Epiphany in the religious concept is of the Magi and the manifestation of Christ on January 6, which is known around my house as Armenian Christmas. Epiphany in regard to the Monthly Wine Writers Challenge will use another definition, that of insight or revelation. Since I had the good fortune of getting to pick the word for this challenge, I figured I better write my article sooner then later, though I have already seen a couple of articles already. I might add that I can be rather nostalgic about wines, because I have had the chance to try a lot of wines over the years, and if you have even remotely read some of my articles I bounce around from the past to the present with no rhyme or reason. When I started college the Age of Majority had changed to eighteen and when I turned twenty-one, so had the Age of Majority again.
I was not raised in a home where wine was a regular beverage, so I learned about it in my teenage years. In our house the beverage of choice and by that I mean, my Father, preferred and drank beer. Even though he was a naturalized citizen, he was born in Canada and to him beer could only be Molson Canadian. Of course we always had liquor in the house for company and back in the day, a liquor cabinet was really easy to maintain. We always had Seagram’s V.O. and Canadian Club (see what I meant about Canada), and then we always had Chevas Regal for my one Uncle. I had another Uncle that was in the Merchant Marines during the war, and on occasion he drank Bordeaux wines, but he was just as happy with a beer or a cocktail.
In my youth, part of the maturation process, I guess, was learning to drink and the follies that accompany that process. I remember that my friends would like to come and visit me, especially in the summer months, because my Father would hand each boy a beer to be enjoyed on our front porch, in Detroit every house had a front porch. His philosophy was that it was better for the kids to drink with some supervision, rather then having them sneak beers out of the refrigerator.
As I said, beer was the main drink of choice, and as we got older, we would all gather at the local park, park on the side of the road, roll down the windows, and we all would play the same radio station for some background music, while we sat at a park bench drinking some beers. As a kid of fourteen to sixteen hanging with the older guys was cool and it made me feel “older.” Sometime after my sixteenth birthday and I was able to drive, and the socio-political climate was not as tough on drinking, even for kids, I saw something that made me want to change my drink of choice. I was at the park one evening and now my friends were eighteen to twenty-one and we were having fun. A couple of picnic tables up from us, the same scene was being done, but this time by a bunch of guys in their thirties, and I thought to myself, this is not what I want to be doing for the next twenty or more years.
It was also the time that I started dating. Looking back I remember all the problems I would encounter going on a date. If we went out for pizza and a beer, I had to have twenty some pieces of identification (it seemed) and probably my priest along to vouch for me, and that wasn’t going to happen. As it was, I was attending a high school in Detroit that was not a regional school, it was what is now called a Magnet school, but back then you had to be invited to attend the school by your scholastic ability. The school was in downtown Detroit, so consequently all the students eventually learned about all there was to know about downtown. I remember the first time I took a young lady from school out on a date to a downtown restaurant. I didn’t have to tell her to dress up, because back then one dressed for dinner, especially downtown. I was also lucky that I had a moustache by the time I was in high school, and I have had it ever since, so I guess I looked a bit older and the suit helped as well.
I remember ordering the dinner for both of us, and since, a wine carte was also with the menu, I scanned the list for a respectable priced bottle of red wine, since we were both having steaks, after all what do adults eat, but steak. I ordered a bottle of Bordeaux Superior as I thought it meant a “superior” wine; I was very naive, but gutsy. The waiter took our order for the meal and for the wine as well, with no request for identification. May I say that we were both ecstatic, and how we didn’t start giggling I still have no idea. This was the introduction for me about wine, and since I was already a student in high school, it was easy to start studies about a new subject as well called wine. Let me say that the my studies in wine far out passed what I learned in Calculus and to this day I really have not had to call on Calculus, other than it did make me think a bit more logically, so I guess it was not wasted time.
I started drinking different red wines. I was trying Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superior, Medoc and Haute Medoc. I was asking questions in wine shops, while I shopped and tried at all times to sound like an adult, which is sometimes still hard for me to do. I mean wine was good, it had the same affect that beer did, and it was much easier to order without problems. Then one evening I had a “wine” epiphany that changed my whole outlook about the beverage and I discovered what the fuss was about that I had missed so far in my short life. The wine I had selected was a Second Growth, the first rated wine that I had ever tried. On the menu it was listed as Chateau Pichon Longueville, and I remember being as smart ass and asked if it was the Baron or the Comtesse; see what you can learn before ever tasting a wine. I mean here I was ordering my first bottle of wine from Pauillac, the fabled Commune of Medoc and it was Chateau Pichon Lalande 1964. The wine blew me away, as in the vernacular of the day. Even to a young kid like me, the sensory overload was amazing; the nose, the color, that first taste as I whistled in a last bit of air, and the finish that I could actually count numbers to, made me realize that wine had just surpassed a “date” thing and had developed a whole new meaning to my life. Instantly I had the understanding of why people raved about wine, maybe not in my neighborhood, and at that moment I realized why people had wine cellars and collections. It was my “wine” epiphany and there was no going back.
I also became a “snob” I guess because I started looking for wines and I quickly understood that even a wine that I had never hear of, by vestige of it coming from Pauillac or any of the other Communes was worthy of further investigation. I also discovered all the other areas of Bordeaux and how the varietals affected the taste of wine, and a few years later I discovered Burgundy and there was no stopping me. Thankfully I was only a “snob” for a couple of years, when I discovered that I still didn’t know anything and I had so much to learn. I am still learning to day and it has been so long since I had set foot initially in my high school building, and that building has since been razed and replaced by another institution still with the same name.