I didn’t used to be much of a wine drinker. Early on in my drinking experience, I typically regarded wine as the cultured beverage you had with dinner, but rarely did I go into a liquor store and spend much more than ten dollars for a bottle of the stuff. Some wines I liked better than others, but I hardly considered myself a connoisseur.
Then a girlfriend and I attended the rehearsal dinner for her soon-to-be-married friend. As it happens, this friend came from a rather wealthy background. Her father, among other things I’m sure, spent much of his career as the general counsel of RCA back when RCA still meant something as an American industrial enterprise. In other words, as the kids like to say, he was from the one percent.
After the wedding rehearsal at an expensive looking and sounding inn in southwestern Connecticut, the wedding party, my girlfriend, and I converged at small, cozy rustic French-style bistro for dinner. Because the bride considered my girlfriend her best friend in college, we had the good fortune of sitting at the same table as her and her father.
At these restaurants, of course, the server first presents the wine list. This taking place back in the early 1990s, I have to guess that this list likely didn’t offer a single bottle under thirty dollars for a wine found in a liquor store for twelve.
Our host scanned the restaurant’s wine list and muttered something that sounded something like, “Oh no… This won’t do,” and excused himself from the table. He returned probably two minutes later with a briefcase we assumed he brought from his car. He opened it to reveal four bottles of wine, which he then removed and opened for us to share. Of course I initially wondered how a place like this couldn’t possibly have a wine to satisfy him, but I just soaked in the quiet spectacle of his polite rejection. What did I know? To me, a good wine was a Georges DeBeouf Beaujolais.
He poured a generous amount in my glass and I sipped.
I have little memory of the next twenty minutes. I can only recall the glorious experience of gently pouring this velvety nectar otherwise reserved for the gods past my orgasmic tongue and down into my eagerly accepting throat.
With regards to wine, I had just experienced the ultimate “ah HA!” moment. Suddenly, I understood the experience of drinking a great and utterly exquisite wine.
Sadly, as one without equivalent means as our host, I can’t report that this became an every day experience for me. However, it has taught me the difference between a good wine and a great one, and for that I have to express some gratitude.
The “a HA!” moment happens rarely in one’s life, but when it comes, it leaves an indelible mark. Since that time, I’ve had similar experiences with cigars, scotch, and sex, not in that order. Depending on your disposition, it can motivate a desire for greatness, or it can leave you with an damaging obsession to return to nirvana.
At the very least, it leaves you with a good story to tell at parties.