Sometimes customers tell me, "That's easy for you to say, David. You get to taste all this stuff for free," in response to my recommendation for an expensive bottle of whisky. I will admit: when you don't have to pay for the experience of drinking fancy booze, it does change the way you feel about it. Getting to taste all kinds of high-end single malt has definitely made my palate more difficult to please. That being said, I drink three times as much wine as I do whisky, and I'm in the same boat as all of you when it comes to one of my biggest passions: Burgundy. Pinot Noir from the Cote d'Or is fucking expensive. It's already where single malt is currently heading, and it's been there for quite a while. Prices continue to soar, supplies for the best wines are tighter than allocations for Pappy Van Winkle, and in Burgundy you don't have the option to simply make more. The best vineyards cannot be expanded or replanted, and yields can vary depending on the weather.
On top of all that, bottles can be wildly inconsistent and, on top of that, you can't nurse a $200 bottle of red wine over the course of a year; bringing it out for a special occasion sip every now and again. You have to drink it all in one night, and—unlike whisky—wine changes in the bottle, so there's no guarantee that it will taste the way you want it to on the day you choose to open it. Buying an expensive bottle of red Burgundy can be a nerve-wracking experience for those reasons. But how in the hell are we supposed to learn about these incredible vineyard sites, these legendary producers, and these iconic vintages if we never bite the bullet and open some of these canons? Eventually you have to take a shot and see what happens. I decided to double-down this week, buy some super fancy bottles of Burgundy, and invite some of my colleagues to dinner so that we could all learn from the experience. My friends the Westbys offered to host the event, and some of my other co-workers offered to contribute some bottles of their own. So last night I swung by Pronto on El Camino Real (one of the Peninsula's best-kept secrets), picked up five chicken combination dinners, and helped get this Burgundy party started. The decanters were ready to rock when I arrived.
Much like with single malt whisky, you're never going to understand the depth or the potential of Bourgogne rouge unless you sample the entire spectrum. At some point you need to throw down and taste the high-end stuff, so that you can comprehend why certain things cost what they do (and if it's ultimately worth it to you). After a few years of drinking mid-range Burgundy, I really got the message last night (as did my colleagues): there's a reason the top wines from the best producers are expensive—they're on an entirely different level than the bottles I'm used to drinking. The colors, the aromas, the flavors, the complexity—all just incredible. The bottle of 2008 Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertain "Les Cazetiers" was out of this world, with crisp cranberry fruit and a finish of wild brush—sage, eucalpytis, and herbs of this nature. The 2004 Voillot Pommard "Les Rugiens" made our customer service manager Joel and I teary-eyed, reminding us of the excitement we felt when we first started getting into wine. It was aromatic, bright, and fresh in a way that only great Burgundy can taste. Pinot Noir from anywhere else just isn't the same sometimes.
I cannot stress enough the importance of group tastings, even if it's just to split the enormous cost of an expensive bottle or two. When you taste with friends who are also interested in wine or spirits the experience is always more rewarding. If you've always wanted to try Port Ellen, or Brora, or Pappy 23 (if you can find it), then you should get some friends together, split the cost, and have the tasting you've always wanted to have. While my head was a little fuzzy this morning, I woke up completely inspired and ready to face the day. I feel like a serious itch has been scratched and a longing curiosity has been satisfied.
Thanks to everyone from K&L who participated last night. I hope we can do this again soon.