Older? Nope. Wiser? Well, I tried.
It’s been an amazing week of treasuring good friends and great wines. Last night the revelry continued with a lamb dinner at my friend Lonny’s house, where I had a revelation of sorts.
Most of the guests are part of a wine group that leans strongly in a Francophile direction. Throughout last week, they were sending emails about what they were bringing, two to three bottles per couple, and almost all of them were French and at least 10 years old and highly rated by Robert Parker. And almost certainly pretty expensive, in the $50-$150 range.
My cellar has only a few such wines, mostly Chateauneuf-du-Papes. And while I’m not vain or proud about such matters, I do not want to feel remotely embarrassed about not “stepping up to the plate” at these gatherings.
And then came the “a-ha” moment, as I thought: These friends became passionate about Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone and delved deeply into learning about them, purchasing wines that they had heard or read about (from sources they trusted). And in more recent years, I have been doing exactly the same thing with California, researching and buying unusual, distinctive wines that writers such as Jon Bonné, Patrick Comiskey and David White and my Healdsburg merchant buddy, Perry Rankin of 34 North, had unearthed.
So I brought a couple of those, a Massican Sauvignon Blanc and Arnot-Roberts Clary Ranch Syrah, both of which I knew to be delicious and fascinating. And both 2011, a decade younger than the average bottle the others were proferring. And less expensive than almost every other bottle there, something I could not, uh, afford to worry about.
My theory/rationalization: Like them, I was sharing wines I loved, that I had searched out and that should prove a swell experience for anyone who loves wine. I hoped that they might provide “discovery” for my friends.
Mission accomplished. The old Rhones, Bordeaux and Champagnes were an uneven lot, many quite enchanting, a few fantastic, but most were more interesting than delicious or profound. And as my fellow cork dorks dissected the two Vieux-Donjons and other vintage bottles, from time to time I would hear someone at another table say “Who brought the Arnot-Roberts?” or “Is there any more of that Massican?”
So I did either the best I could or what I do best, and it apparently was plenty good enough.
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Bill- where can we find these wines around here?
Jason: I buy Arnot-Roberts and Massican from the winery and a merchant in Sonoma. They are not sold here. I highly recommend getting on the mailing lists:
I will forward you a retail offering of it, too.
Excellent call on the Arnot-Roberts and Massican. I think you’re already familiar with them, but I’m also a big fan of Unti and Wind Gap. We’re good friends with our UPS delivery guy now!
Yes, I am a huge fan of both brands. I wrote about Mick Unti last fall, and have urged a couple of local wholesalers to try to get his wines here. And I love what Pax Mahle is doing at Wind Gap. For a while, he was sharing a barn-like facility with Arnot-Roberts, and I was lucky enough to spend the better part of an afternoon there. Sublime wines made by passionate people.
Great post Bill! These are all wines from the Seven % Tastings that we are doing out here in CA. I just thought I’d mention this as these wineries are all banding together in a way as a group of people trying to show that CA can be compelling too… Your post would actually read as a great piece for the group!
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