I just finished reading Dave McIntyre’s recent piece in the Washington Post about ways to enjoy wine more in 2012. He delivers a handful of useful, but ordinary suggestions for etching a couple more garden variety notches into your wine bedpost. Honestly, I was hoping for more. Alas, a missed opportunity to share some geeky unknown rituals living at the edge of extreme rock star wine indulgence.
I was in a San Juan, Puerto Rico Salsa club last week and overheard somebody mention how the locals dance like rock stars. I wished someone from the local Salsa mafia had dragged me onto that floor and showed me the right moves, similar to the way I hoped McIntryre would have slipped me a rich, more cranked up idea or two for truly drinking wine like a rock star in 2012. While San Juan Salsa rooms are infectious happy places, joining the coordinated dancing masses can be entirely intimidating to uninitiated rookies like me, lacking experience, heels, tight black clothes, and built in Latin beats. But, if I was going to dance Salsa, I would want to experience it like the Puerto Rican rock stars do and not inside some vanilla mainland suburban dance studio. Likewise, if I was considering trying my hand at serious wine indulgence for the first time, I’d hope to mimic some patterns of the most experienced wine connoisseurs. Here are some sensible and accessible ideas that I would have wanted somebody to share with me when I first yearned to start drinking more like a wine rock star:
Before thinking about anything else, get the right glassware. Diving into serious wine appreciation without appropriate glassware is like starting an aquarium hobby with the fish and live coral before you have a tank to put them in. It’s not dissimilar to hiring a Salsa band without a place for them to perform or for you to dance. The wrong glassware will inarguably strip a potentially religious wine experience of all its excitement while the right glassware will showcase and enhance the wine’s virtues. Also, you’ll need a bunch of it. If you are starting out and motivated to try a few suggestions you will read about in Wine Rock Star-Part 2 next week, you will need at least six identical pieces of fine glassware per person (buy eight to accomodate breakage).
At the top end, if you are inclined to make the splurge, are Zalto wine glasses. You can buy a set of eight Zalto Bordeaux style glasses at Winemonger for $488.00. If that’s too rich, you can feel good about the Riedel Crystal Vinum Series Bordeaux glasses at less than half the price of Zalto, or $200 for eight glasses at Brown Derby. Lastly, a fine budget conscious alternative are the Spiegelau Grande Bordeaux glasses. You can buy a full dozen for $100 at the Wine Enthusiast Catalog for $100. Of course, there are multiple styles and shapes of all these lines, but if I could only own one shape it would be the Bordeaux glass.
If you’ve made it through the glassware hurdle and are still on track to some rock star wine fun, you will need something to decant old and young red wine into. As a rule, old wines need to be taken off their sediment that sits at the bottom of the bottle after you have stood the wine up for a day or so, and young red wines want and can handle more vigorous decanting to make their flavors and aromas more immediately accessible. There is a great new post by the Brooklynguy on serving old wines that offers lots of useful decanting information from really knowledgeable wine service experts. I would read through it before attempting to open or decant an older bottle of wine.
I prefer very plain crystal pitchers; the kind you can buy for $10-$15 at your local discount home accessories store. I got hooked on this strategy nurturing my wine enthusiasm for more than a dozen years at 231 Ellsworth, a once fine eating establishment in San Mateo, California that the past owner of Pichon Lalande, Madame Lencquesaing, compared to Paris’ two Michelin star spots after leading a tasting dinner at the restaurant. They look good on the table, are neither pretentious nor goofy looking, allow you to stick your whole face in the pitcher to get a good whiff, and are sturdy as well as simple to handle. Here are my own two favorites that I use most often:
Time To Drink a Bottle:
For me, it took one dinner and one good bottle of wine to turn my head twenty seven years ago. Set up a dinner for you and the most special person in your life. Don’t invite anyone else (more wine for the two of you!). Prepare a high level meal that involves the food and style that you are most competent and comfortable preparing. It needs to be special, should include either red meat, lighter meat, or fowl…..but most importantly you need to love the food. If you can’t cook, call in a personal chef for the evening. You want the food to rock.
I am not sure that rock stars would exactly pick from these two wines for this special moment, but I would:
You can look back here and read what I wrote about the Lynch Bages. It is a wine to revel in. The 1989 Beaucastel is a perfect example of what a great producer can accomplish in a top regional vintage and how a patient collector can maximize its enjoyment. Both of these wines are at the apex of their development and are ready to be fully appreciated. The Beaucastel would be my first choice with its amazing elegance, texture, advanced aromatics, and sweet fruit flavors. It is a mind blowing wine and could be the most enjoyable modern day Beaucastel I have ever experienced. The 1985 Lynch Bages is by no means an also ran. You can find a bottle of the 1989 Beaucastel for approximately $150-$200 here. It is a steal compared to what you would pay in a restaurant for so many run of the mill wines. You can click and source the 1985 Lynch Bages here, and it will cost you just about as much as the Beaucastel.
Follow Brooklyguy’s decanting suggestions. Stick your nose in the pitcher and take a deep breath through your nose with your mouth wide open (open mouth allows for better aroma detection). Pour two glasses about 1/4 full of wine. Sit down to your meal, forget about everything else in your life except for your companion, the food, and oh yes…..that amazing wine. You are now drinking like, and probably better than, a rock star. Plus, if you are anything like me, this moment of indulgence, discovery, and personal connection just might set you on fire like a Jimi Hendrix guitar.
Come back next week for Wine Rock Star- Part 2 tips.