Bottled up Memories

 

2000 Le Duo de Bourgogne Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Burgundy, France: Retail $150? 100% Pinot Noir. Back in 1994, I started working for a tiny bicycle touring company in Paris. I was a high school teacher at the time and I would spend part of my summers away from the classroom in France, riding my bike, drinking wine, trying not to get lost (I usually managed the first two without a hitch; the third, not so much). Even after I left the classroom, I would try to find the time to go back to Europe to lead a tour now and then, I mean, can you blame me?

Back in the early aughts, I was leading a trip through Burgundy and one of the “clients” happened to be the owner of the company who also served as my wine mentor and whom I considered a friend, a brother even. Whenever he was on one of my trips, we would end up riding together, at least a day or two, since, I like to think, we enjoyed each other’s company. As it so happened, we were together the day the tour went through the Côte de Nuits, starting in Dijon and heading south to Nuits-St.-Georges, perhaps the most famous 23 kilometer stretch of vineyards in the world.

We decided to stop at this tiny producer in Chambolle-Musigny, nestled between Gevrey-Chambertin to the north and Vosne-Romanée to the south (and a mere ten kilometers from our hotel). The stop was not planned, he decided to stop on a whim (as was his norm) and we ended up there for the better part of three hours (again, not unusual at all). As the technical guide for the tour, I was a bit concerned about getting to the hotel with enough time to organize the clients for dinner (which was a bit of a chore in Nuits), but my boss was not phased in the slightest as he was in his element, tasting wine, chatting up the vigneron, enjoying life.

Eventually, I left with a few bottles of Pommard and Chambolle-Musigny (which certainly stretched my budget), while my boss carted off several bottles of this Clos Vougœt, the tiny producer’s most prestigious bottling. We both strapped the bottles to our respective bikes with Bungie cords and sped off to the hotel, barely making it time for dinner.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I was once again in France but this time it was for my boss’s funeral, he had passed away suddenly from a heart attack a few weeks prior. After speaking of him and our somewhat complicated relationship at the funeral, I stayed on in Paris for several more days to catalog his cellar for his devastated widow. After I finished, she insisted that I take some of the wine home with me. She no longer consumed much wine outside of the occasional bottle of Champagne, and she thought he would have been happy to know that I would be the one to pop the corks.

A few more months had passed and a couple dozen former employees, who had similar tales of mentorship, gathered on Zoom to share memories, reminisce, mourn (a tad), and raise a glass together in his honor. Deciding which wine to crack for me was easy; this wine that we had “discovered” together and which he had held onto all these years (I like to think) for the two of us to share at some point, perhaps laughing about my palpable stress level and how everything worked out in the end.

Of course, that could not happen, but I did feel like he was there, nonetheless, sharing the bottle with me.

The label had fallen off at some point in his dark, humid, and somewhat moldy cellar, which he probably would have liked, making me guess as to what was actually inside as he always took the chance to help me expand my wine knowledge. While there were some details about the wine I might have gotten wrong in my assessment, what I found in the bottle was close to magic: dark and a tad bit musty on the nose but plenty of fruit left on the palate with a remarkable tartness and a stunning finish.

I venture to guess that like both of us, this wine is a bit past its prime, but I know if he had been here, he would have enjoyed it thoroughly. As did I. Albeit with a heavy heart and welling eyes.

Outstanding. 96 Points.

 

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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