Not Your Typical Tuesday Night Wine.
A few months back I wrote a few pieces on Bucket List Wines and Working Out with Wine. These pieces detailed how important these experiences are in training yourself for growing your own appreciation and understanding during your wine journey. And it is a journey, we do not remain static. Our tastes evolve and change just like the contents of the bottles we drink. I wrote about how there are wines we cherish and look forward to drinking, often after many years of maturation. Maturation of both the wine and of our own tastes, where we are seeking to hit the wine at its peak, so that we get maximum enjoyment from the juice that is on its journey to becoming vinegar.
Well this past Tuesday, yes Tuesday, I put all of that hard work and dedication to the test as I opened up a bottle from my own collection. A bottle I have been saving for a special occasion, one of my own Bucket List Wines. I’ll get to what it is in a moment because I know, dear reader, which you want to know. But how I got the bottle is just as interesting.
Eight years ago, when I was new at selling wine, I was working in a wine store in North Carolina. I was tasked with driving sales across the board, especially during the busy holiday season. Not always the easiest task but one that management felt I was well up to. On one particular weekend I hit some kind of groove and to put it mildly, I increased the likelihood that the whole store would reach the proposed holiday numbers, ensuring that everyone would get their year-end bonus. In effect I sold nearly a pallet (55 twelve bottle cases) of Champagne in less than two days, and nearly two months before New Years Eve.
In doing so I was given a fun little perk, a bottle of my own choosing from the store. There were a few rules which I had to follow before I could select my bottle.
1. The Bottle must be under $100 pre tax.
2. I had to pick the bottle myself, no help from other staff.
3. The store had to make a decent margin on the bottle in question, nothing that was on too deep a sale or sold at close to cost.
4. Nothing from the lock box, i.e. no wine that was too difficult to find, this is mostly a moot point with the implication of rule #1.
5. I had until the end of my shift to pick my bottle. (roughly 2 hours)
So with these guidelines laid out before me I set about selecting my prize. Did I go with something big and bold, American Cabernet from Napa? No too common place. How about something interesting from Oregon or Burgandy? Elegant and refined, no not enough value there in my mind, given our current stock. Ah Champagne, Champagne is a great choice, used to celebrate the world over, and really who does not love Champagne? No picking Champagne was too passe…
What I really wanted was a wine to lay down, a wine that would improve greatly with age. Wine that I could wait on for years, (being just 22 after all) “Time is on my side” to quote the Stones. So what wine, if any did I have access to that fit all of the above criteria? Think Myles, Think! Shit, what time is it? Is my shift almost over… This was not during the age of iPhones, or at least I did not have a “smart” phone that I could use to surf the “interwebs” to try and make my task easier. Nor did I have the time to go diving into some of my wine books I had squirreled away in the breakroom for reading during my so called “lunch breaks.”
I racked my brain and started alphabetically, and I didn’t have to go much farther than “A,” as there are three “B” wines which have the required age-ability and could fit my other requirements: Barolo, Brunello, and Bordeaux. But which region would offer me the best bang for my pick? I scanned the shelves while I grinded out the remainder of my shift, looking at hundreds and hundreds of bottles and vintages, trying to remember what was a good vintage, what producers where known to make wines that were great for aging. Imagining what these wines might taste like with added age. Finally I settled on Bordeaux, nothing against Barolo and Brunello, but Bordeaux was ranked higher on my list that day, for my criteria (and familiarity) at least.
Of course there is a follow-up question for when selecting Bordeaux, many of you are already asking it in your head. “Left or Right?” Which bank did I want, did I want a Cabernet based wine or Merlot based? I have spoken and written on more than one occasion about Merlot and my cherished ABC rule.
These things weighed heavy on my mind. I looked over all the Pomerol and the Grand Cru Classe St. Emilion. There were some great bottles there and in my price point too, but where the vintages great as well? Did they lend themselves to being laid down for a long while? Think man, what makes a good vintage in France (and beyond): a warm summer, no rain in the week prior to harvest, good soil, an excellent winemaker, and history of age worthy bottles… I recalled a few weeks back that a recent vintage of Bordeaux was released to the US. How was that summer in France? Wait a minute, I know exactly how that summer was, I was in France that summer. It was so hot in Paris that people were going to the hospital (AC is a rarity in much of France). But Paris is not anywhere near Bordeaux, however I was in South-west France and it was well into the 90’s and if I recall correctly it was dry in August and September. Ok I got my year, 2005. Time to select my bottle that fits my other requirements and I have… 12 minutes to decide! Crap.
Then it hit me like a thunderbolt, it couldn’t have been clearer then if I was standing right in front of it. I knew. I knew what wine I was going to pick and it was at just the right price point, on sale at the moment, at just under my $100 limit. Oh what a wine. It was a classified 2nd growth GCC from Napoleon 3rd’s 1855 classification. It was from an elegant winemaker, whose family makes some brilliant bottles at historic Chateaux in Bordeaux. It was from my favorite Bordeaux region, where elegance and finesse reign over power and brawn. Margaux. More specifically 2005 Chateau Brane-Cantenac GCC Margaux. Yes, it is a left-bank win and thus Cabernet based. What of it? Rules are made to be broken at times and this was one of those times. Proudly I selected my bottle and brought it up at the end of my shift, to the nodding approval of my superiors. I had selected well. Time to lay this bottle down and let time do its thing, hard as that is, sitting on epic wine for years.
I did just that, that is until the other night when I opened up. Why on a Tuesday you ask, because I was celebrating my ten year wedding anniversary, which seemed just such an occasion to open such a wine. It was marvelous, layers of blackberry, baked plums, and wet forest floor on the nose. On the palate, there was a full mouth feel and it was almost ethereal. Silk is the correct term. The tannins were so polished that they just fell away. I have said it before and I stand by it, properly aged wines from Margaux are the sexiest wines in the world. Truffles, black olives, blackberries, black-raspberry, and black cherry mingled as the wine danced across my tongue like a ballet dancer.
I paired it with some USDA Prime cut NY Strip steak. Also cooked were several wild caught scallops, seared, Muscadet to pair, and a plate of charcuterie: Prosciutto di Parma (36 months), Jamon Serrano, olives, Paive, Balsamic aged cheese, grapes and pears, with a split of Pommery Cuvee. A mix of Gary Clark Jr., Miles Davis, and Julian “Cannonball” Adderly played over the course of the meal, a fitting tribute to a decade of marriage, a fitting tribute for a Tuesday night.