Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday Wine

Amy and I spent my birthday yesterday quietly, highlighted by a trip to Grand Bay to enjoy the beautiful weather surrounded by the mossy loveliness of the swamp, and Amy gifted me most delightfully with a t-shirt featuring the artwork of our friend, Tobias Mostel. Then a nice dinner of grilled pork tenderloins and mashed potatoes and salad, and later still the continuation of a ritual I've begun with Amy, opening a cellar classic to see how wine can age gracefully. I hope drinking good aged wine will at least carry over into the living spirit, if not the flesh.

Three years ago I opened a 1982 Chateau Latour, still dense and full and alive and complex, with aromas of rich red fruit remaining vibrant behind the cedar and a lingering spiciness laced with smoke. Then next year, joined by wonderful visiting poet Robert Wrigley and dear friend Jessica Fellows two years ago, we opened a chest-thumping 1982 Mouton Rothschild. It wanted out and needed air and it visited us all evening with its hints of mineral and earth over the fruit. Last year it was a very fine 1985 Caymus Special Selection, complex, even opulent, in the nose, but slightly thin on the finish, perhaps opened two or three years past its prime. Still, it opened up toward the end into berries and a touch of the Caymus smoke I love.

Last night I ventured away from cabernet, opened a 1982 Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne, a single vineyard Rhone syrah I bought before Guigal's fame launched the single vineyard prices into the stratosphere. It's color surprised me first, bright ruby barely fading to berry-brick at the edges. Its aroma was fruity and complex, but didn't quite deliver the bacon smoke I like in great Rhones. Still, the wine branded my tongue with a laser of fruit that went on and on, underscored by a healthy acidity that suggested I could have left it alone for another ten years or so. I have a few good bottles left, so, with luck, I'll see you next year here (old wines don't travel well), and we'll drink what's left. Cheers.

Correction. In an earlier version, I erred when I said, "Last year it was Margaux, an '86, and it was very fine, improving into an excellent wine with some airing, but its famous violet bouquet was understated beneath the complex fruit." I didn't err about the wine, but it wasn't for my birthday. I opened it for an old friend, T. R. Hummer, and a new one, John Holman, when they were here for a conference last fall.


John Guzlowski said...

My father said if you don't keep making new friends you'll end up alone.

I think you can extend that advice to wine.

So Marty, if you don't buy a new bottle of old wine, you'll end up sober and dry on your birthday--the one day each year when really you need to drink something old and fragile.


George said...

Happy Birthday.

We'll be there Nov. 18, 2008--what are you opening?

Marty said...

If you're here, I'll happily let you and Amy choose, George. I still have five bottles of the really old stuff.

Marty said...

Too true, John. I bought a nice bottle of a Ridge Zin to be my friend within the next couple of years.

Anonymous said...

A very nice birthday tradition! I hope I can age as gracefully as a bottle of fine wine.

Happy Birthday!

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Andrea said...

I'm trying to learn more about wine. All I know so far is that I like to drink it. ;)

TRHummer said...

The wine was excellent! I haven't forgotten. Thanks for that and your hospitality otherwise, Marty.

--Terry Hummer