Pretending to be proper wine snobs

My Wine Epiphany


Beaulieu Vinyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $89.97, bought July, 2010.

I've been drinking wine for oh, maybe 43 years now, starting when I was in college with such relatively undrinkable treats as T-Bird, Yago San'gria and Boone's Farm Apple Wine, which often as not had turned to formaldehyde by the time we plunked down our 89 cents to take it off the 7-Eleven's shelf where it had probably sat for several chemistry-laden weeks under the fluorescent lights. We shopped for price in those days.

Since that time I watched the Virginia wine industry grow from producers of some liquid roughly as palatable as kerosene into a source for some pretty darn good vintages, varietals and blends. Years ago I got to like the whites, particularly Chardonnays and Viogniers, pretty well, and a few years later the reds started to improve markedly. My wife and I frequently attended the various festivals and toured the wineries from time to time, and some of that stuff has gotten rather tasty. Barboursville and Philip Carter can be the source of some quite excellent Cabernets.

Because our interest in local viniculture developed over the years, I thought that for her 60th birthday I would give my wife something special to compare with our local fare -- a bottle of 2006 Beaulieu Vinyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, accompanied by a two week vacation to the valley of its birth, Napa. I bought at a nearby discount place, Total Beverage, in July of 2010.

Unlike our usual habits, and in honor of the fact that at $90 this was the most expensive bottle of wine I'd ever bought up to that time, I actually decanted it first. We took the decanter and a couple of Bordeaux glasses up to our balcony and poured ourselves a helping, even pretending to be proper wine snobs at a competitive tasting, holding it up to the light, swirling it around in the glass, taking a good sniff and all, but we stopped short of swishing it around in our mouths, and we certainly had no intention of spitting it out.
I will never forget that first sip. It started out delicious, but as the milliseconds progressed a cascade of wonderful flavors, some subtle, some intense, all startlingly good, tumbled through my mouth and around my tongue, caressing my palate with a delightful succession of raspberries, chocolate, coffee, spices, licorice, sweets, clean earth... it went on and on and on. I never thought a $90 bottle of wine could be a bargain but this certainly was, as each succeeding sip was more astonishing than the last. This is the first time I began to understand what fine wine is all about, and I yearned to recreate the sensation.

Actually, though, I have recreated it once, several weeks later. During our trip three weeks later we visited, among about a hundred other wineries, BV in Rutherford and, after doing their "standard" tasting, we treated ourselves to the somewhat pricier Reserve Tasting. Included was the same Georges de Latour we'd enjoyed so much on her birthday, along with some of the same varietal both older and younger. I knew what to expect, which reduced the "startlingness" of the effect and thus slightly diminished the experience. Well, that is, until...

We were alone with the pourer in the large tasting room, and after our tastes of the same wine that started this whole thing he gave us a taste of a couple of BV's "Clones," wines made from vines taken from the finest houses in Bordeaux and elsewhere and transplanted to Rutherford by UC Davis as an experiment a couple of decades or so ago. The vines are now fully mature. When I took a sip of a 2004 Clone 6, I staggered backward on my heels. Never had my mouth fallen so deeply and passionately in love with anything I'd ever put into it before. I cannot really describe it -- I was too blown away to take any notes, and my memory has insufficient gigabytes to have retained it in sufficient detail. I'll just say that, for those few moments, I was on Mt. Olympus with Bacchus himself.

After that taste, the interesting old fellow behind the counter began to "taste" with us, and it became quite a jolly old time. Indeed, my wife became so intoxicated that she actually turned down a glass of Sauterne at the end, and we needed to sit in the parking lot for an hour afterward while her spinning subsided enough to avoid soiling the carpets in our rental Nissan. What a GREAT time!

Now I need to hit the lottery so I can indulge my newly unaffordable tastes. Oh, well...

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