My father once told me that there is a first time and a last time for everything. My first wine column appeared in the Journal Newspaper almost 10 years ago to this date. Three years later, the paper was acquired by The Washington Examiner and, thankfully, so was my column. For the last seven years, I have had the pleasure and privilege of writing this column each week. And now, this is the last time.
I have genuinely enjoyed every moment spent over the last 10 years writing wine reviews. During that time, two of my three children have gone off to college, my hairline has receded, my waistline has expanded and my spouse has endured it all. We -- I include my spouse/critic -- have had a remarkable adventure. We have met wonderful people (some of whom have become my dearest friends), enjoyed amazing journeys and relished more than one remarkable meal with otherworldly wines, all in the pursuit of material for "the column."
A friend recently reminded me that wine is so much more than a beverage. Wine is an agent of transformation. It has the ability to bring people together, enhance a meal and indelibly link the memory of an occasion or a life's lesson with a label, cork or empty bottle. Having been the beneficiary of so many of the aforementioned markers in life, I thought I would take this one last opportunity to be a little self-indulgent and look back over the last 10 years and share my top 10 wine-related moments as an homage to the beverage that has been one of the most rewarding agents of transformation in my life.
2000 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Homage a Jacques Perrin, France -- I almost missed this wine at a recent wine tasting group dinner. It was poured at the beginning of the evening and I literally had to do a double take after the first sip, reminding me to always be prepared for surprises.
1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil, France -- One of the greatest champagnes that I shared with dear friends on the occasion of my son's (born in 1995) high school graduation.
1985 Lynch Bages, France -- My wife and I were married in 1985. This is the first case of Bordeaux that I ever bought. And then I bought six more bottles. We open one every year to celebrate our anniversary. (Note: we only have four bottles left!)
2001 Sine Qua Non On Your Toes Syrah -- This bottle from Central Coast California represents not just a great wine, but I had the added treat of sharing it with Manfred Krankl (the winemaker), Robert M. Parker Jr. (noted critic), several dear friends and all of our spouses.
1965 Cousino-Macul "Antiguas Reservas" Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile -- I had the pleasure of befriending Mariano Fernandez, the wine-savvy Chilean ambassador to the United States, who taught me that some Chilean wines are capable of aging with as much grace as their European counterparts.
1959 Domain Leroy Grands Echezeaux, Grand Cru Burgundy, France -- This was the first wine I ever had from my birth year. Not only was it one of the best pinot noir wines I had ever tasted, it was clearly in better shape than I was.
1975 Caymus Special Select, Napa, Calif., and 1982 Cheval Blanc, Bordeaux -- I had these wines side-by-side at a tasting. The Caymus was wonderful when it was first opened. I woke my wife up four hours later so she could share my find, only to discover that the Caymus had deteriorated into water and the Cheval Blanc blossomed into a magnificent wine. The Tortoise and the Hare of wine.
2007 Clos de los Siete, Bordeaux Blend, Argentina -- A wine that taught me a very valuable lesson: Wine does not have to be expensive to be enjoyed.
2010 Flowers Chardonnay, Sonoma, Calif. -- A simple, delicious wine enjoyed with my best friend, my wife, on a perfect, quiet evening.
And last, but by no means least, 1981 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape, France -- The wine that started it all. Thank you, Jim, for putting me on a path that I did not understand, but I have come to appreciate.
My wine journey will continue on WTOP radio's Wine of the Week every Friday evening and at vineguy.com.