Romancing the Grape
For this issue, hitting your mailbox before Valentine’s Day, I thought of the many romanticized reasons why we may have a love for certain wines. We all know that taste is the most important, but what makes a particular wine really stand out in our memory? One friend, winemaker Mitch Cosentino, formerly of Napa’s Cosentino Winery and now of PureCru Wines, had shared a story the day George H.W. Bush passed away that really touched me so I asked if I could share it with readers. Mitch agreed so here you go:
George H.W. Bush had a hand in both my early success and a hand in the awakening of America to the magical grape of Cabernet Franc when on March 8, 1990 at a State Dinner at the White House my 1986 Cabernet Franc was featured for the Italian Premiere Andreoti. Interestingly and coincidentally it was on my Grandmother Francesca Cosentino’s 99th birthday! For her, who was born in Italy, she told me that it was her greatest birthday present! She lived for another nine years. It was to many, the discovery of Cabernet Franc on the world stage. For me it was a great way to reach a larger part of the world as we opened the new Yountville winery and tasting room three weeks later.
Salute President Bush #41.
Like Mitch I’ve been in this industry a long time and have many wonderful memories that I’ve associated with certain wines. For this article I thought I’d share where my love of Bordeaux, specifically Chateau Lynch Bages, originated.
On our first trip to Paris with my then boyfriend – soon to be husband – I had done my homework via the Wine Spectator magazine in looking for wine bars and restaurants we should visit. One such establishment, Willi’s Wine Bar, was the one that is forever etched in my memory.
When we entered the bar, located in the first arrondissement, we quickly found a couple of seats at the bar. Willi’s longtime English owner Mark Williamson, though we didn’t know his name at the time, greeted us. He quickly assessed our interests, and budget, and we began to chitchat about – you guessed it – good wine. There may have been other customers there, but Mark was extremely attentive to this newbie wine-loving couple and we were smitten.
We had taken a couple of French wine classes but hadn’t tasted too many Bordeaux. With much fanfare, Mark presented a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages, a wine we embarrassingly knew nothing about. At the time of course we had no clue what grapes were predominant in the wine (Cabernet Sauvignon is the most under vine, followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), no idea to price (Wine Searcher states the average is $161 per bottle) or the best vintage years to invest in (The Wine Cellar Insider lists: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2000, 1996, 1990, 1989, 1985, 1982, 1970, 1961 and 1959).
We took our time, happily listening to Mark talk about the wine while we swirled and sniffed and finally tasted it. Then we both simultaneously looked at each other and the “ah ha” moment occurred. This was the singular finest wine we had ever tasted. Back then we probably didn’t use words like “balance”, “fruit” or “tannin” but have since learned, over decades of tasting, that the singular reason a wine stands out isn’t any of those things. Of course it’s the taste, as well as where you were, who you shared it with and a remarkable combination of it all is what makes that wine stand out.
Fast forward three decades and we were to taste with Mark at least three more times in Paris. We own five Willi Wine Bar posters, one was a gift from Mark and another from good friends. And Chateau Lynch Bages is still one of our favorite Bordeaux wines and we continue to purchase a bottle every year or so. Many are cellared in our home, waiting for the exact time that we need to have an Ah Ha moment.
And, in case you’ve wondered, we have also had many exceptional tastings with Mitch Cosentino. He has a lovely tasting room in downtown Napa that is open at night! So if you can’t get to Paris to see Mark, make sure you make it to Napa and see Mitch for your own Ah Ha moment. And, one last thing, if you need a more local Ah Ha moment shoot me an email, as I’ve had my wine glass kept very full of stellar experiences and I can romanticize over (almost) every single one.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email [email protected] to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via [email protected]
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