My entrée into the wine world began like a fairy tale. I was 14 and on a trip with my French class to Paris and the Loire Valley. We toured a wine cellar in Vouvray, had dinner at a château, and went to a sound and light show at Azay-Le-Rideau, a 16th century castle with a moat. Arm-in-arm with Jeffrey Wassouf, I looked up at the sky and saw a shooting star. My head spun, intoxicated from more wine than any 14-year-old should have and from an experience unmatched to this day. Getting drunk for the first time on chenin blanc in Vouvray has been my blessing and my curse. Forgive me, Bacchus, for I have sinned since that day 18 years ago, and I am here to confess those sins.
In high school, I drank Fuzzy Navel Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. In college, I drank Natty Light, vodka mixed with strawberry-kiwi Snapple, or any red wine, including once a magnum of Concha y Toro that turned my teeth purple for days. Out of college and living in New York, I spent most of my money on rent, so I bought wine based on its price and its label.
Times improved when I moved to San Francisco to work as a publicist for restaurants, wineries, chefs and sommeliers. I took wine courses with Master Sommeliers, expensed meals at four-star restaurants and toured wineries in Napa and Sonoma. I helped to plan Julia Child’s 90th birthday party at the Fifth Floor with chefs Ron Siegel and Laurent Gras and sommelier Rajat Parr. I discovered the mind-boggling pleasure of a perfect pairing when I had J Russian River Pinot Noir with porcini ravioli and shaved white truffle.
Four ways to drink down Memory Lane:
Domaine Aubuisieres Vouvray “Silex” 2008. Market Street Uptown, $16.99
J Russian River Pinot Noir 2006. Special order from your favorite local wine retailer, $36.99
White Hall Vineyards Touriga 2007. White Hall Vineyards, $17.99
Paolo Bea Montefalco Rosso Riserva “Pipparello” 2003. Tavola, $124
Back in New York for another stint as a publicist, I studied wine in earnest and sniffed everything I could get my nose on. To this day, I must announce everything that I smell: corn dogs! asparagus! marshmallow fluff! I aerated my morning coffee, my mouthwash, and my water. I considered not going on another date with a guy who told me that he didn’t like wine with strong “talons,” yet forgave my future husband for drinking Walnut Crest Merlot out of a Dixie cup the night we met.
My first night in Italy, I went to the trattoria beneath my apartment and had one glass of prosecco, one bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, and one glass of limoncello and then took 20 minutes trying to unlock my door. The weekend before I started my job at Italian Wine Merchants, I practiced spitting gracefully.
Settling down in Charlottesville, I spent more money on wine for our wedding at White Hall Vineyards than I did on my wedding dress. I managed a winebar (and drank wine) my entire pregnancy. I usually plan my dinners around a wine, yet taste so many wines some days that all I want for dinner is popcorn and a Peroni. I get annoyed by people who don’t drink as much wine as I do, but I know that I ought to be less judgmental. I want Umbrian winemaker extraordinaire Paolo Bea to adopt me.
So there’s my wine story—the good, the bad, and the ugly—because “in vino veritas” and, with wine at our tables, we all live happily ever after.