Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Last Bottle

In 1980 I bought my first case of wine. It was a 1976 Johnson’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The sommelier at the Italian restaurant I worked at, Il Sorrento, thought it was a good wine and she was selling it off the menu. I tried it and liked it and so she arranged for me to get a case. Thus started my road to wine collecting. Over the years I would open up a bottle and try it. And the years just flew by, 32 of them. And then there was only one bottle left.

It was from the same year my son was born. And November 4th is his birthday. I invited him and his lady friend over tonight for homemade meat balls. I bought some good bucatini from Jimmy’s and made my own sauce and meat balls. And we had an old-fashioned Caesar salad. And the last bottle of the 1976.

At first the wine came out cloudy, like someone had awakened it from a deep slumber. Within a few minutes the wine had cleared, like a fog lifting. And the flavors were still rich and velvety and delicious. A 36 year old bottle of wine from a less than stellar year and an unknown California winery. So who is to say all California wines are alike and that they don’t age? In this case the wine aged well beyond my expectations. It was one of those bittersweet moments when you say goodbye to an old friend, never to see them again. But it was real good while it lasted, this 32 year old friendship.

The sauce. Old school, simmering for hours on the stove top – low heat. The meat balls sat in the sauce for well past 5 hours and when they came out they were so tender you didn’t need teeth to eat them with.

On the table we had some of the olive oil I had brought back from our olive harvest in Tuscany. We served it in the Caesar salad, but also had a little around for anyone who wanted to dip a chunk of sour dough bread in it.

Everything was made by hand, except for the lettuce and the pasta and the wine. But the wine had been lovingly saved for years and years, 32 of them, ever since my son was about 3 years old. Now he is 36 and all grown up.

I think he liked his birthday supper.

I even let him wear my lime green Prada slip-ons.

We sure had a good time.

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Marco Guardiola said...

1976, pretty damn kool! Your son favors you a lot. Your suga and polpette look awfully good.

Anonymous said...

Good for you and your son, family time is best.
Those shoes look dangerous, they knocked him down...

Samantha Dugan said...


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey, I live about four miles from Johnson's of Alexander Valley. They're known for their huge organ, pictured on the label. Something we'd all like to be known for.

1976 Jimmy Carter was elected. Was your son born on election day? I guess not, he's Italian, not poll.

Thomas said...

He looks like his father.

Polpette recipe?

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks all - kind comments - even the organic one

recipe? yikes....when i get back?

Thomas said...

OK Alfonso--here's mine.

1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 jumbo egg
bread crumbs
two garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
crushed black pepper

By hand, mix the ground meat with the egg, garlic, parsley, and pepper.

Slowly add bread crumbs and keep mixing, until you have a moist consistency that is somewhat sticky but certainly not liquid.

Roll the mixture into meatballs about two inches in diameter and fry in olive oil until the outside is golden, turning the meatballs to get all surface area.

Drain the cooked meatballs of their oil and put into a pot of sauce to simmer.

I've a couple of friends and relatives who add cheese and other things to the meatballs, and some use ground beef.

I've found that the simpler the better and beef is too easy to overcook and make the meatballs "thick" and hard.

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