can help a customer to discover what I call that "Ah-ha!" moment, that moment where someone tastes a new type of wine, or takes a chance on a wine that they've never heard of before and has that little vinous epiphany where a door that they never knew existed opens for them, and a gorgeous ray of elightened understanding comes through and they say to themselves, "Damn, this is really great stuff!" (or words to that effect).

We've all had them. Maybe it was the first great red Burgundy that you drank, or some Rhône wine that turned your head, or a truly majestic Riesling that took your breath away.

Someone just posted the other day about a 1900 Margaux and a 1961 Latour tasted with friends at Marcel's (please forgive me, I don't have their name handy, but it was a great post). I can remember my first Austrian white wines, and some 1996 German Rieslings and Chablis that electrified every synapse in my brain.

I'd like to see some folks post about their own favorite "Ah-ha!" moments with wine.

This shouldn't be a thread about bragging or (*shudder*) "wine-upmanship", but simply some personal reminiscences of some wine drinking experiences that allowed for a personal wine epiphany, reminding you just why you enjoy the wine experience so much.

Tell me some of yours and I'll tell you some of mine :lol:

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On Friday evening I will be at a wine bar in Vienna. At this same wine bar a year ago I tasted a cheap Austrian red called "Goldberg's." It was about ten Euros a bottle. I had never had a decent Austrian red before. White, dessert, etc. yes. Most definitely, but never a red. I drank two, maybe three glasses while quietly watching the owner make a tomato based pasta sauce from scratch behind the counter, occasionally pouring a glass or two of wine for a customer. Peaceful, a respite from a business trip I really liked that Austrian red. At least at that moment. I brought six bottles back and drank my last a week ago thinking about the upcoming trip. I probably wouldn't buy it if it were sold here (for $20?). But in Vienna with a foot of snow outside on a cold, quiet night in a warm room it was damn good.

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It occured to me today that one of the moments that I truly find rewarding in my job is when I can help a customer to discover what I call that "Ah-ha!" moment, that moment where someone tastes a new type of wine, or takes a chance on a wine that they've never heard of before and has that little vinous epiphany where a door that they never knew existed opens for them, and a gorgeous ray of elightened understanding comes through and they say to themselves, "Damn, this is really great stuff!" (or words to that effect).

We've all had them.  Maybe it was the first great red Burgundy that you drank, or some Rhône wine that turned your head, or a truly majestic Riesling that took your breath away.

Someone just posted the other day about a 1900 Margaux and a 1961 Latour tasted with friends at Marcel's (please forgive me, I don't have their name handy, but it was a great post).  I can remember my first Austrian white wines, and some 1996 German Rieslings and Chablis that electrified every synapse in my brain.

I'd like to see some folks post about their own favorite "Ah-ha!" moments with

wine.

Tell me some of yours and I'll tell you some of mine  :lol:

In the early 70's, we drank Boone's Farm Apple Wine. Lots of it. I was a waiter in college. One night in 1976, a friend and I decided split a bottle of 70 Lafite Rothschild for a whopping $25! (Boone's Farm cost $12 a case at the time) I never drank Boone's Farm again.

In the 80's when I worked at Jean-Louis at the Watergate, we had 18 bottles of Mouton-Rothschild 1945. I tasted 14 of them. It's everything it's cracked up to be.

The single most breath-taking Burgundy I ever had was a 1949 Latricieres-Chambertin from Faiveley. These were my first wine epiphanies.

Edited by Mark Slater
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When 2941 opened a few years back I really knew nothing about wines,(not that I do now). Francois (of the Culinary Institue in Bethesda) who was acting as Manager and Sommeiller at the time, introduced me to many wines((I was there quite often their first few months). I have always loved Foie Gras Poele but when he paired it with a Sauterne for me, I was sure that was what heaven was like. That certainly was an Aha moment for me.

Edited by RaisaB
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Mark, one of my greatest culinary regrets is that I never once was in the position to enjoy a dinner at Jean Louis. In its heydey, JL was well beyond my means and by the time I could actually consider making a dinner reservation there, it had rung down the curtains for the last time.

You got to enjoy wines that weren't just great, they were legendary, historical triumphs. What wonderful moments those must have been. Great post!

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When 2941 opened a few years back I really knew nothing about wines,(not that I so now).  Francois (of the Culinary Institue in Bethesda) who was acting as Manager and Sommeiller at the time introduced me to many wines((I was there quite often there first few months). I have always loved Foie Gras Poele but when he paired it with a Sauterne for me, I was sure that was what heaven was like. That certainly was an Aha moment ofrme.

Raisa, I know exactly what you mean. One birthday several years ago, I had the pleasure of Todd Gray making me a special dinner at Equinox. One of the dishes was a black truffle torte stuffed with fois gras, and they paired it with a Maculan Torcolato dessert wine.

Now, I was no stranger to dessert wines, but this qualifies as possibly one of the greatest wine/food pairings I could ever possibly imagine. I'm talking total "wine-gasm" here. It was absolute heaven.

I STILL haven't made it to 2941 yet either :-(

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When my husband and I moved to Los Angeles in 1976, we took a trip up to Napa Valley. We had been living in Vermont, in a group house with others in their early and mid-twenties, and pretty much all we could afford to drink was Gallo Hearty Burgundy and Narragansett Porter. And we drank a lot of both.

In Napa Valley, we got a recommendation for a restaurant in Yountville, from the owner of the motel we were staying in. It was in an old stone building, we were just about the only diners in there. We were told that it had once been a French laundry... this was many years before Thomas Keller.

They had a prix fixe dinner that we ordered--split pea soup, some roast pork and sauteed cherry tomatoes, as I recall. Don't remember what the dessert was. We asked for a wine recommendation, since they didn't have Lancer's, Mateus or Blue Nun on the wine list. The waiter brought us a bottle of 1973 Stag's Leap Petite Sirah, a grape I'd never heard of. It was rich and intense and I felt as if I had been kicked between the eyes. Suddenly, I understood what all the fuss was about--why people were passionate about wine. When we went home to Los Angeles, I immediately tracked down a case of the 73 SL PS (it was about $3.50 a bottle IIRC). And I signed up for a subscription to Connoisseur's Guide to California Wines.

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Zora, that's an awesome story :lol: When Stag's Leap Winery Petite Syrah is on, baby it is ON! All too often it's on restaurant allocation but we get a bit of it from time to time.

Incidentally, my sister has bought me a subscription to CGCW for almost 20 years now I think. I like the way they review, and Paul Forrester, the General Manager of Bonny Doon Vineyards one told me precisely how Olken and Singer go about their reviewing process. In short, it is VERY thorough and involves tasting over the course of an entire evening and retasting each wine at least twice, including with food. If they are high on a wine, it is usually very credible. If they are not, it is usually with very good reason, but their COMMENTS are much more important than their star system, and one really misses out if they just look to see if a wine got 1, 2 or 3 stars. The comments are invaluable.

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2003 was a nightmarishly bad year for wine in much of Europe. Incredible, stifling, extreme heat approaching 40 Celsius played cruel and unanticipated tricks with a lot of wine. Near Verona, in Cellore, the reds were almost unapproachably sweet. Valpolicella, amarone-disappointments abounded from all producers. Yet, one wine-the greatest sweet wine I have ever tasted, is the 2003 Dal Forno Recioto from the barrel. In early December Romano agreed that this is his best ever. In five or so years when it is released it may be the most difficult, the most storied of all to find anywhere. As many hope there will never be another summer like that, there may never be another Recioto like this.

It is also the only wine that he makes that his wife drinks.

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In 1993, I was working at Todd English's short-lived restaurant on Martha's Vineyard. A staff tasting was the first time I ever tried a Shiraz. If memory serves me right, this was a Rosemount (back when it was still a good wine). Blew my effing socks off. I've been a Shiraz addict ever since.

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It is so difficult to pin down just one “Ah-ha” moment, I keep having them. The 1900 Margaux, and 1961 LaTour were fabulous, but I would not call them “Ah-ha” moment, they were special, they were memorable, but since I already love Bordeaux’s, and especially 1st growths that other people are paying for it did not give me any add insight into wine, or act as some sort of epiphany.

I had spent my life drinking crappy beer, and fermented grape juice unworthy of the name wine. On my first visit to my mother-in-law’s house I had my eye’s open to quaffable and enjoyable wines. It was not that many years ago, it was 1998, and I can remember the first three wines that I had at her house. The first was a bottle of Deutz NV. I know there are many better non-vintage Champagnes to be found, but when the only champagne I had to that point was White Star, it was a true revelation as to what Champagne had in store for me (I should also note, that at that time it had a drier blend than it does today).

The second bottle was a simple bottle of Gavi. My only real experience had been with the crappy box, jug, or cheap bottles of white wine my parents had around their house. This tasted nothing like any white wine I had ever had. It was crisp yet flavorful, unlike the Chateau St. Michelle Rieslings that I had suffered through, this was not sweet in anyway. I have since found that when done properly, Gavi’s can be one of the brightest, most refreshing wines around, but when done poorly, they can be some of the worst wines around.

The third bottle was an inexpensive bottle of Portuguese wine that came wrapped in canvas. I have no idea exactly what the wine was, but it outshone the insipid Beaujolais that I have been drinking to that point. This wine had body, and flavors, it was a hearty wine that screamed in my face what I had been missing. I have never pursued Portuguese wines, and I think that it might be because I want to keep the memory of that wine intact.

This perked my interest in wines. I happened upon a small wine shop in Glover Park, and at the time they had half of the wall space dedicated to Champagnes. The other half was made-up of mostly Rhones. A young sales guy named David (he now is the national sales rep for Epicurious Wines) steered me towards a bottle of 1994 Vieux Telegraph Chateauneauf du Pape. With this bottle I started to understand why French wines were so sought after, I did not know how they compared to a fine Bordeaux, or Burgundy, but on its own it delivered a resounding argument for someone to love French wines. Unlike the way I have tried to cherish the memory of the Portuguese wine, with my first Rhone, I began to seek them out and to explore what they can offer.

It is the prevalence of the “Ah-ha” moments that make wine so interesting to me, whether they be the simple, like drinking a bottle over several hours to see how it changes in the decanter, or the not-so-simple like the first time I ever tasted d’Yquem, or my first 1st growth (Haut Brion Blanc). The minute it all becomes boring and predictable, I will go back to drinking cheap beer.

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I'm just going to list wines right now, in what I remember to be the order in which they provided me with "a-ha" moments. Each built on the previous ones to give me a new lens in which to view the world of wine. The spread of these is over about seven years:

1990 Chateau Lagrange St.-Julien

1991 Ridge Geyserville

Krug NV (a bottle cellared for 4-5 years)

1995 Lafon Montrachet

1976 Grange

1976 Brundlmayer Beerenauslese Eiswein [sic]

1959 Chateau Montrose St.-Estephe

1983 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Kabinett

1986 Chateau Couhins-Lurton Graves blanc

1985 Cantalupo Ghemme

1959 Huet Le Haut-Lieu Vouvray Demi-sec

1996 O. Raffault Chinon Les Picasses

1998 Franck Peillot, Montagnieu Altesse de Bugey "Cuvee Buster"

2000 Domane Wachau Riesling TBA

1991 Dal Forno Valpolicella

1964 Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva Speciale

2001 Muratie Merlot (the wine that got me into the business)

1935 Bouchard Beaune-Greves "Vigne de L'Enfant Jesus"

2000 Chateau d'Arlay Corail (rose)

1997 Chateau d'Arlay Vin Jaune

The common thread through almost all of these, is that I didn't pay a cent for the privilege. Through the kindness of others, I've had my horizons expanded a millionfold and my knowledge of and respect for the intricacy of both wine and its underlying processes enhanced immeasurably.

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I have a distinct recollection of my "ah ha" moment with wine. When I was a senior in high school, I drank too much Annie Green Springs soda pop wine one evening and swore I would never drink wine again. I managed to avoid the stuff throughout my college years. When I was in my 1st year of law school in 1978, the class was required to particiate in a moot court event and after it was over, a bunch of my classmates and I decided to go out to dinner. I ordered a steak and the guy sitting next to me asked if I wanted to split a bottle of wine. After some cajoling, I agreed. He ordered a bottle of BV cabernet. I can recall to this day how that wine tasted with the steak I ate. My wine boycott officially ended that evening.

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When I was 9 until I was 16, my brother lived in India and Nepal. He finally returned to the US and my father took him out to dinner at Scandia, then one of the reigning find dining restaurants in LA. My brother ordered a bottle of 1966 Haut Brion. Up till hten my wine experience went as far as Concord Grape wines every Fridfay night, Ginnestet white bordeaux sec, and a couple of bottles of California wines an older friend turned me onto: Pedroncelli Cabernet and Heitz Chardonnay. The 66 HB stunned me and convinced me to make wine a major facet of my life!

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I remember the moment well. I was at Mendocino Grill and I had a 1998 Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Pinot with a roasted salmon dish that sent me into this fiduciarily irresponsible hobby of collecting wine.

I had another recent Ah hahh moment while having dinner at Marcel's with a 1991 Domaine Leroy Richebourg and veal cheeks.

Edited by Chris W
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hi joe,

nice idea...mine was a moment at a tiny restaurant in Luxembourg and moved me to explore getting into the wine biz...it was la mission 1948 in 1980...they had only 8 bottles left and they allowed me to reserve them for future dinners! none left now, believe me....it was especially sweet since the 1948 Bordeaux reviews were not very good. their lose and my gain....funny, i can still taste it!

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Wow - so many wonderful Ah Ha! moments. It's truly amazing how many people accurately recall their Ah Ha's. This has given me a fabulous idea for an article.

So I might as well share mine. It was the early 90's (well before I was writing about wines) and I was invited over to a friend's house for dinner to meet his new law firm partner. Jim was/is a serious collector and was/is very proud of his cellar. I confessed to Jim that I just did not get this obsession with wine - I mean, it's just grape juice gone bad, for goodness sakes.

So he pulled out a bottle of 1981 Beaucastel CDP to enjoy with the roast leg of lamb that he had prepared. He poured my wife, Cindy (who was also ambivalent about this whole wine thing), a glass and started to pour a separate glass for me. I politely stopped him and pointed out that Cindy and I would share a glass... that's when I looked over at my wife and saw this expression of child-like amazement on her face.

She reached over, gently put her hand on my arm and whispered, "you'd better get your own glass."

I remember the first sip vividly. It was like drinking liquid velvet. I said to our host, "I would drink wine if wine tasted like this!"

He replied, literally, "ah ha!"

As a side note, I had the good fortune to retry the 1981 Beaucastel two weeks ago from a rare 3 liter bottle (at Jim's house, no less). I am not sure if it is because the wine ages better in large format or if my palate was simply romanticizing, but it still gave me chills and an "Ah Ha" for good measure all over again.

Scott

Edited by vineguy
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Mine was in 1984; I was 17 and my experience with wine was limited to sips of Gallo Hearty Burgundy at family dinners, and too much Boone's farm at parties. We were on a family vacation in Atlantic City, staying at Caesars Palace. My dad had a good run at Baccarat and ordered a bottle of Le Montrachet at dinner one night. It was presented with great ceremony which fascinated me, and the wine..my God the WINE. I'd never tasted anything like it then, and have never been able to afford it since.

No recollection of the vintage but we have a picture taken of us that night with it on the table...maybe I can make out the year if I look closely. :lol:

Edited by Heather
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Mine is a bit different as it does not involve the memory of tasting wine, but a memory realizing what reverence some people put into collecting and tasting wine. I was a very luckly ten-year old in that my presence in the world coincided with my dad getting a job at the UN in Vienna. He was (is) a committed francophile who took every opportunity to take our vacations in France, with the Michelin Red guide as our tour planner. Sufice to say I went to many restaurants (of the trois etoile variety) that I will never again be able to afford.

One Christmas found us at the Tour d'Argent in Paris. I remember being unimpressed by their specialty duck. However, at the end of the meal my father asked for a wine cellar tour. He and I took a cramped elevator down to this world-famous cellar. The look on my father's face as he peered over the bottles, many from pre-1900, was sheer joy. Already interested in history, I could see that these bottles represeneted alot more than just grape juice. Although it took years for my palete to catch up with my brain, this was the moment I realized wine was something very special.

In case you missed it

Edited by DCMark
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Mine is a bit different as it does not involve the memory of tasting wine, but a memory realizing what reverence some people put into collecting and tasting wine.  I was a very luckly ten-year old in that my presence in the world coincided with my dad getting a job at the UN in Vienna.  He was (is) a committed francophile who took every opportunity to take our vacations in France, with the Michelin Red guide as our tour planner.  Sufice to say I went to many restaurants (of the trois etoile variety) that I will never again be able to afford.

One Christmas found us at the Tour d'Argent in Paris.  I remember being unimpressed by their specialty duck.  However, at the end of the meal my father asked for a wine cellar tour.  He and I took a cramped elevator down to this world-famous cellar.  The look on my father's face as he peered over the bottles, many from pre-1900, was sheer joy.  Already interested in history, I could see that these bottles represeneted alot more than just grape juice.  Although it took years for my palete to catch up with my brain, this was the moment I realized wine was something very special. 

In case you missed it

you reminded me of my last visit to Tour d'Argent in the early 80's when i was served a bottle of Bordeaux that was corked...when i asked to have it replaced it was as if i had committed a crime! i had 3 or 4 try to convince me that i was mistaken and that the wine was perfect...my French was not the best and i was being tested big time...

i di not get invited to the cellar! tant pis!

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I thought I'd add a few a-ha experiences of single bottles that changed my drinking habbits or just ahve been stunning wines...

From the 70's...

My first Ridge Montebello Cabernet 1974 of which I still have one precious bottle)

Ridge Petite Sirah (1972 all sadly drunk up!)

Ridge Geyserville (1974)

Chatueau St Jean Chardonnay 1976 Bacigalupi Vineyard

Mayacamas Cabernet 1970 and 1966

Heitz Chardonnay Z-91

Phelps 1975 SLH Riesling (TBA Style)

Forster Jesuitengarten Forsmeister Geltz 1976 Auslese

Hoccheimer Domdechaney 1976 Auslese Domaine Wernerches

Conn Creek 1974 Cabernet

From the 1980's...

Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer

Doro Princic Tocai Friulano

Ronco del Gnemiz Tocai Friulano

Iron Horde Wedding Cuvee 1985 (served at our wedding out of extended aged on the yeast magnums)

Calera Pinot Noir Jensen 1986

Zilliken Geltz Saarberger Rausch 1983 Auslese and Icewein

From the 1990's...

Agostina Pieri 1995 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

Macarini Barolo Brunate 1989 or 90

Iron Horse Benchmark and Cabernet Franc 1997

Albert Mann Gewurztraminer 1997

From the 2000's...

Cantina di Terlano "Lunaie" Gewurztraminer

Abbazia di Novacella "Lagrein Praepositus"

Poggio Gallardo "Vel Aules" Toscano rosso

Cerbaiona Rosso 2000

Dal Forno Romano Amarone 2000 and 2001 barrel sample

Quintarelli Valpolicella 1995

Milleuna Sharayar Primitivo di Salento 2001

Paolo Cordero Barolo 1997 Ginnestra

Ridge 1985 Cabernet York Creek

Mayacamas Cabernet 1974

Costanti Brunello Riserva 1997, Brunello Normale 2001

Edited to add more wines!

Edited by deangold
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Was it an "ah-HAH" moment or simply an "aaaahh"? Not sure. But a friend of mine bought a case of Heitz Angelica, which was available only at the tasting room in Napa Valley, and gave us a couple of bottles. It was a solera method dessert wine. Un-freaking incredible stuff. Caramel, orange blossom, honey, figs, apricots and spices. Thick and syrupy and went down like warm velvet. The nose, by itself made you swoon. We doled it out by the thimbleful to make it last. A few years later, we were in Napa and stopped by the Heitz tasting room. They had stopped making it. Quel domage!

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Was it an "ah-HAH" moment or simply an "aaaahh"? Not sure. But a friend of mine bought a case of Heitz Angelica, which was available only at the tasting room in Napa Valley, and gave us a couple of bottles. It was a solera method dessert wine. Un-freaking incredible stuff. Caramel, orange blossom, honey, figs, apricots and spices. Thick and syrupy and went down like warm velvet. The nose, by itself made you swoon. We doled it out by the thimbleful to make it last. A few years later, we were in Napa and stopped by the Heitz tasting room. They had stopped making it. Quel domage!

Zora, sometimes I'm convinced that winegrowers have something of a sadistic streak to them as they seem to enjoy breaking our hearts. What a shame, I never knew that about Heitz.

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My Ah Ha moment was when I was 19 but I didn't do anything about it until later in life.

When I was a sophomore in college I went to the Univ. of Copenhagen for a semester. One of my professors at Whittier asked me to carry two bottles of the '68 GDL to a friend of his. I was glad to and delivered them at the Univ. The friend turned out to be one of the more important newscaster/commentators in Denmark and was teaching one of the classes I took. While I was in Copenhagen, he and his wife invited me and a couple of other students to dinner at this house three or four times. There were always three or four other people there, mostly political and diplomatic types. At every dinner he served lots and lots of food and and conversation and lots of great wines, mostly second and third growths from the 50s and 60s. I had never been exposed to wine before and these were facinating. But to be sitting and listening to the conversation and drinking them with people who were, to say the least, somewhat intimidating in their lofty station above that of mine, was an experience that I treasure. They spent hours and hours those nights arguing politics and economics and what ever else they wanted; and they talked about the wine.

Alas, as a poor student, I only drank what I could afford and not much of that. It wasn't until about 15 years later that I started seriously buying and drinking better wines.

Edited by dinwiddie
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Dinwiddie, that is a GREAT story, thanks for sharing it with us.

Did you have any of that '68 Georges de Latour? '68 was a watershed vintage for that wine, and other top Calironia Cabernets if I remember my reading correctly.

I can only imagine what other great wines were enjoyed that evening.

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Did you have any of that '68 Georges de Latour?  '68 was a watershed vintage for that wine, and other top Calironia Cabernets if I remember my reading correctly.

I have had several opportunities to drink the 1968 BV GDL. It was an amazing wine but it softened fairly young and was overshadowed byt he 1966 and 1970 by the early 80's. My greatest california cabernet tasting was at the 11th Heubline wine auctioni n Chicago, where not only did I pick up on an older woman (married etc but what fun!) and I got to taste 1941 BV Cabernet, 1960-1970 Private reserve as well as 29 and 28 Latour all in one day. Plus a sip of Lanerth from the 1870's and 1890 Margaux which was unbelievable! I forgot about that day until you mentioned the '68! Well not the older lady part... Some aha's are more indelible than others!

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Dinwiddie, that is a GREAT story, thanks for sharing it with us.

Did you have any of that '68 Georges de Latour?  '68 was a watershed vintage for that wine, and other top Calironia Cabernets if I remember my reading correctly.

I can only imagine what other great wines were enjoyed that evening.

The GDL was a little young to drink, remember this was 1972, and they were intended as a gift to the professor's cellar from his friend. We drank some great wines, but to be honest, I couldn't tell you what they were other than the fact that they tended to be 2nd and 3rd growth Bordeaux or 1st Cru Burgandys. I was much more facinated by the company at dinner, since they tended to be high level diplomats (the American ambassidor to Denmark was there one night) and newspeople. As students we were invited with the proviso that we kept quiet and listened unless invited into the conversation. We were honored just to be invited since he only invited his best students.

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I don't see any stories of epiphanies from our esteemed host.

I know a little about his early wine-drinking years from a chance encounter with him at Palena one evening (where I had an enjoyable enophilian epiphany of my own thanks to one of his buddies-- though I don't remember the name of the wine other than it was waaaay beyond my budget), but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we'd like to read an "ah-ha!" from him.

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I don't see any stories of epiphanies from our esteemed host.

I know a little about his early wine-drinking years from a chance encounter with him at Palena one evening (where I had an enjoyable enophilian epiphany of my own thanks to one of his buddies-- though I don't remember the name of the wine other than it was waaaay beyond my budget), but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we'd like to read an "ah-ha!" from him.

I'll second that.
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As I scroll through this thread I am listening to Wolfman Jack on XM with the Diamonds crooning The Stoll, a song that I first heard over forty years ago when a girl friend drank Cold Duck and I swilled Blue Nun at the Queens Chapel Drive In. Seventeen years later I danced to The Stroll at Jukebox Saturday Night then, a new club in Chicago's Old Town, returning to a table where my date and I shared a bottle of House Red that was only a small improvement on the Cold Duck. Tonight, I sit at my computer listening to satellite radio and remembering when I first heard Wolfman Jack when he was alive and broadcast live. An hour ago I opened a bottle of Clio from the Jumilla region of Spain. I've come a long way from the Cold Duck of 16. Still, it tasted awfully good then, just as the House Red did in '80 in Chicago. In '06 it just doesn't seem like the Cold Duck or the House Red were that long ago....

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I don't see any stories of epiphanies from our esteemed host.

I know a little about his early wine-drinking years from a chance encounter with him at Palena one evening (where I had an enjoyable enophilian epiphany of my own thanks to one of his buddies-- though I don't remember the name of the wine other than it was waaaay beyond my budget), but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we'd like to read an "ah-ha!" from him.

My love of wine started with a stick of dynamite exploding, but at the time it might as well have been a bottlecap. It was at Sergio Ristorante in Silver Spring - I was there with one of my best friends who happened to be wealthy, a few years older, and into wine (i.e. he was someone I thought it was cool to emulate). He brought a 1970 Latour to dinner, and sure I enjoyed it, but I was captivated by the fact that I was drinking it more than the wine itself, if that makes any sense. I'm convinced that aged Bordeaux is an acquired taste, and at the time, it could have been something a lot less important and I wouldn't have known the difference.

But I really appreciated him opening it, and I felt obligated to run out and research the subject (what I lacked in wealth I thought I could make up for with a gesture of respect), and so I methodically began a quest for knowledge, and having regular tastings with this guy, lost all perspective of what I should be spending on wine.

Fortunately for my wallet, I did have an epiphany of sorts one day. I had always enjoyed German Riesling as pleasant quaffing wine, but one day a trusted retailer picked me out a few to try, one of which was a Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Spatlese (a $15 wine at the time). I tried it that evening, then got sidetracked doing something else, then picked up my glass about an hour later. "Oh ... My ... Gooness."

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. That wine you had at Palena was a 1990 Claude Dugat Charmes-Chambertin, courtesy of the same guy who served me the 1970 Latour many years before. I'm surprised you remember anything about that evening - you were HAMMERED!

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The "Ah-ha!" Moment as opposed to the "Ah-So!" Moment: that point in time where the cork turns into sand as you try to burrow through it with your corkscrew, and then you look around the kitchen for your Ah So cork puller, realize you don't have one, and then with a heavy, resigned look on your face, you mutter under your breath, "son of a bitch," as you begin pushing the cork into the bottle with your pinky, accepting the fact that you're going to be drinking sawdust with your wine.

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Bump. This thread is buried treasure as I type, and no doubt about to be downgraded as I share my a-ha cocktail moment.

I got into cocktails around 2006 or 2007, and the internet cocktails around that time were the Last Word and the Aviation. The Last Word is distinctive and a show stopper, but an equal parts cocktail and elementary to prepare.

The Aviation on the other hand, tasted differently every time I prepared it. Plus, you can add a blue liqueur to it so the drink looks like the sky. So either my drink tasted great but looked like a grey mess, or it looked like a blue sky but tasted like a sugar bomb. I was about to move on to another hobby.

Fortunately, i began to frequent Central and started chatting with Justin Guthrie. Sometimes he'd hop behind the bar to illustrate a point of discussion, and one night he walked me thru his Aviation recipe.

It really was an "a-ha" momment for me. Sour, sweet, balanced and blue. I could reproduce it at home later, and most importantly, I felt I was within the circle!

Yeah, I'm holding back details of my "a-ha" momment, it's an in-and-out account, but I'm not normally a kiss-and-tell sorta guy. Excuse me while I drunk text ulysses and subsequently spoon my keyboard for the rest of the long, cold night.

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