I have a tendency to lean a little towards old things. Whether it is old music, old traditions, or old people, I believe there is more story to things that have seen the years pass by. I am an avid collector of old first-pressing vinyl records. I like vintage furniture, and my pride and joy, my 1972 Vintage Gibson/ Electra Hollow Body Tobacco Sunburst Guitar. Over the years, I have found that my love for old wines can vary.
In the pursuit of my Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, years of service in the industry, and gathering with friends, I have been fortunate enough to really dive into what it means to try vintage wines. On my top 5 "old wine" list, two of them are Vintage Champagnes. You may not have even thought about a sparkling being in the top 5 right off the bat, but it is true. They are de Venoge Grand Vin des Princes 1993 and Pommery Louis 1989.
A number of years ago I would began to have my friends over to play Texas Hold 'em. It wasn't anything formal in the sense of a poker tournament and the cards almost became second to the selection of beverages my friends would bring over. Most of my friends that played worked in the business with me. I believe the wine selection was really elevated one game when my friend Paul brought a cult classic O'Shaunnessey Cabernet Sauvignon from California. I am a fair guy, so I would match whatever was brought over. I believe I opened a 2004 Vall Llach from Spain. One game, I had got my hands on the bottle of '93 de Venoge. I opened it and it was dramatically special. It had such great notes of caramel pecans, mushrooms, and baked apples. The mousse was smooth. Another friend brought a few truffles over that night and we paired the Champagne with truffle honey toasts. My goodness was that straight from heaven. I looked the Venoge up the Wine Spectator rating and it got a 90+ points, but I feel if they knew the longevity it held, it would have received a few more points. I'll never forget this wine and the clearly distinct flavors and long finish it had.
The 1989 Pommery Louie was another special night. My father had flown down to VA for a "boys weekend." He was a huge fan of all things food and wine and would continually become jealous of my oenophile adventures. After months of jealous phone calls, I simply asked him to come down and join me. It was a quick answer, yes. My father was a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America. My friends knew that and had always wanted a meal prepared by him. A few months later, the weekend had come and my friends were ready with hands full of old vintage wines, and I had sourced all the ingredients my father needed for a fantastic 3 course meal. He made a seasonal skate wing dish, a veal roulade stuffed with fennel and foie gras, and for dessert, classic creme brulee. The shining wine stars of the evening were a 1982 Leoville Barton, 1937 Rivesaltes (dessert), and the first wine we drank, the Pommery. For a Champagne that was 21 years old, I wasn't positive what we may find. Holy smokes did this wine hold up over time. The bubbles were still very aggressive and showed no signs of falling flat. The acidity was lively and I could have drank a full case of this wine all night. It had flavors of candied lemon, pear tarts, toasty vanilla brioche, and hints of savory earth tones. This bottle of wine sealed the deal for me, my favorite wines are aged vintage champagnes. They are harder to come by now, so I have started the long term process of buying current vintages and will let them sit in my cellar for 20 years or more.
That was a fantastic dinner and a fantastic weekend with my father. A year later he was diagnosed with ALS, and just over another year later, he passed away in February of 2013. Today is his birthday, November 11, Veterans Day. He would have been 58 today. That isn't old, but my father was a fantastic vintage himself. I miss him dearly. I was fortunate enough to share some great wines, food, and laughs with him and I will remember them all.
Miss you Biggie, Happy Birthday...