Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This month's topic for Wine Blogging Wednesday comes courtesy of Jeff at Good Grape, who in paying respect to the late great Robert Mondavi, asks us bloggers to share with all what from California inspired us in the business - what holds special memory and inspiration.

I've mentioned before that I haven't really been the biggest California fan, though having been in the restaurant and retail side of wine for almost half my life, I give credit where credit is due. I have lived in California very briefly (lasted just two months in Los Angeles) and have only vacationed there twice (both times with the wife). The duality of my California experience is night and day. I moved to L.A. right after it seemed the Apocalypse had struck, with the city still rebuilding after the Northridge quake, the flooding, mudslides, fires in the canyon, etc. so there was so much cleanup happening that the city looked and felt a mess. Yet my two trips to California, one the obligatory trip to Napa, and the other, a more relaxed, intimate journey into Sonoma, I really love thinking about driving down PCH from Guerneville back to San Francisco, stopping at Lucas Wharf for lunch and taking pictures at Goat Rock while a storm was just blowing past.

Jeff, in posting the topic for this month, said we COULD take the easy way out and write about a Mondavi wine, and believe me, I could have written about the 1997 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cab I still have in my cellar. I could have talked again about the St. Clement Oroppas and how that wine helped get my wife to marry me.

Yet the wine I think that really did it for me was revisiting the 1998 Verite on my last trip to Sonoma. I had tasted it when it had first been released, as a buyer for a small wine shop in Cincinnati back in 2001. I remember telling the winery rep that I couldn't really describe how good it was using simple wine descriptors (oak, fruit, etc.) but instead likened the wine to a poem by Pablo Neruda called "Body of a Woman." Definitely one of the most sensual poems ever written. You get the idea. The wine was absolutely incredible.

Fast forward to 2006, with my wife and I paying a visit to Verite out in Alexander Valley. With the hospitality manager and the vineyard manager, we tasted through the three 2001s - Le Muse, Le Joie and Le Desir. Each one a gorgeous California version of three different styles of Bordeaux. All three very young, yet still very expressive.

Then, for a treat, we tasted the inaugural 1998 release. I looked at my wife, knowing that I had been building this place up the whole trip over up to this point. I could see that up till now, she was extremely impressed. Yet here was a finale that I honestly don't think will ever be duplicated, at least not in my lifetime.
Tasting the 1998 was an ethereal experience. Time actually stopped. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it was simply just "wow!" I looked at my wife, and at our hosts, and it seemed as though the world outside just melted away. Layer upon layer of complex, concentrated red, black and blue fruit flavors, with a veritable pantry of spices dancing back and forth across the palate. It was sublime.
We proceeded to take a walk through the vineyard outside, the glass of ambrosia still in our hands. You always read excerpts from wine geeks who wax poetic about this wine or that, and you always find them at least fractionally ridiculous in their geekspeak. You think, "get a life, would ya?" And then a moment like this happens, and you finally understand where they are coming from; it was one of the best days I can recall.
Thanks to Jeff at Good Grape and as always, Lenn Thompson at WBW and Lenndevours for this great monthly ride.

1 comment:

Jo Diaz said...

I didn't realize how lucky I am to have Goat Rock Beach just 30 miles as the crow flies!

Thanks for the reminder.