Sonja and I had finished our errands and were debating where to go to get lunch. I advocated for two different places that both host a free wine tasting on Saturday afternoons, and Sonja chose The Winery, an Omaha staple, because it’s a relaxed place with a great little deli attached, and because we like the people there.
Dave, the owner, is away on a trip to Napa right now, but we got to talk to a few of the regulars while we tasted through the wines after lunch. Our nine-month-old son, Titus, sniffed a few with me, but he wasn’t totally into it today. Just as we were about to leave, the regulars pulled out a bottle of Smith Madrone Cabernet. Without thinking I said “Oh, Smith Madrone! That’s great stuff! I’m going there in a few weeks.” Immediately they got excited. All had been there, and all of them love the wines. They raved about their age-worth rieslings, the views from the winery, the great people they remember meeting there, and, of course, the Cabernet. Only then did I notice the vintage, and I’m fairly certain my jaw dropped. How could it not? “Would you like to try it?” asked one of the men at the table. I felt too much like a kid on Christmas morning. “Please!” I said. In the next twenty minutes, I got to try the 1995, and also the 2000 vintage, both of which served to make me all the more excited for my upcoming trip to Napa and, in particular, our stop at Smith Madrone.
Of course, the ’95 was awesome. A nose full of cedar and dark fruits leading into a wine with very mild spices and traces of leather and black licorice. The fruit, of course, is beginning to fade after 21 years in the bottle, but it’s far from gone. This wine made me proud, because it reminded me that the best of Napa Valley can stand up to the best of any other country, any other winemaker, any other terroir. The 2000 was terrific as well, but in the end, the wine was paired with casual conversation and a heaping serving of generosity, and that, to me, was every bit as awesome as the wine itself.
Wine isn’t awesome because it’s got alcohol in it, because it tastes great, or for any other reason. Wine is awesome because wine people are awesome, wine culture is awesome, and that makes whatever you’re doing while drinking wine, well, pretty awesome. These Smith Madrone’s library vintages were awesome, in part because they’re killer examples of a Napa Cab holding up fabulously over time, and in part because I only got a chance to try it because some very generous people were kind enough to share them with me. The 1995 gets 94 points on my scale, and the people get 100. Cheers to awesome wine, and the people and experiences in life that we pair it with.