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Tuesday Trials and Tribulations
From The Cellar—With Love

By Stephen Eliot

One of the first signs that wine has become more than an interest, that it is on the way to become a full-blown obsession and an affliction for which there is no cure is that you start planning meals based first upon the wine.

When dining out, what to drink becomes more important than what to eat, and deciding the latter will be delayed by however long it takes to read through the wine list two or three times. A simple family dinner at home may take no time to prepare but cannot proceed without hours of anxiety as to what will be poured, and decisions about just what to cook for celebratory meals that mark special occasions such as Christmas and the New Year can literally be stalled for days until the right wines have been tagged.

Every year I make a firm resolution that this is the last holiday season in which I will spend so much time mulling over the perfect wine choice, and that I will abandon such nonsense in the future. My resolve inevitably weakens, however, and crumbles as it once again has as the day of reckoning nears, and, with little more than forty-eight hours left before Christmas dinner, I have yet to decide on both the menu and the wines upon which it depends. It is an all too familiar circumstance at Chez Eliot.

The funny thing, though, is that whatever bottles I pick always seem to turn out to be the right ones. There is no moment of epiphany, no sudden enlightenment, mind you, and no great insights born from years of experience. As usual, it is neither the wines nor the food that make Christmas dinner so special. It is the people, the family and friends that matter, and, whether the very best Cabernet, the finest Champagne, the most prized Burgundy in the cellar or something of far humbler station is poured, the sharing and warmth of the holiday table is what I always remember the most.

I recall with absolute clarity an inexpensive Sutter Home Zinfandel savored at Christmas during the impossibly lean years of graduate school some forty years back, and its memory is no less satisfying than that of the holiday magnum of Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet opened shortly after making the decision to embrace wine as a profession, the several Chateau Cheval Blancs sipped in an especially prosperous year or the nineteenth-century bottle of Croft Vintage Port that marked my first Christmas as a parent.

I do not yet know what will be in my glass in 2013, but, as long as it is shared with those that I love, I know that it will be the perfect wine. I only hope that next year I can avoid going through days of indecision and angst before once again remembering this simple truth. Most all of us who write about wine for a living agree that you should drink what you like, but I rather think that the better advice yet is to drink it with those whom you love.

From all of us here at CGCW, we wish you all the best for the Holidays and the New Year ahead, and we sincerely hope that the good wines and good times that come your way are far too many to count.

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