A few years ago, while brainstorming for a creative birthday gift for Heather (I often have to give this a lot of thought as I rarely seem to have good ideas), I thought that perhaps I should buy her a bottle of wine from her birth year.  After spending some time researching the right bottle – how to do this was discussed in the last blog – I zeroed in on a Mouton from her birth year that was available at Cellaraiders.com.  (Mouton, technically called Chateau Mouton Rothschild, is one of the great French Bordeaux wines… and James Bond has been known to drink it from time to time as well.  It is a red wine from Pauillac on the left bank of Bordeaux, made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon and classified as a First Growth.)  Her birth year was a mediocre year at best in Bordeaux, and finding wines still available from that year was not simple.

While I love the element of surprise, the price of a Mouton (even in 1999_Chateau_Mouton_Rothschildan off-year) warranted me discussing it with Heather first, to make sure she wouldn’t object to such an extravagant purchase.  She thought the idea was great, so I bought the bottle.  After it was shipped across country to us in Colorado, we gave it a few weeks of rest in our cellar to get over the bottle shock from shipping.  We then opened it up for her birthday, and also opened up a 2004 Bremer Merlot at the same time – which we planned to drink as we waited for the Mouton to open.  Having had a few older bottles of Bordeaux before, we knew that often they needed hours in the decanter before they hit their stride and were at the perfect time to drink.  We didn’t want to sit around on Heather’s birthday, sober, without any wine, waiting for the Mouton to open.

I took an obligatory sip right after we opened the bottle to see how the wine was, and the wine was tannic (the harsh taste that dries the sides of the mouth) which is to be expected of any Bordeaux right after the cork is removed.  I figured the wine would need a few hours to get enough air to mellow out and hit its stride, and one of us would try a sip again in another hour or two.

Pouring into glassHeather, in her brilliance and curious to taste the Mouton, about ten minutes later, took a sip.  “It’s great,” she exclaimed.  I took another sip, and the tannins had completely disappeared in the ten minutes – something that I had never experienced before.  “We need to drink this right now,” she said, which was absolutely right.  The wine was peaking only ten minutes after being opened.  With determination, we both poured out full glasses wine, ready to do something no one perhaps had ever done before with a First Growth – chug it.  In less than twenty minutes, we drank out every last drop of the wine.  It definitely was crashing throughout those twenty minutes, with the final sips still drinkable but with the fruit largely gone.  Happily, we had not waited too long, and were able to enjoy most of the bottle during its brief period of greatness after opening.

Heather’s birth year may not have been a great year for wine.  But it sure was a great year for a wine adventure.  We’ll never forget ‘chugging’ the Mouton, and for a brief few minutes, it was really good.  It’s amazing to taste a wine where the grapes were harvested in the same year that you were born.  It was a great birthday present – if more for the adventure and experience than the wine itself.

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