Friday, March 14, 2008

The Wine Review We Always Wanted To Write (and Read)

Chateau du Cal Pinot Meunier

When I was living in Paris in the early 1970s, I dated a French woman who smelled of olive oil and violets. She used to lounge on a feinting couch covered with green velveteen that was probably upholstered by her grandmother in the 1920s. Her hair was dark, her eyes wide, and the smells of her apartment were encapsulated in the first hint of aromas from this wine. I breathed deeply, memories of an idle youth contrasting with the warm glow emanating from my glass. This was going to be a wine to remember.

I hesitated even to take a sip, as I was afraid my memories would be deceived. I was hoping for perfection, but would have gladly settled for merely wonderful. Alas, the wine’s promise didn’t initially quite live up to my heated desires. Oh, it had a rich nose and tastes of an English summer garden, and a round, sensuous feel that coated my mouth like chocolate pudding. Yes, this wine reminded me somehow of the Brits – warm, uptight, and reserved all at the same time. But slowly, I began to open to the wine, as the wine began to open to me.

The flavors changed to tobacco, earth (deep, California dirt, from someplace near the central coast, not some loamy mud from the valley or foothills, but rather a clean, sea-sharpened note of wind spray and coastal pine infused into the dry hills), and leather (old, tanned leather, like the native Americans used to produce, of brain-tanned cowhides that were washed with salt and left to dry in the Arizona desert sun). Over the course of the first eight-and-a-quarter minutes that the wine had been in the glass, all these tastes came to the fore, as if they’d been hidden behind some Persian silk screen and only now chose to reveal themselves.

Over even more time – and time now seemed to stand still for me, as I became lost in the depth of this marvel – the wine moved from youth to midlife to maturity, much as a round-the-world traveler moves from continent to continent, from excitement at the beginning of his journey to depression during the middle of his undertaking to finally near the end of his adventure where the very act of travelling brings contentment with the universe and he realizes he has been blessed to see. Finally, the last drop about to be drained from the bottle, I sensed a finish to the wine that I would have never imagined.

As the wine lingered on my palate (pallet? palette?) I knew I was in the presence of greatness, as if Genghis Kahn or Charlemagne were to walk through my door and challenge me to acts of bravery and heroism.

$11. (We found it on sale for $8.99.) 86 points.