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james laube's wine flights

Taste Memories Can Be Fond or Fowl

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Nov 13, 2007 12:49pm ET

Where do we come up with some of our wine descriptors? Many of our taste memories are tied to our youth and early taste sensations and they stick with us. I can still think back to feeding ducks and geese as a kid, and later with my own kids, and I know a duck pond when I smell it.

In the same vein, many of our fondest wine memories are linked to our formative years, or a special moment in time.

You wouldn’t expect a 2003 Kongsgaard Napa Valley Chardonnay to have been aged with roasted marshmallows. Yet you can find that distinct flavor in the wine. Believe me, I’ve sat around enough smoky campfires roasting marshmallows to know. It’s there.

One might find it puzzling that a Cabernet might have a mocha-espresso flavor, which is a good thing for chocolate hounds or espresso drinkers. But those flavors can also be found in wine, along with some oddities, like gun oil, Jolly Rancher watermelon candy, soy sauce, burnt rubber or even that familiar duck pond pungency.

Not all taste memories are pleasant ones. But this wine memory is.

While paging through photographer Melanie Dunea’s My Last Supper, a book about famous chefs and their final wish for their last meal, Suzanne Goin, chef at Los Angeles' Lucques and AOC, says of her final wine choice. "I chose Lang & Reed Cab Franc rather than some amazing million-dollar Burgundy, and I realize it's because it's the wine my husband and I fell in love over."

Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  November 13, 2007 6:49pm ET
Cute...I like that. Some of my favorite wines are the memory of what we were eating or what event it was or even the wine itself mixed with the context.
Robert Fukushima
California —  November 14, 2007 11:35am ET
James, Nice thoughts. Reminds me of my experience with a 1987 Dunn Howell Mountain, on my 40th. Something about how the wine came together for me reminded me of the S.F. flower market where I would go as a child with my dad. Floral and wet cement would be the best description I could put to it. I have had some marvelous wines, but, I do not know that I will ever have a better wine experience than that.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  November 14, 2007 1:45pm ET
James, on the same theme, I find some wines taste better depending on who you enjoy them with (honestly)! It seems that good cheer is contagious and it can be reflected in our perception and enjoyment of wine, I believe.
Roy Piper
Napa, CA. —  November 14, 2007 5:24pm ET
I remember trying the 2000 Bryant Family Cab a couple of years ago and distinctly remember a roasted marshmellows on graham cracker smell. I loved it!

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