I have been thinking about death a bunch lately, but not in the way you might think for a middle-aged white guy who probably drinks too much wine (although on a recent really difficult climb out in California, I certainly pondered my own demise). Rather, I have been thinking about how an individual’s death affects those that have been left behind.
Over the course of the last couple of years, both of my parents have lost their long-time spouses, and I have lost both a childhood mentor and, most recently, a very good friend. On top of all that, my mother had a recent bout with cancer and my father-in-law is still recovering from a health scare of his own. All of this has prompted many discussions (some difficult) between my wife and me about writing wills (which we still haven’t finished) and what life might look like without the other one around any longer.
While much of the discussion has centered on our two boys and how (or if?) and who would provide for them once we lost our battle with time, I have naturally thought about my wine cellar and what I would want done with it.
Yes, as war is raging in Ukraine, the havoc wreaked by the heating of the planet my soon be irreversible, and scores of families mourn the victims of the latest mass shooting, worrying about my wine collection seems at best navel-gazing and at worst? Well, let’s just stick to navel-gazing.
Most (almost all?) of the bottles have a story attached to them: how they were acquired, the people who made the wine, the region where it was made, and since I fancy myself as a story-teller, recounting the tale is just as compelling to me as pulling the cork. Once I am gone (and there is little doubt in my mind that I will be the first to go), most (almost all?) of those stories will go untold. In fact, I imagine my wife, for whatever reason, will likely stop drinking altogether once I am not around to coax her into a glass or two.
Next week, I will be flying to Paris to visit the family of my friend who died suddenly and unexpectedly this past November. His widow, who had stopped drinking well before he died, has suggested that I bring a wine suitcase or two so that I can carry back several bottles from his cellar that numbers around 600 bottles or so.
I had done the same (also at her insistence) back in December when we had travelled there for the funeral. This past Open That Bottle Night, I opened one of the bottles that I had brought back, from an appellation that had become one of my favorites, one to which my friend had introduced me, Saint Aubin.
2014 Gilles Bouton Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien Blanc, Burgundy, France: Retail $65? 100% Chardonnay. Way back when I started my journey of wine appreciation, I was a cycling tour guide in France and while Champagne was my first love, Burgundy was certainly my mistress. The owner of the touring company was also my wine mentor and a lover of white Burgundy. As I was a poor teacher at the time, I could not afford the great whites of the region (Meursault, Chassagne, Puligny), he pointed me to Saint Aubin, just over the hill from Chassagne-Montrachet and, at least at the time, the wines were “just” as good but a fraction of the price. Fast forward a couple of decades and I was in Paris. For my former boss’ funeral. It was a shock with which I am still trying to come to terms. While I was there, I inventoried his 600+ bottles of wine and his widow insisted that I take some bottles home with me. This was one of those I brought back and decided to open for Open That Bottle Night. Quite light (in color) in the glass with a nutty, citrusy nose, and just a kiss of oak. The palate is lovely, beautifully balanced between the fruit, tartness, oak influence, and memories. This bottle took me back to the countless nights I spent together with my boss, who had become a dear friend, close to a brother, even. And while this bottle made me incredibly sad, it also made me marvel at just how powerful a bottle of wine can be. Outstanding. 95 Points.
I don’t know what will happen with my cellar once I am gone as my wife and I still have not discussed that part of my death (although she has insinuated how I might die if I don’t shape up around the house). I guess I hope that the wine will go to a good home, so to speak, where the wines (well, the good ones, at least) will be appreciated. I also hope that there is one hell of a party, where many corks are pulled and even more stories are shared.