Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to Your Roots - WBW #48

47 editions of Wine Blogging Wednesday have come and gone. I speak of the monthly online community wine tasting and sharing event created by Lenn, the New York wine guy at Lenndevours.

Four years. That's ancient in the world of wine blogs. Just goes to show you - our community of bloggers and readers enjoys getting together every now and then, stepping off of our individual soapboxes and being but one of many voices.

Wine Blogging Wednesday is part of what inspired me to start a blog. I participated religiously for quite some time, but I've missed a bunch now. In some cases I just forgot, in others, I couldn't get excited by the theme. But this month I'm excited because Lenn, a gentleman who in my view is one of the OG's (that's Original Gangsta, for those of you who are not bangin') of wine blogging, is celebrating an anniversary. And he's asking us to join him, to go back to our wine drinking roots.

Here is the story of my very first wine epiphany:

The year is 1990. I was home from college for the summer, a four month break from school. I got a job at a strange restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan called The Lion's Rock. Even then I could tell that the food was unimaginative at best - every night's special, no matter what it was, featured a caper buerre blanc sauce. But they were famous for having a real waterfall - a trickle of water that flowed over a real rock (the lion's rock?) in the back next to their garden seating. Food=bad, rock=business. Anyway, I was making at least $100 a night in tips, which was a fortune.

I have no idea whether or not the wine list was any good. No one there taught me about selling wine, never mind about drinking wine. There was one other interesting thing at this restaurant, aside from the waterfall and the rock. Behind the bar, hanging on the wall, there was an inverted bottle of wine with a contraption attached to the neck that allowed you to turn a spigot and pour an ounce at a time. The Lion's Rock offered a one-ounce taste of this wine for $15 (or something like that), a ridiculous sum of money. I thought it was a gimmick, like the waterfall. And it probably was.

But one night after work when we were all sitting at the bar sipping our complimentary post-shift drink, I asked the bartender about it. Tell me how any wine can be worth that kind of money for just a sip, I asked. Is it really that much better than some other wine?

The bartender, a nice guy named Michael, a guy in his mid-forties who was really a musician struggling to make it in New York, decided to teach me something. And it turned out to be one of those moments that is way more important than you can possibly imagine when it happens. He told me to close my eyes, and he poured me an ounce of whatever Bordeaux was in the inverted bottle. He also poured an ounce of the house red. He presented me with both glasses and I tasted them blind.

I took a sip of one, and then of the other. One of the wines tasted like what I understood wine to taste like. But the other one, well this was a different story. It had depth and character, and it held my interest. I wished that there were more than just one ounce in the glass. I wanted to keep drinking it, and that was the first time I felt that way about a wine.

I almost never drink Bordeaux now, but I will always remember that experience. For the rest of that summer I tried to taste everything on the wine list at The Lion's Rock. Whenever customers didn't finish their bottle, I would sneak a taste. I visited my local wine store and stared blankly at the bottles on the shelves, not knowing anything about what I was looking at. I caught the wine bug, and it was a one ounce pour at a now defunct restaurant called The Lion's Rock that got me started. A one ounce pour of a Bordeaux that will forever remain nameless to me.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, brooklynguy!
It is very uplifting to read about those 'moments' that seem so normal and actually change our lives

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone reading this may have eaten there, and more importantly, may have paid their $15 for an ounce of Chateau ....... (fill in the gap). I hope so, it would make a great ending to your story.

David M.

Anonymous said...

Awww. That's so sweet!

David McDuff said...

Well told, Neil. It's always nice to have someone there to open the gate for you, even if it is just a simple gesture.

peter said...

Mine was in 1992, in France, and it was a 1985 Lynch Bages.

I think Bordeaux is the gateway wine, and it makes me worry about the collective Chinese palate in 20 years and the effect that will have on our beloved corners of the world.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks for the comments. david m - i never even thought of that. i hope it happens.

peter - although you;re right, that it is a gateway wine, i think many people there are buying trophies, not beverages.

Anonymous said...

What a great story--and you leave us hanging by not having the name of the wine!

emily said...

Hey BrooklynGuy,

I love this epiphany story. I had a similar experience recently here in San Francisco at a wine bar called A-16. I can't remember the name of the wine but it smelled like blueberries and jasmine. It was so good that I didn't want to drink it because I didn't want it to be over.

Right now I'm working with a site about wine called DECANT3R and I would love to tell you more about what we do. You can reach me at Keep up the great writing!