Finding good wine in Northern California is not a problem. It's sold everywhere. The state's alcohol laws are so liberal I'm waiting for Home Depot to add a wine aisle. (Near the garden section, not the power tools.)
That doesn't mean I can get my hands on every wine I want. There are limitations even for someone who writes about wine for a living. If I could track down the Joseph Drouhin Musigny 2009 (97 points, only 28 cases imported), I couldn't afford $594 for a bottle, unless my daughter dropped out of college.
As wine dilemmas go, two of the biggest must be 1) obtaining a rare bottle you're desperate to taste and/or 2) paying for it once you get it. All of us have faced the first one and most of us the second.
I remember the first wine I obsessed over owning: Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Martha's Vineyard 1985. I waited in line outside the St. Helena tasting room for an hour on the day it was released in 1990. I loved the wine and talked my brother into splitting a case with me, but careful what you obsess over. As it aged, its trademark hint of mint and earth became too pronounced for me, so a few years ago I sold my remaining bottles at auction.
I was on a handful of winery mailing lists back in my B.C. days (Before Children), but as the kids got older, I weaned myself off most of them. I wasn't flashing cash for the likes of Screaming Eagle and Harlan, but when you want Carlisle Zinfandels or Pinot Noirs from Dehlinger or Williams Selyem or Rochioli, getting on the mailing list is the best route.
I'm over that compulsive stage that so many wine lovers and collectors go through, and when I do get a hankering for a wine that's hard to find, it's usually from some small European winemaker I read about, a tiny-production rosé from Provence or a grower Champagne or something like the M. Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonniers 2009 that arrives in the U.S. in tiny quantities.
There must be some good stories out there, about wines you dreamed of tasting but either couldn't find or afford? What was your biggest wine-buying obsession?