Currents Magazine’s food editor Jimi Hilton starts us off with what we hope will be a regular feature — a tale of his “best wine drinking experience — ever.”
Wow, it’s hard to single out the best bottle ever from a 40+-year wine-drinking career — I can think of at least three unforgettable wines right off the top of my head.
But one bottle really stands out — a Château L’Angélus from 1982 — where the vintage in Bordeaux was rated as a whopping 98.
My normal M-O where wine is concerned is to search out the best overall value I can find. Put another way, I look for really good wines at really good (i.e. low) price points for the value received. But 1982 — which was being touted as “the Bordeaux vintage of the century” just happened to coincide with the first year I felt flush enough to splurge on even one really pricey wine.
My good buddy and I, plus our old boss — who fancied himself as a wine connoisseur…NOT — decided to buy 1982 wine futures, and split four cases. After much study of the reviewers’ comments, and their prognostications on what was still a long way off, we decided to split cases of Château Gruaud-Larose — not yet a “second growth” back then, but under new management and “the best value for the money” said my wine-mentor, who was a connoisseur — along with Château Talbot and Château L’Angélus, which was then a “fast rising star” my mentor told us, which has since been promoted, by the way, to Premier Grand Cru Classé B. To average-down the cost-per-bottle a bit, we also bought the 1982 futures for Château Gloria — which was the “house wine” at Lutèce back then, so who could argue. And, in most years, btw, it’s still one of the very best Bordeaux for the money that one can buy.
Very cannily, I’d say, we used the Gloria as a sort of test-of-readiness for the pricier bottles…and finally, around 1989 I think, I figured the more expensive wines were coming into their own. The Talbot, which was the most expensive back then, was quite an eye-opener for someone whose usual red was less than a third the price of the futures. But the Gruaud-Larose, from the same producer, but a bit cheaper back then, was a whole lot better — just as my mentor predicted. We’d struck pay-dirt for sure, I thought.
But then, one fine night — with a beautiful leg of lamb (what else?) it was time to try the L’Angélus. What a complete and utter showstopper it was. We had never had a wine that was even close to this one. The wine looked black as coal. The aroma was like no other wine we’d ever smelled. The mouth-feel really was like velvet. And each little sip tasted better and richer and more complex than the last. It seemed that we could hear the angels singing.
We nursed the bottle along for almost two hours, and drat!, my wife, who normally stops at one glass, watched like a hawk, to be sure she’d get drop-for-drop with me. Since then, I’ve had even pricier wines — and wines that are a lot more famous. But if I had to recommend only one wine to spurge on, this would still be it.
A few more ‘Best Bottle Experiences’
On a blustery late October night after a long day of fishing, our Cape Cod neighbors treated us to one of the real marvels of modern Spanish wine: Numanthia Termanthia Toro 2006. This 95+ pointer paired perfectly with freshly caught Bluefin Tuna which was fire-pit-grilled and served on the bone. The Prime steak flavor and texture of grilled ‘Tuna Ribs’ with the Termanthia were a match made in heaven.
- Peder Hagberg, Little Silver
Intense bursts of Adirondack pine and lemon thyme perfumed the air as we sipped a supple Foxen Sea Smoke Vineyard Pinot Noir. As the Lake George Summer season came to a close, we indulged in thick slices of salty charred Porterhouse steak, forgiving ourselves that we forgot the birthday candles.
- Kale Nakagawa, New York
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