The End of a Legendary Bottle: A Tribute

Have you ever gotten to know someone by their handwriting?

Chris was left-handed, and his penmanship was so distinct I can see it in my mind as I type.

It had a slant to it, and it was remarkably neat with immaculate perfection.  No smudges, no erases, just perfect penmanship with a very distinct slant.

I grew to love that writing along with the man who owned it.

When I started working at Windows on the World in March of 1998 as an assistant cellar master, I reported directly to Chris Goodhart, the Assistant Beverage Manager.  His one request of me when I received the wine in the morning was to write down every single ounce of information recorded on the wine label, regardless of how insignificant I believed it to be.

Little did I know at the time, but this was a very important job, and a job that should not be taken lightly.

For instance, if the Nuits St. Georges from Daniel Rion had “Vieilles Vignes” underneath the appellation, it was quite different than the bottles that said “Les Vignes Rondes”  or “Grandes Vignes.” Even now as I write this blog, I am double checking my spelling for the label’s exact wording.

And of course, vintage was imperative.  The 1993 Nuits St. Georges cost much more than the 1994, and if the vintage wasn’t recorded correctly or at all, for that matter, Chris would have to page one of us so that updates on the 1500 label wine list were 100% correct.

Chris was thorough and exact and close to perfect in every way possible, but more than that, Chris was compassionate.  He listened to me when I worried about making a mistake, and he cared about my love life that was not panning out the way I thought it would.  When my older sister came to Windows to dine with a friend, he chose an affordable bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for them to enjoy with their dinner, all the while making them feel as if they were drinking the best bottle of wine on the list.

Chris continued to be a friend well after he left Windows.  He procured places for me to stay in Napa when I went out to take the introductory exam, and he even made the trek to Tarboro to eat at On the Square and spend nights with us in Tarboro.

Chris took time to be a friend, and his love for people and his knowledge of wine were not challenged by anyone.

My dear friend Mark called me on Thursday to tell me Chris had left our world.  The news took my breath away, and four days later, I am still asking why.

Why is this gentle, loving soul no longer with us?

Chris taught me many, many life lessons.  He taught me the significance of detail when it comes to anything you do, the basics of wine service in a fine dining setting, not up-selling wine when you don’t have to, and above all, the importance of friendship.

Chris will be missed by all who knew him.  He truly made a mark on me as well as countless others who were fortunate enough to know him.

Tonight, when I raise my glass, I will raise it in his memory.  The bottle of the wine of life just became a little more empty for all of his friends.

Cheers to you, Chris.  We love you and we will miss you.

 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lina Westin

    Dear Inez!
    I’m in Sweden and just found out that Chris is no longer with me.
    I didn’t meet many of his friends, but knowing that you loved him is comforting to me. Let’s stay in touch. Lots of love, Lina

  • Cathy Marshall

    Once again Inie, I sit here at work and go over my bookmarks and see On the Square and click to see if you’ve added any new stories…and happily you have..for me that is…but not for you..I’m sorry about your friend, but I’ve come to believe that if you liked him we all would have….I’ve come to look forward to your words….so comforting to my soul….thank you…cathy

  • Cathy Marshall

    btw, you are wise before your time…..

  • Well said Inez…

  • Remembrance is a sweet sorrow that keeps those we love close to our hearts everyday.
    God’s peace Inie.

  • Charlie Woods

    Very saddened to hear of this. Didn’t know Chris well but had the greatest repect for his work. Thank you for your tribute Inez.

  • Jill Stein

    So beautiful what you wrote. I knew Chris Goodhart thru his relationship with my brother Les. They were partners for over 13 years. He was so kind and loving to my family. He treated us all with respect and kindness. We had dinner twice with him at Batlthzar and those two dinners I will recall for the rest of my days. I too will toast my glass of wine this eve, and echo what you wrote so well about him.

  • Inez

    Inez,
    I was told of your blog last night and so appreciate your remembrances of Chris. He talked often of his friends and of their importance in his life. It is immensely comforting to read your kind words. Thank you….Sally & Bob Goodhart, Chris’s parents

  • Erik Friedly

    Thank you for this. Chris and I became friends in college, and I’ve never met anyone else quite like him. He made day-to-day life at a tiny boys’ school in nowhere Virginia much more fun than it otherwise might have been.

  • Hazel Jane

    Ines what a wonderful tribute. We all adored Chris and each have our stories – wouldn’t it be lovely to establish a digital library, a book of sorts where each of us shares our favorite memory of him. Thank you for sharing yours!

  • MaryKirk Cunningham

    Inez,
    My aunts and parents told me about your blog about Chris. You captured so much of what he embraced and was passionate about. I took my role as his big sister with great seriousness and adored my little brother. His compassion, passion for the simple details in life, his love of people, his legendary storytelling, his commitment to his profession in the world of wine, and his love of family will forever leave a mark on this world. Chris was a loving brother, son, and uncle. Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful tribute to him and for being his friend. Your words bring me so much comfort as it is a blessing to see how he impacted so many lives. Kirk (Chris’ sister)

  • Dear Inez,
    Your blog was forwarded to me by my dear friend. I heard of this sad news a week before Thanksgiving and I could not and did not believe that such a gentle soul had left us so suddenly! I met Chris over 12 years ago in one of our casual wine tasting group that he was so great at assembling, he was a Maestro in gathering friends and share his love and passion about wines.
    Thank you for your precious words in describing a dear friend that we are all going to miss.
    Cheers let us all raise a glass and toast Chris.

  • James Armstrong

    I had the pleasure of working with Chris at Balthazar. He was also my neighbor in Brooklyn. He inspired me to get my miniture pinscher. No matter how crazy the day was at work, or what kind of people we were dealing with, it was always such a pleasure to go into the wine office at the end of my shift and talk to Chris. He would always make me laugh. He was so kind and caring. I would stay late to do tastings with the different wine reps with him. I love that he would always make them put the bottles in brown paper bags and do blind tastings. I just learned recently of his passing and I can not get over it. I just cant believe the world will be deprived of such a wonderful person. It is nice to read the impact that he had on so many others. He will always have a place in my heart.

  • michael schepp

    I do not know any of u but I knew Chris in his final days he was very down on his life he shared a room with a couple of us we were not aware how seriously depressed he really was but anyway he was a good guy I be er knew he was such a well known man

  • This past weekend (1-3 June 2012) I attended my 25th high school reunion at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Virginia. I was in the class of 1987, and was a grade behind my peers in the class of 1986 (Chris’s class). During the three years I knew Chris at V.E.S. I always liked him, and enjoyed the time that I got to spend with him. I especially remember him to be an incredibly talented artist. Even to me, a boy from a small town in eastern North Carolina, Chris seemed to be bigger than the place where he was, and destined for something bigger. (In saying this, I mean no disrespect to my alma mater, but we at V.E.S. somehow always seemed to hang out in the shadows of that other Episcopal High School ~ E.H.S. in Alexandria, Virginia, not to mention Woodberry Forest. Chris just seemed bigger than all that was around him and should have been at a place that was more cosmopolitan or something of that sort.) maybe that was the beauty of V.E.S. though, it was a place for all of us to come together to be something truly great.

    I think I’m right that Chris went on to Hampden Sydney as well as to the runways of New York and Milan before he finally settled into the wine trade and became a sommallier (a career perfectly suited for Chris, who was, I believe, truly passionate about his craft). I kept track of Chris over the past 20 years or so via Facebook and through our mutual friend Banks Talley, but then lost track of him several years ago.

    I had all ideas that I would hear of Chris again and that he would enter my life in one way or another, but I had no idea that it would be through another of our friends informing me of his death oh so many months after the fact. When I heard the news, I was, and am still, deeply, deeply saddened. This world has once again lost one more soul who, I believe, had so much left to give us. Because V.E.S. was such a small community, and we boarders were together morning, noon, and night, in that small community, I still think of Chris as a true friend, and as a brother. He truly improved the lives of ALL who knew him just for the simple fact that we knew him. It has probably been 26 years since I have seen or spoken to him, but I will feel no less loss than I do for the fact that I will never see him again in this life.

    To the family of Raymond Christopher Goodhart, my deepest and most sincere condolences. While I know that I will never equal you in the amount I feel at the loss of your son and brother, please be assured that I am one of the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people whom Chris touched in his life. I will forever remember him for his sense of humour, his sense of style, and especially for the kindness that he bestowed upon me. I will remember him as the boy from Box 111, Gloucester Point, Virginia, as well as for the man he became, and I will miss him anytime I think of my alma mater and all the truly wonderful friends I made there.

    Farewell Chris. We will miss you.

    Stuart U. Freemon
    Virginia Episcopal School class of 1987

    Pikeville, North Carolina
    10 June 2012

  • Banks Talley

    Chris was my best friend in high school in Virginia. He lived down the hall from me in the dormitory Junior year (1984-1985). Most people don’t know he was a track star. Very fast runner. He introduced me to Depeche Mode and we both liked the music of Thomas Dolby (and many other 80’s musical groups). I remember very clearly when he entered the GQ “Face of the 80’s” contest (at 17-underage, no less) and actually won his first modeling contract. I still have the letters he wrote me from Paris, when he became a famous male model. Of course, this was while he was actually attending Hampden Sydney for college (about as far from the runways of Milan and Paris as you can get). I spoke to Chris on the phone right before he left New York. It had been 20 years. I am saddened that we will never get to talk or see each other again. RIP Raymond Christopher Goodhart. My good friend.

  • Marykirk Cunningham

    Today is Chris’ birthday. As a family, we visited the tree planted in memory of him next to our church, Christ Church of Lucketts, VA. The boys and I decided to celebrate his birth. Chris’ nephews wanted to hang special little keepsakes that reminded them of him on his tree. So on such a “bitter sweet” day, we hang them and as we did the heavens seemed to open up and light came through a clouded sky. Chris did impact the lives of people in many positive, caring, and loving ways. On his birthday, take a moment to think about your special time with him or a good memory of him as I think it will truly help remind each of us how important it is to cherish each and every day, to appreciate the humor in life, and how to just simply stop to care for one another. Happy Birthday, Chris with lots of love from your big sister.

  • Sarah Cosovich

    Hi,
    I also worked with Chris Goodhart at Windows. I just was thinking about him and googled him to see what he’s up to. I was shocked to read that he died. I’ll miss seeing him when I visit New York. Do you know how he died?

  • Daniel Bush

    I was just thinking about Chris, wondering what he has been up to, as I do every few years. We were the best of friends as kids living in Bremerhaven, Germany, as our dads were both in the military and stationed at Carl Schurz Kaserne in the late 70’s.

    I was shocked and saddened to read that he has passed on. Thank you so much for posting.

    Dan

  • Holly Rigby

    I justvran across this post. I wanted to leave a memory of Chris as a little boy of 6 or so, when we lived in the same Army post cul de sac with his parents. My daughter, just 4 at the time, had disappeared to our great panic. After frantic searching…and discovering Chris and a red wagon were missing as well, we found them returning from a mission to find a stray kitten a home in the neighborhood behind us. My daughter adored Chris, followed him everywhere…and recognized his compassion and…as we said “good heart” even then. Our love and sympathies to Sally and Bob and MaryKirk. We remember from all these years… and we were shocked and heartbroken to hear this news.
    Holly and John Rigby