Fermented Thoughts: A Wine Epiphany

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world." ~ John Milton

I think Milton, makes a great point about how gratitude can confer reverence, even if that gratitude is for something like wine. As for me, the lessons I've learned about wine, its surrounding culture and all the great folks behind the labels fill me with overwhelming gratitude every time I pop a cork, and the experience matches my expectations. My cumulative experiences in and around the wine business, including how it's made, the terroir, its history etc. have changed forever, how I view the world. Because as it has been said, in wine there is truth, leaving guile at the door. I will no longer view wine as a simple beverage, but as something which can transcend every day mundane, making life a little better one slurp at a time. 

Many folks ask me, "so Bill how did you become so passionate about wine" or "why is it such a big deal to you, after all, it's just fermented grape juice right?". Well before I had my so-called transcendent moment with wine over ten years ago, I was pretty much a resolute beer only kind of guy, and not even of the micro-beer persuasion either. I was just your garden variety tailgater, sipping and slurping on whatever happened to be available. 

More recently I was asked what is my motivation for writing about wine, what is it I'd like to communicate to the reader?  I mistakenly blurted out,  without much thought and said "learning about the quality to price ratio" my father would have been so proud. Having thought about that question again later, and given a bit more time to reflect, I thought, the one thing I want any reader of this blog to know or understand, please never stop exploring. It's a big wine world out there, Italy has more than 800 grape varieties, for example, so please don't limit yourself just to the varieties you're comfortable with, expand your horizons and get uncomfortable, it won't hurt much at all. 

Before I met my wife, wine, in general, had less than zero relevance to my everyday life; I really didn't give it too much consideration at all. My wife [then fiancee] who was just starting to get into the whole wine-experience herself wanted to introduce me to wine. Somehow she and I got onto the conversation about why I was not into wine and I really didn't have an answer that made sense. Maybe I had seen too many of my friends have their very own purple splash party, where purple cookies were launched, I think that may have discouraged me from exploring it further. Bottom line, I didn't really care to give fermented beverages too much thought, one way or the other. When it came to wine, I knew there was red and there was white, beyond that, it was a yawn-fest. 

So my wife [Mrs. Cuvée] who was my fiancee at the time, a budding wine-enthusiast herself thought it would be a great idea to book a trip to the Napa Valley and asked if I wanted to do a road trip with her, "lets just dive in head first" she said and I readily agree, skeptics cap firmly in place, tightly fixed to my rather large noggin, and I'm thinking [yes, I do that time to time] "uh-huh okay lets see what all the purple-tinged fuss is all about?".  

Why Napa, c'mon folks let's all face it, when one thinks of wine country here in the states, typically one word comes to mind and that word is "Napa". I know, I know, there many great wine regions to explore here in the U.S. but the truth is that for most folks "Napa" is "thee" destination for the wandering wino or even the garden variety vino sapiens, especially so, if you live here in the states.

One of my very first experiences with wine came at a winery located in what some call the purple-haze superhighway 29. Our first stop and my first step into a winery came at a place called V. Sattui. Perhaps you've heard of them [right, who hasn't] which is a great place for many first-timers to get their feet wet. Frankly, I'm not sure if this was the very first place we stopped, but it was definitely one of the most memorable of my experiences. We walked into packed-out, super-crowded, [albeit a very large] Saturday afternoon tasting room, "I thought oh-boy maybe we should come back another time". But giving a quick look around for an open spot, I saw a rather tall gentleman gesturing for us to come over to the bar.

Once we arrived at the tasting bar, he welcomed us warmly and introduced himself as Daryl V. Sattui, who we later found out was the owner. We had a great tasting, talking about wine and his winery and I think we walked out of there with at least a case, but not before having lunch on the picnic grounds [the hook went in a bit deeper]. The very tasty wine poured that day, along with Mr. V.Sattui's amazing hospitality started me thinking, 'hmm there's something more here than meets the eye to this fermented grape juice phenomenon" and if you wondered, yes I'm still buying juice from them today.

One of the other more memorable places we stopped that same day, was a place called Opus One; a great destination which can also found right along what is the now famous highway 29. If you're thinking about a visit yourself, book an appointment, it's needed for a visit [luckily we were prepared]. Opus One as many of you know is a far cry of difference between these two iconic Napa Valley destinations to be sure. 

Another experience which changed my ideas about why wine is so much different than your average cocktail. As we roll up on the place [Opus One] I'm thinking "whoa, this is a pretty elaborate set-up" to most of the other vino-sapiens today, many think it's a bit overstated. Be that as it may, the wine poured that day, really "wowed" me and the hook was set. 

Back then I was a newbie on the "wine-scene" [there was no blog] I hadn't enough time to become jaded [but I feel some of that creeping in time to time] or frankly to be too concerned about appearance issues. Of course, that didn't mean I was oblivious to how proud they are of the place and wine sold there. That said, this experienced again helped punctuate my own personal ah-ha moment with the vine. We walked out of there with just one bottle, that cost us something close to $200+, my memory on the fact is a bit hazy. Nonetheless, it was a bottle we saved for our fifth wedding anniversary, it moved with us three times before we popped the cork on this bad-boy after 10 years in the bottle while dining in Paso Robles, and wow it was still very impressive.

So yes Mrs. Cuvée, if you happen to be reading this, the whole wine blogging "thing" I do and my love affair with the vine is all your fault, but thank you ever so much for helping me find a little culture and much love to you for all you do, salud!

Two very different experiences of the wine spectrum, but both thrilled me so much that I thought to myself, "I need to know more about wine" so I set off on a trail of exploration and have never looked back. Each new experience, each wine region visited, each fellow-traveler I've met along the way, every new wine tasted, tells me wine is far more than just a beverage to be enjoyed with your friends at the local watering hole after work. I know it's not for everyone, but for me, I'm pretty sure, it was just destiny waiting to happen.

It's far more than that, it's a lifestyle. I've come to think of wine as Clifton Fadiman once said; "If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul." So there you have my story about how wine has captured my heart, mind and my soul. It's with great pleasure that I say to you; sip long and prosper cheers!

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