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By Stephen Eliot

I had one of those significant birthdays a couple of weeks back, and I can no longer deny that I am now one of those “old white guys” in the wine world upon which is heaped is so much scorn. I have been a white guy for as long as I can recall, and, if it is true as claimed that you are as young as you feel, I believe that the word “old” now belongs on my resume. One of the nice things, however, about having been around for awhile is that you get to share some pretty good wines with some pretty good people along the way, and there is no better excuse than a “big” birthday to search through the cellar for something special. When you have friends such as mine who have also been in the wine biz for a very long time, the bottles that come to the party can be very special indeed.

Now, please do not worry; I am not about to list and lugubriously describe every wine that we poured. I am as weary as anyone with endless blogs, tweets and instagram postings that essentially say “look what I am drinking and you’re not.” That is not the point of this morning’s musings. Rather it is too remind that there are reasons that anyone who avers to love wine really needs to lay favorites away. I have never believed that a wine must be old to be worthy, but fascinating things happen over time that can be achieved no other way.

As the gathering was a large one and many glasses needed filling, we chose to ignore the rarest of the rare and instead dust off a few curiosities that we have collected over the years. A Mount Veeder Zinfandel from the year the Nixon left office and the splendid 1991 Robert Pecota Cabernet that marked my son’s birth left us chuckling at the notion that California wines do not age, while a forty-year-old Alsastian Gewurztraminer, so sweet that it came with a warning on its label, was absolutely riveting stuff and far more memorable now than when tasted several decades back. We gulped down a good many vibrant German Rieslings that had long since passed their tenth birthdays, and were taken with the silky polish fine Pinot Noir can find when left alone for many years.

There were disappointments as well. Some wines were dead when they should not have been. An old Hermitage, in particular, from a great year and producer that we eyed with great anticipation was dusty and dry, its life having been spent far too soon, but even those that had grayed prematurely had something to say.

Wines, as it turns out, age like we do; some with grandeur and grace and some unexpectedly stumble awkwardly through life and then fall flat on their faces. And, it seems more than appropriate this morning to stop and acknowledge those friends and those bottles, living and gone, that have made mine all the richer.


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