Last night, we were honored to have a gathering of friends join us for dinner in our home. There was my old friend and mentor Paul and his wife Dianne. There were our friends Mark and Meg whom we met a few years ago and have grown closer and closer to as time goes by. And there was Courtney, my former student who as a student at university interned for me in Rwanda years ago, but whom I haven’t seen much of since. The fact is, I don’t see enough of any of these wonderful people, so our solution was to host a raclette party; raclette takes a very long time to eat and allows for a relaxing, elongated conversation to unfold while everyone waits for cheese to melt and patiently passes trays of pickled vegetables around the table. It’s a communal meal — at least the way we do it, and I was grateful for the chance to commune with Sonja and so many dear friends.
Lately, I’ve been collecting magnums of older wine, and I often use large gatherings as an excuse to break out one of these magnums. Last night, I selected a 1996 St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve never visited St. Clement in Napa, but when I texted the picture to a friend in the industry, his response, in part, was: “Aaron Pott made that wine, truly a magician.” I began to salivate.
The 22-year-old cork was brilliantly intact, the bottom tip as black as night, and I managed to remove it without much trouble. Poured into two decanters, I was careful to leave the finest of sediment in the shoulder of the bottle while depositing the vibrant red liquid that is only starting to darken slightly in its new home. Aromatic, what persisted from start to finish more than any other singular note was a subtle dark chocolate, which lead from bouquet to palate and lingered on the finish. In addition, dried blueberry, dry red cherries and leather notes were present. The body of the wine is thinning, and that combined with a relatively low 13% ABV gave this Napa Cab a bit of an old world, Left Bank feel. The tannins lingered, drawing out the finish, and it paired nicely with our meal.
It was wonderful to just relax and lose track of time in the warmth of wonderful company — a concept that Courtney, who is fluent in German and lived in Germany, I’m sure would have thought of as gemutlichkeit. It’s something we could use some more of in this country, or at any rate, something I could use some more of in my own life. Perhaps I’ll turn “more gemutlichkeit” into an imporomptu New Years resolution. Perhaps “drink more good, old Cabernet” could go on that list as well.