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james laube's wine flights

Working on a Book Title

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Sep 29, 2006 6:01am ET

My Mother used to keep a sign in her office that read: “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”

I had every good reason to lose my mind the other night as I dined with the dashing, fun-loving, cork-popping, magnum-obsessed and forever dangerous and unpredictable wine maven James Suckling.

He pulled out all the stops and, because I’d lost my notepad, I had to reconstruct what happened by looking at the recycling bin of expired magnums, double magnums and odds and ends that we drank at his dinner party.

He’s become an excellent cook and made dinner for us--a party of six, or eight, or nine, or 12 depending on who knocked on his door and was allowed to enter his walled patio garden.

It was a bright, starry, cool night on Sunday as we kicked back and reflected on a few of the many great wine experiences we’ve shared over the years.

I joked with him that he should write a sequel to Under the Tuscan Sun. I thought perhaps Under the Tuscan Moon might be fitting given that the evenings start later here and certainly end later here, too.

Upon later reflection, as I strolled back to my room, a thought occurred: Under the Tuscan Table would be a more appropriate title.

The first night we arrived, James unleashed a jumbo-size bottle of Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino 2000. It was breathing in a decanter as we sat down for dinner. This young, tight beauty offered amazing depth and dimension. I also loved the 2001 Sangiovese from Argiano Suolo. It was amazingly dark and superrich. Based on its color and depth it could have passed for a Syrah that night.

For JS’s dinner party, we started with the 2001 Livio Felluga Terre Alte, a youthful, perfumed, refreshing Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco cuvee.

Then came the double magnum of Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano Riserva. It too was notably youthful, with a mix of mature tar, wild raspberry and, for me, the ultimate experience you hope for from a wine with age--a taste of the autumn harvest in 1997.

It’s as if you can taste the soil, sun and grapes from that harvest, preserved in the wine.

The magnum of 2001 Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro Syrah Cortona Il Bosco offered exquisite balance, depth and purity of flavor.

There were plenty more great wines, some of which James has documented, and we enjoyed them.

After some 25 years of drinking great wines together, we seldom fuss or complain about what's in our glasses. We do enough of that at the office during our day jobs.

Luckily we have not lost sight of what’s essential about wine appreciation: Those you share your wine with are what count, not what you pour for them.

Alex Cobb
Fort Worth, TX —  September 29, 2006 10:51am ET
Great story James! I've been waiting to hear your version of that first evening's account. It definitely sounds like the best of times. Take care and enjoy your time in Tuscany. One question - how many bottles does JS have in his collection at home? We are all curious, b/c he never seems to have a shortage of gems...
Glenn S Lucash
September 29, 2006 11:49am ET
Amen James.....good health and great friends are what life is all about. Some time ago, my dearest friends and I opened a bottle of Opus One. It was absolutely undrinkable, but we had a fabulous evening and still talk about that bottle as a reference point as to what we don't enjoy in some wine but love about friendship. In your travels, try to get to the little hotel down the block from the Sinalunga train station, the food is amazing and the house wine is to die for!!!!
James Laube
Napa, CA —  September 29, 2006 2:57pm ET
Hey dad just read your article and wish i was there. sounds like your having fun. catch you on your next one. love ya Dewy
Henry Champagne
Springfield, MA —  September 30, 2006 2:37am ET
I said this in "A guy's night in" and as you're son can probably attest to, it's not about what you drink, as much as who you drink it with. Wine creates relationships, molds relationships, then makes them what they are. It's a bond as I view it. Evenings like yours make us remember that from time to time. Congrats on having a great time.

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