No Man (or Woman) Should Ever Be Without A Good Red
The other day my birthday rolled around. Twenty-three, I know, ancient… that or I got in touch with David Fincher to turn back the clock for me. The wife and I headed to our usual special occasion haunt to fete the passing of the year. Stuffed in my jacket pocket, I brought a bottle of wine. No, not the under-ten-dollar variety we usually imbibe, this was something special. While we waited to be seated, the sommelier walked by and noticed the neck of the bottle peeking out from my coat. “I can spot a Beaucastle from a mile away,” she smiled.
Remember that guy I told you about that went to live in Amsterdam to work in a button factory? Well, he eventually made his way back Stateside, where he invented velcro and put the buttoniers out of business… no kidding. Or maybe it was a zipper factory. All I know is that he eventually had a daughter that I wooed in college under the guise of forming a rock band, but that’s another story. So it turns out that after a long day at the button factory, the wife’s father would come home and share the day’s gossip with his wife over a nice meal and bottle of wine. This was decades before the dot com bubblers or now failed real estate titans inflated the price of fermented grapes, and a good village wine with character and grace could be had by even the hoi polloi. And so the wife’s parents drank. And drank, until they refined their palettes and learned what they liked. When they finally made their way back across the Atlantic and holed up in the hamlet of New York City, they stocked up on inexpensive village wines from Europe. Some of the bottles became collectibles, so they sold them off and bought more wine — wine that they could drink and enjoy and not feel too stuffy about drinking with dinner.
When I first ingratiated myself into the wife’s family, they plied me with wine — probably to figure out my intentions with their daughter. But I enjoyed being put through the wine ringer and worked my way through reds, whites, and rosés, champagnes, sauternes, ice wines, and ports. And soon enough, I realized, while I can appreciate a crisp white for a summer meal, a hearty, juicy, earthy red holds a sweet spot in my heart. I don’t care if it’s two buck Chuck or a grand cru from the finest terroir in France, I’m hardwired for red wine. And lucky for the wife and I, her parents had accumulated too much to drink on their own and they enjoy sharing.
On a birthday many years ago, the wife’s parents gave me five bottles of a 1998 Beaucastle Chateauneuf du Pape. The wife and I opened a bottle that year and savored its bold fruity bite with our celebratory meal. On a curious whim, we decided to wait a year to open the next bottle, and soon it became a tradition to open a new bottle every 365 days. I can’t tell you what the differences were each year, but each time we popped the cork open it was a different gastronomic experience. Maybe it was the milestones of the year, or the fact that the wine aged with me, but each year it seemed to get better.
When we settled into our table at our favorite Los Angeles restaurant this year, our waiter kindly decanted our last bottle of the Beaucastle. When the cheese course arrived, we took our first taste. The big upfront fruity roughness had smoothed out into something rich, velvety, mature and refined, something that I can only describe as pure delight. The wine had hit its peak, a portent for a good year to come.
The next week a box arrived on our doorstep. A half case of 2001 Les Quartz Doman du Caillou Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a note, exclaiming, No man (or woman) should ever be without a good red!