Thursday, August 19, 2010
When the moment arrives
How long have you held on to a wine, waiting for a special moment? Perhaps if you have relatively good conditions for storing wine, you might hold on to something for many years, even decades. But when your wine cellar is a closet, well, the word “nervous” takes on a new connotation.
I wrote an article back in 2001 or so for The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant, Mich., about Michigan wineries (sorry, there is no online version of this article). One of the wineries I visited along with photographer Dick Bolton was the L. Mawby winery in the Leelanau Peninsula. In general, I am not very impressed with Michigan reds, and the good whites are frequently overpriced. Mawby, however, produces only sparklers following a French style. He makes them well.
There was one I was particularly interested in, the Millé Brut 1997, but he didn’t have any left at the winery. He talked about this particular bottling with pride, and I picked up on that. So when we departed, I looked for the Millé 1997 everywhere. And then one day I found one bottle on the shelf of a store in Holland, Mich.
That bottle stayed in my closet for probably six to seven years (I can’t recall when I bought it). I wanted to save it for a special occasion, based largely on what I had read and heard about the 1997 vintage. So it stayed in my closet, on its side, waiting for that moment.
The moment came this year when I learned that Benny’s work visa for returning to the United States was approved. But would the wine be as special as the news I was going to associate with it for the rest of my life?
What a risk. I was going to take it.
I decided I would serve the Millé as an aperitif, but with what? At Whole Foods, I found the wine lady and told her what I had. Her expression after I said it was a 1997 was not helpful. What color was it, she asked? Was it a clear bottle? No, it was a green bottle. But she quickly went back into her pairing mode (I think it helped to tell her I had a very nice French rosé as a backup). She thought the Millé might taste either mushroomy or toasty, and so she recommended a cheese with truffles. We discussed options with the fellow at the cheese counter (he also grimaced when he heard 1997 – was it concern for the wine or ambivalence about their ability to make the right recommendation?) and settled on a pecorino tartufello, a cheese made with sheep’s milk. She also told me that if the bottle didn’t “pop” when I removed the cork, that didn’t mean the wine was flat or spoiled. I picked up some smoked wild salmon as well.
When I returned home, I put the Millé in the refrigerator to chill for the next day. The wine level was a bit low in the neck, I thought. Nervous.
Curt, Steve and Nate arrived for dinner and I explained my trepidation with the Millé. Curt apparently shared my trepidation to the Nth degree because he said he would have an extra-large martini in case the sparkler was a dud. But I had a very nice French rosé chilled and ready as a backup.
I brought the Millé out and pulled the cork, delighted to hear that wonderful pop. It bubbled nicely as I poured the flutes, and the taste… well, this was one freaking good wine. It had a fresh apple nose, but the taste was all warm and toasty with a hint of grapefruit. And with the cheese? It was awesome. Excellent with the smoked salmon as well. And needless to say, we toasted our first drink to Benny.
Given the company, ambiance and the wine, I unabashedly score this with a 10. Is it grade inflation? Well, you were not there.