The last time I checked, my wine cellar was up to about 400 bottles. This may sound like a nice little inventory, even bordering on obscene to some people, but I actually begin to break into a panic when I think about how little wine that is. Most of it is under our house (yes, under) in our crawl space, accessible only by an opening in the pantry floor. Hey, it’s dark, dry, and stays a pretty constant 55 degrees, year round. It’s just that it’s a tad inconvenient to say, “Hey honey, can you crawl under the house and bring me up a nice Rosso di Montalcino?”
Fortunately, our builder saw fit to put a little wine fridge in our actual kitchen. It holds about 4 cases and those 48 bottles are constantly in play. I guess you could say my husband and I have adopted the LIFO method of drinking wine: Last In, First Out. And we like to drink wine. Regularly. So when we buy wine, or when we receive one of several wine club shipments, those bottles typically don’t even make it down under the house. No, they are needed to replenish the wine fridge in the kitchen. So if a bottle or a case actually gets catalogued and sent under the house, it’s going to stay there awhile.
The trick is to buy enough of something, or make it special enough, to warrant stashing some away underground. This is never going to happen with the odd wine purchase at a the supermarket, or a case from a local vintner. No, the bottles that actually make it under the house are going to have to be something that we traveled for, something that we just can’t feel good about opening on a Tuesday night, or something that we purchased A LOT of because it was that good…
This requires some pretty amazing trips. Lots of them. Napa, Sonoma, Italy, France, Oregon…even some in our own backyard of Washington state. We never get tired of visiting wine regions. In fact, it has become our defacto trip of choice, trying to work in interesting sights and experiences for the kids around our guilty pleasure. Even just a few days in Napa will restore your soul.
Currently sitting under me as I type are a few bottles of 2005 Cliff Lede Poetry. Talk about a wine you can’t feel good about drinking on a Tuesday night… This wine literally makes me happy. Like, if there were a fire in the house, I’d save the kids, then tell my husband not to even THINK about leaving unless he has the Poetry. (I mean photo albums.) But knowing I only have 4 bottles left sends me into full blown panic mode. Maybe we should have bought more on that Napa trip? Maybe next time we should buy more wine altogether? Maybe I should check out some AA meetings.
Or how about the amazing Brunello wines we picked up in Montalcino on our honeymoon? The drive up the hill to Montalcino was breathtaking and truly other-worldly, with winding, narrow, cobblestone roads and fairly deserted, save for a few locals riding bikes and another walking an elderly lady. The views of Tuscany with its tall trees, green hills and Italian architecture is something I will never forget. And at the top of the hill is a wine shop and tasting room where you can sample lots (and lots) of the special Brunello that the area is known for. Our new friend, Angelina, made sure all of our wine made it back safely to the states and even sent us along with an additional bottle of my favorite, La Serena, as a treat. You can bet all of that wine is under the house!
I also have some gorgeous wines from Sonoma and Napa, where we’ve traveled to four times over the past three years, all with amazing finds and a little more understanding of what makes this area so special. We have 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Seavey and Anderson’s Conn Valley that are literally heaven in a bottle, and some outstanding Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley that make me want to eat lamb for a week.
I can’t help it. I just love good wine. I love it when wine is grown in a region that is superb, handled and tweaked to perfection by winemakers who just know their stuff, and placed in a dark bottle with a gorgeous label, just waiting to be enjoyed. It’s literally a consumable piece of art. Better than any shoe collection or crack habit, these 400+ bottles represent special trips, wonderful memories with my husband, a winery, winemaker or sommelier that told a great story. They represent the good times to come, the special occasions where nothing will do but that certain amazing bottle under the house, even if it IS a Tuesday. I mean, think about it… some of these wines will be carefully stored and later shared with our children. Maybe a special 21st birthday wine is under our house. Maybe a one-of-a-kind wedding gift is under our house. If our children are anything like us, they will take a great bottle of wine over a toaster any day.
Knowing what pleasure the discovery of our wine has given us, as well as what pleasure we will experience when we open and share these bottles, is how I know I’m not crazy to think 400 bottles isn’t enough. So I say, let 400 become 800, and 800 become 5,000. Every wine has a story and every bottle under our house has a memory that will come back to life with the pop of a cork. And a little cheese.
The wine shop in Montalcino is located in a 13th century old fort at the top of the hill. They represent about 90ish wineries from the area, many of which do not distribute at all. Therefore, your only chance of tasting many of these wineries offerings is at this enoteca. There is a bit of a walk after parking in the lot, as you have to walk the ramp up to the old fort’s entry. The enoteca is rich with history and the architecture and artifacts are fascinating. The staff offers wine tastings, as well as tasty bites from their kitchen. The staff has access to much more than the tasting menu of the day. With a little persistence, they will let you sample several off-the-menu wines, which will make your trip worth while.
Some of the delicious wines we purchased from the Enoteca, and can highly recommend, if you can find them, are:
2001 Poggio San Polo Brunello
2003 La Serena Brunello
2001 Camigliano Brunello
2004 Aqua Bona Rosso
2003 Pian Pornello Brunello
2001 Pian Pornello Brunello
1998 Capanna Brunello
2001 Canalicchio Brunello
2003 Elia Palazzes’ Collelceto Brunello