The account of a MW (Master of Wine) from Japan whose experience tasting the greatest wine of his life during a blind tasting competition before a panel, left me thinking at the time that I didn’t have my own such indelible memory. Despite having had the privilege of tasting thousands of wines in my young career, many of them excellent, none had had the power to capture my imagination in the same way… until recently.

I had been invited to a Chateau Musar tasting in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Chateau Musar is one of those producers that make the wine world so special. The winery is led by the charismatic Serge Hochar, who has the ability to fashion some of the most compelling wines in the world, and then you must factor in that he plies his craft in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley; this being not the place to dive into politics, suffice to say that that area can often be a less than favorable site for the production of wine. Yet Serge produces stunning wines that display a genuine sense of place.

The tasting provided a special look into the past. An impressive set of stemware carried white and red wines dating back a decade older than yours truly’s provenance, bookended by the 1975 and 2005 vintages—the range of wines was beguiling and there were many rare among them. The red wines, which I was already accustomed to selling, were a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault. It would be my first time tasting the white wines of Musar, which were a blend of the indigenous Obaideh and Merwah (unproven relatives to Chardonnay and Semillon).

I kept my expectations grounded before tasting through the back vintages; I wasn’t ready to be wowed—instead I was counting on an educational seminar from a legendary pioneer in the wine world. Working through the reds it was apparent that I needed to trade in my academic lens for a more philosophical and participatory viewpoint. An interesting experience to have my formal training take a back seat and enjoy the wines for their marked differences in an abstract setting, and Serge himself enjoys peppering the tasters with questions about their impressions, and then questioning them again intently, to see if they can back up their pronouncements. The red wines posed their own penetrating questions to the audience; cerebral wines with an array of flavors from everything between the dew on the forest floor to the threads of smoke drawn from a cigar. And so, it happened that it wasn’t the red wines of Musar that ended up stealing my heart, but rather the older vintages of Musar Blanc that turned my amp to eleven.

The 1989 Musar Blanc—four years my junior—was a special moment for me. It delivered a bounty of flavors that could not be suppressed, from an ethereal blend of honeyed tea, fruits and dried flowers, countered by more pungent blue cheese and mineral notes. I put my pen down and just enjoyed the flavors that seemed to transform themselves with every sip—this was a wine I did not spit. I tasted an ageless beauty that was in her prime. There were some interesting notes being shared by those in attendance, comparisons to famous wines like Chateau d’Yquem “Y” and other wildly subjunctive commentary that seemed to only highlight the unique spirit of the wine. There was a buzz in the room for this vintage.

The 1975 Musar Blanc, unfortunately, was eclipsed by the penultimate wine (and my darling 1989 Blanc) but it was also very special, with smoked rye, Chex mix, and Indian curry touches that suggested a very different evolution.

I am not inclined to using the favorites label; wines, burgers, music et alia, can’t fit neatly into those compartments, because when I’m in a Jets to Brazil mood it doesn’t dampen my affinity for Felix Mendelssohn and his gorgeous opus, the Octet in E-flat Major. The 1989 Musar Blanc, however, is the closest thing to a favorite I have had in my developing wine career and I was honored to have shared my experience with the winemaker himself. Bravo!