Chow Town

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Collecting, keeping wine to age can bring total pleasure

06/10/2013 12:00 PM

06/09/2013 1:49 PM

If you’ve read my blog before, you already know I’m a wine geek.

If you haven’t, you do now. Anyway, one of the things about being a wine geek, if you’re lucky as I have been, is the ability to cellar and experience older wines.

I have a number of friends who’ve never had the experience, and quite honestly, don’t understand what the big deal is. Well, let me tell you, and them.

I don’t have a terrifically large or tremendously deep wine cellar. I have no verticals (multiple bottles of multiple vintages) of Chateau La Tour or Margaux.

I have no Burgundy from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, the finest, and most expensive Pinot Noir in the world. I have no Jeroboams of Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, nor any Jeroboams of anything.

But, what I do have are a smattering of gems — single bottles from here and there that I’ve managed to age, and avoid drinking for many years.

So, what does that mean? Well, as far as I’m concerned, complete and total pleasure.

Let me give you a couple of recent examples of what I’m talking about. I bought two bottles of Angelo Gaja’s Sori San Tildon 1985 Barolo from Berbiglia back in the day-1990 or 1991.

They had them marked down from $90 to $60, so I bought two. Now, that’s way more than I used to spend on a bottle of wine, and it’s way more than I spend on a bottle of wine now.

But, Angelo Gaja is a hero of mine-the man who helped craft a new style of Nebbiolo-based wines-more accessible in their youth, yet every bit as age-worthy and complex as the tannic monsters of Piedmonte past.

I had tried Gaja’s wines a few times at tastings, but as for actually owning them-are you kidding? This was my chance, so I ponied up the cash and made off with a couple bottles from a great producer in an equally great vintage.

In the cellar they went. I looked at them a lot — even moved them around on the shelves. But, drink them? No way. It was too soon and they were too expensive to possibly pop.

The decades-long wait finally ended about a month ago when a fellow wine geek and I, Aaron Fry, opened a bottle over a meal at Oesteria el Centro.

I figured it was time, and believe me, at the tender age of 28, I was worried I had waited too long. Boy, was I wrong.

The ’85 Gaja was off the charts: fresh and vibrant like a bowl of bing cherries wrapped in chocolate and served on a leather saddle.

Sound weird? Well, that’s because the wine was so complex, so ethereal, it’s hard to actually describe it. That’s what you get with a property cellared, gently aged, perfectly made wine-an experience that’s hard to describe and difficult to forget.

I had a second-such wine epiphany with my wife over dinner at the Prime Cut Steakhouse at Hollywood Casino. Here, the meal was much more in the spotlight: a small sampler of risotto with morel mushrooms, some beautiful Gulf shrimp over a dollop of hand-made cocktail sauce, a 38 ounce Wagyu beef “Tomahawk Chop” from Australia, duck fat French fries, creamed spinach.

The wine didn’t disappoint either. I unearthed a 1990 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape, which I had saved since acquiring for a tasting for who knows what who knows when.

Like 1985 in Piedmont, the 1990 vintage in France, especially in Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, and Burgundy, was outstanding, and the Beaucastel, from the Southern Rhone appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape, was all of that and more.

Layered with tons of dark red fruit (the Grenache?), nuanced with meaty-earthy flavors and aromas (the Syrah?), with a soft-fleshy mouth-feel (the Mourvedre?), this wine was every bit the match for my Tomahawk chop or my wife’s filet mignon.

Should I have had the rack of lamb with the mustard crust? Would that have been an even better match? I’ll never know. Alas, that was my lone bottle of 1990 Chateau du Beaucastel.

I guess I’ll have to dig out another gem. Such is the life of a lucky wine geek.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.

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