When I was a kid, my father began an interest in wine, particularly French Bordeaux, Burgundy and California cabernets. I can remember coming home from school and seeing wooden crates sitting in our garage from places I couldn’t even pronounce. My father was starting his hobby and passion, which was collecting wine, learning about wine, and sharing what he loved with those around him. When you are a kid, wine is not something that looks, tastes, or even smells good. So I under-appreciated what my father was doing, even though he tried wholeheartedly to gain my interest. It wasn’t until the summer of 2000, when I turned 21, did I truly learn to drink and comprehend the complexities which encompass the world of wine.
That summer, my mom and dad gifted me a trip to the Burgundy region of France. The three of us traveled from city to city, sampling all the delicious wines from various vineyards. Not only did this trip take me to some of the most beautiful places in France, it also taught me how to properly drink wine and enjoy it to the fullest. After years of my father valiantly trying to teach me how to drink heavy wines with big tannins, this trip introduced me to a type of wine I could drink and truly enjoy. I could swirl it in my glass, breath in the earthy aroma, and taste what makes Burgundy one of the most unique regions for wine thanks to the lyme-containing soil of the land. It wasn’t the typical birthday a 21-year-old would have, but it was full of cultural experiences and suddenly I found myself enjoying the same passion for wine my father had enjoyed. It brought us together on a different level because we could now talk about what we were drinking, and I was extremely interested.
Explore your Palette
After that trip, my love for wine grew and I found myself venturing out and trying different styles of red wines, making lists of my favorites along the way so I could tell my dad. We often tried new bottles together, and now I was seasoned enough to enjoy the glorious cellar he had so lovingly put together over the years. The more wines I tried, the more confident I became to handle those big First Growth French Bordeaux bottles or some of Napa Valley’s big name vineyards. It was fun to see what I liked about each wine, and even banter with my father over what I didn’t care for in them. My father taught me almost everything I needed to know about wine, and I knew it was time for us to have another great wine experience together.
I found the perfect opportunity to show my dad how grateful I was for all he gave me when it came to my wine education. At this point in my life I was able to gift him a trip to Napa Valley for his 70th birthday. Ironically, my father had never truly visited this region, even thought half of his private cellar came from there. So the two of us took a week to explore his favorite places. I hired a private driver to take us all over Sonoma, Rutherford, and even up to Alexander Valley. We tasted big names such as Jordan, Simi, Groth, Raymond, and Beaulieu Vineyard. And we threw in some smaller operations, names we never have the pleasure of seeing in the Midwest where we lived.
A Family Affair
That was another memorable wine experience I was able to have in my lifetime, and my father was right there with me. It was the last trip we would take together because I would loose him just two years later. When my father passed away, I inherited his wine cellar. Although he had sold some of it over the years, he kept his favorite French and California varieties and now I am enjoying these wines in my own home. I have the great privilege of opening wines for friends and family they probably would never get to taste. Bottles from some of the finest vineyards in France and California with dates ranging from 1982 to 1989. I never knew growing up and watching my mother and father enjoy wine together would open my own door to a life of wine. But I am so grateful they were able to give me such a gift, and I will always toast my dad with each bottle I open from his collection. Because I know the love he put into wine, I carry that torch and give others around me all I have when it comes to drinking and enjoying a bottle. The things my father taught me I know find myself bestowing on friends and family, continuing the legacy of my father’s passion. Wine is not just about finding the perfect bottle or knowing if you have opened something “worthy” to drink. It’s about creating memories and moments with people you love and enjoy being around. Wine is a way of life for me and I hope I can share that same joy and passion with people for years to come.
— Samantha Rhodes