On Saturday, a friend invited me to a dinner party and mentioned some of her friends were, well, wine geeks.
Turns out her friends, nearly a dozen, were that and more. These folks knew how to shop for gourmet breads and cheeses, cook a savory mixed grill of tri-tips, shrimp and chicken on the barbie, set tables, buy wine, pull corks and wash dishes—sometimes seemingly all at the same time.
Most of them were on vacation, as it were, from the chilly hinterlands of Canada and Michigan, taking a break from shoveling snow, hunting for elk, ice fishing, or whatever they do there in the fall and winter when the weather turns cold.
Their remedy was to spend a week frolicking in wine’s equivalent of Disneyland, eating and drinking and exercising their way through Napa Valley.
After a warm-up white, a Francis Coppola Viognier, the wine scene quickly shifted into high-gear reds. We were outside on a windless autumn evening, sitting under heat lamps, a near perfect environment for hearty reds.
The wines were amazing, a sort of cult-wine corkscrew massacre: 2001 Pinots from Marcassin, both the Marcassin and Blue-Slide Ridge, which were fantastic; a 1993 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet, still young and chewy; a tremendous 1997 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet, smooth and multifaceted; a dense, tight 2002 Gemstone Napa red table wine; a 2001 Turley Hayne Zinfandel; a 1999 Spottswoode Cabernet; a 2003 Hagafen Zinfandel; a nice 1994 Ravenswood Napa Dickerson Zinfandel and a potent 2002 Sequoia Grove Syrah from Stagecoach. Sadly, two bottles of 1996 Araujo Cabernet were oxidized.
By the time I left, at a sane hour, most of the bottles had worked their way to my end of the table (not an uncommon occurrence), and right in front of our host. She looked like she was hidden behind a fortress of wine bottles. Most of the Canadians were still standing, and I think there were still wines to be opened.
Turns out the lights didn’t go out after I left, and the party continued. Photos were taken of the crime scene (sorry, I’m not offering any), and apparently some of the people over-imbibed and were smarting on Sunday morning.
I felt fine, and when I opened my e-mail Sunday, I found this note:
“Well, my friend, even though my head is pounding this morning—I must say thanks. And even though my poor table outside is ‘leaning’ to the right with all of the wine bottles—I must say thanks.
Even though my head hurts when I close my eyes and try to remember each one of the wines and the distinctive characteristics each one had last night—I must say thanks.
What a fun night. The Canadians will be loving WS even more than they thought was possible for the rest of time. OK, now I need to go have some Advil and get back in bed.”
As for her party-hearty friends, well, they cleared their cobwebs by going to lunch at Taylor’s Refresher in St. Helena.
Their hangover cure: a milkshake.