By the time I was four years old, I had begun to visit my father during the summer at the hippie commune on which I was born. After spending winters with my mother in Colorado, my summers wandering the backwaters of California's Sonoma County with a bunch of hippies were nothing short of idyllic. There were bonfires, stargazing, sleeping out of doors (both with and without tents), fishing, and most activities you can imagine that involved getting as dirty as possible. And oh yes, there was wine tasting.
My visits to my father, you see, presented an excuse for my paternal grandparents to make the drive from Colorado (and eventually Arizona). While there was plenty for a young, active kid to do on 1,000 acres of sheep ranch, the options for entertaining straight-laced pensioners were extremely limited. So whenever Grandpa and Grandma showed up, we'd all load up into Grandpa's Buick, and head over the hill into the Sonoma Valley to experience a bit of civilisation.
I can't quite pin down how far my first memories of wine tasting go back, but by the age of six or seven I had been to most of the major wineries in Sonoma County (along with quite a few in Napa), and already had preferences...
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you're not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It's only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
What's Holding Wine Back in America Vinography Images: From the Fog The World's First Wine Bar Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 31, 2015 Vinography Images: Sky Drama Secrets of the World's Best Wine Lists Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 24, 2015 Vinography Images: The Happy Canyon Drinking Time Itself: The Champagnes of Anselme Selosse The Great Prosecco Crisis of 2015
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune