(Note: TB is not being insensitive writing this during the horrible conflagration in Northern California’s wine country, but needed to get his mind off it for a little while.)
When one starts collecting wine it soon becomes apparent that the $30 bottle of wine you purchased is now a $60 or $80 bottle is too good to drink for just any dinner, so what do you do as the other bottles you bought start accumulating.
One thing you can do of course is sell them at auction. I did this with some wines years ago that had become simply too valuable to drink. Like my ’82 Bordeaux’s I bought as futures…the vintage that destroyed William Finnegan’s reputation among his subscribers and built Robert Parker’s. Parker being the only wine writer to praise the vintage. So I bought a mixed case…average price $30. I tried a few over the years but wasn’t that impressed, nor was a friend who had the same feeling.
I held them along with many other wines, including some I had purchased at auction. Then, following the millennial, anything with a 19xx vintage shot to the moon, Alice, the moon. So I made a list and took it to Butterfields in San Francisco which had recently merged with Christy’s. They eagerly accepted the wines and I attended the auction with a friend. It was live and telephonic and we were blown away at the prices – especially for ones we could find at a local wine merchant for much less. While I walked away with over $6,000, and a huge profit, I decided there would never be an opportunity like that again for me, and altered my buying habits to what TB liked, not what Parker or anyone else liked that I was supposed to love.
Here are some things I have tried…some successful, some not so much:
- Bring out a bottle at a dinner you are hosting. The problem with this is that if you didn’t plan it for the main wine, it will go largely unnoticed. I wasted a lot of bottles that way until I figured it out: ideas pop up after drinking and when followed through seem to fizzle. What did that wine taste like anyway?
- Donate it to a charity auction. Not such a good idea with pricey wines as frequently they will be underbid (once I bought back my own wine because the bid price was so low and it was a good wine). Make charitable donations of wines currently available.
- Say what the hell and sometime when you are in a really good mood, simply bring one up…but be sure to not make the mistakes in number one above.
- Keep them for show…dazzle people with your cellar. Yawn! I have found people are more impressed with the size of the cellar than what it actually contains.
- Find a special occasion and make it about the wine…not literally, but you can use it to enhance the event.
Focusing on that last suggestion, we recently visited two couples in Chicago. One lived there part time and we were old friends and the other couple flew out from California. The event was the 70th birthday of one of the friends. A perfect chance to showcase some wines, since they were coming from out of state by air and we were driving.
So…what did I bring for this four day event? First, we had other wines so I didn’t want to overdo it…just be able to have some great wines together.
Day 1: Quinta do Bonfim, Portugal, Dao. This company makes all the great Ports and is located up the Douro in Pinhao. This was not an expensive wine but like most Portuguese wines hard to find in the States. Everyone loved it
Day 2: For our traditional ‘picnique’ dinner I brought a bottle of Clos de l’Obac’s 2006 Miserere. A beautiful Priorat red that is really complex. This is from the same winery that I attended the 25 year vertical in Chicago last March See Vol. 3, No 3.
Day 3: For cocktail hour we had Castello del Volpaia, Chianti Classico, 2012. If you haven’t had this beautiful Chianti, look for it…years ago I stayed at the Castello in one of their beautiful rooms overlooking the vineyards.
Day 4: Also for cocktails, Verdad Tempranillo 2013. This wine is made by Luisa Sawyer Lindquist, wife of Bob Lindquist of Qupe wines. It is an extraordinary example of a tempranillo and shows that it can be made in the Central Coast…elegantly.
Day 5: For the birthday dinner we went to The Barn in Evanston, where we were staying. They have an excellent wine list but I knew this wine would not be on it and was dying to see how it held up over the years. It was a Leonetti Merlot 2000, and when the somme saw it he was dazzled. I told him to save a glass for himself and he was so thrilled he waived the corkage fee. We also had a Black Slate Priorat for a second wine and it was very good. Note that before I had commented on the etiquette of bringing your own wine. First, make sure you can and, second, make sure it is not on their wine list of of such an early vintage that even if they have the label they won’t have it. Make the somme part of the group by letting him/her enjoy and comment on the wine. See also Vol 2 No 25 for TB’s Ten Commandments of Wine.
There you have it, TB’s best suggestion for what to do with your best wines…enjoy them with good friends!
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