I might enjoy a St. Emilion

My Wine Epiphany


1970 Chateau Figeac, Purchased October 21, 1972 at the Boulder Liquor Mart, Boulder, Colorado for $3.89

Enjoyed that evening in my basement apartment in Boulder with a T-bone steak and a green salad

Life as a graduate student in the University of Colorado was truly an exercise in self-control. In the early 70’s, there were so many distractions in Boulder and the Rockies, it was a real chore just to keep focused upon the task at hand, namely to distinguish oneself in the quality of your classwork and laboratory research. One wanted to earn a first-rate PhD, which helped to advance your scientific career. As a former high school teacher in Iowa, I had neither the environment nor the wherewithal to develop an interest in wine. However, once in Boulder, I had made it a practice; no, a ritual, to go to the Boulder Liquor Mart every Saturday night and look through the unending wine racks for bargains.
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Unfortunately, my budget was very limited, so I usually wound up buying a half-bottle of Sonoma Petite Sirah for $0.99. Of course, I had heard of the great red wines from Bordeaux (Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion) but they were nothing but names to me. One evening, as I was in a particularly festive mood, because I had aced my midterm in Organic Photochemistry, I wanted to splurge on a bottle of French wine to experience what they were like. The Mart had experts (former General’s aids) as buyers and advisors (I didn’t know this until this particular evening), and I asked one for help in selecting a nice bottle of red. He quickly concluded that I was not a Petrus buyer, suggesting that I might enjoy a St. Emilion; specifically the 1970 Chateau Figeac, which was a great bargain at $3.89, and was classified lower than its actual quality. I followed his advice and went home to discover what wine means to civilization! I remember being alone with my glass wanting to go out in the street and tell everyone about this wonderful experience. This was wine! Terms such as nose, bouquet, balance and finish took on real meaning with the experience. It initiated a lifelong fascination with wine which has been evolving for nearly  40 years. It was truly an epiphany.

Since those days as a graduate student, I have had the pleasure of enjoying many bottles of wine from some of the best wine producers in the world. I am the proud owner of a 1944 Margaux (my birth year), which will be with me for the rest of my life. Far from an expert, I am always discovering new wines which have a unique character which brings me new knowledge. I take comfort in knowing that the future holds more enjoyment for all of us wine lovers.

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  • Snooth User: Winist
    915614 0

    What a wonderful story! It shows that you don't have to be rich to enjoy good wine. I know John personally, and like a quality wine, he is a quality person.

    Aug 16, 2011 at 4:12 PM

  • John,
    Nice story !
    alex najafi

    Aug 16, 2011 at 4:56 PM

  • Good story, isn't it wonderful that wine is health food!!!

    Aug 17, 2011 at 7:01 AM

  • Thanks for your comments. I sent a copy to the manager of the Boulder Liquor Mart but have not heard from him yet. It was quite a place and is probably even more impressive now. I recently had Clos Figeax along side Opus One. It didn't measure up, but it was still excellent, albeit expensive (~$150/750 mL).

    Aug 19, 2011 at 11:09 AM

  • Snooth User: Diderot
    104965 104

    This is a delightful story. I really hope you one day get to enjoy the 1944 Margaux. Bon appetit!

    Aug 24, 2011 at 3:16 PM

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