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Bill Spohn

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Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:29 pm

I am generally pretty generous when it comes to hauling bottles out of the cellar. That comes from my inherent good nature (and maybe also having far too much wine). :mrgreen:

But there are some bottles that are either rare, expensive, or especially significant that I am reluctant to bring out unless a couple of criteria are met. First, the group must be appreciative and interested in wine. Second, the group cannot exceed a certain size.

That second one may surprise you, but consider - if I have had a bottle of, say, 1970 Latour sitting in the cellar for 20 years, will I feel like popping the cork for a cast of relative thousands (even if all are wine appreciators), and getting a small dram myself, or would I prefer to share it with a small group of friends and get a really nice pour that you can enjoy over an extended period during a pleasant meal?

Put that way, it probably won't surprise you that I prefer the latter, and my preferred group size for opening the best or most interesting bottles is probably 6 people, perhaps pushing it to 8, but no more, and of course preferably at a meal where the others bring similarly memorable bottles.

FWIW, I started thinking about this issue in connection with an event where the organiser seems to have a 'more is better' plan and keeps adding to the number of participants (and bottles). At a certain point, I realized that I had taken a certain number of my choices for wines off the mental table and restricted my choices to more modest wines to share with such a large crew. I even have one guy that comes to my lunches who calls me beforehand to ask how many people will be there so he can decide which tier of wine he wants to bring, and I completely sympathize with his feelings.

Also, FWIW, the other wines that will be tasted at the event aren't as big an incentive as you might think. I don't really care if I'd get to taste a whole whack of wonderful, rare, expensive, whatever wines, I still don't want to share one of my special ones with a large group. I didn't buy it 20 years ago to be able to drink an ounce of it a couple of decades later as part of a huge flight of other wines, I bought it to really enjoy with close friends.

So - the question. Do others have similar two tier views of the wines in their cellars, and if so, what is your ideal (and also maximum comfortable) group size for sharing these special bottles.
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Howie Hart

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Howie Hart » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:37 pm

I concur! The few rare and special wines are saved for special occasions and special people.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Florida Jim » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:16 pm

Bill,
Well said.
There is sliding scale at work for me, the more people (and bottles) the less I want to break-out special bottles. That's not to say I won't, especially if the folks are the right folks, but small events with one or two wines is the perfect way to share something I have a special affinity for.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Mark Noah » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:21 pm

couldn't agree more.....
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:02 pm

What Jim said about the sliding scale.

However, it also has something to do with the specific group. At offlines, I tend to do as you suggest--bring good representative wines but not neccessarily my most special stuff, saving those for situations where I'll be guaranteed a nice pour and a chance to truly luxuriate in that wine.

But as someone who has the privilege of being invited to your Friday lunches, I take a slightly different tack. I have learned to gauge what I bring a lot by what others bring, and what others bring is usually quite good. So I always try to bring wines that surprise--wines most of your lunchmates won't own or have access to (an old Pride Viognier), wines that are currently topical and hard to get (Seasmoke Pinot), wines that are brilliant but relatively unknown (the Te Awa bordeaux blend from NZ) and even occasionally throwing in a wine where I would covet that "nice pour" I just talked about ('70 Haut Brion, 90 Vega Sicilia Unico) to repay the generosity of those who also occasionally bring from what you're calling the top tier. IOW, I way overthink it, but I can't say that I've ever chosen or not a wine for the lunch group based on whether it's going to be 8 or 10.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Dale Williams » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:02 pm

Overall, my attitude is similar. My preferred number for tasting my "best" wines is 6 or 8. For a significant offline event (usually a horizontal or vertical), I can stretch to 10 or even 12 (pours are small at latter, but I enjoy tasting my wine within the context of the best vintages that chateau has made in last 40 years, for instrance). Once the 12 mark is broken, I generally just say "no thanks."

Another great thing about 8 is that with experienced tasters who don't do 3 oz pours, there are always wines to revisit at end of night.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Anders Källberg » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:26 pm

Howie Hart wrote:I concur! The few rare and special wines are saved for special occasions and special people.

I agree to, but I also like to point out that there is the problem that some bottles tend to become stuck in the cellar, just because those special occasions and special people tend to be about as rare and hard to find as those wines...
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:55 pm

Anders - my bottles don't get 'stuck' in the cellar (though they do often get misplaced), because I arranged a specific group of 5 people for the express purpose of using them up. The intent is to serve our very best wines among the 5 (and sometimes one guest) and it works very, very well. That's why you see my notes on things like 1985 Sassicaia from time to time.

Jenise, I do try to keep numbers at lunch down, but we do have a really great level of wines that always show up. I'd have no problem bringing a nice 1970 Bordeaux to that, but I'd probably only open a 'special' bottle, say a 1964 Trotanoy, if there were only about 6 coming. And I'll bet you that if I emailed you and told you that we were only going to have 6 people for lunch, your thoughts might just head toward the bottles that you might not bring if there were 10, generous as you always are. I'm sure you know exactly which event got me on this train of thought (and yes, I will see you tonight). :wink:

Dale, if I am arranging a vertical (or horizontal) event as I do from time to time, and we are doing 14 different vintages of a single property, I consider that an exception to my premise. Other than that, I stick pretty closely to my guns though. Things like 87 Mondavi Reserve or Montelena or old Tognis or Hillside Selects (picking just one area as an example) are in my mental 'special' category.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:02 pm

Bill Spohn wrote: And I'll bet you that if I emailed you and told you that we were only going to have 6 people for lunch, your thoughts might just head toward the bottles that you might not bring if there were 10, generous as you always are. I'm sure you know exactly which event got me on this train of thought (and yes, I will see you tonight). :wink:


Okay, yes, you got me there. It's never a problem to bring the best I have when I know I'm going to receive in kind. And yes, I'd guessed...oh, I have to email you about that.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Mark Lipton » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:38 pm

Bill,
I'm with you on the 6-8 number as my preferred number for those special wines, but for those extra-special wines, I might even reduce the number further to 4, or even 2. Greedy? You bet! I not only prefer to limit the number of people these days, but also the number of wines. Truly, after more than 8-10 wines, I'm just trying to keep my head above water, especially if I'm not taking notes. That, as much as anything else, limits the size of events I prefer.

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by JC (NC) » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:59 pm

Often I only buy one or two bottles of a special and expensive wine (not a case.) Therefore I might prefer sharing such a bottle with 1-3 others so that I could be assured of a second glass. At a group offline with 6-10 people I will try to bring at least one wine that is special (but probably didn't cost more than $50) and maybe a second or third bottle that is less expensive but tasty and likely something the others haven't tried before. With a sweet dessert wine a half bottle might go around for 6-8 people since it could be cloying in too large a pour.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by David Cooper » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:13 pm

Bill and Jenise. I feel so strongly about this subject I joined this forum.

I agree with most of what you say but with one exception. If one belongs to a group or forum that has more then 8 regular attendees how does one exclude a "regular" who's too slow to confirm their interest in attending?

I have only recently found myself being more discerning with my older bottles depending on the crowd at an event. At the last event I hosted, I was going to open a 79 La Chapelle but when the crowd grew to eleven I changed my mind. In hindsight I wish I had brought out the Hermitage. It would have been perfect with Jenise's Grange.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bob Henrick » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:22 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:I am generally pretty generous when it comes to hauling bottles out of the cellar. That comes from my inherent good nature (and maybe also having far too much wine). But there are some bottles that are either rare, expensive, or especially significant that I am reluctant to bring out unless a couple of criteria are met. First, the group must be appreciative and interested in wine. Second, the group cannot exceed a certain size..


Bill, I am in complete agreement with you. I have one bottle of 1985 Ridge Monte Bello cabernet, and I really can not fathom opening it where everybody gets less that 4-5 ounces. Actually I gave one of these to Our original software guru Eric Stauffer way back 10 or so years ago, and have been waiting for the right time to open the last one. I have some 80's Bdx and some other 80's Cali cabs of the same quality as the MB, But we need to open wines of this stature with someone who appreciates them. Many on this board qualifies IMO.
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:39 pm

David Cooper wrote:At the last event I hosted, I was going to open a 79 La Chapelle but when the crowd grew to eleven I changed my mind. In hindsight I wish I had brought out the Hermitage. It would have been perfect with Jenise's Grange.



I disagree! Of course it is your wine, but sticking a nicely aged Hermitage in with a Grange is like tossing a purebred greyhound into a pen of hungry hyenas. I mean no disrespect to the Grange, but it really is a different sort of animal.

Much better IMHO to enjoy your 79 in company with similar wines. In fact if you ask Jenise, she might have something from the Northern Rhone of some age (or would probably hunt around until she did) and I would certainly be willing to revisit an old and favorite issue by opening a bottle of the 1982 La Chapelle if you want to open your 1979 (of which I also have a few remaining stragglers - very nice wine) so we can see which is showing the best. You and I can whump up some food of the sort that keeps the mistral out (a hearty daube perhaps).

Now you've done it - I am getting hungry.....Image
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:42 pm

David Cooper wrote:Bill and Jenise. I feel so strongly about this subject I joined this forum.


PS - you are long past due for joining here - it is a great place to hang out and we would welcome your contributions!
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:20 pm

David Cooper wrote:At the last event I hosted, I was going to open a 79 La Chapelle but when the crowd grew to eleven I changed my mind. In hindsight I wish I had brought out the Hermitage. It would have been perfect with Jenise's Grange.


Dave, you've always been generous with your wines. And I know how you feel--I often "in hindsight" wish I'd done something different than I did. And in fact, like you seem to be doing now, I usually regret not taking something better--very rarely is it the other way around, though I got burned a couple times early in my offline career, bringing wines that deserved contemplation to unbeknownst to me rowdy situations where no contemplation was going to be possible. These days, there's less risk of that, I usually know the circumstances better in advance.

But hey, on the subject of Hermitage, I've got bottles that would be very happy to be in the company of your 79 La Chapelle. Let's have a special occasion for those.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:29 pm

Jenise wrote:But hey, on the subject of Hermitage, I've got bottles that would be very happy to be in the company of your 79 La Chapelle. Let's have a special occasion for those.


It's a date! Anyone got a great daube recipe? Let's do it before summer gets here!
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:38 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
Jenise wrote:But hey, on the subject of Hermitage, I've got bottles that would be very happy to be in the company of your 79 La Chapelle. Let's have a special occasion for those.


It's a date! Anyone got a great daube recipe? Let's do it before summer gets here!


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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:39 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
Jenise wrote:But hey, on the subject of Hermitage, I've got bottles that would be very happy to be in the company of your 79 La Chapelle. Let's have a special occasion for those.


It's a date! Anyone got a great daube recipe? Let's do it before summer gets here!


I'll even offer my kitchen, before it gets torn apart.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by JC (NC) » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:58 pm

Daube is one of the specialties at St. Jacques restaurant in Raleigh. If no one else comes through with a great recipe I would be happy to ask if the chef at St. Jacques will share his recipe. He conducts cooking classes once a month so apparently does share some of his recipes.
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Bill Spohn

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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Bill Spohn » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:19 pm

JC (NC) wrote:Daube is one of the specialties at St. Jacques restaurant in Raleigh. If no one else comes through with a great recipe I would be happy to ask if the chef at St. Jacques will share his recipe. He conducts cooking classes once a month so apparently does share some of his recipes.



Hey - we can never have too many daube recipes! (rub-a-daube-daube)
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jon Peterson » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:36 pm

Bill - I like your criteria and have just adopted them. Here's why: I recently took four bottles of nice wine ($300+ worth)to a friends house for dinner. It was to be Liz and me, the couple and another couple. I was told everyone was 'into' wine, yet I was the only person who brought some. All I'll say is that that other couple was not into wine - I should have just brought some Yellow Tail.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by Jenise » Wed Apr 30, 2008 3:30 pm

Jon Peterson wrote:Bill - I like your criteria and have just adopted them. Here's why: I recently took four bottles of nice wine ($300+ worth)to a friends house for dinner. It was to be Liz and me, the couple and another couple. I was told everyone was 'into' wine, yet I was the only person who brought some. All I'll say is that that other couple was not into wine - I should have just brought some Yellow Tail.


Been burned by that, too, Jon. Big difference between merely liking wine and being "into" wine, isn't there? I've wanted to just cry as I've watched people chug indiscriminately wines that were basically over their head and that they would not remember the names at the end of the night. For such occasions, I've learned to lower my risk but still ensure that I'll have something nice to drink by planning to share moderately priced wines with accessible flavors. Also, I carry them in a soft-sided six-pack zipper-closed wine case which I stash near the door where the shoes and purses go, and may go fish more or better wines out of if the evening warrants it or leave alone and take home with me if that's the better thing to do. I excuse the un-offered overage as "back-up bottles in case one these is flawed", which people non-geeks respond positively as a thoughtful gesture. Many others I know do likewise.
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Re: Sharing Those Special Bottles

by ChefJCarey » Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:33 pm

Also, I carry them in a soft-sided six-pack zipper-closed wine case which I stash near the door where the shoes and purses go, and may go fish more or better wines out of if the evening warrants it or leave alone and take home with me if that's the better thing to do


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