I’ve always thought of life as being an ever-evolving endeavor. Sometimes we advance using small steps, and other times we surge in quantum leaps. But always moving ahead, gaining knowledge as we go and applying it towards a fuller and more enriching existence.
I like to think of myself as a progressive kind of guy, so I’m constantly seeking ways to be better today than I was yesterday. I’ll take on new challenges, pushing myself to the limit of my abilities. This can be a struggle, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a successfully completed task is something I never tire of.
I used to open the cellar door at the restaurant where I worked, and located within was 36 vintages of Lafite-Rothschild, 34 of Haut-Brion, 33 Mouton-Rothschilds, 29 Latours, 21 Cheval Blancs, 20 of La Tache and 18 of Romanee-Conti. This imposing arsenal, along with many more bottles of brilliance from the world over, was (and still is) a sommelier’s dream and a collector’s nirvana.
At this juncture I’m going to make an amazing confession: these wines rarely excite me anymore. Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not belittling their quality or the effort that goes into making them. It’s just that they’re not really what I personally want to drink at this point.
Say what? Take that man’s temperature! Is it time for the paddy wagon and the boys with the white coats? If it’s not illness or madness, then what’s the deal?
I believe I’m in the throes of a Wine Regression. In assessing how this came about, I’ve come up with a few possible theories:
1) I’ve gone face-first up against the Wine Wall. Maybe it’s something like that guy in the computer commercial on TV. He’s surfing the Net, then his eyes get wide and a robotic voice says, “You have finished the Internet. There is no more. Go back.” Could I have reached the end of the Wine Universe, and now must return?
2) I’m rebelling (yet again). All my friends liked the Beatles, but I said they were a bunch of wusses and pretended to listen only to the Animals, the Stones and Van Morrison’s group, Them. (In reality, I loved the Beatles, and listened to them all the time, albeit vicariously).
The gut feeling is that my palate is just tired. I’m weary of big, huge, powerful, lush, allocated, tannic and mind-blowing wines. I’m trying to keep whatever’s left of my mind encased in it’s cranium, therefore I regress to easier-drinking, food-friendly (and wallet-friendly) bottles. Here’s what I’ve been consuming at home, and not a single one cost over $25:
For whites, this includes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and riesling; Spanish Albarino and Txokolina; Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Riesling and Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris from both Alsace and Oregon.
For reds, Cru Beaujolais (made from the Gamay grape), such as Morgon, Chenas and Moulin-a-Vent; Pinot Noir from tiny Burgundian villages like St.-Romain, Santenay and Savigny-les-Beaune and also from small properties in Oregon; Dolcetto and Barbera from Piedmont and Rosso di Montalcino from Tuscany in Italy.
Also lots of Spanish reds: from Navarra, Priorato, Ribera del Duero and Rioja; Malbec from Argentina and Carmenere from Chile; Rhone Valley blends based on Grenache from villages like Rasteau and Cairanne; a couple of Zins and Petite Sirahs from California and some Shiraz from Australia, mainly those that offer balance over the teeth-jarring jammy fruit and high alcohol favored in the press.
So there you have it. H.G. Wells has firmed strapped me in to the Time Machine, and I’ve regressed to the wines I drank years ago, when my aspirations were all about Lafite, Latour and La Tache. Funny how things go.
To put things in a nutshell, here’s a conversation I had with a customer not too long ago. He was talking about his collection, around 5,000 bottles strong. He named them all, too, and they included every buzzword winery from every hot vintage you could think of. I asked him when he found the time to drink all these important wines. And this is what he said: “Oh, not very often. We can’t seem to find the right occasion. We just usually drink this $15 Zin I like.”
I rest my case.