Inevitably, the night before Thanksgiving is a time for Bestman and I to get together, way over imbibe, and catch up on all the things going on in our lives. This ritual is born from the years when we were at college and various other places, in reality we grew up around the corner from each other and he currently resides on the upper west so, except for those years, it has been a while since so much time passed that an entire dedicated evening of drinking was merited. This year, however there is a lot going on and it seemed right to meet at the traditional watering hole, and get started on way overdoing it.
When we were finally kicked out of the bar at two am in the greatest of New Jersey traditions, we made our way back to the homes of our parents (still right around the corner) and still having more to argue, Bestman suggested we head over to his folk’s place and raid a bottle from his dad’s cellar.
Bestman’s dad Up has been collecting wine for quite a while and has an awesome collection that involves many pitfalls for a very drunk cork-dork headed in with the direction to pick the best wine in there. There was no way I would have picked the best bottle. First, it would not be fair to drink it without its proper owner. Second, the collection is almost entirely Bordeaux and Bordeaux blends and there was no way we were going to pay proper attention to decanting and glasses standing in the 55˚ cellar till all hours of the morning. Third, and probably most significant, Up has amassed quite a collection of very good wines from the 2nd and 3rd vineyards in less good vintages that never really cost more than roughly $35 at the time of release, so it is hard to know without a quick reference of vintage by area if you are grabbing a good bottle or maybe a treasure he plucked before the pundits figured it to actually be good, thereby presenting a more significant value then expected.
Here is where a genius steps in and, to be honest, a lesson is to be learned by all of us aspiring to wine education. CP, Bestman’s oldest brother, lives very far away and gets out for visits about once a year. He loves wine like you and me and had found himself frustrated by the fact that, when he would visit and go into the cellar, he would often find wines on the decline of their optimum drinking period slope. So on his last visit he spent about six hours with the guides and marked up the cellar with drinking notes. Some simply citing the best years to drink the wines. Some with photocopied notes from Parker. Some as simple as “this is special.”
When yours truly stormed through the cellar doors I was faced with some very helpful scrawling. I found about four bottles with notes that said “drink by ’04” and from them found the one with multiples in it and then just leaped. We went with an ’88 Rausan-Ségla. I would love to tell you it truly got all the appreciation it deserved. I will say that it was very well balanced with great notes of kirsch. To the vodka-soaked palate I was putting it up against it tasted like it was bordering on over-the-top extraction without real acid or tannin to balance, but the whole time my real thoughts were, “I’m pretty sure I would like to taste this again with a clearer head.” Thanks to CP’s notes we will be able to.
There is nothing better than drinking good wine with great friends and family, whether it is at dinner, in a formal tasting, or after way too much. Lets face it, if you keep wine around the house and get a couple of drinks in you; it is likely someone will be grabbing bottles out of the cellar. Hell, you may even be silly enough to say to your cohorts “go ahead, grab whatever you feel like.” Spending a little time on labeling may save them some embarrassment and you the bottle you assumed they would know you didn’t mean.
If you are sober and pulling a good one, the notes will make for interesting contemplation while you drink. The labeling process may also make you aware of some wines you forgot were in there that may be in their prime. If it is late on a bender and you and your more hedonistic friends are scavenging for “the right bottle to cap such a great evening,” it will either save your most cherished bottles or at least make everyone aware they are taking down the great one. Seems like time well spent in the process of learning wine.