Posted by: Randy Allgaier | September 22, 2007

À bientôt, le vin! An Oenophile’s Farewell

Wine- the sound of the word can make me swoon. I love good food and I adore fine wine. To my mind wine and food are inextricably linked. What is better with seared foie gras than a fine crisp chilled Rosé? It’s hard to imagine having a nice rare aged beef without an amazing Romanée-Conti. Motrachet, Chambertin, Margaux, Latour, Lafite, Brunello, Barolo- my mouth is watering.

The thought of a dinner at the French Laundry, Gary Danko, Chez Panisse without wine- it seems like an obscenity. The neurons in my brain light up with activity when I remember the meals at those amazing restaurants as well as Paris’s Taillevent and Gourmard, Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, and New York’s Lutèce; wine being a vital part of the gourmet experience in each of these restaurants.

Our vacations have revolved around wine and food. Here’s the definition of the perfect vacation for me: Morning spent over croissant and café au lait plotting what Southern French village or cave we will visit and eat a multi-course wine accompanied lunch, afternoons spent exploring these wonderful places and then returning home to nap and consider where to have another remarkable dinner. Ahhh- c’est la vie!

Hosting dinner parties in our home where we painstakingly pair a wine with each course is a labor of love for the food and for our guests. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see the look that comes over one of my guest’s face when he or she experiences our food accompanied by a great wine choice.

Tasting a wine is like visiting the vineyard where it was born. The wine tastes of the earth- the minerals in the soil, the particular weather of the region. Wine, like good food is that combination of art and science. The artisan meets the chemist in the personage of a vintner.

But alas I must say “À bientôt” to wine. I’ll be going on interferon to treat Hepatitis C- a condition that I have apparently had as long as I have had HIV (more than 2 decades). While wine is DEFINITELY a quality of life issue for me, I’ll have to adapt.

I’ve been preparing my body for the onslaught of interferon- taking Chinese herbal supplements, doing acupuncture, going to the gym, switching around some of my HIV medications and beginning Wellbutrin- trying to stave off the side effects of interferon which include among other things- depression.

My hepatologist told me to stop drinking – no debate. Not even a glass of wine with dinner. I tried to explain the difference between an oenophile and an alcoholic. But he wasn’t buying it. When we talked about it- I didn’t even mention my love for excellent single malt scotches because I feared that his head would explode. As I whined about no wine, he told me that he would rather me smoke crack than drink anything with alcoholic content. I retorted that I didn’t know of a good crack that went well with seared foie gras.

So- it is farewell to a good dining companion. We won’t be seeing each other during my interferon therapy and, if all goes well, we will never have the same intense relationship we used to have. I guess all relationships change over the years and every once in a while you need to take a break from one another. I’ll grieve the lost of my dinning buddy for a while- but it will fade and I’ll learn the joys of different brands of sparkling waters.

Wednesday the 26th of September is my 19th anniversary with my partner Lee. It will also be my last drink of wine for quite sometime. I’ll begin interferon a month later.

À bientôt mon ami- mon vin! I have some fond memories and you have been my most enjoyable dinner companion. You have given me an experience of increased dimension to food and you have given me joy that will linger in my memory like the earthy, fruity smell of a newly opened bottle.


  1. Wine Lovers know the difference…

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