It was the kind of day that always makes us happy we have our little hideaway north of New York City. Outside was Currier and Ives–gray sky, melting snow, moody, skeletal trees. Inside, a fire that John had tended all day bathed our old dog’s body in a golden glow while soft jazz provided the soundtrack.
While I stood at the stove, worrying over the lamb shanks that were taking almost twice as long as the recipes promised, John pulled the cork at 7:10 on our 1973 Dry Creek Vineyard Petite Sirah and it came out whole, wet and dark halfway up. The color was good, light ruby with a little brick at the edges, and a nose of faint fruit. We wished each other Happy Open That Bottle Night and took our first sips.
The wine was shy of fruit at first, a touch watery, and the alcohol reminded us of Sherry. A second sip brought to mind an old Burgundy, a dusty dowager on the cusp of…what? John said, “At this point, either the wine will get more watery or grow bigger.” By 7:16, it showed us more fruit and by 7:25, it began to look younger, redder and sweet fruit began to emerge along with a hint of minerals. In 10 more minutes, it became very earthy, with a certain masculinity to it, a rusticity that we associate with Petite Sirah.
The shanks reminded us of Fred Flintstone. They were huge, succulent and sweet, the meat falling off the bone. The wine took on a hint of mint. Perfecto! By 7:42, the wine’s ripe fruit shone, reminding us that 40 percent of it was Zinfandel that in its youth might have blown our heads off. At 7:51, the alcohol became more pronounced and I headed for the computer, to welcome revelers to Palate Press’s live OTBN celebration.
John and I continued to sip and marvel, until we were at our last sip. Looking at me with those eyes that connected with my soul 40 years ago, John said, “I love you, Sweetie” and we clinked our glasses. I said, “To 40 more years.” And although he didn’t repeat it, he looked at me with eyes that were now smiling.
The last sip at 11:15 was filled with a depth of wisdom that old wines can have, a comfort with what it was. With inevitable dips and plateaus and high points, this 40-year-old wine had persevered and we had rejoiced in it and in each other every sip along the way.