The year was 1992. I was a 20-something guy living in Mill Valley, CA with my cousin, working in town at Peet's coffee and going across the street on my breaks to speand time in Don Pozo's wine shop.
I didn't love the place to be honest, but they had old wine magazines that I could stand around like an idiot and read for free. These were pre-internet days (don't be the one to correct that), and while you can now happily surf the wine web from a wireless connection in a coffee shop, in those days it required something like a public shaming.
I think the clerk dude felt sorry for me, and one day he offered me my first big wine break. How would I like to attend a big wine trade tasting at Greens restaurant featuring new release 1990 Burgundies? All I had to do was show up that afternoon and say I was with Don Pozo's. I think I said yes, my name's Vincent, thanks, wow. Or something like that.
Like they say of Olympic contenders, I was too young to know what a big deal this was. What a break.
Turns out I can't remember any names of the Burgs I tasted, but it was clearly a top tasting and I definitely had a Burgundy "epiphany" that day. I think I can trace the pinot noir thing for me to that day.
What about Sean Thackrey? Well, he was there too, pouring his wines named after constellations, Pleidies, Taurus, Orion. Thackrey was something of a cult figure at the time, and I think that's still true today. I enjoyed his wines and talked to him for a few mintues. He seemed like a good if not especially warm and outgoing guy, but that was fine. I liked that he seemed like an intellectual but also made earthy, delicious wine.
Now I see that Thackrey has what might be the coolest wine site out there, at least for us old wine loving English majors. It's the Thackrey Library, a collection of old and ancient wine texts going back more than 2000 years.
According to the website:
The object of this library is to present an anthology of early texts on the making and understanding of wine, with many, many others just thrown in because I think they're pleasures. These texts span the entire spectrum from obscure to more so. Some are known, although actually read only under academic duress; some are unknown altogether. The fact is, inexplicable though it may (and to me does) seem, that apparently no such anthology has ever previously been published, in print, on the internet, or anywhere else.Many of the texts of course are in languages other than English. But pay special attention to The Countrey Farme, which the notes say is the first detailed description of the wines of France in the English. The book is Richard Surflt's 1604 translation of Estienne and Liebault's Maison Rustique, from a time when Shakespeare held court with the King's Men in London. If that isn't cool, what is?
Good for Thackrey for this invaluable website. Just wish my French were better.