Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

So, T&V want to share a special bottle of wine with us, do they? How exciting! It’s as if Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) is here already, when in fact it is a month off. Eager with anticipation, V&I walk the couple of blocks to their house. We haven’t seen T&V since well before the holidays. They have been on a trip to Montana and to Idaho Nordic skiing and we’ve been busy ourselves and want to reconnect.

T&V are very well-traveled and have experienced so many wines. I say that with just a tinge of jealousy. Most of the time when we go over to their house we know what food we will be sharing as we either bring a dish to fill in the menu or a wine to compliment – but this time both food and beverage is a complete mystery.

We ring the door bell and are summarily greeted by our hosts and their foundling dog, Gypsy, then ushered into the kitchen. As we are walking towards the kitchen I remember I’ve said to V on more than one occasion, “If there is such a thing as reincarnation, then I want to come back as T&V’s dog.” I’m back to the “here and now.” V&I hand-off the host gift of a Treveri sparkling wine we picked up on our little adventure a couple of weeks ago. T is grinning ear to ear and can hardly contain himself. That, in turn, spills over to me. However, it is not about the bubbly at this point.

T excuses himself then returns, bottle in hand. It is a 1999 Neibaum-Coppola, Rubicon. V&I have experienced one wine older than this, a 1991 Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but we were not pleased with it. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe I took one sip then poured the rest out in the dump bucket. I never do that. Well, almost never…

T explains how we are going to approach the wine. This particular one will be opened, poured, and a small amount sampled. We will linger over that for a few minutes. 15 or 20 he says, and then we will try it again.

We consider ourselves wine dilettantes. Not the superficial and negative definition by any means rather, there is just so much about wine that we don’t know about, but aspire to know and experience. That’s it! We seek to be sponges.

We all clink to the fact we are together and experiencing another occasion to share food and wine. V&I exchange our own little “clink,” as we always do.

I’ve learned first impressions on wine are important. For this wine -
Aromatics are fully present, swirling the glass makes them even more so
Color is complete edge-to-edge red, not brown edged
Taste – this is a good cabernet, I should know, I am a “Cab Man.” It is juicy, not dry or astringent. There is a bit of sharpness to it. I can’t describe that sharpness in wine terms, sorry. At that moment I wonder, “Is this is what all California cabernets taste like after fourteen years? If that is true, this wine makes me appreciate Cabernet Sauvignon all the more.”
Finish is nice. Leaves me wanting another sip and that is a good sign.
Overall I am extremely glad I am not looking for that dump bucket.

15 to 20 minutes, huh? We share stories about the holidays, family events, and read the label. I am intrigued that there is an actual map on the back label that shows the location of the winery. I am familiar with the Coppola name but not Neibaum. I vow to perform research on the winery when I get home. The time doesn’t take too long to pass as we also share humus, crackers and rather good olives. I am digging those.

Glass now empty and the anticipation anxiety is starting to kick in. T grinning now says, “My research on this wine turned up a recommendation that we wait eighteen to twenty-four hours. But we aren’t going to do that.” I am indebted to him for that announcement and appreciative that he is now pouring more of that Cabernet Sauvignon in my glass.

Aromatics are even more beautifully pronounced now. I am not lifting the glass and yet I am getting “the nose.” In fact, as I take that first sip of the second pour it seems every aspect of this wine is elevated by that short time exposed to air. It is just a tad sweeter, but not cloyingly so, fuller, rounder, and smoother. That is not the appetizers doing that. It is oxygen pure and simple. This is a grand example of “wine physics” in its most graphic form – involving all the senses. That is fun!

I am a NW Wine bigot, but I am willing to forget about that for the present.

We continue in our conversation and I savor every word as well as the wine. It seems Kris, T&V’s son who works for a Seattle wine distributor, Young’s Market Company, has been recognized by the Washington Wine Commission as the first ever Distributor Salesperson of the Year for his work over the past year. How awesome for him! There can only be one first time, however with that being said I hope it is the first of many acknowledgements for his diligent hard work.

Now, it is time for dinner. A thick split pea soup, cornbread muffins, and salad. I am nervous now. Up until this moment I haven’t been a fan of that soup and have avoided it when possible. While the ladies are rustling about making the final preparations for dinner, T asks, “So, Mr. Oenophile…What wine will pair well with dinner?” I am a bit stumped, to say the least. My gut reaction says, “Hmmm, cream, butter, ham, potato. A nice round Chardonnay feels like a good choice.” I go with that knee-jerk reaction and propose the solution to my host. T picks up his i-Pad and performs a search, “Wine pairing with split pea soup.” Two different sources say “Syrah” for a red and “Marsanne, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling” for a white.

Syrah. Really? The internet doesn’t lie…

T and I go down to the basement and survey the storage. He shows me a couple bottles of Cask Cabernet Sauvignon from Neibaum-Coppola. However, we are searching for Syrah and so we move on, ever the intrepid explorers. T tells me about a particular Syrah made by John Duval out of Australia and he is contracting with Longshadows winery in Walla Walla for their Syrah. T has more than a couple bottles of this Australian’s 2004 Shiraz or said another way, Syrah. That is the pairing then.

Back upstairs and gathered at the table it is with some trepidation I put the first spoonful of soup in my mouth. Wow! It is luxurious, flavorful, and well balanced. I have another spoonful, then another. It is now time for the Shiraz. A perfect pairing! The wine, fruit-forward with a long finish, and flavorful in its’ own right, doesn’t detract from the main star of the meal. It adds harmony and I’m okay with that. The internet doesn’t lie…

We continue eating the meal, European style with the salad at the end. The salad seems to work as a palette cleanser. Not a bad idea for sequencing the meal.

The meal is now concluded. Nevertheless the wine glass has magically refilled itself and the conversation turns to plans for the rest of winter and spring. The upcoming month is going to be interesting, that’s for sure. Valentine’s Day, the upcoming Red Wine and Chocolate event weekend, and OTBN are all on tap and that is just February. Spring training is just around the corner too it seems, as the pitchers and catchers are to report Feb 12th, the rest of the players are to report Feb 18th, and the first game is Feb 22nd.

Oh wait! There is dessert? Lo and behold it is a scrumptious apple and cranberry pie. Warm pie and with vanilla ice cream, to boot. Are you kidding me? I am certainly glad my palette was cleansed for that!

V&I are glad we are blessed with friends full of generous hospitality. We are rich folk indeed because of the relationships we enjoy.

My guess is we’ll be experiencing more of that soup, as V got the recipe from V. Perhaps I’ll acquire some Duval Walla Walla Syrah to go along with it so I can keep my standing in the NW Wine Bigot society. Another option would be to pickup RC Syrah from Niebaum-Coppola if we ever get to Napa Valley.

Maybe, just maybe, it is okay to step of of that comfort zone (spelled another way – “RUT”) once in awhile. Something to ponder anyways…


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2 Responses to Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

  1. Kim says:

    Excellent entry (story) B! Well done.
    Side note: I knew T&V son was in the business and did see that but wasn’t sure of the connection! Way cool for him!
    Super Bowl here we come:)