By Steve Jacobson –
Recently I had a wine experience that doesn’t happen that often. I have tasted a lot of wine throughout the last fifteen years or so (when I adopted wine as a serious hobby and interest). But the other night I can truly say that I had one of the BEST WINES I have ever tasted. Point in fact – it might have been the BEST WINE I have ever tasted. It’s hard to judge… So what made it the BEST WINE for me?
Let’s start with the setting. I was visiting some long time friends in San Diego. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we had some catching up to do. Over the years, we have shared some great wine together. Bill and Maria have been going to Napa since the early ‘80s, so their experience is varied and deep. I’ve learned quite a bit from them through the years, especially when I first got started on this journey.
Secondly, I brought with me a bottle that I have been storing since I bought it in 2008. It was a 2005 Beau Mélange made by Chateau Margene in Paso Robles. This very limited high-end wine ($140) is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot – a classic Bordeaux-style blend. The winemaker, Michael Mooney, only makes three barrels (72 cases) a year of this wine. The handpicked and hand-sorted grapes are from their estate vineyard in the hills above Creston California. This amazing wine is aged in 100% French Oak barrels for 32 months before bottling. So just by knowing this, it’s a very special, handcrafted wine. You can only buy this wine through the Chateau Margene Wine Club (or you may be able to buy it at the Paso Robles winery, but I don’t know for sure).
According to the website, Chateau Margene is a “boutique, micro winery” specializing in “award-winning luxury Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux style blends.” Their sister label, Mooney Family, produces Pinot Noirs from the cooler climate of the Santa Lucia highlands and Rhone blends from Paso Robles. Their total production is 3000 cases. “The focus is on handcrafting wines of intense character and varietal expression.” They do make great Cabs, Pinots and Rhône blends that are available to buy.
We opened the wine and checked the cork. You know a wine has been stored properly when there is no seepage up the cork – that is no wine stains on the side of the cork. The bottom of the cork is coated in wine, but nothing on the sides. This assured us that there was no air contamination on the wine. Bill poured it into the decanter and, being a bit of a traditionalist, he lit a candle and held it up to the bottle to watch for the sediment and that it didn’t make its way out with the wine. Since he is rather experienced at this process, all was good. (I just use a filter, but his way definitely has a romantic flair about it.) We let the wine sit for about two-and-a-half hours.
Just as we were going to put the steaks on the grill, Bill mentions to me that he actually prefers drinking a good bottle of wine on its own and not with food. So we proceed to share this amazing bottle ON ITS OWN.
The nose was powerful and full of intense fruit. The color was rich and deep. The alcohol content (15%) was evident in that the viscosity (also known as “tears” or “legs”) had the wine clinging on the glass for what seemed like an eternity. And the first sip was… amazing. Of course, so were the subsequent sips. The best way to describe this is that it was like drinking rich, smooth, velvety wine. There was lots of structure; the mid-palate was full of flavor; the finish was wonderful; and there were no heavy tannins or alcohol burn. I can attest that the 2005 Beau Mélange does have “intense character”.
While the three of us were sharing this amazing wine, we got into all sorts of great conversations regarding philosophy and spirituality. But at some point it was time for dinner and by then the Beau Mélange was finished. How do you follow that up? Especially given the fact that we had just grilled some very tasty steaks. We opened a more “everyday” Cab (Eberle Cab) and drank that with dinner. It worked out just perfectly.
I am so glad that I stored the Beau Mélange. I remembered having this wine a few years ago and, while it was a great wine then, I don’t remember it being anything like it was that night with my friends. The good news is… I have a few more Beau Mélange wines in my wine cellar… including another 2005!
It isn’t everyday that you get to experience a wine such as this. If you can do it at some point, find a great bottle of wine and store it properly for some time. Find that right occasion with the right people and open it up. Maybe you would spend a few hundred dollars for a night at the theatre. Well, just to change it up, spend $100 on a handcrafted bottle of wine instead and make that your night of entertainment. Let the wine be the focus and make some great memories in your life.
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy wine, and that’s kind of the same thing.” – Anonymous (enjoy more memorable wine quotes here.)