Rob Moshein - The Austin Wine Guy

Sunday in the Park With Scot: Miner Pinot Noir "Gary's" 1999

April 25, 2010

So, Yr mst hmble & Obdt Svt here loves wine when it comeswith a story.

Once upon a time, back in 2001, I decided to take a birthday trip to Napa Valley for a week of vacation. I was the invited guest of the Mondavi Winery, staying in Michael Mondavi's Guest House of all cool places! I even had my own personal "concierge" from the winery!! She asked if she could book any dinner reservations for me, I asked for the French Laundry. She said "Mr. Mondavi himself can't get into the Laundry on a day's notice! How about Keller's new place Bouchon?" Sure why not?

Next day, I arrived at 7pm sharp, my reserved time. Mid week and the place was way busy. The young fellow at the desk was on the phone, having a clearly personal conversation about what he was doing after work with friends...I waited for him to get off the phone, already annoyed at the rudeness.  "Can I help you?" he said, clearly not meaning the words. I said "Rob Moshein, 7 o'clock reservation made by the Mondavi Winery for me".  "Oh, ok. Yeah. There's a 45 minute wait." I said, "but i have a reservation". "there's a 45 minute wait with a reservation. We wouldn't even let you wait if you didn't have one." I stood there. He said nothing. I said, "ummm, guess I'll wait at the bar."  He still said nothing, and I proceeded to the bar. Packed. No seats, everyone at the bar eating there and three deep around it. I saw a small opening to squeeze into, to try to get a bartender's eye so I could at least get a glass of wine to pass the time. After some ten minutes I managed to get his attention and get a glass of something white. Just as the bartender hands me my glass, some idiot bumps into me hard, slopping wine down the right arm of a guy sitting and eating at the bar right in front of me. I'm instantly appalled and sorry.  I apologize to him. He turns around instantly, dripping chardonnay off his elbow.  As I blurt out my "i'm really sorry" a second time, I realize it's Dave Miner. Dave and I were, even back then, friends. I'd known him since he started peddling his family's Oakville Ranch Wines, and loved the work he was (and is still) doing under Miner Family. "Dave! Dave Miner!" I said. "Rob?? What are YOU doing here?" Dave said. "I'm sorry about spilling on you Dave. I'm here for a week of birthday vacation actually."  Well, Dave forgot about being spilled on, and he insisted I come visit him at the winery. I was thrilled.  The rest of dinner at Bouchon was a total disaster of rudeness, lousy service and lamb ordered very rare, and hot, brought cold and well done after an hour's wait.  I never went back since and never will. That meal at Bouchon is one of the three worst I have had anywhere ever. Things brightened up the next day though. Spent a great afternoon with Dave, checking out the winery, and the new releases.  At the end, he insisted I choose a bottle to take home with me as a birthday gift.  I chose the 1999 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir "Gary's".  Dave said dryly "How did I know you'd want that one?" with a smile.  He grabbed a gold pen and wrote a nice birthday wish on the bottle.  "Gary's" of course meant Gary Pisoni's vineyard. The legendary vineyard full of the Pinot clones from cuttings said to be taken from the La Tache vineyard at the DRC by Gary Pisoni himself in the dead of night whilst drunk and smuggled to California in his suitcase years before.

Just looking at that bottle over the years has always made me smile at the memory.  Fast forward over eight years later.  My good bud Scot Loranc, badass chef and all around "good peeps" was dropping by to hang out and drink wine with me to catch up with each other after way too long. The sunday afternoon weather was postcard perfect, my front garden in full bloom and lush green and looking park-like. What better time and place to drink this bottle than with a good bud in a beautiful setting.

So I popped the cork, grabbed a couple of my best Schott-Zwiesel  Burgundy stems, we settled down on the garden bench, and Scotty and I just chilled, and chatted and laughed.  The wine was awesome for a California Pinot Noir at ten years old. Most won't hold up well. Few won't hold up as well as this one did. A lush and huge nose of ripe cherry and dark berry fruits just wafts out of the glass. The palate has that signature lightness of good aged Pinot, that belies the complexity of flavors it actually carries. More ripe cherry and black berry fruits on the palate with a hint of smoke and very soft integrated acids. My only gripe is that the fruit is very over ripe, showing a tad of a stewed tone I don't care for, but which is a signature style of California Pinot in general. Most consumers like it. I prefer Burgundy. There was also a slight and odd asphalt tone, but over all the wine was quite good and impressive at how nicely it had aged. Scotty and I enjoyed the whole bottle between us as the afternoon started to fade to evening. 

The memory makes me smile, as did looking at the bottle. The story comes full circle. 

If you can find this wine. DRINK this wine! Especially with good friends. You will smile and enjoy the memory, too.


Rob Moshein, Austin Wine Guy

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