As we age (especially after we retire), our minds drift more and more toward remembrances. Sometimes those thoughts run through like newsreels, highlighting special moments in our lives. Other times, we look back on events that, perhaps, did not end the way we had foreseen or anticipated. These dreams may try to “undo” events, or rewrite our own personal bit of history.
Other times, the past event was so special, so perfect, that we just bask in the delight of a happy chapter of our lives.
For those of us who are winos tipplers lovers of the grape, we have more than enough of these special moments etched in the storage vaults of our minds.
Certainly, the moment when one realizes that wine is not merely an alcoholic beverage, to be swilled at quitting time in the workaday world, looms large in our recollections. This sweet memory, otherwise known as an epiphany, is nearly universal among the legions that have come to worship at the altar of Bacchus. It is what starts us on our Hajj-like journey toward Wine Mecca, a place heard of but never quite found. The fun is in the journey, after all.
Five years ago, a chapter of my life came to an end. For more than six years, my wife (The Happy Cooker) and I had owned and run the High Desert Wine Emporium in Victorville, California. It was the culmination of 20 years traveling down my personal wine experience trail. Before the wine shop, I had educated myself in wine, written about wine, and educated others about wine. Owning a wine shop seemed like the next logical step.
Oh, boy — what a big step it is! No longer a pleasant interlude when relaxing from the events of daily life, the world of wine became my life, consuming all other events and pursuits. I lived wine… became one with wine…
Lady Wine can be a demanding lover, requiring those so enchanted to forsake all others. So it was for me.
Then came The Flood. Nearly Biblical in its effect on me, The Flood wiped out the wine shop and brought an end to that chapter of my life.
For the next 18 months, I wandered the desert (along with the seashore, the swamps of the Tennessee River valleys, and the never-ending drear of the Northwest temperate rainforests), searching for a place to call my new home.
I settled in Las Vegas. The reasoning was straightforward. More than New York, Las Vegas is truly The City That Never Sleeps. Any time of the day or night, there are things to do, places to go, amazing food (and drink) to be ingested, and people to be seen. A Mecca of sorts, if not the perfect wine Mecca.
Unlike Southern California, my place of birth, there are no earthquakes here. Or floods. Or wildfires. Not to mention state taxes. The only negative I could see was the high temperatures of the summer months. But that is what air conditioning was invented for. And it’s a dry heat. Really.
Three years on, The Happy Cooker and I are content in our new home and community.
Still, the happy memories of our wild times in the world of wine beckon regularly. Is it possible? Can one really go back to a place and time in our past?
Such an empirical experiment took place on the evening of May 18, 2012. A group of wine aficionados joined us at Chateau Chang restaurant in Victorville, site of many a night of carousing and conviviality. It was (conveniently, and not by happenstance) located directly next door to the old home of the High Desert Wine Emporium.
Among the attendees for the night’s festivities were two fellow wine judges who had followed much the same path as I in their personal wine journey, along with a good friend who, though smitten by the wine gods’ love, had managed to keep it to a weekend affair.
The wives huddled at one end of the table while the four men were transported to our special wine place. Klingon is an easier language to master than the thickened tongue of those under the spell of the wine gods.
One dear friend brought three special bottles — the wine that had been my personal epiphany nearly 30 years earlier, and the two bottles that had been his not quite 20 years ago. Another brought ghosts from the past — top-rated Bordeaux and Burgundy from the mists of time. A third brought personal favorites from the past two decades. And I added wines from the here and now, currently in release or soon to be.
Outstanding food was consumed. Delicious wine flowed. Old friends reconnected. Minutes turned to hours. And it was only out of consideration for the wait staff that we eventually called it a night.
The question was posed, and answered. Yes, Dorothy, you can go home again. And, at least in this instance, it can be as good as you remembered it.
Please enjoy my recollections of the wines consumed…