A Little Giant
My first discovery, if I may call it that, was the day a case of half bottles of a modest French wine arrived at the restaurant where I worked. On that day, no different from other days, this rather unknown wine would bring me one of the most rewarding experiences as a Sommelier. It was less than four dollars a bottle, sold for a little over seven dollars in the restaurant. It was a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru from the right bank of the Gironde River in Bordeaux with a pretty label displaying its 1971 vintage.
This rather unknown wine, Chateau Trimoulet, for reasons not so clear to me at the time, behaved astonishingly. Nor did I know that in this region wines of unexpected quality were produced that year. I could not wait to open one of those 375ml bottles, just to satisfy my curiosity. A spectacular wine—my initial perception. I, for one, was greatly surprised but I needed to prove, irrefutably, that what I thought of this wine was absolute true. The only way to do it was to let someone knowledgeable enough taste it and determine its greatness beyond speculation.
Who could be better than my boss, George Gasser, who had extensive experience and knowledge of French wines? When he entered the cellar, with a very casual demeanor I invited him to taste the wine from one of the two glasses that I placed next to a decanter. His expression was more indicative of a question rather than acceptance.
What happened then was not as funny as it is the memory of it. I calmly let him how much I liked it, but he was a little suspicious about my invitation. Very reluctantly he grabbed one of the glasses sitting close to the decanter. I did not know exactly what to expect of this wine at the time, but I highly suspected it was as good as I believed. “It must be the kind of wine that they make you drink in paradise", I thought.
“What is this? Oh, dear God!” He asked himself nervously, without expecting an answer. "Gene, tell me what you think and then I'll tell you what it is, please”. As he smelled and tasted the wine, although reasonably upset, he appeared to be enjoying his confusion. The situation was no longer under his control, as this tasting became, suddenly, a personal challenge.
After much speculation, followed by a long list of great wines and vintages, I told him it was a St Emilion 1971. He did not believe it, but I didn’t show him the bottle. Not just yet. Once confronted with the bottle’s identity, his attitude completely changed. From that day on we shared this wine with dinner every single day. If not with dinner, we would sit in the darkest part of the cellar, occasionally accompanied by freshly baked French bread with escargots in garlic butter… and we talked and laughed.