I’m out of town with my wife. We’re somewhere we’ve never been before, in a part of the country with which we are not familiar. We’re staying in a house on a sand road that dead-ends at an oyster shell beach. We’re escaping business obligations, which have been fairly intense and which recently culminated in a reasonable level of success. There is not Internet access (I’m writing from a coffee shop) and cell phone coverage is spotty.
Last night, we walked through pitch-dark woods hung with Spanish moss to a restaurant up on blocks in a swamp, a steak joint that brought to mind words from Joni Mitchell’s song Coyote:
We saw a farmhouse burning down
In the middle of nowhere
In the middle of the night
And we rolled right past that tragedy
Till we turned into some road house lights
Where a local band was playing
Locals were up kicking and shaking on the floor
We took a booth way in back and asked if they had wine. The trainee waitress — her uniform t-shirt unfaded from wear — produced a thin list, about a dozen wines, mostly in the $15 – 25 range. Except down at the bottom of the list, which said:
2002 Georges de Latour Napa Valley Special Reserve Cabernet Savignon (sic) $99
To my memory (later confirmed to be slightly faulty) that $99 was just about retail price for a 2002 GDL. We ordered a bottle. The trainee waitress didn’t drive the corkscrew in deep enough and yanked out half the cork. A more experienced hand saved the day, extracting the cork with no damage done.
The wine was almost black in the glass. The nose was spectacular, dense and oaky and a perfect example of Napa’s promiscuous and occasionally reviled signature style. The taste was just as dense, perhaps a little lighter in the mid-palate than I might have expected. It loosened with ten minutes in the glass, filling that mid-palate with berries and plum. With the grilled steak it was perfection; I wouldn’t bet on it working with anything else.
A raucous group of golf tourists took the table next to ours, trash-talking each other about the day’s round. The restaurant’s owner stopped by to ask how everything was, making special mention that we had ordered his most expensive bottle of wine — he actually bowed when he came to the table. (I watched, and he didn’t do that with the golfers.) I offered him a taste, and he declined as if embarrassed by my amazing generosity.
We staggered home down the sand road, the wine still fresh in our memories. It would have been a memorable evening with a $25 Malbec: a local steak joint far from home, a breeze blowing in off the water, no reason to bring the phone because there’s no signal. But with GDL at retail, it becomes a story that we will tell (and, let’s be honest, embellish) for years to come. What the GDL was doing on that list is a mystery to me. I love a good mystery.