Wine is inextricably bound up with memory. This is partially because wine itself is memory—terroir is nothing but the circumstances of creation, like your parents’ blind date a dozen years before your birth. In this analogy the Clef du Vin is Match.com.
My weekday watering hole is a superlative hotel bar across the street from my office. In their denial of memory hotel bars are ideal places to drink—you will never meet these people again. And they are even better than pre-9/11 airport bars in that, while the prices also tend toward the exploitative, the quality of the booze and mixology is higher. Deb, my Stetson’s Sherpa, makes an Old Fashioned that will reduce you to tears. And they have an excellent wine list.
On a recent Thursday I found myself on a stool soon after open, alone save a refugee from an orthodontic conference at McCormick Place. He made a poor first impression, with an explicit joke about the stages of marital sex to the assembled throng of bartenders, hostesses, and managers, some of them young and female. The rank smell of good old boy; he turned out to be from Dallas. I’ve lived in Dallas, and this is a terrible sign.
But we were alone at the bar, and I was only pretending to edit a 600-page data dictionary. What could I do? I put my papers away and sidled next to him, Deb’s Old Fashioned in hand. He was drinking Budweiser and preparing to order a steak, well done (shudder). We began discussing Dallas strip clubs, which are legendary.
Then he ordered the sublime bottle of wine that is the subject of this review, and after it was delivered, opened, and poured he alternated swigs of Bud all the while. This is a story of redemption, but I’ll never forget him going back and forth between this $92 bottle of wine (~$44 retail; Excellent) and the long tall pint of the crappiest beer on Earth. The conversation shifted to my new marriage, then the poetry of country music, then his shocking admiration for hiphop, for Kanye West.
He called for Deb to pour me a glass from his bottle. I told him about my novel. He told me about the death of his teenage son. I could fairly see the bouquet rise from the glass. Life with his wife has become unbearable in the aftermath. Cloves, coffee, cinnamon, Earth. The love of a good woman. The feeling in the mouth of endless ascension. Tannins like silent fireworks.
I had forgotten how great a great California Cab can be. Still two generations on the locus of wine’s central debate/complaint, and I think my position is well known. But this past cannot blind us to the present. We tottered off our stools and I embraced my new friend. And he retired to his room, staggering only slightly, and holding the last glass in the bottle.