Reminiscing Over a Wine's Moment
I've heard for years about a wine's "moment." It's different than a wine's peak (which is very subjective). It's also different than a wine "opening up" over a period of time due to decanting or exposure to air in the glass. It is simply the moment when a bottle shines its brightest—regardless of its age.
I was lucky to share a 1951 Beaulieu Cabernet about three years ago with friends Ken Perry, Tom Black and Billy Ray Hearn at a dinner in Nashville. Tom brought the wines from his cellar. The BV was opened alongside a Château Latour 1945, the Pauillac first-growth. At first, the Napa wine had little to offer against the legendary Bordeaux.
But after about 20 minutes, the Beaulieu had its moment. The conversation at the table had gone elsewhere, yet the change was great enough to catch our attention. I felt proud for the home wine, because at that moment it was truly great.
That 1951 was made by André Tchelistcheff, Beaulieu's most famous winemaker. André was a spirited individual who never lost his Russian accent—an accent that seemed to deepen as he aged. Eloquent and romantic, he was the man who coined the phrase "Rutherford dust," a description of the wines grown in my home domain, the Napa Valley vineyards around the town of Rutherford. I think the "dust" was his way of describing the fine chalky tannins, a texture representative of our soil and climate.
As one of the Beaulieu vineyards was a neighbor to Caymus, André came visiting once in awhile. He would come looking for my dad during those quiet days and would just walk right into the house and yell "Charlie?"
He could also be easily detected by the amount of dust raised by his Ford Fairlane pickup. He may have thought scattering dust during his fast drives added texture to the wine.