The e-mail asked for the usual advice. Glenn, the thirty-something son of an old friend who passed away a few years ago, had been given a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild 1985. His e-mail said that he would be celebrating his birthday the next day and wondered what he should eat with the Lafite.
Glenn is no wine neophyte, but as he said in his e-mail, "(This) is a finer wine than I usually drink." For me too, but at least I have had some experience with this wine and others like it. I offered some advice, and then I heard from his mother, Sylvia, who told me the rest of the story. It says a lot about the generosity of true wine lovers.
Sylvia's current husband, Jim, a retired journalist, agreed to write the obituary of a wealthy lawyer and philanthropist, at the request of a mutual friend. The subject offered to pay him for the work, but Jim said no, just make a donation to a favorite charity. Knowing the lawyer was a wine collector, he added that he would enjoy a bottle of wine. The lawyer wrote a $5,000 check to the charity, and sent Jim four bottles, one of which was the Lafite.
Jim promptly offered the Lafite to Glenn for the birthday dinner. Glenn, of course, invited his mother and stepfather.
My advice to Glenn, by the way, after reminding him to decant the bottle, was to choose food that was subtle in flavor rather than aggressive. "Better leave the chicken in mole for another occasion," I wrote. "I generally like to do something simple like roast chicken or a game bird (squab, quail, pheasant) for a great older wine, on the theory that complex wines show all they have with simple food."
In a follow-up e-mail, Sylvia wrote that the wine was wonderful, which was a relief to me. You never know when bad corks or questionable storages will rear their ugly heads. She added that the restaurant staff was excited about serving the wine. "They gave us lots of attention," she wrote. "They have small servings, so we could test the wine with three or four different dishes. For me, the wine tasted best with squab."
Let's add it up. A collector buys some '85 Lafite and stashes it away. As a thank you for a favor, he gives one bottle to someone who enjoys wine but doesn't get to drink a great one too often. He shares it with his new family. The bottle contributes to a memorable evening for them all, including the restaurant staff, who got a kick out of serving it.
That's a lot of pleasure from one bottle of grape juice.
Peter Carter — warwick,uk — April 18, 2008 1:45pm ET
Clifford Brantley Smith — Portland — April 18, 2008 8:20pm ET
Fred Brown — April 18, 2008 8:21pm ET
John B Woodward Iii — Lost Canyon CO — April 22, 2008 8:23pm ET
Aileen Robbins — NYC, NY — April 23, 2008 1:11pm ET
Michael Dolinski — Tallahassee, — April 24, 2008 12:00am ET
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