Last night I had invited Stewart Todd (FTLOP’s Vice President of Technology), his girlfriend Jody, along with his son and daughter; to join my family in commemorating the third birthday of the website and FOR THE LOVE OF PORT Forum, which is actually on July 29th.
After a few solid days in a row with cloudy if not gloomy days, by the early afternoon, it was apparent the sun would be shining. I was very pleased and knowing there was going to be another pair of guests joining us for the celebration, I went down to the cellar in the early morning to select the bottles for the dinner party. I chose a three litre bottle of 1997 Pine Ridge, Napa, Chardonnay which I have held onto since its release. I was not sure if this was still going to be holding up well, so at about 11:30 I pulled the massive cork out of the bottle and sampled the goods. Seemingly slightly oxidized, but knowing that wines that have been in this type of format, have the possibility to emerge victorious, with some air time. I stuck the cork back in and tried it again at 4 p.m. and was thrilled that it had blossomed and had become such a gorgeous white Burgundy wannabe.
I also chose a magnum of Port that would be of suitable age AND at the same time, be ready to drink. So I decanted this at 11 a.m. into a magnum-sized decanter and left it in my cellar. We actually started to drink it 11.5 hours later, but more on that shortly. I decided that although most of the food I was preparing would tend towards white wine, nonetheless, there was no way to go through an entire evening without a red table wine, so I chose one of my last bottles of 1998 St. Innocent (Oregon) Seven Springs Vineyard, Pinot Noir. From one of my two favorite OR producers, and a great vineyard that in 1998 made some outstanding PN juice and there were less than 75 cases of this produced.
Earlier in the week, I was contacted by a friend from Portugal who just happened to be in Oregon at the time. To make a long story short, I invited Pedro Branco, owner of Quinta do Portal, to join us for dinner and he was with his importer Mark Macedonio, who is based in Dallas, Texas. They would make the four hour drive up to join us and I was really jazzed that they were coming and I decided it would be fun to keep this a surprise for Stewart, to make our celebration even more fun.
The night turned out to be perfectly warm and we dined outdoors for awhile, until the Chardonnay was nearly half way gone. We then moved inside for the next four courses and enjoyed the Pinot Noir along the way and finally it was time for dessert. My wife had made a really yummy lemon pie the night before and the decanter was introduced next. After it had made its way around twice, everyone wanted to know what we were toasting FTLOP year 3 with. As nobody saw the bottle and the decanter was deceptive in size, I gave them three hints:
a. It was from a magnum bottle
b. “no” it wasn’t from the 1980s as Mark had surmised
c. It had been decanting since 11 a.m. and it was now 10:30 p.m.
Against all odds, the self-proclaimed, “I am a lousy guesser of vintages” Stewart Todd, your humble designer/administrator of FTLOP ... nailed the vintage with his first comment and gave perfect supporting evidence as to why he thought this was from 1977. In fact, it was the first time I have ever seen Stewart nail it like that! It was a 1977 Warre’s Vintage Port. It showed beautifully with less hints of maturity (than 750s today) and as solid as any bottle of this I’ve ever enjoyed, although this was my first time opening a magnum of this bottling, which I know so well. I remember the day I bought it back in 1993, in Chantilly, Virginia. I could never have envisioned at that time, that it would be consumed 15 years later, in WA State, with such esteemed company.
Our celebratory evening was complete (a school night no less!) and 7 bottles of wine later, none of us wanted to cut the night short, but approaching midnight, having begun at 6 p.m. it was time for Stewart’s kids to go home and sleep in their own beds. What a great time! It was a ton of fun having Pedro join us too. We’ll be seeing him at Portal in October, as I have not tried any of their new wines since 2006. It was a pleasure meeting Mark, Pedro’s very enthusiastic US importer. And of course, the night would not have been complete without Stewart and his brilliant guesswork. Special thanks to my wife who lovingly puts up with mid-week insanity like this, (two Thursday’s in a row) although she admitted to having had a great time too!
My personal thanks to you ... the readers, visitors and especially the participants of FTLOP for making this the greatest interactive and educational Port website on the web!