It was Saturday, and Nancy and I had spent the day cleaning out the vegetable garden from under a pile of dead leaves. We even took advantage of the early summer-like weather to sow a few rows of beets, beans and lettuce. By the end of the day, with the kids (finally) in bed, it was time to do some cooking. We'd marinated a pork loin overnight in a mixture of spices and stout, and then roasted it in the oven. While it was cooking, the aromas filled the house, and I knew instantly what wine I had to pull from the cellar.
It was my last bottle of 1994 Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Ribera del Duero Pesquera Janus Reserva, which for me has always been one of Spain's greatest wines. I bought a half case of it for the then-haughty price of $60 a bottle way back in '97. It's always been an enormous wine, with powerfully rich layers of dark fruit and roasted beef. As it's aged, it's taken on bittersweet cocoa, mineral, braised chestnut and exotic, wild spice flavors—without losing an ounce of its power. Non-blind (and unofficially), it has always been 97 points for me.
Up until Saturday night, I had been forcing myself to try and forget about the last bottle off it sitting in my cellar. Every one of the first five bottles I had were so good, each one better than the last. I knew the last bottle would be the best yet, and I tried to hold off as long as I could. But when the smell of that roasted pork loin (and some truffle butter on the pasta side dish, of course) filled the kitchen, resistance became futile.
And am I glad I pulled it up. It was a blow away wine, just as I hoped it would be. As Nancy tried to guess it blind (a game we often play at dinner) she told me what it wasn't—it wasn't California, wasn't Bordeaux, wasn't Burgundy, wasn't Rhone and wasn't Italian. As usual she got close, but couldn't quite nail it. She loved it, though, which is all that mattered. It was also a perfect match with the food.
Sometimes it's tough to open that last bottle of a great wine in your cellar. But in the end, there are no regrets. The experience of drinking a great wine always outweighs the sadness of knowing there is none left.
So which last great bottle in your cellar are you holding off on drinking?