“We had a movie producer – his name is George – and George used to come to the restaurant. He was one of those persons who had a lot of questions, and he was falling in love with Italian wine. Eventually, he fell in love with a wine called Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino, which is the ‘founding father’ of Brunello.
And every time that he came – four or five times a year – he was always asking me, ‘How was a particular year, whether there were comparable wines, talk to me about this wine, what do you feel, what do you taste?’ So it was always something that gave me the opportunity to express my knowledge and my research at the same time; it was a pleasure that he was such a discerning customer.
So time goes by and one night he and his lovely wife make a reservation for four people and they want a particular area, which we call the alcove – a little enclosed area within the dining room where you have a little more privacy. They call me and they say, ‘Tonight, we have a very special guest. We would like to be in our alcove, privately, and there’ll be four of us at 7:30 and, please, it’s very special.’ So I said, ‘Okay, George, no problem.’
George and Mrs. M arrived, and I say, ‘Would you like anything while the other two arrive?’ And they said, ‘No, no, no. For now, let’s relax a bit.’ A few minutes later, I go by and I say, ‘Would you like some water while you wait for your guests?’ ‘Yeah, O.K., bring us some water, and, you know, actually, bring us the menu, bring us the wine list.’
They start browsing, they start figuring out how the evening was going to be orchestrated, and then they call me back. They order for four, and they order a Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi. So I figure, ‘Why four?’ But I didn’t say anything because probably on the cellphone they heard that the two guests were on their way.
First course arrives. He’s sniffing the wine, he’s talking, but he’s not talking to his wife. And, eventually, the waiter is kind of curious. He looks at me and I say, ‘You stay away from that table, I’ll take care of everything.’ I say [to George and his wife], ‘Are you finished?’ And they say, ‘Yes, you can remove the dishes, but not the glasses.’ So, we remove the first course, the second course, we keep pouring wine...
To make this story short, we get to the end of the meal. Obviously the two guests never show up, and he has been talking all along about the wine, about the nuances of the wine, the taste and the color and so forth. So he says, ‘Well, give me the check and then I’ll tell you a little story.’
So I figure, let’s discover the mystery. When the check arrived, he looked at me – and there were quite a few tears in his eyes – and he says, ‘You know, Piero, you have been wonderful to me, and to my friend Peter, for many, many years. Remember we used to come and share this bottle of wine? Well, today was his funeral. And I promised him that we’re going to have dinner and wine at Valentino, we’re going to have Brunello di Montalcino, and continue like he was with us. And he is with us, and this was all in his honor, and I hope you understand.’
He invited me to have some of the wine and we raise it to Peter and to his good memories. It’s something that will stay with me for many, many years.”
As told to Rose Sneyd
Fast facts from Wine-Searcher's search engine:
● Average Price: $133
● Grape variety: Sangiovese
● Wine-Searcher search rank: 236th most-searched-for wine last year
● Current vintage on the market: 2007