I had the grand fortune of being invited to a tasting of wines from the Domaine de la Romanee Conti (DRC) a couple of days - actually evenings - ago. In a gorgeous room in a gorgeous house with a gorgeous view from the hills above Laurel Canyon, our gracious host opened bottles of the entire DRC line from the 1985 and 1989 vintages.
Starting with the Echezeaux and proceeding upwards all the way to my first-ever taste of Romanee Conti itself, I kept thinking this must be a dream. As we asked ourselves if anything could be better than what was in the glass in front of us, next came the answer as the host poured from the bottles, ascending through the famed line.
After the final pour, as we sat there savoring our most likely once-in-a-lifetime experience, our host dropped the bombshell.
"May I safely assume that with all of the oohs and aahs I heard that you were thoroughly impressed?" he asked us.
"What if I were to tell you that this was my early April Fools joke on all of you? That these wines were not really made by the DRC, but came from Trader Joes? Two Buck Chuck all around?" He laughed, then pushed out a box of empty 2BC bottles to show us.
"That right there, that Richebourg - or so what you thought was a Richebourg - it's this," he stated flatly while tapping on a bottle of 2005 Syrah. "And the La Tache? I just made a random mix of Merlot, Syrah and a bit of Cabernet. Not even a drop of Pinot Noir!"
We sat there astonished, not knowing what to say. We just stared at him.
"Have any of you ever tasted a bottle of wine from the DRC?"
We all looked at each other and shook our heads.
"So you didn't know what to expect, did you?"
"Uh, I thought that they were supposed to taste different than other wines," remarked one of us tasters sheepishly. "I thought it tasted kind of funny but I didn't want to say anything just in case that's the way it was supposed to taste."
"Funny, huh?" repeated our host. "Well, yeah, I guess. Is that what the rest of you thought?"
People were slow to speak at first but then the conversation became more and more animated as everyone began voicing the suspicions that they had while tasting the wines, but were too inhibited to say anything at the time.
"So in other words, you all thought something was amiss but you held back, am I right?" our host asked, laughing. We laughed, too.
"Next time we should speak our real minds, shouldn't we?" I said.
"Damn right," declared our host. "Now let me tell you something. You see those empty bottles of 2BC in that box? They've been empty for a month because I bought them and poured the wines down the drain. What you all drank tonight was the real thing - genuine DRC."
With all of our jaws dropped, he continued. "So at first you were raving about the wine and then when you thought it was 2BC you rationalized how you were suspicious but didn't say anything, so which is it? What do you really think?"
Well, I don't think we knew what to think at all after that.
"And let me say one more thing to you - what if I tell you I was pulling your leg twice and it really was 2BC and not DRC? You'd all be having brain whiplash!" He laughed uproariously. "Now you'll never really know exactly what it was you drank tonight, will you?"
Life is cruel.