Food, Wine & Friends Page 241
A customer was planning on having an event at their palatial
digs and they'd unearthed some old, moldy bottles of red wine.
The woman brought in two of these bottles asking me to taste them and let her
know if they were any good or if they should simply discard these.
"They've not been especially well-stored," she cautioned, "so see
what you find and get back to me."
Wine sales rep and Eno-Geek Oliver Kohns was standing nearby when this
interaction transpired, so I suggested we go have lunch at 231 Ellsworth (where
sommelier Chris Templin holds court) and see if either of these bottles was
still worth drinking.
The woman did not know the identity of the newspaper-wrapped bottle, but it had
a good level of fill. The Calon-Segur was a ullaged bottle and you can see
the fill level is down to the shoulder.
Despite the label being mostly covered by the newspaper which was now thoroughly
adhering to the bottle, a bit of the original label was visible on the bottle
and, of course, the capsule revealed the wine's identity: Chateau
Well, every bottle of wine is an adventure in and of itself, so I had some
back-up bottles in my cellar bag in case both of these were 'duds.'
This would be interesting:
Two 1961 Bordeaux.
Two Bordeaux from the Saint-EstŔphe region.
We brought these to San Mateo's 231 Ellsworth restaurant. I had not been
there in years. The menu had simply become too "new wave" and
"hip" for an old fogy such as myself.
With the arrival of Mr. Templin and a new chef, the menu has become much more
"wine friendly" and comfortable.
Our server on this fine afternoon was a young lady named Terry...and she brought
two decanters for us as we offered to take care of the bottles in Mr. Templin's
The best device to open such old bottles is an AH SO cork-puller. A normal
corkscrew will typically destroy the fragile, old corks. And even the Ah
So can have troubles, sometimes pushing the moist, loose stopper into the
With the blade from a corkscrew, we took off the top of the
foil capsule to reveal a scuzzy, dirty, moldy cork.
A wet napkin is then best employed to remove the debris and
mold at this point.
I must mention, by the way, upon removing the capsule, I sensed the fragrance of
a dank, very musty odor.
Carefully inserting one blade at a time and gently twisting the Ah-So, I was
able to extract the cork in one piece.
I normally would have decanted the bottle, but thought about
returning to work with some of this wine for the Weimax staff to taste, so we
poured gently so as not to disturb the sediment.
"Oliver, how's the wine?"
You can see evidence of the start of a smile...
"Geez, this is really surprisingly fine!" he said. "It
still has some fruit. I can't believe it!!"
The wine showed a lovely, old fragrance...fully evolved, of
course, especially with the low fill level of the bottle, but still having a
measure of fruit.
Brickish in color, the Calon-Segur had a sweet, old fragrance and it was dry and
smooth on the palate.
Okay...so far, so good. What about the next bottle?
"Wow...this is even deeper and showing more black fruits!" Oliver
Brice was thinking "Charles de Gaulle was President and Michel DebrÚ was
Prime Minister. No cell phones...no internet...no fax machines and most TV
was noir et blanc! Come to think of it, my father was just a little kid
when they picked the grapes to make this wine!"
Soon Terry was brining the nice little New York strip steaks
to the table to pair with the 1961 Bordeaux.
The Montrose was the brighter, fruitier of the two, but I recalled the wines of
Saint-EstŔphe often being searingly tannic and hugely astringent in those
days. It's not surprising to find wines from that era still alive.
The surprise was in finding two bottles of somewhat mishandled 1961 Bordeaux
still being alive.
(The steak was nicely done and a good partner for these Bordeaux.)
The Montrose was a nice garnet color with just the slightest brickish robe.
Chris Templin made his appearance and we shared a taste of each with him.
I think he was delighted to have not missed tasting these.
We had a lovely lunch at 231 Ellsworth and the crew was nicely
We put some corks back in the bottles and heading headed back to the store to
share these old bones with the kids...
Ellen was thrilled to see the wines from her era was showing so beautifully...
Monica was thinking "Wow...Kennedy became President in 1961, Alan Shepard
became the first American to fly in outer space and Roger Maris hit 61
homeruns. And I wasn't even thought of yet...Damn, though, that's
And Brice, who's heading to Sonoma next Monday for a few
weeks, snapped a shot of the crew.
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