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Here's to the Wines I Didn't Drink

A toast to this summer's missed wine opportunities
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Aug 31, 2011 10:55am ET

There was a story I read once about a comedian—I think it was W.C. Fields—who was asked if he kept a notepad by his bed at night in case he thought of something funny. He replied, no, if it wasn’t funny enough to remember, it wasn’t funny enough.

I feel that way about drinking wine. Notice I said drinking, not tasting. Those are two different things. One is work and the other is fun. I taste and take notes on thousands of wines every year for the magazine, but I’ve never been the sort of wine geek that scribbles comments down about every last wine I drink. I remember the wines that deserve to be remembered.

But now that summer is almost over I realize I’ve spent too much time writing and thinking about wine and not nearly enough just enjoying it.

And that’s wrong.

There are so many wines I didn’t get to drink this summer. I didn’t have any Champagne, not even a glass of the deliciously ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot NV yellow label. Am I boring or what? I did have some delightful California sparkling wines such as J. Schram 2004 and Roederer L'Ermitage 2003 that almost made up for it.

I failed to drink enough dry rosé from southern France, I mean the really good stuff like Château d'Esclans or Domaine Tempier, the sort of elegant yet racy pinks that liven up a sunny afternoon. Too many of the French and California rosés that I opened were just too sweet or boring.

Nothing against California Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but this summer I’ve spent serious change looking for a white that’s zesty and different. I got bupkis. My ideal summer would have been filled with zesty Italian whites with verve and personality, something like Casa alle Vacche Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2010 or Enotria Mendocino Moscato 2010.

A case of top Châteauneuf-du-Pape would have served my summer beautifully. Twenty years ago it was my go-to Rhône red, consistently delivering excellent wines for a good price, but now I look elsewhere for value in the Rhône. Still, a guy can dream of Château de Beaucastel or Clos des Papes or Château Rayas.

I won’t bother saying I didn’t have enough Burgundy. It’s not possible and you couldn’t afford it if it were. I drank dozens of excellent California Cabernet Sauvignons and Zinfandels these past few months but good Merlots were far too rare.

I spent many a summer night when I first moved to California drinking wine and watching the sunset at Bodega Bay. I haven’t done it once this year. For shame. I’ve shared too few bottles with my brother newly moved to San Francisco or with friends around our backyard fireplace.

With only a few days until Labor Day, I can’t make up for all that lost time, the unopened bottles and missed opportunities. Still, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend starts Friday, so who knows.

What wines do you regret not drinking this summer? What were your missed wine opportunities?

Jamie Sherman
Sacramento —  August 31, 2011 11:57am ET
I regret not drinking all that Chardonnay and Pinot sitting in my wine cellar. Wine I purchased just to drink on beautiful summer evenings. Better get to it or I'll be drinking it in the winter gloom.....
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  August 31, 2011 1:12pm ET
I'm with you, Tim. I regret the bottles unopened because of the evenings I wasn't sitting in my garden with friends. Whatever they might have been, they would have been special simply because they were shared over conversation and laughter. What should have been memories are now only dreams...
Greg Eisenmenger
Merritt Island FL —  August 31, 2011 2:27pm ET
I've spent the last six weeks not drinking any alcohol and probably will have to refrain another couple of weeks. I look longingly at my cellar every evening and regret not being able to open any of my wines. Once free of this restriction I plan on opening a bottle of 2008 Caymus Special Selection . I bought a case just before my alcohol free days began and haven't had a chance to try it yet. I'm counting the days!
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  August 31, 2011 4:11pm ET
I sold off 15% of my cellar recently so I could make room for new arrivals. I finally got on the SQN and Marcassin Pinot lists, so now they have a comfy home. This Summer I had enough Zin with BBQ and Rose with salads, but I am looking at a glut of Cabs from Schrader, Scarecrow, Maybach, Quilceda and Lewis that will get me through the gloom of winter. Add in some Cali Rhone Rangers like Saxum and Torrin and my cellar is in a glorious place, primed for a nice Fall/Winter! No regrets here bro!
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  August 31, 2011 4:47pm ET
Troy - Can I come over?
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  August 31, 2011 5:24pm ET
Tom beat me to it, Troy. Thanks for the comments all.
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  August 31, 2011 8:27pm ET
I tried a little bit of everything but just not enough with my friends up in Madison. I hear you on the Champagne however.
Lance Guetschow
Elgin, Illinois, Kane —  September 2, 2011 3:47pm ET
Two summers ago was a great time getting it all in without being bachnalian about it. This summer was less than I would have liked for drinking wines. I was able to enjoy some Solo Rosa Merlot that should have been bad but wasn't. No champagnes, one Albarino, the rest were Rieslings, dry and semi sweet and red blends. I did have the distinct pleasure of picking up some clients to teach wine and help them buy and start their own collections. Here the word vicarious would fit in. This winter is a goal to make up for the summer. Already starting to purchase and put away for the cold months looking at snow with a warmth from the sun of the grapes inside of me.
Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  September 2, 2011 8:04pm ET
Oh, so I'm a wine geek cuz I take notes, eh? LOL... yes, yes, I am... I take notes when I'm drinking (as well as tasting). Tasting-wise, I wish the tastings in the Chicago area weren't so dismal ("let's try to move the crap"), but at least I learn what to avoid! And I write it down in the spreadsheet cuz I'm to feeble-minded to remember! But regrets from summer wines? None. Neither a fan of rose, nor champagne, so with my usual stuff I had a blast: Virtually perfect 2002 Rubicon Estate and 2004 Woodward Canyon Old Vine Cabs, for example. Tir Na Nog, Clarendon Hills and Chateau Chateau Grenaches were stupendous, as was Sebastiani's Pinot Noir 2008, tasting like a bottle 3x the price. Not enough good zins, though. Overall, this year's been drinking real good!
Steven Godwin
Newport News, VA —  September 5, 2011 2:00pm ET
Champagne. It's always Champagne. Even though we probably had 20 bottles of fair bubbly and California sparkling over the summer, it's never enough. How sad it is that we can no longer go to Bollinger semi-weekly since it hit ~$70 a bottle. My partner and I have been together for 17 years this September and during that time we have drunk 855 bottles of bubbly. It's never enough. Ben plans to have 'More Champagne please..." inscribed on his tombstone.

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