Today is a fairly big day for me, I guess. At least that is what everyone keeps telling me. I am out at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, and today is my birthday. I am not one to celebrate birthdays, really–there are probably a few anxious psychiatrists out there just dying to help me figure out why–but this is a fairly “big” one by most accounts.
Of course, I do not feel all that different (with the exception of a few extra pounds and a bit of graying around the temples) then I did when I was half my age.
Still, people think it is a rather big deal.
A few years ago, I started doing what any wine geek would do in advance of what is purportedly such a momentous day in anyone’s life, I looked for bottles of wine from my birth year.
Well, the easy reason is that “everyone does it” (the same reason cyclists should give when asked why they shave their legs), but obviously it is a bit more complex. When I got the first bottle (the Haut Brion back when I was in grad school) and held it in my hands, I have to admit it was fairly exciting. I am not sure why, but it felt a bit like a cross between Christmas morning while staring my own mortality in the face.
I ended up with three bottles with the magic year emblazoned on them and just a day or two before we left Philadelphia, we shared them with a few good friends who were also born in that same year.
It was a great send-off/celebration but I had to admit that I was a bit worried about the wines and I wondered how well they had held up–I guess I hoped that they had survived at least as well as I have (but we all know that is a fairly low bar). In the end, while I am not sure if the others in attendance would agree, these three wines were some of the best that I have ever tasted, for at least a couple of reasons.
1966 Mumm Rene Lalou: Current Retail ~$500 (?). I purchased this wine from a woman in Lancaster, PA (for $40!) whose mother had it in her cellar all these years (the bottle still had its hangtag!), but when she recently passed away, the daughter thought it best to find a new home for the wine. The cork came out intact, but nary a bubble. Deep golden color with almond and intense caramel. Whoa. Almost Madeira on the nose and palate. Whoa. One of the more interesting champagnes I’ve had. Stops short of the ’73 Dom Pérignon that I had a few years ago, but only by a bit. I have said before that aged champagne is an acquired taste, and it seemed as though not all of those around the table were as thrilled with it I was, but holy cow was this good. An Amazing bottle. Whoa. 94-96 Points.
1966 Château Beychevelle: Current Retail ~$200 (?). I honestly could not remember where I purchased this bottle (which led to a series of old age jokes), but it held up surprisingly well. On the nose astringent and umami, which was both odd and concerning. But on the palate? Holy crap. Still some red fruit, but loads of secondary characteristics of leather, spice, and gangbusteredness. Whoa. I do not drink as much Bordeaux as some, so I honestly have a limited experience, but this is really impressive. Holy whoa. 95-97 Points.
1966 Château Haut Brion: Current Retail ~$800 (?). Whoa. That nose. Whoa. Blackberry and blueberry with earth and a touch of funk. On the palate this is heavenly. I am biased by the year, but this is a phenomenal wine. Rich, silky, all in concert. Whoa. The finish? I was worried about analyzing it as the wine was fading by the second, but I wanted to relish in that finish that lasted close to five minutes. Whoa. Times 66. I tried to objectively assess this wine without the obvious sentimental value attached to it. Still? Incredible does not begin to describe it. I guess this is the time to try this wine and this is why people search out “birthday wines.” 98-100 Points. Best wine I have ever had???