The Story of a Bottle: 1994 Simi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

I love to keep bottles that mean something to me. Yes, I probably have more empty bottles sitting around than I should, but every bottle I keep has a story and I’m starting a new segment here about these special wines and the stories behind them. All bottles I show are the actual bottle from the actual story.

The 1994 Simi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

My wine career kicked into a higher gear in 1997, the year I was hired by Jim Surdyk to be a wine consultant for Surdyk’s Liquor.

Up until that point, my income was always a hodgepodge of side hustles, waiting tables, and delivering pizzas. I finally had a job with benefits! And in the world of wine!

Money was super tight at the time, especially with toddler Spencer at home, but a celebration was in order after I got hired. I wasn’t yet on the payroll at Surdyk’s so I couldn’t yet get an employee discount there. But flipping through the Dining section of the StarTribune, I happened upon a 25% off one bottle of wine coupon for the new Richfield Municipal Liquor Store at 494 and Lyndale.

I ran over there with coupon in hand, and started to browse the asiles. The night before I had a particularly strong night delivering pizzas (for Beek’s in St. Louis Park), with a total of 40 deliveries for the night. So I had about $100 in my pocket. I couldn’t spend it all, but I wanted to experience something other than the $7 bottles I was used to.

The new store was super nice and clean, with a glass box section with special bottles on display. Should I get one of those? That’s the fancy stuff! I saw the 1994 Simi Reserve Cabernet, priced at $49.99 a bottle. I had never before paid so much for a wine at a wine shop.

Doing the quick calculation in my head (“I have $100 cash, I need to buy groceries for the week, we will need more diapers in three days, I can pick up a shift at Beek’s on Tuesday, maybe I have an extra $10 on my desk at home???…”) I decided to do it.

Opening the wine that night, to have with reheated pizza with Angela, was one of the best wine experiences ever. It was the first time I really felt the depth that a wine could go to, the layers of flavor that it could possess, and the evolution that happened over the course of time in the glass.

Up until that point, my fine wine experience was really limited to tasting small bits of great wines at restaurants and industry tastings. This was the first bottle that showed me why enjoying a bottle with focus and attention over the course of a couple hours can be so wonderful. It was the first time I experienced evolution of wine over time in the glass (or decanter).