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24 May 2021 | Randy Kemner


Over the decades, I’ve learned a lot about wine from my insightful friend Carl Taylor.

“I’m convinced the best tasting wine in the world is vacation wine,” Carl Taylor famously declared.  “The second best is tasting room wine!”

Carl and his wife Pam had just returned from a three week vacation to Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia, three countries with long traditions of winemaking, all currently trying to enter the world stage. 

“We had a Cabernet Franc in Slovenia that was a dead-ringer for a Chinon,” Carl reported.

For Carl, a region’s food and wine is a motivating reason to travel there in the first place.  Many of the Taylors’ vacation photos were shots of traditional meals they enjoyed along the way:  pig knuckles, braised meats, freshly grilled fish and gregada, the Dalmatian fish stew.  Local wines accompanied most of their dinners, and the intersection of travel, local food and local wine has nearly always been immensely satisfying. 

While it’s true few wines of central and eastern Europe can compete in the international arena with the established wines of France, Italy, Spain and California, there Carl and Pam were, thoroughly enjoying the wines and the foods of the cultures they traveled there to embrace.

Over the years, I’ve met timid souls who seek culinary refuge in the familiar when they travel, and freak out if menus lack recognizable foods and favorite varietals. 

“What if I don’t like it?” they’ll ask, as if that would be the greatest tragedy of all time.

For me, taking refuge with Le Big Mac on the Champs Elysées is a travesty; a meal there is a missed opportunity to add richness and texture to one’s life.  Especially in Paris!

Travel is great in so many ways, especially in bridging cultures and gaining understanding.  Such adventures heighten senses like few other human endeavors.  Many of our customers tell us how wonderful the simple table wines of Italy, France and Spain are while on vacation there. 

“Why can’t we get wines that taste like that here?” they ask.

“Because you’re not on vacation here.”

And that brings us to Carl’s second choice for the world’s best-tasting wine.  Who among us hasn’t experienced nirvana when sampling a delicious offering from a winery tasting room only to be disappointed when the same wine is opened at home?  We are really disappointed if we’ve shipped home a case of it.  And especially regretful if we joined their wine club which month-after-month keeps shipping us bottles we’re not interested in, and simply don’t like.

You have a hard case of Napa Valley Remorse.

Time, place, occasion, food, and the people you are dining with all influence the taste of wine, either adding enjoyment or in all-too-many sad cases, taking away pleasure.  It’s hard for most Americans accustomed to product standardization in modern life to wrap our heads around this, but the unknown surprise is also part of the great mystery and magic of wine. 

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