Back when we were in college we used to save wine bottles to use as candlesticks on the coffee table in the apartment. Remember Mateus? Swell bottle; swill wine.
We've long since gotten rid of all of those old wine bottles — except one that we saved. Our empty bottle of 1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac Bordeaux red.
It's the best bottle of wine we've ever consumed.
In the early 1990s we lived near the Russian River in Northern California. Our house was just a block or so away from our long-time friends whose wedding anniversary was within a couple of days of ours. When we all lived in San Francisco the four of us went out on the town for the co-celebration. And in San Francisco when you're celebrating, you can have very good meals and very good bottles of wine.
But in Sonoma County, we decided that we were accomplished enough cooks that we could probably collaborate on a meal that was every bit as good, and a lot cheaper, than the local fare.
So one year we went all out. Herb and garlic crusted rack of lamb. Rich and creamy scalloped potatoes. Some kind of vegetable, probably garlic-finished green beans. And for dessert, our friend Margarita made simulated paper bags out of chocolate and filled them with chocolate mouse with raspberry sauce.
Dan, Margarita's husband, decided that such a meal deserved a good wine, so he pulled out a bottle that had been given to him as a gift some years before. We knew it would be the best bottle of wine we'd had at that point in our lives. It had been appraised, Dan said, at about $350.
Our palates were not sophisticated enough to give a professional-level accounting of the details of the wine. And the intervening years have clouded our memories a great deal. But we remember that we realized how a great wine tastes: deep and complex.
We don't remember a wine that tasted so good and went so well with the food on the table. It was a memorable anniversary all the way around.
For the record the wine was made with 71% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot.
The 1966 Lafite Rothschild, if you can find a bottle, is still worth about $350. It was an average year for such bottles from this famous vineyard in this famous region. But it was anything but average to our little party of four, and remains the best bottle of wine we ever had.