WineInk: A Shared Glass

My Wedding Anniversary Toast

Kelly Hayes
A tasting in the cellars at the Bisol winery in Italy that was carved in to the hillsides of the Prosecco Superiore wine region.
Courtesy photo

It pains me to no end that I can’t remember the wine that my wife and I poured at our wedding. In fairness, that wedding took place over four decades ago today, on April 7, 1979, and it was long before I paid as much attention to wine as I do today. But still, it seems like something I should know.

I have been blessed to be married and in love with Linda for the better part of my life. To this day, I wake in wonder that we have been together for so long and marvel at the happiness she has brought me. She has been not only my inspiration but my constant companion in life — and on the wine road — since this column debuted back in 2007.

The object of the author’s affection enjoys a glass of wine with lunch.
Courtesy photo

In fact, even before the first column (which began with the words “I’m a lucky guy!”) the two of us were well connected by wine.

We met cute on a stoop on Bay State Road in Boston’s Back Bay where we were both students at Boston University. It was Halloween night and we shared our first glass of wine at the Half Shell Restaurant on Boylston Street, home to Boston’s best chowdah. We’ve been paired ever since.

While we did not know much about wine at the time, we did know that we enjoyed it and I remember that for, the remaining years we were in Boston, wine was a part of most meals whether dining out or preparing in our modest kitchen. Linda was in the employ of the creator of a food newsletter built in a brownstone on Beacon Street, which — had it been decades later — would have surely been one of the world’s great food blogs. She would often prepare dishes from the author’s recipes (I long to this day for her Beef Bourgogne, so dense with wine that it was intoxicating on its own).

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The next years were spent in Los Angeles as we found our footing in media, she in advertising and me in magazines and television. The early ’80s were heady times in the wine and culinary scene in California as chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Jonathan Waxman, Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters were creating what was then called California Cuisine. Of course, the Napa Valley wines of the times were the perfect accompaniment to the fresh, farm-to-table foods and wineries like Stags Leap, Cakebread, Trefethen and Pine Ridge. They were affordable and delicious. California Chardonnay was our go-to, though we were also discovering wines from around the world from places like Burgundy and Tuscany on the wine lists in restaurants in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Not to mention our first sushi and sake pairings.

We made numerous trips to Napa, and what was then a fledging Santa Ynez wine region, to taste wines and meet winemakers. There were no tasting fees in those days and the atmosphere was welcoming and casual. But it was a trip to France that first broadened our perspective on wine. We were young tourists on a budget traveling in a rented Peugeot through the Loire Valley, visiting castles as one does, and decided we should visit a winery. Somehow, we stumbled upon the house of Marc Brédif, a classic producer of Vouvray wines made from Chenin Blanc grown in the region. Our host at the winery spoke English with a thick French accent and he began to tell the story of the wines, the production techniques and history of the Loire. We were both hooked and our interest in wine was further aroused. I remember how, for long after that visit, Linda would always check the wine lists in restaurants to see if a Brédif Vouvray, “our wine,” was on offer.

Linda also had a professional tie to wine as she worked for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in Los Angeles as a copywriter on the Gallo Wine account, the biggest entity in American wine.

By this time we were both fully committed to the wine and food scenes, me more wine and she more food. Linda began to freelance as a writer for a number of food and lifestyle publications, and we started to travel more extensively.

Perhaps the most magical sojourn was a press trip she had been invited on, and opted me in, to the Champagne region of France for a visit to the cellars of Dom Pérignon. The trip began and ended in Paris but the middle featured an evening at the Domaine Les Crayeres, a luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant in a classic French chateau in Reims. The evening — with dinner overlooking the gardens, the white gloved staff, the bubbles, but mostly the beauty of my bride — is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my mortal life.

The following morning we found ourselves in Epernay at Moët & Chandon in the heart of the Champagne region being greeted by Richard Geoffroy, Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave, or winemaker, at that time. We descended into the cold of the cellars that housed the thousands of bottles of the world’s most famed wines. As Geoffroy told the tale of the Benedictine Monk who cried “come quickly I am tasting stars” as he first gazed at the bubbles, and opened a bottle for us to drink, I remember thinking that heaven was in a cellar. The line is hyperbole, the work of an advertising copywriter like my wife, but hey, it worked for me.

Since that trip I can’t even begin to count the number of cold and dusty cellars and barrel rooms in which Linda has stood, while listening to yet another winemaker drone on about the vicissitudes of the weather from a summer decades back. Then there are the times where I have made her wait as darkness approached for me to finish some run in a vineyard high on a hill as the wind blew cold and the fog moved in.

My role as the author of this column has afforded us with amazing experiences. We have spent much of the last decade traveling the wine world together. We have walked the vines of Burgundy and Piedmont in Europe. We have swum in the Great Southern Ocean off Australia’s Margaret River wine region before having lunch on the patio with the great Vanya Cullen in vineyards that are home to koalas and kangaroos. The number of wineries from Santa Barbara to Washington’s Walla Walla to the Okanagan Valley (British Columbia) that we have visited over the last decade is incalculable. And the surprises, like the steep green hillsides of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, home to Prosecco, and the pristine beaches of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand and the Gimblett Gravels wine region have been transformational.

Incredibly, after 765 columns, she not only still indulges my passions, but also offers her advice and support as a reader of WineInk. As my proofreader she has accepted the burden of reading just about every one of these columns since their inception. She is both honest and encouraging with her opinions. And there is no one on the planet I would rather share a glass of wine with.

Happy anniversary, darling. I wouldn’t change a sip.


1976 Trefethen Chardonnay

So, if I could go back and select a wine from the time to pour at that 1979 wedding at Our Lady of Malibu it would be the 1976 Trefethen Chardonnay. First, it was was a favorite wine of my grandfather who was beginning to be partial to wines from Napa. But it also was an historic release by Trefethen.

In 1979, the French restaurant publication Gault & Millau Le Nouveau Guide held what they called “The Wine Olympics” as a response to the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” which saw two American wines take the top spots in blind tasting of French and American wines. It seems that a bottle of the ’76 Trefethen made its way to France and actually won the Wine Olympics and was acclaimed as “The Best Chardonnay in the World.” Not only that, but the wine’s triumph also was repeated six months later in a tasting organized in Burgundy by Robert Drouhin at the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.

And while I don’t have a clear memory of what we poured that April Saturday so long ago, it may well have been the ’76 Trefethen Chardonnay. The Best Chardonnay in the World.

I’m a lucky guy.

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