A DECADE AGO when the calendar flipped over onto my 40th birthday, I began to think ahead and contemplate the enormity of my 50th.
Not necessarily in a “Why have I wasted my life?” sort of way. Rather, I wanted to figure out a fun, unique way to celebrate the half-century mark, something that would leave a lasting impression on me while also providing a great experience for family and friends.
Of course, it would focus on wine.
At that point in my life, I was pretty enamored with the great Bordeaux producers. I thought it would be fascinating to open a bottle of each of the five First Growths — Latour, Lafite, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton. But 1964 — my birth year — was not a great Bordeaux vintage. It rained a lot, and only those producers that picked early made wines of any consequence.
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Certainly, I was not going to spend my time and effort to collect five wines that could at best be mildly interesting and at worst be complete duds. Besides, this is an idea that has been done. Instead, I decided to gather a collection of wines unlike any other: It would be a vertical of my life, one wine from each year I’ve been around.
I contacted Doug Charles, owner of Compass Wines in Anacortes. He’s well known for purchasing cellars full of old and interesting wines. He loved the idea and began looking around for wines that would fit my criteria.
The first wine was undoubtedly from grapes harvested right around my birthday. It was a Charles Krug 1964 cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley. This wine was made just a year before Robert Mondavi got into a now legendary fistfight with his brother, was thrown out of the family winery and began Robert Mondavi Winery, arguably California’s most famous producer.
With two bottles of this wine purchased and safely stored in my cellar, I began to see what kind of fun this could be. Between Charles and other sources, I tracked down Ports, Bordeaux, Burgundies, old Washington wines, German rieslings, Austrian ice wines and great old Italian Barolos.
The most fascinating might be a 1966 Dom Perignon from Champagne. But this romp around the wine world also includes bottles from Argentina, Lebanon, South Africa, Australia and Israel, as well as many favorites from closer to home, such as Quilceda Creek, Associated Vintners and Ste. Michelle cabs that predate the château being built in Woodinville.
The investment to pull off this collection is not something I’ve tracked, but it likely is in the $5,000 range. That’s with just one First Growth in the mix — a 1978 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (not a classic vintage but likely better than ’64).
Oh, and if you’re thinking my birthday might be a fun party to crash this year, you just missed it.
Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.