Raman J Ghei describes himself thus: 'Father to three amazing kids, wine has become a passion as it wraps my other loves – history, family, friendships and travel – all together. While I spent most of my life as a gin drinker, getting older led me to set aside grain alcohols and through discovering wine I have since made friends and visited places I might not have otherwise. A love for wine is also something my son and I both share, and there’s nothing better than having these types of connections with your children.' Here’s his (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
My sister Gita was celebrating her 40th birthday in 2006. We had a family gathering planned in Chicago, with our mom, my older sister and all of our kids. Having recently gotten a little interested in wine from a local shop, I thought it would be fun to try to find a wine from 1966 with which we could all celebrate. This being well before I knew anything about the wine auction world where one can find just about anything, I simply went to a store where I knew they did carry some nice wines, and asked about the possibility of getting a 1966, with no special domaine or chateau in mind. The proprietor responded that he would check with his distributor, as there was the potential for getting a Leroy burgundy wine of that vintage.
He gave me a little background on Leroy, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the mystery and love for Madame Bize and Domaine Leroy, and how her wines were considered to be some of the most sought after of all Burgundies. The fact Leroy was one of the few domaines in Burgundy not only run by a woman, but that also made wine using a mostly organic method of farming made the wine seem all the more perfect for my sister who herself liked to grow organic vegetables, plant trees and make art with a connection to nature.
Fortunately within a few weeks the store was able to obtain a bottle for me and while the cost turned out to be higher than I was expecting (at least 10x the most I had ever paid for a bottle of wine up to that point!), I thought that since her 40th birthday only comes around once, I splurged and brought it with me to Chicago. Given all that I had now heard about Leroy, I certainly had high hopes for this mysterious wine.
By the time we gathered for her birthday, I had thought more about what a 1966 wine meant and thus put together some thoughts for my sister. I presented her with the wine, and we talked a bit about Leroy and the fame of that domaine. I said that other than the fun of it simply being a 1966, it was fascinating to imagine that wine is one of those rare items that in essence holds time in a bottle. The grapes and air inside this bottle were from the same air and soil that existed the year she was born. One could sort of romantically say that both the person and the wine were born of the same earth, rain and sunshine. I then proceeded to open the bottle. Peeling away the foil capsule, I came across a moldy mess on top of the cork. Not knowing this was actually a good sign, my heart sank and I thought the wine was surely bad. Still, having come this far, I tried to make the best of it, wiping away the mold we then pulled out the cork and poured the wine into about half a dozen glasses. Upon smelling it, we were instantly engulfed with the musty basement, earthy smell that I now know is the normal scent of an old Burgundy, but at the time we all thought well, this is probably going to taste terrible! Wondering what exactly the fuss about Leroy had been, we exclaimed that we might as well give it a shot! We all took a drink and instead of a horrid rancid old wine, found a magical and amazing one still full of life and youthfulness, nothing like anything any of us had ever tasted. We all fought for a few more sips of what was left in the bottle, though I don’t remember who also ended up with the “dirt” (sediment was not yet part of my vocabulary!).
After a few more glass clinks to the sound of “skoal!” our celebration with the wine was over. But, for myself, this memorable moment where wine changed from just being something to drink into something that put history, artistry, nature, mystery, family and celebration all into one bottle forever changed how I would view and of course covet the magical elixir.