September 2003 was a turning point in my life, marking the point when I threw my heart and soul into wine and began the journey. All it took was one weekend in Napa Valley.
Quick background… I worked for three months as a server at Lindey’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, preparing for my big move to Mexico. Lindey’s was one of my three jobs in my attempt to maximize my savings before spending it all down South. In June we introduced a new wine list and had a one month wine sales competition as part of the launch. The grand prize was an all expenses paid trip for two to Napa Valley. Quite literally as soon as I heard about the competition, I notified all my colleagues that the trip was mine. I’m sure ya’ll can imagine how this story ends. I won the trip! In fact I “crushed” the competition, outselling 2nd place by more than double.
I took Cindie along for the ride. She was my girlfriend at the time and also fellow wino. We spent 3 days, hanging out with the winemaker at Parducci. We stayed in the guest house and were completely pampered all throughout the trip. This trip was pre Kenny’s Wine Journal and as such I honestly do not remember many of the details, just the sheer and unrelenting joy and amazement by the whole experience.
I do remember that we visited Kendall Jackson, Andretti and of course Parducci, and overall visited roughly 8 wineries. Additionally I recall that a petit syrah from Parducci was the wine that stole my heart, as did a bottle of port style wine, with very compelling orange notes on the nose. The name of the winery has been on the tip of my tongue for the past 5 years! We also had an infusion of Parducci chocolate zinfandel syrup mixed with a Parducci zinfandel. It was quite delicious.
The real magic, although drinking the wine had a whole lot to do with it, came from the interaction with the winemaker and the timing. The trip was planned during peak harvest and so the entire valley was completely captivating with an almost surreal viticultural fervor. And the sensory explosion was unforgettable. We spent nearly an entire day with the winemaker from the wee hours of the morning until sunset, walking through the winery and riding in his pickup through the vineyards. I still remember being in awe as we walked through a vineyard and tasted some grapes that were just ready for picking. The winemaker made a quick phone call to round up the crew. The whole concept of terroir, connecting person to place, was perfectly portrayed.
And the rest is history…