That is the wine we took to share with The Wine Raconteur Jr. and his family for a Christmas meal. He actually created his own moniker when he was a guest writer for a couple of articles for me, and I guess the name is apt. I was there at the beginning when he was hired to work at the store that I did everything but sew and own, and he was in college, looking to make some extra money. Now he has a family, has a profession and because I guess he has too much free time, he decided to get into local government and ran as an Independent, as he didn’t want to beholden to any strings for a campaign allocation. He is always in high gear, especially when he decides to learn and/or do something; as he never does half measures. He also helped his charming wife get into a business, and so he gets to wear another hat; and by the way, he is known to wear hats. I have such respect for him and what he is doing, I wore a ceremonial mask from the car to his house, because it was daylight when we got there and I didn’t want his neighbors to get into an uproar, if they are busy-bodies. I know, I should, but I treat a house, like a restaurant, as soon as I sit down at a table, the mask can come off; I am told that it is science.
We sat down in the living room and had appetizers to get into the mood. He makes his own spiced cashews, an olive tapenade and a bruschetta topping as well for some flat bread crackers. He also had a Lemon Curd Ricotta Cheese that I could have single-handedly devoured, but I did show restraint. He also was pouring his own version of a Christmas Champagne Cocktail with cranberries in the glass and topped with a micro-sprig of rosemary and it was very tasty and he used a Rose Champagne. For dinner, he went all out and made a classic interpretation of Braised Short Ribs with his own rub and spices, and served with fresh pasta dusted with cheese, and once again I could have eaten the entire pot of meat, of course I have strong affinity for that dish. For dessert we sampled some of all of his home-baked cookies, a huge selection and we got a big bag of cookies to take home as well.
I guess I have strung you along with my little asides of the evening, as you were sure that I probably made a typo for the title of this memory. It was a bottle of Gaja Barbaresco DOCG 1982 and as soon as we got situated, and before we started on the noshes, I opened up the bottle and for a thirty-eight-year-old bottle of wine there was no ullage, the wine was still filled to the top, with bubbling of the foil capsule, it was still brand new, except for the dust that had settled on it, in my cellar. In fact, when I cut off the foil cap, I was amazed to find that there was a second foil capsule that I had to cut away, to get to the cork; and since is the first classic bottle of Gaja that I have ever opened, I don’t know if that is the norm. For a wine of this age, I used my Durand combination corkscrew and Ah-so, and the cork still cracked on me, but I got the cork out in two pieces. I then started to decant the wine, using a torch and my eye, but I ended up using a funnel and a coffee filter, as there was a lot of sediment on the bottle and in the wine as well. I had anticipated a wine with brown tones, foolish me, the wine had a glowing and bright cherry color to it and still had fruit aromas wafting up as it was decanted and it was probably opened about ninety minutes prior to dinner. 1982 was a stellar year for Bordeaux and Champagne, Spain and all of Italy, there are only a few years that I really get excited about, as I have always been told that a great winemaker, makes great wines. Gaja is one of the best-known winemakers in Italy and still is based in Barbaresco, though with their additional productions and vineyards, they now produce more Nebbiolo wines in Tuscany, than in Piedmont. It began in 1859 with two hectares by Giovanni Gaja and each generation has seen expansion, though it is Angelo Gaja that has really elevated the company’s reputation and success. This wine is pure Nebbiolo and is only sourced from their vineyards in their fourteen vineyards in Barbaresco and Treiso, as they had stopped sourcing from other vineyards in 1961 to have total control of the product. The juice from each single vineyard undergoes its own maceration and aging in oak for twelve months, then all the wines are blended together and aged in oak for an additional twelve months. The nose still had some black cherry, but after all of the years of maturation, the tannins were softly blended into this sublime wine with a beautiful long finish, but the taste was totally singular and beyond the realm of my expertise in aged Italian wines. The good news is that I still have one more bottle left.