Why do we do it? Why do we neglect and forget about the people and things that bring us pleasure? I began thinking about this after I decided to call an old friend I had not been in contact with for a while. After the call ended, I looked at my phone — I could hardly believe that it had been almost 16 months since she and I had spoken. We had been pretty close friends for many years. We shared good meals, great conversations and more than a few bottles of wine, but as we both got busier and older we slowly began to lose touch with one another. Fortunately we were able to catch up enough to plan on seeing one another despite our being in different parts of the country. If only our wines were as forgiving.
Pure Gold Without the Karats
Those of us that made an effort to buy multiple bottles of some of our favorite producer’s wines from multiple vintages can sometimes forget that each year has distinct similarities and often big differences. Some wines will be OK with us not checking in on them for five or six or even 10 years while others will simply fade from neglect.
I have always had a certain affection for the white burgundies from Jean Marc Boillot. Maybe that is because my first real experiences were the 1996 and 1997s. I bought a mixed case of Puligny Montrachet from each vintage. Four bottles of the “Les Referts” the “Champ Canet” and “Les Folatieres” The 96’s almost required 10-12 years of cellaring to be at their best. They were full and rich with subtle oak and tons of acidity. The 97’s were the opposite. Riper fruit, generous oak and significantly less acid and around 2002 they were simply delicious — nothing earth-shattering or profound but just a really good bottle of chardonnay.
As is the case with most wine collectors, life got busier and I bought more wine as the weeks and months passed. Each year that I got older so, too, would every bottle of wine I owned. In the back of my mind I knew I had a few bottles left of these 97 Boillot’s and I knew they likely weren’t getting any better. So, early in the summer of 2010 I decided to open a bottle from the Champ Canet vineyard. As I feared, it was tired and lacking life and I was so disappointed. Not in the wine but in letting this happen to the wine. I really let this bottle down, along with the three others I owned.
I thought about the places where I had enjoyed some of the other bottles. My little yard in Berkeley in the late spring after planting 12 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, Thomas Brown’s living room watching a U.S. Open night match between Agassi and Sampras while eating take out sushi after a typical 12 hour harvest day. More than once at Chez Panisse with a friend. These were all good memories and because of my neglect, my last memory of the 1997 Jean Marc Boillot’s is one of regret.
Pouring out a Bottle for the Deceased Wine
On a long drive back from Cleveland this past week, I thought about family, friends and wines. I tried to take mental stock of some of the wines that I had not tried in a while and approach them with some of the meticulous enthusiasm that I had when I started out buying wine to cellar. With that, on Saturday I texted my friend Dan Pilkey (somellier at the Boarding House restaurant) and told him I was going to bring a bottle in to decant and taste blind. I wanted to open something we could taste and gauge its life expectancy.
For the next 45 minutes Dan, Alpana Singh and I chatted and shared our thoughts over that decanted bottle of 1997 Quintarelli “Ca del Merlo” Veneto IGT. The wine had good color with some classic brick around the edges. It smelled dusty, with dried fruit and Amarone like aromas. It was balanced, pretty and big despite a supple mouth feel. It was, as I think all agreed, a wine that will likely not get much better but will certainly hang around for another 4 or 5 years. It was a beautiful bottle of wine that was approaching 14 years old. We toasted the lost wines we left unopened in the cellar and promised we would not disappoint the late Guiseppe Quintarelli by forgetting and regretting because wines like our real friends deserve better