In my early days of tasting wine I couldn’t afford the really good stuff. So my wife and I recruited two other couples and formed a little hedonism club.
We held dinners. The host couple would do the entree and a side, and the other couples would make the appetizer, salad, dessert and such.
And we six shared the cost of a really good bottle of wine. True, each of us got only one glass of it that way, so we had to fill in with cheaper wines. But to us, that one glass was a thrill as well as a learning experience. I recommend it highly to young couples just getting into wine. Or couples with kids in college and a mortgage.
The dinners created great memories. Like the time I roasted a duck, which turned out so tough I couldn’t cut it even with an electric carving knife. But the dinner was a success because we served it with a fabulous and pricey French Burgundy.
Or when we roasted a whole pig, and one of the wives taught us how to slice and eat its tongue. And with it, the unexpected pairing with a fabulous white gewurztraminer from France’s Alsace region.
This idea worked in restaurants too, creating more memories. One time my best wine-drinking pal and I had lunch at a Playboy Club in Miami. And, in the midst of such sophistication, we split the cost of a half-bottle of a famous French Bordeaux.
The waitress, complete with bunny ears and cotton tail, brought the bottle to us already open – apparently having been hired for qualities other than removing corks. This was a serious breach of wine etiquette, of course, leaving us to wonder if the cook was in the kitchen drinking our wine, having substituted something far cheaper in our bottle.
(I know, I know, it served us right for going to a Playboy Club. But it was back in the 1970s, and my pal and I have since evolved.)
Anyway, if you want to try this idea yourself, here are some nice wines to consider.
▪ 2012 Cadaretta Windthrow GSM red blend, Columbia Valley, Wash. (56 percent syrah, 25 percent grenache, 19 percent mourvedre): hint of oak, aromas of licorice and spice, flavors of blackberries and black pepper, full body, concentrated; $50.
▪ 2013 Chardenet “Durell Vineyard” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. (100 percent chardonnay): aromas of tropical fruit and brioche, flavors of ripe peaches and ginger, long, crisp finish; $65.
▪ 2010 Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (100 percent sangiovese): aromas and flavors of black raspberries, menthol and minerals, complex, concentrated fruit, big, ripe tannins, long finish; $50.
▪ 2013 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, “Flax Vineyard,” Russian River Valley, Windsor. (100 percent pinot noir): aromas and flavors of black cherries, mulberries and earth, crisp acids, firm tannins, long, fruity finish; $57.
▪ 2012 Vistalba Wines “Corte A” red wine, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina (67 percent malbec, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent bonarda): aromas and flavors of black raspberries and mocha, big, ripe tannins, full body, long finish; $70.
▪ 2012 Gallo “Signature Series” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. (97 percent cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent petit verdot): sweet oak aroma, flavors of black plums and dark chocolate, rich and powerful, ripe tannins, long, smooth finish; $50.
▪ 2014 Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County (100 percent sauvignon blanc): aromas and flavors of lemon drops and anise, crisp acids, rich fruit, full body, long finish; $35.
▪ 2013 Wild Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, (100 percent pinot noir): aromas of black cherries and black tea, tropical fruit flavors, crisp, firm tannins, smooth finish; $50.
▪ 2009 Frankland Estate “Olmo’s Reward” Red Blend, Western Australia (70 percent cabernet franc, 13 percent merlot, 10 percent malbec, 7 percent cabernet sauvignon): hint of cedar, aromas and flavors of blueberries, bitter chocolate and earth, subtle tannins, fruity finish; $55.