You can tell I’ve fallen for something when my handwriting gets psychotic, panicked, attended by arrows and profanity and amendments. I talk to myself. It’s less “Hmm, is that lemon or lime?” and more “Oh, shit, okay, Jesus, it’s like, baked red soil and fresh laundry? That tall grass I remember from Girl Scout camp. There’s chocolate, wildflowers, marshmallow? The little green ones. Old stone, but like a sweet old stone, stone from a sugar factory, crushed. Caught on fire.” Once I’m in deep, I want to get it down, right now, while it’s all still here and I can touch it. Tell the whole story, earn my place at the table, take in such detail that I’ll never be able to forget.
Which brings me to the 1996 San Leonardo, and its newly minted slot in my top 10.
"This is just one of the best things ever."
I like lots of wines, and my definition of good is flexible and amenable to circumstance. I’m a believer that the more beautiful the night and the better the company the less necessary it is to have wine of any import. My view narrows, of course, when I consider the great, which stands on its own in a vineyard by the Andes or in a conference room in midtown. The setting recedes, and that’s when you know. It’s not just romance. It’s real love.
Thanks again to the generosity of GDP (who undersold the tasting by billing it, simply, as one of “weedy Cabernet”), I was able to taste through a vertical of 1993-2005 San Leonardo, a brilliant series of vibrantly complex Bordeaux blends from an odd site in Alto Adige. There wasn’t a loser in the bunch; throughout the tasting, a giddiness built up around the table that led to open laptops and quick sourcing of additional bottles from across the country. Once you know it’s this good (and this affordable), don’t ever let go without a fight.
Each wine was fantastic, but 1993 and ‘96, phenomenal. The former’s a field filled with sun-baked ruins and deep, dusty black fruit; knee high grass, hard wax; perfect balance. Elegant and ancient. The latter played out, fittingly, like the same song three years on: wild flowers, sweet green herbs, big baskets of dark, crushed blackcurrant fruit, a grace note of milk chocolate. What a pleasure it will be to hear again.