The 3 Best
By: George Balling
Mary recently attended the Boz Scaggs concert with some friends, and one of her old college buddies asked an interesting question, “What are the three best concerts you have ever been to?” I would suspect that is a tough one to answer for most of us, so much goes into it, the performer and performance, who you were with, the venue and your point in life all affect how we feel about something like a concert. It set me to thinking what I would consider the three best wines I have ever had. Many of the same criteria would apply, where was I, who was I with, what was the occasion and where was I in my wine journey? The next great bottle I share may supplant any of these but for historical sake here they are, not necessarily in the 1,2,3 order.
When Mary and I lived in Los Angeles there was this great little Italian restaurant called Pepone, it may still be there. It was located in Brentwood and was a classic old Southern California “joint” right down to the red Naugahyde booths, and on any given night the celebrities dining there. They had a great wine list policy, when they bought bottles, they doubled the wholesale price and never moved the price after that. It led to drinking some great vintage bottles at pretty amazing prices. It was a frequent spot for us when we lived in LA in the early to mid-90s. In the mid-90s they had the 1982 Jordan Cabernet on the list, it was a regular order for us and one of the great introductions to California Cab. The ’82 vintage remains to this day one of the most spectacular vintages for Northern California wine. Mary and I were newly married, we were living in the first home we ever bought together and loving our life together enjoying all that Southern California had to offer. It had a lot to do with how fondly I remember that wine, I dare say I would love to have that bottle again.
In the late 1990s we were living in San Francisco with an apartment in the city to accommodate our work schedule and on the weekends we many times would go up to wine country. In one particular year though my birthday fell mid-week. Mary surprised me with dinner at Massas a big-ticket restaurant in “San Fran” at the time, we sat down and the Sommelier Thierry, don’t remember his last name, visited with us. He was a colleague and friend of Mary’s brother John and he took great care of us. After looking through the voluminous wine list and some guidance from this very talented “Somm” we settled on a bottling from Meo Camuzet. I don’t recall the vintage but suspect it was from the late 80s and was their Premier Cru bottling from Nuits St. Georges and was a small fortune for us back then at $100. My mind at the time was just being opened to French food and French wine and to Pinot Noir. It was an epiphany for me at this stage in my wine consuming life. It was simply stunning and will forever stick in my memory. Anytime I have a chance to enjoy one of the wines from this legendary producer I jump at the chance, sadly it is a bit more of a financial commitment now to get one their bottles, but it is always a pleasant trip down memory lane to one of my top 3 destinations ever.
Some years later Mary and I were travelling around France. We had scheduled our trip to spend part of our time on our own and part with Mary’s brother John and his wife Paula. We met for several nights in Beaune in the heart of Burgundy. One of the nights there the four of us met up with Nancy Oakes chef owner of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco and her husband Bruce Aidells of Aidells Sausage fame. I don’t recall the name of the restaurant we ate at that night, but I do know it had a Michelin star, at least one. One course and one wine are crystal clear in my mind to this day. We all ordered the same appetizer at John’s and Bruce’s encouragement, a marrow bone topped with escargot. The wine was Coche Dury Meursault, and I don’t recall the vintage. The pairing and the company made this wine unforgettable; several bottles went down that evening lingering over the multiple courses but that French Chardonnay to this day remains in my top 3.
We would love to hear your top 3 stories and hope you will have the chance to add to them as you continue your own wine journey.