If you are on Twitter and a wine lover, you are probably aware that Saturday was Open That Bottle Night. One of many Twitter-born events that encourages readers to go ahead and open that bottle that you are saving for a special occasion. The bottle IS the special occasion so enjoy it now. Being awarded first place in Gundlach Bundschu’s Deed Day Poetry contest was in and of itself an amazing gift. The bottle they presented me with was enough to make me squeal and blush: A 1996 Cabernet Franc Jeroboam.
Now, let me preface all of this by saying that I have never had the privilege of enjoying a large bottle of fine wine. If I sound like a novice, it is because I am. Since receiving this bottle, I have envisioned the dinner party that I would build around the wine. I love Cabernet Franc but was not sure how it would change with age. Especially sixteen years and in a three liter format. I expected a softer fruit with some herbal qualities, so I made my best guess and planned the menu.
We began with a cheese plate, something to munch on while the littles ate dinner and got ready to settle in. Manchego, Gorgonzola with honey, goat cheese, olives and chutney. I was thinking the goat cheese would pair nicely. It took a few attempts, but we finally got through the wax seal and pulled out a healthy cork. Unsure about the level of sediment, we poured the wine into a decanter first. A beautiful tawny red, brilliant clarity, and life. The nose was really powerful, but so balanced, it was honestly hard to discern. Perhaps it was the fact that I was fighting a cold (horrible timing, I know) but it was like a big berry, plum medley. I expected the taste to be similar. I was wrong.
The fruit was subtle and smooth. Blackberry and plum softened with gentle tannins. Garden cuttings and damp shale came to mind. My husband said that it was like being back in the Sonoma cave. With newer wines, you can tell a marked difference between your first taste of the bottle and the last. It changes as it opens. This wine was consistent. Ready. Amazing from start to finish. And oh, what a finish.
For the first course, I served Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter sauce. The sweetness of the squash, herbaceous sage, and salty Grana Pandano all found a friend in the wine. Delicious. The second course was a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and sage with a salad of arugula, pear, and pecorino. Again, the wine shined with every bite. Finally, I served a chocolate pudding made with Akoma chocolate, Frangelico whipped cream, and salted pistachios. Divine. I would love to tell you how the wine paired with the pudding, but it didn’t make it that far. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to finish the magnum. Silly me.
I don’t have a lot of experience with aged wines. I don’t have the luxury of space and resource to just hold wine for great lengths. I have appreciated the experience and depth of the tobacco and leather types of wine, but it is not the taste profile I would generally choose (again, novice). This wine curled my toes and made me giddy. Sophisticated and yet so approachable. A gift in every sense of the word.
Many thanks to the wonderful people at Gundlach Bundschu. Your wines are always a delight but you humbled me with this bottle. Thank you for the inspiration to write and the encouragement to continue. This SAHMmelier is truly grateful.