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A reflection post.

After hitting 40 this year, I look back at my past dining experiences, and i noted a few things and would like to share with my fellow forumites that have been drinking with me for more than a decade.

Mostly my spend for wine is much higher than before.  I recall my first dining experience when I hit 21, it was at Olive Garden (the waiter sat in my lap and sang me happy birthday) and the wine was a Beringer White Zin.  I still recall the fruity notes, the light fizz and a pleasant sweet flavor that recall my earlier years of drinking mad dog 2020 and zima.  The wine was only 20$/btl.  Still more than the entree.

Skip a few years, I had been working a full time job working at 60 wall street and one of the managers came visiting from London.  Up at this point, my wines were mostly whatever was the 5$ house red, wine was meant to simply facilitate dry food down the gullet.  Nights out involved mostly coors light, of which i'm still quite fond of.  The manager, was an old fashioned British gent.  He called his red bordeaux' clarets and insisted on a cocktail at the bar before sitting down to the table.  Knowing nothing about wine, but having a keen interest in drink, he asked me to look over the wine list asking if i could pick something French.  Not knowing any wines, I blindly picked based on price, keeping it around 100$ being the junior guy on the team.  "A wonderful 5th growth choice!" was the response I got!  Alas, I don't recall the vintage but the wine was my first time trying Lynch Bages.  I recall it being dirty, dusty, smelling terrible but adding pretty interesting flavors with my meal.  The manager and I discussed the wine and food at length, mostly due to me being a a brash young employee going on a little too long about how the company we both worked for sucked.  He prodded me with questions like "What do you taste?, Do you get that horse smell?  How does it go with your food?"    All of which, i had no response and struggled to speak (looking back, it seemed like an excellent way to keep me shut up and not ruin the meal talking about work!).

The next year marked my first full time bonus.  It wasn't much.  Not enough to pay that month's NYC rent, but more than a few nights at a bar drinking beer.  I asked my best friend, who mentioned that his dad really likes wine what one should buy.  To which his response was "My dad constantly goes on about Lafite!".  Here we go, the web was still young, and you had to goto metacrawler to search for the things you were interested in.  I learned about how en primeur works and found a retailer named Sherry Lehman.  The price was steep, clearly the most expensive bottle I have ever seen, the 2002 Lafite Rothschild, and it was 125$/btl and I wouldn't see it for another 2 years.  So I split the case with my friend, possibly regretting blowing my entire bonus on 6 bottles of a wine, up until that 30 minutes ago, have never heard of.

On my 25th birthday, I've been frequenting this restaurant called Harry's at Hanover alot.  The bar area always had popcorn and fried chicken to nibble on and you just had to buy a few beers here and there to make it a proper night.  Up to this point I haven't really touched wine at all, Pete's wicked ale, sam adams and the occasional Guinness were my drinks of choice.  The 6 pack of lafite was comfortably stored at my friend's dad's cellar.  World of warcraft occupied most of me and my friend's free time if we were at the bar grabbing a drink.  But it was my 25th, and this same friend was taking a full time job in London so we grabbed the 5 of us and decided to goto Harry's for dinner.  How else does one celebrate a nice night out if not to order a nice bottle of wine??  The list was daunting, over 40 pages long (it's under 20 now).  Sticking with the 100$ range again, found a random red with some age on it.  Unfortunately the btl I ordered was out, but the waiter suggested this other bottle for the same price, but from the 95' vintage!  I don't recall the producer, but again this was a bottle where I was amazed how good it made the steak tasted!  Wrapping up dinner, NYC used to allow Cigar smoking in the restaurants, and Harry's had the most impressive selection of Cuban's back then.  This was the first time I tried a proper bottle of port.  We were seated in the main room, and Harry himself came out to join us.  It was a Grahams 85.  The first time drinking a sweet wine but with such great length of finish and structure, I was smitten.  That bottled turned into the Fonseca 85, then followed by a Grahams 83.  Needless to say, I was in pretty bad condition the next day.

I started drinking alot more Port going forward.  When friends ask me out to the bars, while they were drinking beer, I had my stash of port that I was swigging from.  I know, classy, but we were all young sometime!  Google was the browser of choice, and googling port lovers in NY turned up theportforum.  Now this was a group of guys who took drinking seriously.  A fellow british port lover showed me what it meant to really enjoy a proper lunch.  I was happily unemployed at this time due to the financial crisis and being in the wrong industry at the wrong time, but hey, the severance pay was good.  Meeting up with this fellow port lover, our typical day involved waking up at noon, finding a local bistro where we'd grab a bite, a btl of champange (the sparkling wine just wouldn't do for that brit) and a byo btl of vintage port.  My portly figure, as a result of a years worth of decadence was my reward for what was a rather enjoyable experience before my fellow port buddy had to move back to London, at which point I promptly dropped 20 lbs in the following 3 months!

Well, you might be asking, where's that story where you got into drinking some proper wines?  It involves a woman, or was it 3 women?  I can't recall but they all have great palates =)  The first, was drinking rioja, when the rest of us were still chugging beer, the other was giving me tasting notes on Lafite as I was drinking port, and finally the gal that has been sharing an 11 year food and wine journey with me.

But back to the story.  It started with a birthday wine.  We've been dining out, ordering the 50-70$ btls on the list.  Alot of the wines were good, but certainly not memorable.  They were all "high scoring" as I made the effort to go wine list hunting before going to the restaurant.  I noted my join date on the forums similar to the time I started reading the wine mags and "studying" the different varieties of wine out there.  An amusing experience doing "fine dining" at a relatively early age was that we were often the only young folks in the room.  (also, typically before the asian invasion in the NY instagrammable dining scene, one of the few asian looking folks in the room too).  Alas, nowadays, we've joined the older crowd, and I've only recently picked up a plaid jacket to better adjust to my rotund mid section.

Joining this forum was certainly the start of some grand tasting adventures.  I've met fellow forumites across the country, and even in other countries!  Tasted wines I've never heard of.  Learned quite a bit about production/marketing/selling/tasting/pairing/etc about wines with my fellow forumites.  I could post the highlights, but even that would go on for pages!  As many of you have shared bottles with me, I'm sure you guys know the highlights too!

Which brings me today, after a long winded topic, I find myself, working asian hours on the east coast of the US, being in a situation where I just don't get to sit down and have a proper meal and pairing.  Also being such late night when I wrap up work, I can't usually do a full 2-3 hour meal that I find myself sitting down and enjoying a nice btl after work to wind down.  It seems that I much prefer sitting down with a single great btl, and enjoying it over 3-4 hours with the food as merely and after thought.  A great bottle with just some bread and perhaps a side of charcuterie is really all i need to enjoy the rest of the night.  Certainly as I'm trying to lose some weight to fit into this damn suit for my little sister's upcoming wedding!

Speaking of, there's just something intoxicating about sitting with a btl of Northern rhone and simply smelling it.  The taste may not follow through, but with a wine like that, you can just sit there and smell it all night.  There's a certain joy in recalling what old Opus One used to taste like before it go extracted.  Their Overture is a nice reminder of that, and a bottle I love to drink when i'm craving Napa with finesse.  The fields of strawberries that one gets when drinking a properly stored old Rioja.  A wonderful red burg, when hitting on all strides offering both the lovely bouquet and the pure clean fruity finish.  An aged right bank bdx that shows signs of leather, currants, and fine chinese tea.  Or the glorious florally left banks from Margaux that show you what it means to run through a field of flowers only to trip and get a mouthful of dirt, perhaps with some berries that might have been left by some animal.  And who forget a properly aged port, showing depth of indian spices, a tingling to remind you of the old spirits that have been aging in bottle for all those decades, sweet lingerings on your palate for almost just as long after every sip.

There are certainly other regions, but those are my current favorites, and wines that I wouldnt hestitate to skip dinner just to have a btl.

Long story short, I've enjoyed and still enjoy wine for the experiences, friendships and life sustaining calories it has given me.  Still struggling in the realization that I'm 40 though, but hopefully the kids get older faster than me so I can meet some more folks to share my favorite btls with!

Last edited by g-man
Original Post
vinoevelo posted:

Great post GMan.  At 41 I just gave up and bought some new suits.  They fit fine.

Funny.  After losing a good chunk of weight not long after hitting 40 and keeping it all off for 3-4 years, I got rid of all my larger suits - last year with my mom's illness/passing and weekly travel to DC I pout a few pounds back and cannot fit into a good 2/3 of my suits.  I still dream I will be able to get back and refuse to buy anything else.

What's a suit?

I have one suit - the same one I've had for perhaps the last 15 years. The only time I would wear it was to funerals. Now I don't wear it at all. I just wear a nice jacket, shirt and pants if I need to "dress up" for a funeral, wedding or meeting.

G-man, this is the longest post on the forum in years. Looking forward to reading it tonight after work.

Nice story about a path many of us have travelled and can relate to.

I gave up on suits 25 years ago and bought a stack of black t-shirts and more jeans.  I still have one suit (I think) but haven't worn it since my mom passed away 15 years ago.  I don't have a clue if it still fits or if the moths have finally gotten to it.

Gman, I read the post last night and very much enjoyed your wine journey. It reminded me of our first trip to France in the early 90s where we spent 2 Euros at the market for a bottle of Burgundy to drink with our meal of roast chicken, cheese and a baguette on a blanket in the park at dusk near the Eiffel Tower. And a few weeks later ordering a 375 half bottle at a restaurant in Beaune and thinking we were being extravagant.

After that, I started buying $20-30 bottles of Burgundy at the LCBO (AFAIK it was the only place you could buy wine when you lived in Ontario), bought a 50 bottle wine rack that I kept under the basement stairs, bought wine based on the TNs and scores in the Vintages magazine (and made many mistakes - like the full case of Tabali Pinot), and eventually found my way to the LCBO wine auctions. Those were eye-opening, but I still couldn’t bring myself to spend more than $60 on a bottle, even at auction. 

Then, in 2013 I was talking to a friend in California and we discovered we both liked wine. He asked “are you on CT?” And with those 4 words my wine world changed dramatically. 

CT led to their forum, which led to me learning about online wine retailers and shipping to Lewiston, which led to the discovery of Wine-Searcher. All within about 3 weeks. Then Julian Coleman, who was on the CT forum, told me about THIS forum and a thing called “off lines”. I attended my first dinner with Vincentric and a few friends in September 2013, and my first official offline at Paese a few weeks later. It was organized by machine and I met about 10 other forumites, most of whom I still see regularly and who I consider good friends. 

At 62, I’m cutting back on the number of OTT wine dinners I attend, but I agree with you that there’s nothing quite like quietly contemplating the aromas from a good bottle. And I also agree that the aromas of a good Northern Rhone are otherworldly.

Glad I got to meet you and the whole family a few years ago at one of those OTT wine dinners here in Toronto. Hopefully we can do it again at some point.

Last edited by sunnylea57

Thanks for the great read.  As others have said, it is a somewhat familiar journey.  I can still remember the day my wife came home with a bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio from the supermarket.  I never cared for the wine, but when she told me it cost $17, I lost my shit.  I couldn't believe she spent $17 on a bottle of wine.  It's funny how that price point limit has crept up over the years.

Great post g-man.  I haven't visited the forums much lately but this was a treat to read.  I remember going to work dinners at my first job after college where the partner would order some high end in your face napa cab that I felt I had to drink when all I really wanted was a cold beer.  It wasn't until a friend told me about Bordeaux until I had my first moment with wine.  Then I started getting into food and the wine was just a natural add on and that really kicked off the journey.  In my late 20's/early 30's I was going to offlines 2-3 times a week which often came with big meals attached.  A great learning experience and I met so many fun and generous people along the way.  Late 30's I had my first child and also took a more demanding job and the number of offlines really started to slow down.  I also started to notice I couldn't recover as well from those big nights as I used to. 

Now at 42 we have 2 kids, still a very demanding job and while I still get invited, I probably only go to a handful of offlines a year.  I still enjoy them when I do go but just don't have the time or the desire to make the time for them that I once had. 

Yesterday was an example of the perfect way I like to enjoy food and wine these days.  I woke up in the morning and made pizza dough.  While it was doing it's thing we took the kids out to the beach for a few hours.  Came back to the house and after a negroni (maybe 2) to get things going, we opened a lovely rosato from Terre Nere in Etna and started making pizza as a family.  First my daughter who is cheese and olive oil only, then with my son who is classic red sauce, cheese and pepperoni and finally my wife picked some squash blossoms from the garden that morning so we did that with a little goat cheese and roasted garlic.  Some good food, a nice crisp wine and watching the kids run around is better than any offline or fancy meal I could think of these days.  

That said I am going out Wednesday night for the first time in a while.  I think some high end burgs and steaks are on the menu.  I'll try to report back.

Now THAT'S the sort of post that brings folks back to the forums!  Thanks for the fabulous story G-man, and congrats on turning 40.  I just turned the corner on 50 and as I think back over my evolution it mimics much of yours.  Beringer White Zin to Schmitt Sohne Riesling, then fruity reds because reds were too "bitter" before trying more and becoming a red wine snob, eventually making it to all wines are enjoyable if you're enjoying them.  Along the way I've met many forumites and made some wonderful friends.  You and I have crossed paths but missed each other a couple times now - need to rectify that!

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