Choosing a Special Bottle

I’m using my 50th birthday as an excuse to throw a giant, week-long party (much of which will get talked about right here).  I mentioned last week the menu for the culminating event here at the house.  Another part of the event is a special dinner with about a dozen other folks at the place regular readers know as our favorite:  Mise en Place.  Choosing what to pour with the meal has been a story of its own.

My first idea was 1961 Bordeaux, one of the vintages of the century.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough kidneys to sell.  The low end of the drinkable ones seems to be around $1000, and I need 3-4 bottles.  Buying 50-year-old wine online comes with its own set of pitfalls, so I only want to go with a reputable merchant, one that’s willing to eat the cost (or part of it) if the wines are dead/corked/undrinkable.  I’ve also done some reading, and while it looks like the Right Bank stuff is holding up, our preference is for the Cab-dominated Left Bank, especially Pauillac, and it seems like they’re falling off.  I’d hate to spend $4000 for a collective shrug.

My second idea was 1961 Barolo, which was also a great vintage, and the wines are still full of fury.  Unfortunately, they’re also a little pricier than I had hoped.  I saw a few at $199 but hesitated.  When I went back to the web site, they were gone.   I have yet to find any others in the same price range.

Finally, I simply decided that we’d drink something out of the cellar.  That means a whole new decision matrix.  I certainly don’t have anything really old or from a particularly meaningful year.  Should we pick something off the allocations list?  Should we choose something flexible enough for different foods?  I obviously wanted it to be something special, but had to remember that we need at least four bottles.  Here’s what made the short list:

2008 Martinelli Pinot Noir Zio Tony Ranch

It’s a wine that’s generally only available from the mailing list, and Pinot Noir, even the higher-octane Russian River Valley variety is good with a number of different foods.   It just seemed like first it’s a little young, and second it’s just not quite special enough.

2009 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

A little harder to come by but still enough out there (5,800 cases made) and still having that Pinot flexibility, and certainly highly-rated enough, it just felt too young.

2003 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

If we had some of this from an off vintage, like a 2001, I might have considered it more strongly, but I think in the end, I’m going to avoid drinking decent vintage Bordeaux younger than 10 years.

1995 Château Léoville Las Cases

The first problem was that there were only three bottles of it in the cellar, and I really want to have four.  Three is probably enough for the 15 of us (actually 14, since there’s one non-drinker) since it’s only one wine for one course (there will be pours of other things that Mise has by the glass), but I’d like our friends at the restaurant, to include our server, the bartenders, the GM and Chef Marty, to all be able to have a taste as well.  The second problem is that I think it, like a few of these others, isn’t in the full flower of its drinking window.  I might still be holding this one for my 60th.

2000 Château Lynch-Bages

This was the finalist.  It’s my favorite Bordeaux producer (at least the favorite that I can afford to drink) and it’s arguably the best vintage they’ve ever produced (although I hear the ’61 was quite special as well—if anyone feels like donating a bottle so that we can taste them side-by-side, I’d take one for the team).  It came down to two factors.  First, there were 35,000 cases of it produced, meaning the experience would hardly be unique.  Second, it’s still a little young.  We drank one a year ago to see how it’s doing, and it was just fine, but still not what it’s going to be.  This led us to…

2005 Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon

First of all, I love the wine.  It’s great, rich, Cali Cab with enough structure to go with food and enough character to drink on its own.  Second, the small production is a significant factor.  It will give our friends an experience they won’t likely get elsewhere. Finally, and probably most significantly, was the response I got from Bob Bressler when I asked him about recent vintages:  “These days, when I want to show off a Bressler, I open a 2005.”  What else needs to be said?

We’re going to take a bottle into the restaurant beforehand, let the folks taste it, and hopefully Chef will have the opportunity to work up something to go with it.  Full details as they come.

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About sheldonmenery

Sheldon Menery is a self-taught food and wine aficionado who has circled the globe in search of the riches it has to offer. He's wined and dined at some of the best (and worst) places in the world.
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