When Bill Young feels a strike on his line, he has two thoughts: First, like any other fly-fisherman, he's determined to reel in the Atlantic salmon tugging at his rod. Second, he's wondering which wine to pair with the catch of the day.
For Young, 70, a fly-fishing trip doesn't mean loading a station wagon with a couple of rods and a tackle box. He makes an annual pilgrimage to Iceland's Laxa i Adaldal river, he has cast his line into the Selenga River in the northern wilds of Mongolia, and he takes time each year to fish Canada's Restigouche and Norway's Alta rivers. Young travels on four fly-fishing trips a year, always for Atlantic salmon (which he catches and releases), and always with a special titanium travel case filled with a selection of the best wines from his 7,200-bottle collection.
Young began drinking wine in the 1960s, but it wasn't until 20 years later, in the early 1980s, that a few cases of 1982 Bordeaux turned him into an avid collector. "I bought châteaus Terrey-Gros-Callioux St.-Julien, Gloria St.-Julien and Meyney St.-Estèphe, each of which was under $15 a bottle at the time," Young recalls. "Then I began earning a little more money and graduated to more distinguished labels. By the late '80s I was hopelessly addicted [to collecting wine]."
These days, Young's cellar is a veritable time capsule, with cases of the best wines of the 1980s from every region and a sizeable number of more recent vintages, too. From France, he has 10 cases of La Tâche 1982 through 1989, two cases of 1985 Lynch-Bages (Wine Spectator's first Wine of the Year, in 1988), a case of 1989 Pétrus, eight cases of Guigal's single-vineyard Côte-Rôties from 1983 through 1992, and an assortment of first-growth Bordeaux that date back to 1947. Young's two cases of 1985 and 1986 Sassicaia share space with his 1980, 1981 and 1982 Penfolds Grange Hermitage, while a case of 1985 Stag's Leap Cask 23 ages nearby. Young doesn't believe in buying just a couple of bottles when he can have the best by the caseload.
The 1,400-square-foot cellar, organized by region, runs the length of Young's house. A dumbwaiter carries fresh shipments of wine from the garage to the cellar while wine case end-caps accent the room's archways. Anchoring Young's collection (and his cellar) is a custom-made redwood rack that holds a vertical of etched 5-liter bottles of Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 to the present. Young also has a 20-magnum selection of what he calls "oldies but goodies," such as '66 Pichon-Lalande, '70 Léoville Las Cases, '76 Lafite Rothschild, '76 La Tâche, '78 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet and '84 Silver Oak, but these are less useful to him than easy-to-pack 750ml bottles.
So what does Young carry with him when he's tromping to far-flung fly-fishing locales? "I never bring old Bordeaux," he says. "It would take weeks for the sediment to settle out again after bouncing around." Instead, he and his wife, Wende Logan-Young, who accompanies him on at least one trip each year, prefer red and white Burgundy, American Pinot Noir and Rosemount Chardonnay Roxburgh, from Australia.
Young has also discovered that Sauternes travels well—and is popular among fellow fishermen. In 2001, on a trip to Russia's Ponoi River, Young befriended four fishermen from England. They were wine aficionados too, and Young says their eyes lit up when he admitted to having a bottle of 1983 Château d'Yquem among his gear. "[They said to me,] 'Get the bloody thing out here,'" he recounts. "For the next few days, they were just waiting for me to uncork that bottle. But we saved it until the final night. It made that trip very special."
Young, who retired in 2003, founded the advertising agency Young Ideas and created the successful Harvey Wallbanger character for the Galliano liqueur campaign of the 1970s. His home office, decorated with fishing rods, overlooks a trout pond behind his home and, beyond that, Canandaigua Lake. Living in the Finger Lakes region of New York affords Young the chance to become better acquainted with wines grown close to home. "My neighbor John Ingle owns Heron Hill Winery, and Hermann Weimer is also a close friend," he adds.
Above Young's cellar, in his library, hangs a full-size wood carving of the largest salmon—a 45-pounder from the Alta River—that he's ever caught. Since then, he's had a fly named after him (as well as after his wife and two of his four children). But his most cherished memory is of sharing a bottle of 1961 Pierre Ponnelle Musigny, his favorite wine, with Wende and two friends on the banks of Mongolia's Selenga River. "It had to be the oldest—maybe the only—Burgundy to grace that land," he surmises. And that is no fish story.
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