Father’s Day Wine Reflections

My father was good at many things, but wine wasn’t really a passion for him.

Lancer's Wine

Art Thorsberg was a traveling salesman who sold rakes, shovels, hoes and other garden tools to hardware stores. On the weekends, he and my mother, Ruth, would enjoy an occasional glass of wine. I clearly remember bottles of Lancer’s and Mateus rose — both pink wines from Portugal — sometimes showing up in our refrigerator.

My dad was a bargain shopper, whether it was food, clothes or wine.

When he made business trips to Arkansas, the closest wine-producing state to our family home in West Tennessee, he would bring back bottles with names like pink catawba, alpine rose and niagra. They were inexpensive, medium sweet wines from Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, which is the oldest and largest winery in middle America.

I got my first sips of these wines at home and became intrigued. On my own, I developed a taste for drier styled table wines. I grew up and tasted new bottles of reds and whites from France, Italy and California. I started reading about wine and went to a few organized wine tastings.

Clos du Bois cabernet sauvignon from Alexander Valley — still a very nice wine — was one of my early California favorites.

I wanted to share my growing enthusiasm for fine wines with my parents, but my efforts fell woefully short of success.

On a family trip to Florida to watch spring training baseball, my wife and I took my parents to a fancy steakhouse with the most extensive wine list I’d ever encountered. Bern’s Steak House is still serving up sizzling steaks and fantastic wines in Tampa from a list that includes 6,800 entries from all over the world.

When we dined at Bern’s, the wine list was an actual book that was several inches thick. To keep patrons from stealing it, the book was chained to the table!

The list featured killer bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy, treasures from Italy and Spain along with some of the most famous labels in the American wine industry. I pored over page after page of exciting possibilities, licking my lips at the liquid pleasure to come and  practically giddy with anticipation.

Trying to be nonchalant, I told my parents to order any bottle they wanted. No restrictions. It was on me.

My mom and dad, both products of the Great Depression, looked back in horror. They had no idea what to choose from such an enormous list and the prices, even though they weren’t paying, were daunting.

I offered multiple suggestions, but nothing struck a harmonious chord at the table.

This was frustrating. Here I was, ready to write a blank check for the wine dinner of a lifetime, and my parents hung back.

There was nothing on the list they were really curious about.

It was, however, a great list. And, it did have something for everyone. Even my parents.

Instead of a First Growth from Bordeaux, a beautiful pinot noir from the Cote-d’Or, an older Italian barolo or a stunning California chardonnay, they got something they really liked.

Mateus Wine

My mom and dad were treated to the most expensive bottle of Mateus rose’ they had ever had. It was the biggest bargain on the list.

I had wanted to impress my mom and dad with my knowledge of wine and my bankroll. I had also wanted to an exotic food and wine experience with my family.

What I got instead was a lesson in taste and maturity and it’s stuck with me through the years. I understand now that just because I think something is good, doesn’t mean everyone will agree. And that’s alright. If cost doesn’t matter, your taste still does.

Although it’s not to my taste, I think I’ll find a bottle of Arkansas wine and pour a glass in honor of my dad on Father’s Day.

Is Your Dad a Pinot Noir Lover?

If your dad is a fan of pinot noir, the world’s biggest gathering of pinot noir producers will be held in San Francisco later this month. The Pinot Days main event — a tasting of wines from more than 500 producers — is scheduled for June 26 at Fort Mason. Tickets for the grand tasting are $60 in advance. Several smaller events — winemaker discussions, food/wine pairings and special “mini-tastings” at various Bay Area wine shops and restaurants — are also part of the week-long celebration of all things pinot noir.

Share Your Experiences

Do you have any family wine experiences you’d like to share? Drop me a note. I’d love to hear about them.

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One Response to “Father’s Day Wine Reflections”

  1. m. roberts Says:

    I miss Lancers. I use to live in Delaware and go to the Bluecoat Inn every Friday and have either one or two bottles of Lancers. It was a wonderful wine and I haven’t seen it in years. I’m now thankful I checked it out on the net as I’ve found it available in several places, as usual there is a great product and it disappears. Everyone have a great day.

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