crossroads2So, here’s a story that’s rather funny, at least to me.  I had already started my trek into fine wine and was in search of every allocated item that could be found. I had not settled on any particular varietal at this point because the whole thing was still new and anything hard to find or with a score, I had to try. Remember , you’re dealing with a kid from New Jersey whose first encounter with a great bottle propelled him into a frenzy of sorts. The year was 1987 and the place was Yorba Linda, California, more specifically Casa de Liquor. I go into the store and ask the person if he has any 1985 Heintz Martha’s Vineyard or 1985 Caymus Special Selection. He eyed me for a minute and realized I must be another score whore. Sorry, that’s the word used back then, unfiltered my friends.

As we got to talking I found out he was born on the east coast, a Philly Boy, and we hit it off from the start. I was 32 years old buying Bordeaux and California Cabernet – not bad, hey? Yes, making some good decisions allowed me the luxury and so I was trying to corner the market on these highly allocated items. Sounds funny since I drink about two bottles of cabernet a year now. But back then I was loose and fancy free. So this gentleman named William reached under the counter and I walked out with what I thought was akin to finding a buried treasure, three bottles each. William and his wife Sheila became great friends of Jana and I so much so that he is the Godfather of one of my children. Life is funny but it was Bill who invited me to a wine dinner at an old restaurant called Rembrandt’s. I met another great friend that year, Bernie Gordon, but that’s for another blog. So, at this dinner while drinking some Cabernet, Bill asked me if I had ever tasted a D.R.C.? I said ,”Nope. But those are nice letters. What does it mean?” Bill went on to explain Domain de la Romanee Conti from Burgundy!

This was a changing moment in my life because I no longer cared about the 1985 Cabernets I had bought and the 1985 and 1986 Bordeaux futures. I wanted to know more about Pinot Noir and Burgundy. Soon after I started to sell what I had bought and replaced it with Burgundy thinking they all must be great. How wrong I was. No one made more mistakes than me when it came to Burgundy. In fact I have poured more swill down the drain then I would like to remember! In those early days there were times I hauled off and punched Bill in the arm for costing me so much. But in the end I have to thank him because that first Burgundy will always be with me and has driven me to making great wine. A life changing experience so to speak! Bill has moved from California to Arizona where he fought off cancer and started raising their daughter McKenna. They moved to Florida and he lived part time in Virginia where he went through school and earned a Master’s Degree. He works for the government now and has moved, where else, 4.2 miles from my home, right where he belongs. Now we get together often and reminisce a little. We are waiting for McKenna to get her license in the next couple months so we have a designated driver full time. Life goes on and he is my best friend! William and I have been on some crazy adventures, asked to leave McMinville on one road trip. Yes, there are many stories and empty bottles behind us and I hope a long road to hoe! There are still a few Cubans and a bunch of establishments we still need to finish and visit and no doubt will be asked to leave.

I was once told by my father that when you die you are lucky to count on one hand the total of your friends. It is a fact that the word is over used! A true friend is there when you’re up and when you’re down, that you can call at any time of night or day and they will answer!

He’s there for your family when you’re sick. And when you pass on he’ll be there for them long after you’re gone. That’s my friend Bill. And to him I thank for enlightening me in the ways of Red and White Burgundy and the magic of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, for the honesty and integrity he has always carried himself with and for his devotion to his family and friends and always being there. I only hope you have a friend like Bill in your life and if you do, don’t let him drift away! Besides you never know when you’re going to need to punch someone. Come to think of it, Bill is about due!

To friendship, a magic all it’s own, and wine leading me to that friendship,

Greg!

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