I feel that as you get towards the end of the year you start reflecting on everything that has happened over the last 365ish days. The good, bad, ugly and excellent. For me specifically I recalled so many great things that all had one thing in common, and yes you guessed it: wine. Big surprise right? This either means I have a problem or… OR… I am really, really dedicated. I’ll go with the latter.
To get into the nitty-gritty, my theory on wine is that it isn’t something you taste in a sterile environment. The reason it is unique is that you can tie emotions to moments you experience with great wine, food, and company. When their powers combine that moment becomes so much more. There are some of us that do blind tastings or are going for some sort of wine certification where you encounter that sterile situation. These can be fun and educational but for myself those aren’t the necessarily the most memorable.
Therefore I decided to lay out my top five wine moments of the year. The obvious #1 answer would be the bottling and release of my first vintage, the 2010 MTGA Merlot. That would be numero uno on my list, but that is way too easy. So, for arguments sake I’ll talk about a few other wines:
#5 – 2007 Shafer Hillside Select with Pizza
I had this puppy out at Napa Valley Wine and Cigar back in February. The 2007 vintage was the 25th rendition of this wine that has been released and is the best Napa Cab I have had in a really long time. 100% Cab in 100% new French oak to boot! It definitely had some big guns in terms of tannin and structure but it was so balanced with the fruit characteristics that it was user friendly (with food). We were casual enough to pair it up with some Round Table pizza which I will continue to recommend, there a few things better than a solid night of wine and pizza. This was also a huge reminder that wine is made to be enjoyed, don’t wait for those special moments to come around. It is much better to make them up as you go.
#4 – 2001 Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Èloge in memoriam.
I’m cheating on this one and including three wines because this is more of a somber note. 2001 was the first vintage that Mac Sawyer, who passed away earlier in 2012, produced at ACVV. I opened these up with a good group of friends in May. It was necessary to share some of what was left of these vintages with the world to remember him. I will be the first to admit that I can be a pretty emotional and passionate guy, especially about wine but even more so about my friends and family. A good sign of being a well balanced individual I like to think. As a result I couldn’t help but think he was watching from somewhere as folks enjoyed his handy work and how well it was holding up after more than a decade. Here’s to you Mac.
#3 – 2005 Domain de la Romanée-Conti Échézeaux and steak. It’s whats for dinner.
This was the learning experience for the year. Cole’s Chop House is kind enough to have some available on their wine list from time to time. Rarely would I pair up a Pinot Noir with a steak but this seem as good a time as any. I was lucky enough to have the ’04 last year, which was spectacular and surprisingly smooth. The ’05 showed a lot more structure and less lusciousness, it was definitely edgy and extremely tight at the onset of the night. Keeping in mind that these wines normally age for decades it was impressive. We picked apart every sip of this bottle as the dinner progressed, constantly tasting how it evolved over the course of the evening. It was a ‘geek out’ moment to say the least.
#2 – 2009 Shea Cellars Pinot Noir, Block 23 Pommard Clone in The City.
Easily the best date night I had all year with my better half (I hope she agrees). If you are in San Francisco and are looking for a killer place to eat Loconda is where you need to go. I brought this bottle along with me, though they do have a solid wine list as well. It just so happens that Shea Cellars in Oregon makes my favorite Pinots of all time. The structure and flavors were perfect. In fact, this is in the running as one of my favorite wines of all time, making me bummed that I didn’t save the bottle. Really bright red fruits, great acidity which made it perfect for the meal we had, full body, yum yum YUM. There was a full on frown when I realized the bottle was empty. This ’09, the food, the ambiance,the crowd, and the company I had at the restaurant that made this an easy highlight to pick out.
#1- 1988 Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage to celebrate 25 years on planet Earth!
Drum roll please!! This is officially my favorite wine of all time. Sure it was my birthday and after about 10 or 11pm I don’t remember much… at all… but that’s not the point! I had no experience with older-vintage Champagne up to this point in February. Only grandiose stories of Dom Perignon ’53 served at a temperature lower than 38°F. This was opened up earlier in the night so that we could and would remember enjoying it. Toasty, bready, yeasty, vanilla and the bubbles had not faded in the slightest. It was everything I learned to love about Champagne but on a much grander scale. As good as that Shea Pinot was at the restaurant later in the year, this wine stood on its own and was the perfect kickoff to one hell of a party with the best of friends.
See you in 2013!