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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 Montrose.

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-Estèphe 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 absence.

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 bottle.

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?

Let's see...


"Wow...this is even deeper and showing more black fruits!" Oliver exclaimed.
"Incredible."


Brice was thinking "Charles de Gaulle was President and Michel Debré 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-Estèphe 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 accommodating.

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 good!"

 

And Brice, who's heading to Sonoma next Monday for a few weeks, snapped a shot of the crew.

 

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