(Another sharing session by Sean King, Wine Specialist with Michael’s Wine Cellar)
Why do we do it? Why do we neglect and forget about the people and things that bring us pleasure? I began thinking about this after I received a phone call from an old friend I hadn’t been in contact with for awhile. After the 20-minute phone call ended I looked at my phone–I could hardly believe that it had been almost 16 months since she and I had spoken. We had been pretty close friends for many years. We shared good meals, great conversations and more than a few bottles of wine, but as we both got busier and older we slowly began to lose touch with one another. Fortunately, in this case, we were able to catch up enough to plan on her coming to Florida for a long weekend. If only our wines were as forgiving…
Pure Gold Without the Karats
Those of us who make an effort to buy multiple bottles of some of our favorite producers’ wines from multiple vintages can sometimes forget that each year has distinct similarities and often times big differences. Some wines will be OK with us not checking in on them for five, six, or even ten years, while others will simply fade from neglect.
I have always had a certain affection for red Burgundies from Domaine Meo-Camuzet. Maybe that’s because my first real experiences were the 1996 and 1997 vintages. I bought some mixed cases of the Vosne Romanee and Nuits St. George Premier Crus and some Grand Cru.
The 96s almost required 12 years of cellaring to begin to show what they were capable of. They were rich and full with subtle oak and lots of acidity. The 97s were the opposite. Riper fruit, generous oak and significantly less acid and around 2003 they were simply delicious—nothing earth shattering or profound but just a really good bottle of Pinot Noir.
As is the case with most collectors, life got busier and I bought more wines as the weeks, months and years passed. The thing of it is, each year that I got older, so too would every bottle of wine I owned. In the back of my mind, I knew I had a few bottles of these 1997 Meo-Camuzets and I knew the likely weren’t getting any better. So, early in the summer of 2011 I decided to open a bottle of Nuits St George “Aux Murgers.” As I feared it was tired, lacking life and past its prime. I was so disappointed. Not in the wine, but in myself for allowing this to happen. I really let this bottle down along with the two others I owned, and I let down Jean Nicolas Meo because he made really good wine in a not-so-great vintage.
I thought about the places where I had enjoyed these other bottles. My little yard in Berkeley in the late spring after planting 12 types of heirloom tomatoes. Thomas Brown’s living room while watching a U.S. Open match between Agassi and Sampras while eating take out sushi after a typical 14-hour harvest day. More than once at one of the great restaurants in the world, Chez Panisse, alone or with friends. These were all good memories and because of my neglect, my last memory of 1997 Meo-Camuzet is one of regret.
Pouring out a Bottle for the Deceased Wine
On a long drive back from Savannah last year I thought about family, friends and wines. I tried to take mental stock of some of the wines that I had not tried in a long while and approach them with the some of the meticulous enthusiasm I had when I started out buying wine to cellar. With that, I called a couple friends and my uncle and we gathered at my house on a Saturday to cook, catch up and open up something we could taste that likely needed to have its life expectancy gauged.
Over the course of the evening my uncle and two friends shared our thoughts on our lives and, of course, the two bottles of 1996 Quintarelli Valpolicella classic. The wine had good color with classic brick around the edges. It smelled dusty with dried fruit and Amarone like aromas. It was balanced, pretty and big despite a supple mouth feel. It was—as I think we all agreed—wine that will likely not get much better, but will hang around in the cellar for another three or four years. It was a beautiful bottle of wine that was 20 years old. (My uncle even commented that it was the same as the Italian loafers he was wearing). We toasted the people we know would have loved such an evening that weren’t with us and we toasted the lost wine we left unopened in the cellar and promised we would not disappoint the late Guiseppe Quintarelli by forgetting and regretting because his wines are like our real friends…..they deserve better.
So please don’t forget about the prized wines lurking in your home cellar, and when you are ready to continue adding to your cellar – or starting one! – please turn to our team at Michael’s Wine Cellar.