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Drink Up!

Author: Bill Meagher
October, 2012 Issue

It’s time to check in with our readers again. This time, the question is: What’s the first wine you remember trying? Turns out, not everyone started with the good stuff….

It was the communion wine at Asbury United Methodist Church in York, Penn., when I was about 12 years old. It was very sweet and I loved it—though I probably wouldn’t be able to tolerate it today. I’m not into “sweet.”
Ame Van Dyke, E.R. Sawyer Jewelers
The first wine I ever tried was when I was about six. We were in a condo in Tahoe during the winter, and we were having pizza for dinner. My then-14-year-old brother thought it would be funny to put red pepper flakes (that we always had on the table for my dad’s pizza) on my pizza. I took a bite without noticing and, as my mouth started to burn, in a panic, I grabbed my mom’s glass of Chardonnay instead of my glass of water. I completely slammed it. Then, when I realized that I’d now added insult to injury, I fell apart. I know I did not enjoy that vintage at all! Boy, was my brother in huge trouble. I slept well, though.
Jane Liscum
Oh my, oh my…. That would be Annie Green Springs! That’s all I have to say. Bad, bad memories!
Michael Arendt, Exchange Bank
Gallo Hearty Burgundy in a one-gallon jug was the first wine I ever had. I thought it was great, until I woke up the next morning. But that didn’t stop me from graduating to the more refined tastes of Lancers, Blue Nun and Almaden Chenin Blanc.
Carolyn Stark, Sonoma County BEST
The first wine I remember trying was red wine from one of those old Gallo ceramic jugs. If it wasn’t that, it certainly had to be from a vaguely marked Chianti in the basket-bottle. Given this unremarkable beginning, I graduated to the wonder of matching wine with food as I learned to cook. When I accepted the job offer to come to Sonoma County, I splurged on a bottle of Silver Oak (Alexander Valley, of course). It just goes to show how many things get better with age.
Rolf Nelson, Exchange Bank
Bali Hai—very sweet, rot gut that I drank with some high school buddies on a camping trip to Yellowstone. And then we upgraded to Boone’s Farm, which was at the top of our wine list for the trip. We’ve had reunions since those days, and the laughs almost make that hangover worthwhile.
At age 18, while backpacking all over Europe for a summer, my girlfriend and I tried our first wine. We were in Florence, Italy, and could only afford a little cheese, bread and a bottle of inexpensive Chianti for dinner. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven! The problem was, the bottle was so darling, with raffia wrapped around the lower portion, that we both had visions of taking it home. We had to buy another bottle to solve the problem.
I think the first wine I tried was Barefoot Merlot. I did like it—but I was also about 19, so I’m sure I would’ve liked almost anything.
Matt Martin, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY)
I don’t remember the first wine I tried, but I do remember my first Sonoma County wine blunder. Shortly after I arrived in town, I was helping out at a fund-raiser and thought all wines were supposed to be served cold. So, I successfully chilled about 24 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon before someone discovered me stuffing the coolers. That’s what you get for turning a kid from New Bedford, Mass., loose at your special event. That’s also probably why I’ve never been asked to help out at the bar at any SAY event.
Jordan 1978 Cabernet—yummm! So good that we insisted that my parents buy it for my twin brother’s and my graduation.
Kenneth J. Fischang, 
Sonoma County Tourism
The first wine I remember trying that had a major impact on my love for wine today was at Valentino’s Restaurant on Pico in Los Angeles in 1988. It was a 1979 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo Riserva, and it cost about as much as my salary for that next two months. I was with a friend of mine and her boyfriend, who ordered and paid for the wine and our amazing meal. It was a magical wine experience, from the initial bouquet to the final lingering of the very last drop. I was hooked! To this day, I have a soft spot in my palate for outstanding Italian food, fine red wines, the innocence of youthful wine drinkers and Valentino’s on Pico.
Marty Rubino & Gayle Peterson, Big Cat Advertising
When we lived in Southern California, wine wasn’t a big part of the conversation. We moved to the North Bay in 1993 and soon made a visit to Peju. That started a long relationship with Cabernet Sauvignon that’s extended to many varieties and favorite winemakers.
Heidi Rickerd-Rizzo, Terra Firma Global Partners
Boone’s Farm and Annie Green Springs tasted like soda pop—with a punch! Then, of course, there was always Mateus....
Susan Dickson, Private Ocean
My early introduction to wine would have been Annie Green Springs, Boone’s Farm and Ripple. Of course, we were Colorado kids—and I don’t think most people, even the older crowd, drank anything other than jug wines by Ernest and Julio Gallo. Special occasions called for Asti Spumonte or Cold Duck. In the early 1970s, Beringer White Zinfandel hit the scene and was the “fancy” wine of choice. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when I moved to California and went to work in the wine industry, that I learned what good wine was all about.
I was about six years old in the kitchen of my grandparents’ house in Petaluma. My grandfather, a Swiss-Italian dairy farmer, poured red wine out of a big jug in a wicker basket, looked me in the eye as he handed me the glass and said, “Drink it, it’s good for you.” I took a little sip and told him I liked it. Then he took the glass away and we all laughed and ate polenta. I later learned that the wine was Sonoma Zinfandel, which is what farmers drank back then.
A friend and I visited my brother at UCSD when I was 15 years old. My brother bought us a bottle of Boone’s Farm strawberry wine, and we sat on the bluffs of Black’s Beach that night and passed the bottle back and forth. It was pretty awful, but we knew we were sophisticated because we were drinking “wine.”
As a fifth-generation duck hunter, at an early age, my parents taught me about food and wine pairings. Before my first year out, we had a big duck dinner at the start of the season for good luck. Sitting at the table, I was 12 years old and my dad poured a small glass, no larger than a tasting pretty much, of Pinot Noir. I remember my lips puckered a bit and it burned a little going down. But then I took a bite of fresh barbecued wild duck and Yukon Gold potatoes, and I was hooked for life. The rest is history: a lifelong relationship with all kinds of wine varietals. Ended up moving here to Wine Country seven years ago, and I’m here to stay!


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