Benjamin Wallace: The price of happiness-3

This was a fun one. This is the fastest street-legal car in the world and the most expensive production car. I got to drive this with a chaperone from the company, a professional race car driver, and we drove around the canyons outside of Los Angeles and down on the Pacific Coast Highway. And, you know, when we pulled up to a stoplight the people in the adjacent cars kind of gave us respectful nods. And it was really amazing. It was such a smooth ride. Most of the cars that I drive, if I get up to 80 they start to rattle. I switched lanes on the highway and the driver, this chaperone, said, “You know, you were just going 110 miles an hour.” And I had no idea that I was one of those obnoxious people you occasionally see weaving in and out of traffic, because it was just that smooth. And if I was a billionaire, I would get one.

This is a completely gratuitous video I’m just going to show of one of the pitfalls of advanced technology. This is Tom Cruise arriving at the “Mission: Impossible III” premiere. When he tries to open the door, you could call it “Mission: Impossible IV.”

There was one object that I could not get my hands on, and that was the 1947 Cheval Blanc. The ’47 Cheval Blanc is probably the most mythologized wine of the 20th century. And Cheval Blanc is kind of an unusual wine for Bordeaux in having a significant percentage of the Cabernet Franc grape. And 1947 was a legendary vintage, especially in the right bank of Bordeaux. And just together, that vintage and that chateau took on this aura that eventually kind of gave it this cultish following. But it’s 60 years old. There’s not much of it left. What there is of it left you don’t know if it’s real — it’s considered to be the most faked wine in the world. Not that many people are looking to pop open their one remaining bottle for a journalist.

So, I’d about given up trying to get my hands on one of these. I’d put out feelers to retailers, to auctioneers, and it was coming up empty. And then I got an email from a guy named Bipin Desai. Bipin Desai is a U.C. Riverside theoretical physicist who also happens to be the preeminent organizer of rare wine tastings, and he said, “I’ve got a tasting coming up where we’re going to serve the ’47 Cheval Blanc.” And it was going to be a double vertical — it was going to be 30 vintages of Cheval Blanc, and 30 vintages of Yquem. And it was an invitation you do not refuse. I went.

It was three days, four meals. And at lunch on Saturday, we opened the ’47. And you know, it had this fragrant softness, and it smelled a little bit of linseed oil. And then I tasted it, and it, you know, had this kind of unctuous, porty richness, which is characteristic of that wine — that it sort of resembles port in a lot of ways. There were people at my table who thought it was, you know, fantastic. There were some people who were a little less impressed. And I wasn’t that impressed. And I don’t — call my palate a philistine palate — so it doesn’t necessarily mean something that I wasn’t impressed, but I was not the only one there who had that reaction. And it wasn’t just to that wine. Any one of the wines served at this tasting, if I’d been served it at a dinner party, it would have been, you know, the wine experience of my lifetime, and incredibly memorable. But drinking 60 great wines over three days, they all just blurred together, and it became almost a grueling experience.

And I just wanted to finish by mentioning a very interesting study which came out earlier this year from some researchers at Stanford and Caltech. And they gave subjects the same wine, labeled with different price tags. A lot of people, you know, said that they liked the more expensive wine more — it was the same wine, but they thought it was a different one that was more expensive. But what was unexpected was that these researchers did MRI brain imaging while the people were drinking the wine, and not only did they say they enjoyed the more expensively labeled wine more — their brain actually registered as experiencing more pleasure from the same wine when it was labeled with a higher price tag.

Om Namah Shivay

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