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The First good Wine

Having been a beer guy for so many years you probably wouldn’t expect such a person spending a significant amount of vacation time and money on trips to Paris, France. Paris, Texas maybe – but not Paris, France. Be it, as it may, due to a collision of work assignments and passing interest in art and architecture combined with an appreciation for almost anything old, I had come to grow very fond of Paris. On one of our vacation trips there, I decided to investigate The Hotel Ritz (pre-Diana fame) and one of its infamous haunts within, The Hemingway Bar. Infamous, because lore has it that upon the news of Paris’ liberation from Nazi rule, Ernest Hemingway bought the bar a round and toasted by firing his sidearm through the ceiling. Pssst, if you want to go to fun places on vacation, go to places where Hemingway liked to go. The place is now famous because it is home to the undisputed “Best Bartender in the world”, Collin Field. So, back to the wine. My wife and I decided on a pre-dinner drink at The Hemingway Bar. After successfully making it through the gauntlet that is the lobby of The Ritz(go there, you’ll know what I mean), then down a long hallway lined with jewelry shops only the Queen could appreciate, part the heavy drapes covering an unmarked doorway, you’ll find The Hemingway Bar. We saddle up to two of the total of only six seats the bar has. We were hosted to an unparalleled gracious hour or so by Collin. From perfectly prepared martinis to tiny appetizers prepared in seconds, Billy Holliday playing on an authentic 78rpm Victrolla, quiet conversation under subdued sepia lighting. Ouch, atmosphere so good you can cut it with a knife. We sadly needed to head out to our dinner when Collin stopped us and asked us if we would like to try some complimentary wine. He explained there was a couple at one of the few tables that had lost track of time and could no longer wait for their wine to decant. We both said “Is it red?” He didn’t reply, just pinched his eyebrows. Of course, our reply was – “we don’t care for red wine”. Pinching his eyebrows again, he proceeded to pour us a taste. And, without saying a word, we knew a whole new dimension of our life was about to open up. Collin kept pouring. I won’t pretend to describe the wine, as it was almost 10 years ago. What I do remember is it was a 1964 Château Ausone. We couldn’t resist asking Collin how much the couple had paid for the wine that we had drunk. 7,000 French Franc, about $700 U.S. dollars at the time. It remains the most richly priced bottle of wine we have ever consumed. We never made it to our dinner; we spent the rest of the evening chatting with Collin and various guests at the bar until the wee hours of the morning.


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