A night of lost instinct and (perhaps) bad storage.
(an interlude before resuming the final Austrian posts)
Of late, when it comes to both interpersonal and wine choices, my instincts have been right but my actions have been wrong. I might as well be fifteen again, but supposedly more mature, I don't wear it as well.
Take last night for instance. On a night out with two out of town friends, we sauntered in at 10:30 into Balthzar and behold, there was a little table near the bar just for us.
I had been lusting after a $42 (?) dollar bottle of 2005 Montbourgeau Etoile, looking for the right gullets to order it with. Such a deal, right? So, I warn them, even though it's not extreme, it's not like anything they had. True enough. But it didn't sing. Not only that, the finish was not just salty it was like ocean water. Harsh, raspy and acrid. Not a great handshake from a great wine from great terroir. I wondered, storage? But I've never associated the harsh saline quality as a storage problem. I just thought, well, the 2006 vintage of it was brilliant. My mistake.
So we went to bargain #2; for $52 we could have (and did) '94 Domaine Aux Moines, Roches. The nose was gorgeous old chenin, but again the same salty brackish swill on the back palate. I could see the friend from Toronto wonder what was the big deal about wine in the first place, enjoyment? Bring on the beer.
I rationalized. I tried to show her some charm, but I was lying to both of them, and to me as well.
Meanwhile, the lady from Toronto, with a Winona Ryder-like beauty, was facing the table of three men behind me. We struck up a conversation; after all, three of them, three of us, Saturday night and all of that. I had heard they were drinking Gigondas.
When they heard I was a wine writer they said "pick us a wine." The caveat? The choice had to be one they'd love. How could we go wrong with the '05 Chandon de Briailles Ile des Vergelesses @ $96? Brackish. Thud. Clunk. And this, on a fruit day no less.
My reputation was at stake. The main dude, an exec, was a Parker drinker, and he wanted me to impress him. Hell, I wanted to impress him. Being well-behaved, I wanted to keep it under $100, the 2009 Foillard or the 2006 Ganevat Trousseau?
My instinct whispered to me; go with the crowd pleaser. Foillard. Hadn't I seen that any wine with any age had been damaged during this evening? Yes, again, I suspected poor storage or wines at war with the wine fridge. It was more than possible. I had the proof in my mouth. The wines were not right. Instead I thought maybe they just were misbehaving, like a dog who won't perform tricks in front of company and you're there saying, "Paw!"
getting nothing but quizzical looks, or in this case, a growl.
Ah, my self-destructive streak showed: I went for the Ganevat.
It's like putting faith that someone who has stood you up three times, won't stand you up the fourth.
The guys were good natured about it, but I slinked out, knowing even if Balthazar's storage was at fault, I could have averted a wine disaster if I had just listened. The wines were all between 40%-50% off. Their life had been snuffed out. Might have shown some spunk, but somewhat snuffed.
Moral of the story: #1-if you've had good instincts all your life, learn to trust them. #2- when at Balthazar, buy the younger wines.
(please chime in if you've better experiences with older wines at Balthazar. Perhaps the wines off of their Reserve list are handled better? Would love to know.)