Lately, I’ve balanced in my mind a somewhat curious juxtaposition of values and desires. My love of and desire to travel has been vigorously reignited, and this year promises to see me in Orlando, Seattle, Napa and Sonoma, Sarajevo, Istanbul, London, Boston, and more. On the other hand, I feel very much more attached to my home, a “homebody” if you like, and not only enjoy home as the physical space of my dwelling with my family but also in the greater sense of Omaha, my community, to which I feel my attachment deepening and in which I am more deeply invested than ever before. Omaha is a special place, and I’m truly starting to love it. I took this picture of her yesterday morning when I left the gym.
Tom Rees is from Omaha, but moved to California, Napa specifically, to make wine. Tom and I became acquainted through the wine industry and I consider him a friend. He knows my friend Mike, also from Nebraska, who runs a wine bar in West Hollywood, and I have visited him at his home in Napa and he in turn has visited me in Omaha. At this point, we know each other pretty well. I was on vacation last month when Tom sent me a text message:
It was that last line that lunged out at me, of course. It has been a while since Tom and I had spoken. In its ambiguity the message felt like a “we need to talk” and those things are rarely good. I grabbed my phone, stepped out on the patio overlooking the Atlantic from the condo my family had rented on vacation, and called Tom back immediately. What he had to say was actually good news for him — he had taken a new job, a great opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up. I congratulated him, knowing that while I was certainly very happy for him, this was not terrific news for me for two reasons. The first reason is that Tom was no longer able to attend VinNebraska this year, which is too bad because of course we were honored to have him with us. The second reason, Tom informed me, is that his private label, Pine & Brown, would cease to produce wine after the vintage currently in barrel, the 2017. With this on my mind, I opened a bottle of his 2015 Mt. Veeder Cab Sauv last night.
“No. 676 of 728 bottles produced.” This sort of small production, what some call boutique, and borderline obsessive attention to detail are part of why I have always loved Tom Rees and his wines. The bottle has the heft of a Czech crystal vase, the label printed in black and a deep green that appears black until in the light. The wine’s incredible bouquet rockets out of the glass as if an animated aroma from a cartoon, or Aladdin’s genie, reaching me from several feet away with a fragrance that I can only describe as rich and enticing.
Sourced from a single block, KL3, of the Dr. Konrad Vineyard on Napa’s coveted Mt. Veeder, the wine is a gorgeous, deep purple hue, with fine relentless tannins giving it the sort of structure that suggests in no uncertain terms that this wine is destined to last longer than I will. Tight and young but drinking well all the same, the distinct mountain fruit, those blackberry and dark currant flavors, notes of leather, hints of earthiness, start early and stay late, lingering on the palate for what might be an eternity, coating my tongue and gums and reminding me of what made me fall in love with Napa’s mountain fruits in the first place. Aged for 23 months on a combination of new and once-used French oak and extremely limited in production to 56 cases — approximately two barrels, this wine is indeed a special treat. It will be released this fall, perhaps just in time for the advent of cooler autumnal months and a renewed need for warming Cabernets to sip near fireplaces and pair with thick cuts of grass-fed Nebraska beef seared on the grill.
Doors closing, windows opening, divergent paths, suns rising and setting — there is no shortage of metaphor to examine change in our lives, and this is no doubt by design. As people, we struggle with change, fear it at times, thrive on it in others. I have little doubt that my friend Tom is going to thrive in his new position, and I’m excited for him. In the meantime, lovers of the Napa Valley should know that this comes at a cost — the imminent loss of one of Napa’s greatest little boutique producers, and that the moral of the story is that if you love Pine & Brown wines, you have a limited window in which to acquire them. The 2017’s currently in barrel will likely be released somewhere in 2020, and after that no more, though in time I’ll try to keep you posted on where you can get the wines Tom is working on in his new job. Until then, track down some of this Mt. Veeder Cab. I think you’ll be as impressed as I was.
Cheers to change and opportunity, to sunrises and sunsets,