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The Long and Winding Pinot Road, Part VI

It was the early 1990s and liking Pinot Noir practically labeled me an eccentric. To most wine lovers of the time, Pinot Noir was an afterthought - a weak substitute for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. For me, Pinot Noir was the Holy Grail, the most sensual of all wines, and I was bound and determined to pursue my love affair with it.

Burt Williams and Ed Selyem were able to produce magical Pinot Noirs out of a small garage on Fulton Road in Santa Rosa. There had been significant press since 1985 touting the quality of the Pinot Noirs they crafted from magical vineyards like Rochioli, Allen, Hirsch and Olivet Lane. It was a 1992 Williams Selyem Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir that had such a powerful punch for me that even today I can taste the wine, and clearly believe it was the greatest California Pinot Noir I have ever had in my life.

I reached my 50th birthday in 1993 and decided to have a celebratory degustation dinner at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach, California. My friend and sommelier extraordinaire, Rene Chazottes, planned the food to accompany my wine choices. It was Rene who made me understand that wine, alone above beverages, is part of food and neither exists in even half its glory without the other. As Renee used to say, “Wine is made for drinking with food and when you have the perfect match, that is it, the experience will bring you to your knees! I still wax nostalgically about the wines served that night: 1990 Domaine Ramonet Bourgogne Aligote with Crème de Casis (Kir), 1989 Zind Humbrecht Riesling Brand Grand Cru Vendage Tardive, 1989 Williams Selyem Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir (magnum), 1985 Comtes Lafon Les Caillerets 1er Cru Volnay, 1982 Chalone Reserve Pinot Noir, 1943 Cheval Blanc, 1982 Cheval Blanc, 1984 Silver Oak Bonny’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (magnum), 1990 Williams Selyem Martinelli Vineyard Zinfandel, 1989 Gaston Huet “Cuvee Constance” Vouvray, and 1982 Laurent Perrier Cuvee Alexandra Rose Champagne. It was probably the last big dinner I planned where I drank varietals other than Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. I was hopelessly hooked on Pinot Noir and this led to the “Super Bowl of Pinot Noir.” To be continued… … ...

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