Leif Wannerud (the one on the right) is 'a wine enthusiast who is enjoying good Second Labels and constantly looking for New California (Sonoma Coast) efforts. For reading: Jon Bonné – The New California Wine. Excellent! Otherwise retired Clinical Research Manager/Pharmacist living in peaceful rural Sweden. And finally the Sardine Factory is still there – maybe with a slightly different design of the wine list?' This is his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
I am Swedish. My mother had an occasional sip of sweet Cap Constantia – my father had beer. Never developing into a beer enthusiast myself I preferred a glass of white wine "after work" which made me look a bit odd in the eyes of male colleagues. Couldn't care less.
Now to a couple of episodes which changed it all:
First let me take you to famous restaurant "Sardine Factory" in Monterey Ca. It is in the beginning of the 1980's and I am a bit of an outsider and the least distinguished person in a group of a dozen international top researchers in anaesthesiology. A lively group – much more vivid than you could expect from specialists in the art of the opposite. Being a research person myself albeit not an anaesthetist I represented my pharmaceutical company and – I was holding the plastic card! The menu was set but not the beverages so the head waiter presented me with the wine list – and believe me – that was some wine list! A massive book, big enough to match at least one of the Testaments. All eyes were on me when I nervously opened the book, looked at the first page and yes, here we go! The wine list was almost demonstratively American with wines listed according to price i.e. most expensive first and then in a falling order. The intention was obvious: you should not study more than the first couple of pages before making up your mind. Turning over more pages would ultimately result in unwanted speculations. My tie suddenly transformed into the hangman's rope and years after I was convinced that the term "blush wine", which was imminent at the time, had something to do with my reaction.
But rescue was close and more precisely in the seat next to me. Wonderful Dr. D. Bruce Scott at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh had observed my predicament and with a friendly smile he relieved me from the "book", reversed it and opened the last(!) page. His forefinger flew over the page, stopped and then he turned to the head waiter and ordered the wine for the main course. Bruce, sadly not among us anymore, then gave me an explanation I will never forget. "Leif" he said "the wine I've just ordered is chronically underrated and consequently great value for money. So don't be embarrassed for the last page exploration. Believe me, within one or two years these wines will dominate sales." Wine was poured, everybody had a happy face and I thought a red wine could never be better than this.
What it was? Of course a Rioja. Bruce had his prophecy fulfilled within a year and when we met again I reminded him about Sardine Factory. "Well Leif, there you see and remember; next time it's Australian Cab./Shiraz". Enough said…..
Some years and several bottles of Rioja later I was on one of my regular Scandinavian trips, this time to friendly Oslo, and on returning I paid my usual visit to the tax-free area in the airport. At the time Sweden was still not a full member of the EU (don't tell me you are leaving – seriously?) and tax-free purchases of alcoholic beverages was regarded to be mandatory for Swedes whenever an opportunity occurred. For some reason I did revolt this time. Probably fed up with the regular gin or brandy I went straight to the wine shelves and selected a bottle of 1982 Ch. Batailley for something like £20 – by far the most expensive wine I had purchased so far. Stored it for a year or two, opened it together with my wife and after the first sip I remember being silent for quite a while. Bells were ringing, angels singing and a new chapter had just begun…