"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer



I officially start my new job on this Monday, December 3rd. My last day of "transitional" employment is tomorrow from 5pm to 10pm at Sam's Wine & Spirits. While I have loved working there, I am glad to be moving on back to my career with a fresh perspective on what I want out of life.

Even so, Sam's has set me on a new obsession, as if I needed more, and I'll be celebrating my new job with the knowledge I've gained working there for the past 2 months.

Short answer: Wine.

I don't believe in spending more than $100 on a bottle of wine. It's simply a factor of diminishing returns. There are just too many great tasting bottles out there for under $15, $10 even, to ever justify spending that much. That is however, a matter of personal finance and preference. If you have the money, and vintage wine if of interest to you, then by all means. But if you only intend to drink it, then by no means.

But that said, I still wanted a bottle that would represent what I've learned about wine in the short time I worked there, as well as would be worthy of opening to celebrate a special occasion.

So I wanted to spend something above a bottle of Yellow Tail. But, then I didn't want something was just bottled and ready to drink now. Again, there are many just-bottled wines ready to drink now available for under $20. Grabbing a $50 and up bottle of Napa Cab off the shelf from 2004 is going to work out well. They'll be big, burly wines. Acidic, tannic, dark. But they'll still be young. A typical Napa Cabernet will need to be cellared for around 5 - 10 years to reach optimum age. As the molecules break down in the cool dark, the acidity calms down, the flavors open up, and the wine matures. So instead of having a giant burst of fruit and tar and acid in your mouth - with no definition - that a young, immature wine would give, the properly aged wine will have a defined structure, that is you will be able to distinguish the separate notes on the palette. The fruit, the vanilla, the oak. There will be an undertone of earthiness. Almost dirt-like. And the tannins will be soft and old, yet still strong and ageless.

Like Jack LaLane.

And since we have no Napa Cabernet Savignons earlier than 2003, what's the point of spending $80 to drink something before it's ready?

So much like 1776, France to the rescue. I give you the bottle of 1986 Chateau Chasse-Spleen I bought last night.

Already aged, ready to drink. For some reason, French Bordeaux's (sorry for the Anglicanism of that) stay in circulation for much longer. Probably because Napa Cabs are just so much more popular. Too bad. But good for me. This wine is a Moulis en Medoc from the Bordeaux region, and is therefore a blend of primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Therefore, it will fruit-forward and lush from the Merlot and it's already soft tannins. The Cabernet will give it some backbone, depth and mysteriousness, and the Franc, Malbec, and Verdot will round out the flavors with richer fruit, spiciness, and earth.

Bordeaux can age for years, and it's not uncommon for a 50 year or older bottle to be still drinkable. But they do reach their prime right around 15-30 years after bottling. As I said before the acidity breaks down into mellowness, the young fruit becomes subtle and gives way to earthiness. And those thick, chunky, tight tannins loosen up and become chewy, just as the grain in the meat will in the slow-cooked stew with which we are going to enjoy this bottle of wine.

We'll uncork it Saturday night and have a toast. I'll let you know how it was.

But for now, some perspective is due.

One of the things I love about wine is that it is a time capsule, of sorts. That you can bottle up the spring it was planted, the summer it grew, and the autumn it was harvested, and taste it all again. And the more that wine has matured, the finer that long-ago summer seems, the more wistfully you remember it.

While the seeds of the grapes in the bottle I am going to enjoy were awaiting planting, the nation was in the throes of shock and mourning following the Challenger Disaster.

During the evenings of the spring planting, the tail of Haley's comet was visible in the night sky. The Chernobyl explosion poisoned the sky and soil of eastern Europe.

That summer, as the grapes hung on the vines, as the vineyard workers tended to the fields, the peleton of the Tour de France passed close by, with Greg Lemond on his way to his eventual victory.

And that autumn during the harvest, a dribbler up the line went through Bill Buckner's legs, the New York Mets won the World Series, and the hopes of Boston were crushed and barreled like those very grapes.

That year Mt. St. Augustine erupted, blanketing Anchorage under volcanic ash, graying the white snow. I finished up 7th grade. I spent the summer mowing the lawn, delivering newspapers, and playing Capture the Flag at camp. I traveled to Seattle and Vancouver for the World's Fair and Exposition.

I'm looking forward to tasting it all again on Saturday night.


thephysicsbabe said...

Oooh! Oooh! This is where we get to chime in with our opinions on the important stuff that happened in 1986, right? As the Physics Babe I feel obligated to contribute a physics factoid. 1986 will forever be linked with the discovery of high temperature superconductivity and the promise of great new technologies based on this discovery. Alas...21 years later, we're still waiting...but this research certainly keeps a lot of physicists busy and that's always a good thing.

1986 is also the year I moved to Alaska (passing through the Vancouver Expo on the way)...so, dear Car Whisperer this means that 1986 is the year you met the Physics Babe. Ah, good times.

And, congrats on the new job, of course!!

janking said...

Ahhhh...1986...I was debating whether or not to abandon rock forever for teaching. I opted for rock. I love rock. And a great wine. And my band.