Lately, it seems that the conversations around me have been about epiphany wine. I’ve read about it on wine blogs, and it’s been the topic of conversation at PWS among members. It’s fun and interesting to hear the stories around what wine it was that changed one’s perspective on wine and created a desire to go deep into the wine world.
I did not grow up around wine at all, in fact, my first foray into the wine world came at age 25. I was working at Bandera in Scottsdale, Arizona, for Bobby Fitzgerald. We needed a new Bar Manager and Bobby asked me to take over. I could not have known less about wine! One of my wine sales reps took me under her wing (Thank you, Lisa Ford!) and began to teach me about wine. As I tasted, I learned mostly about New World wines from California. It was a good place to begin. I truly enjoyed wine, but it was not yet my passion.
Over the next few years, I got married and had 3 beautiful boys. My professional focus was not on wine, but I still held my position with Hillstone Restaurants throughout that time. I worked toward finishing my bachelor’s degree, bit by bit, but at the time, my focus was on our boys. As they went off to elementary school, my then GM at Houston’s in Scottsdale was complaining that he had been assigned the task of doubling the wine list. I offered to take on the project and for the next 3 years ran the wine program, still focusing mainly on wines from California. It was a fun time, especially working with Barry Cothran and learning about wine and how to run a cost effective wine program. I also began to teach the staff about the wines we offered.
It was time for a change after 14 years with Hillstone, and I landed at Tarbell’s, Learning wine from Mark Tarbell was an eye-opening experience that I would not trade for anything! I learned a great deal: how to taste, evaluate and how to pair wine with fantastic food. One evening, a regular client had a wine dinner in the semi-private room and brought in a 1947 Cheval Blanc. The client is particularly generous and gave the staff a taste of the wine to try. I must tell you, I had no idea whatsoever what I was tasting. What I did know is that the wine had been open and decanted for about 2+ hours. By normal standards, for a wine that old, it should not have still been good, it should have had too much oxygen by then. (When on old wine is opened, usually it should be enjoyed within about an hour before it falls apart in the glass.) The Cheval Blanc was full of life, beautiful depth and complexity and could age even longer than the 65 years it already had. But, I still had no idea what I was tasting, or truly how special it was. When I got home from Tarbell’s that night, I googled the wine, and let me tell you, I was so excited for what I found. This wine was one of the most remarkable wines on the planet. It was one of the most expensive wines ever auctioned at Christie’s in New York and one of the most remarkable wine vintages to date. The story of 1947 Cheval Blanc is well chronicled: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drink/2008/02/the_greatest_wine_on_the_planet.html
Lucky for me, soon after I was granted the opportunity to study and work for my Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) degree through Mark at Tarbell’s. In studying and taking this test, I found a new passion that far surpassed my passion for science and medicine with my recently earned degree in Biology. I love to taste wine, blind taste especially, read about wine, think about wine. I owe that to a special regular client at Tarbell’s and 1947 Cheval Blanc. That is where it began for me, and it continues with my position at PWS and continuing to study for and obtain a second wine degree.
The question that is so fun to listen to the answer to is: What is your epiphany wine and why? Your palate may have evolved past that epiphany wine, (or not, in my case!) but that should not diminish the importance of the wine that drove you to collect, enjoy and learn.