Wed 29 Jul 2009
Well, Readers, I frequently haul out the fact that I have been writing about wine for 25 years, which, of course, when the year ticks away, will change to 26 years, but it occurred to me that in this very month, that is the month of July, now almost over, that is, 25 years ago in July 1984, my first newspaper wine column appeared in The Commercial Appeal. I was teaching college English at the time and still learning a lot about wine through reading and tasting (and I’m still learning). The feature editor of the newspaper then, Mary Alice Quinn, agreed that the city needed a local wine column, and so the thing was launched on July 11, 1984. Two years later, she offered me a full-time job, and in August 1986, I made the leap from academia to journalism.
Anyway, I went down to the newspaper (where I no longer work; I have to get a visitor’s badge from security) today and searched for my first wine column on microfilm. You know, it’s not bad, a little naive and overenthusiastic, perhaps, but certainly a great fledgling effort. I won’t reproduce the whole column for you, but I will tell you what I wrote about.
First comes a group of Bordeaux red wines from 1981 that I had recently tried at a blind tasting. My recommendations for accessible examples at decent prices were — check these figures! — Chateau Lynch-Moussas ($10 to $13) and Chateau Branaire-Ducru (about $20).
Then I provided notes on a miscellaneous range of wines: Silverado Sauvignon Blanc 1982 (about $9), a terrific quaff; the fabulous Mount Veeder Late Harvest Zinfandel 1980 (about $10 for a half-bottle); the Coteaux du Tricastin Vin de Syrah 1981 from Domaine de la Tour d’Elyssas (great value at about $5); another wine from Coteaux du Tricastin, this one a 1979 bottled by the Union des Vignerons de l’Enclave des Pape, which I said was old, tired and worn out and hence to be avoided (about $3.50); the lovely Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 (about $9.50); and two sparkling wines from Shadow Creek, the Brut Cuvee No. 1, which won my hearty approval (about $10) and the “disappointing” Brut Cuvee 1981.
The column ran once a month into the Fall and then went to every two weeks and within six months was running every week. In 1989, it was picked up by the Scripps Howard News Service and distributed to newspapers around the country. The rest, as they say, is history; well, actually, that column itself is history, as they say.
I’m not going to wax nostalgic or philosophical on this occasion. I’ll just say that I concluded that first column, 25 years ago, by saying, “Well, that was fun,” and damnit, it still is.
Insanely celebratory image from graphicshunt.com