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."