First "Ah-Hah" Moment with Wine

What was the first, "Ok, I get it" wine that got you into the hobby of tasting & collecting?

For me, it was (2) completely different reds. The first was a '79 Stag's Leap "Cask 23," and the second was an '85 Mouton Rothschild. Both tasted pretty close together, these were definitely the wines that got me serious about collecting.
Original Post
Originally posted by Redhawk:
Originally posted by spo:
My boss gave me a bottle of 01 Justification and I was drinking it while playing Nintendo. Lead to a habit that cost me a lot of money. Mad

Wow! You must have bought a lot of games!

Following a game of "slap the bag" on a Halloween trolley bar crawl in Chicago, after which I realized there must be more to life than getting slapped in the face with a giant bag of Franzia box wine (box removed), slapping the bag then chugging.

In all honesty, though, probably sharing magnums of early 90s Napa Cabs with generous folks on a Caribbean cruise.
I'm just going to come out and embarrass myself, but my first ah-hah experience with wine was a D'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz. Gorgeous blackberry fruit, spice, with a distinct earthiness, and a ton of tar; I later suggested the concoction was akin to motor oil, due to viscosity, and the fact that the nose was like standing near an oil refinery. While that isn't what I look for anymore, it opened my eyes to the potential complexity in wine, and I occasionally revisit a bottle, hoping for it to bring back some fond memories.
I was 6, visiting University Park, Pennsylvania...


I was a kid, though.

I would have dinner at my aunt's father in law's place and he made wine in his sub-sub-cellar and would let me help push down the cap in his barrels and let me taste what was in process and what the grown ups would have with dinner.

One night, he evidently had one of those lucky barrels that occasionally crop up and all the adults were raving about it, so I tried to memorize it for it for future reference.

So, home made, 1966, in Reno, with grapes brought up from one of the "eye-talian" vineyards in Napa.

In retrospect, it tasted maybe like an early Sutter Home Amador zin - from before they turned to the "white" side! Big Grin

I would say similar to the 1972 Amador.
I was sitting at a nudist resort near Sacramento a few years back with a couple who were gently trying to tell me about wine. As a (snob) beer drinker for 30 years, I was not an easy sell. At some point late at night we were drinking a rather low end Californian blend (Zinnabar? Smoking Loon?) and I suddenly "understood" what a nose was all about. I exclaimed, "I LIKE this wine." It went swiftly uphill from there.

The other night (7 years and many thousands of dollars later) my wife and I were thoroughly enjoying a Martin Ray Pinot and reflecting on my humble beginnings. I even flipped her from white to red which helped immensely with financing my/our habit. I now probably drink a case of wine for every bottle of beer.

Another funny fact is that when I started I didn't even realize there were such things as varietals; I thought there were just different companies that made red or white wine. Why don't they teach people stuff like this is grade school?
16 years old, trip to Europe with my Grandfather, we found a small farmhouse that turned out to be a wonderful local restaurant in Tuscany. I don't remember the names of the wine we had that day, but I remember how good it was, especially with the food. That trip opened me up to food, wine, and travel all in one shot
'95 Phelps Insignia.....tasted like a chocolate milkshake made fresh in a diner. How did they get these flavors in this wine? I recall saying that. Like a scene from "The Matrix".....I know this is red wine, I can see it, I can feel it, but it smells and tastes like a chocolate milkshake spiked with some Baileys. Have two bottles left still to open.

Trip down memory lane with those.....
I recall a friend's moment at a business meeting at a local restaurant. When it was time to pick a wine, the group of 8 pointed to me to oblige due to my reputation. I asked a partner seated next to me what he preferred and he stated he didn't really like wine. I inquired more, and he stated he'd tried Kendall Jackson and Blackstone but wasn't impressed. I ordered a bottle whose name escapes me but was from Rutherford with the typical Rutherford dust. My partner whom I'd had the conversation with was second to get poured and by the time the wine steward had made it around the table his glass was emply and raised for more....

He now owns a Eurocave and visits Napa/Sonoma yearly.
The wines that got me into appreciating fine wines were not that special, a Chateau Ste. Michelle Cab and an Inglenook Cab. (this was in the early 70's). They were enough better than the jug wine I was used to that I was motivated to explore further. The first wines that really knocked my socks off were the white and red wines from Burgundy. I wasn't keeping track of names at the time, but French wines at that time were cheaper than you would believe.
1978 Ernest and Julio Gallo Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Story was that this was a private bottling for family consumption only. (Which may explain why I can't seem to find any info on this particular wine.) Supposably 6 cases were shipped into our province for a friend of the Gallo family but somehow ended up in the hands of the local pirates/monopoly instead.

All 3 of my bottles were sublime and sent me on a remarkable mission of discovery I've never regretted.
1999 Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard cab... drank with my dad and grandpa at a nice dinner shortly after graduating college. First wine that ever knocked my socks off, and made me realize that good wine with loved ones is a true experience to enjoy (not just another beverage you can suck down to get drunk... remember, shortly after college...)
2000 Rust en Vrede Estate (Cab, Shiraz, Merlot blend)

New Year's Eve wine with the then girlfriend at Morton's. Her doctor had prescribed her a glass of red wine a day for blood pressure, but we usually had sub $10 bottles, picked according to the dog on the label wherever we happened to be.

I vaguely remember the conversation at Morton's over the wine list going something like, "I didn't know they made wine in Africa. Which one should we get? My parents have a dog named Rusty, let's try this one."

I remember thinking as I drank that wine, "Wow! Now I kind of see why people like this stuff so much!" I also remember reading the blend and saying something about how I never knew you could blend different grapes together like that.

A month later I had to get a few cases for my parents' surprise anniversary party and had to do some research, and within the year I was really hooked. Now, a few bottles later, here I am!
Originally posted by Jonanator:
For me, it was a '97 Insignia. I still remember the setting where I enjoyed that wine with great detail. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

One of my all time classic wines. I have two bottles left, and am hoarding them.
Originally posted by Rothko:
Originally posted by Jonanator:
For me, it was a '97 Insignia. I still remember the setting where I enjoyed that wine with great detail. Needless to say, I'm hooked.

One of my all time classic wines. I have two bottles left, and am hoarding them.

My fiance's dad has/had a case of this. Down to three bottles left plus 2 magnums. He jokes that he will pop the magnums at our wedding, we'll see about that lol.
This is largely a repeat of a previous post. My first "moment" was when I answered a knock on the door at my parent’s house. I was around 19-20 years old and it was the mid-‘80s, and this European wine importer called Emissary was actually selling wine door-to-door.

For $15, I got to try six 375ml bottles in the comfort of my parent’s dining room and decide if I wanted to order any more of any of them. My parents were even cool with this! It was through this that I came to love German Rieslings. I wasn’t much into reds at the time, but one that I strongly recall as opening my eyes was a Hungarian red – 1984 Ersekhalom-Bischofsberger Spätburgunder, Red Ausbruch Grape Wine. I saved the label, but I’ve never been able to learn anything about this wine or the producer. But it was very spicy and got me excited about the variety of flavors that you could get from wine.

Sadly, I didn’t have the disposable income at the time to really explore much or to look for higher quality wines. But it simmered in the background until it finally flared up for me about 10 years ago. It's been a series of "ah-ha" moments since then.
My "ah-" moment was a Shafer Hillside Select when I was about 20, which, unfortunately also gave me the impression that great wine was beyond my budget. The "hah" moment was a decade later when a friend introduced me to an excellent dirt cheap Chilean Merlot. With a little guidance I was off and running, reading and tasting. (The next vintage of that wine sucked monkey balls, but I was into exploring at that point, not buying multiple bottles, so more an amusing little lesson than anything.)

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