As we all look forward to celebrating our favorite holiday traditions, we’re sharing one from Dave M., a member of the Williams-Sonoma Wine team. Here, he shares a custom of gift-giving that’s become a special ritual in his family, reminding us to slow down and share an experience we’ll remember forever.
A friend of mine once told me a story: “It’s said in Barolo that on the celebration of your wedding you are given Barolo, to be enjoyed on the day of the birth of your first grandchild.” Not coming from Piedmont, or even Italy at all, I haven’t been able to verify whether this is Italian wisdom or urbano legenda. But I love it either way. The Piemontese, it seems, aren’t messing around.
My friend told me this story as I was strategizing a wine purchase. You see, a few years ago I began buying each of my two young nephews wine for Christmas. Mind you, they were 2 and 5 when I started, so they weren’t paying a lot of attention to these gifts, and we certainly weren’t planning on opening the wine anytime soon. That’s why I was looking at Baroli. I needed something that could cruise into middle age gracefully (the wine, not theirs). I wanted the Sean Connery of wine – brawny but sophisticated, classy and seemingly timeless. I landed on a pair of vineyard designates from the superlative 1996 vintage from an ‘old-school’ producer still making wine with the traditional amount of stuffing needed to go the distance.
That was the second year of my giving wine to the boys. The first year I had chosen birth-year California Cabernet. It’s an interesting process looking for California wine that will age gracefully for 20+ years. Mind you, this was the early ‘00s, so most local producers weren’t knocking out wine with the integrity to lay down and develop for a couple of decades. So I had to be careful. To start this collection, I chose a 1999 Ch. Montelena Estate and a 1996 Dunn Howell Mountain – wines that should be so gorgeous when we are ready for them that I can barely stand to keep waiting.
Since I have added German Rieslings, Chateauneuf du Papes, Burgundies, Bordeaux, more Barolo, and other treats, all resting comfortably in their chilly incubator, while we wait and watch the boys grow.
I occasionally allow myself the opportunity of fantasizing about how we’ll enjoy these wines. Will we start at a family Christmas dinner? Maybe a 21st birthday? (Unlikely – I mean, let’s be honest.) Maybe open a couple at a wedding perhaps? I like that thought.
And that is really the idea. Wine for me and my family isn’t simply a nice beverage to go with dinner. It’s an experience in a bottle – a life event made better, more special, more memorable. It’s a marker of an occasion, of history being made. It’s an opportunity to slow down and create a celebration with friends and family – to simply enjoy what I call “life beautiful.”
Nearly two years ago, my wife and I were blessed with that most incomparable joy of welcoming our own child into the family – a son. The indescribable happiness he brings us every day is in itself a celebration of life beautiful. I can only fantasize about what he’ll be like as an adult, but I can’t wait to pop the first cork of the wine I’ll be putting away for him as he grows. Maybe we’ll enjoy that first bottle with his cousins and some of their wine too. Life beautiful, indeed.