Free Spirit Wines – Willamette Valley Wine Education —

My “Ah-ha!” Moment with Chianti


Many, if not most, of the people I know who work in the wine industry have had an “ah-ha!” moment. That is the moment when wine becomes something more than just a beverage. When you feel that first sense of wonder and amazement; that first desire to find out what and why this is. And you know what they say; you always remember your first…

I was introduced to my first shortly after graduating college, while I was putting my degree to good use by working as a bartender in an Italian restaurant in New York City. One night, I had dinner with one of my fellow bartenders. [His name was Mitch, too, but with the “t.” He was tall and I am not; so we were monikered “Big Mitch” and “Little Mich” by our customers!] Big Mitch brought out one of his favorite bottles for dinner: Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro 198x (the exact vintage was lost along with some ageing brain cells but it was something in the mid-to-late 1980s).

And it hit me with the first sip! Wow! What is this?? Where did this come from?? WHY is this SO GOOD?!? I needed to know why this wine was so different from any Chianti I had ever had before. And that was when I obsessively started taking wine classes, going to tastings, subscribing to magazines, buying books.

The first wine class I ever took was at the International Wine Center in New York, which was founded by Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the first American woman to achieve the prestigious Master of Wine. I came across this article written by Mary Ewing-Mulligan’s husband (and co-author of the Wine for Dummies series), Ed McCarthy about a vertical tasting of the Riserva Ducale Oro, where the 1985 was the best of the lineup and he names 1988 as his favorite vintage ever. Perhaps it was one of those that struck my palate? Even though I can’t be sure, I will take Ed McCarthy’s comments as a validation of my “ah-ha!” moment!

  • Heidi Ward

    My first “ah ha” if you will was with Zin. I did not like wine for many years and then my husband had me try it. Not really my thing, but I kept at it and before you know it, I was enjoying drinking my Cab. Fast forward several years and a couple trips to our local wineries and my “ah ha” was Zin.

    I have tried on a couple occasions to start a blog about wine and my experiences and have recently started yet another one. You, Me and a Glass of Wine. I am not a professional and never will be, but I lvoe my wine good or bad and like to share my opinon.