7:30 PM: decide that yes, I would like some red wine
7:35 PM: go downstairs, enter the wine cellar. It's the usual problem. There are a lot of good bottles down there, and I get a little bit melancholy when I see them, because the people with whom I want to share them are almost never actually here. Dad's on another continent; so is Julian. Robbie and Fish are a day's drive away. Over and over I again, I look through bottles, thinking, yeah, the 2001 Andrew Rich cabernet would be yummy, but it's kinda pricey at $25, and I should wait for a special occasion. Maybe a bottle of something French, but... nah, wrong choice for tonight. A Zinfandel? Nah, too alcoholic. Wait, is that 2003 Ridge Paso Robles leaking? Yuck. Maybe something Australian? That cheap Cabernet from Langhorne Creek? Nah, it says it's good to drink up to six years from 2001, and I like my wines a wee bit decrepit. So... what exactly?
7:50: What the hell. 2002 Clonakilla Hilltops shiraz. I bought a case in early 2003, but have never actually tasted any. Shouldn't I have some now to see what it's like as a youngish wine?
7:55: I pour myself a glass and cue up CSI: NY on the TiVo. The wine is nothing special; it smells kinda reddish and that's about it. I wonder if maybe I just like Clonakilla because Tim Kirk is such an amazingly cool guy. Is that it?
8:00: Suddenly, the wine does something in the glass. I get chills running down my spine. The perfume is massive, with a tiny hint of something animal in there as well. It's not too sweet, just a hint of fine grained acidity in there. As I swirl it in my glass, tiny flecks of particulate matter get stuck to the glass. It is, in short, a masterpiece. I don't know of a single Australian wine that tastes quite like this one.
And this is is the $20 one, the "low end" one. There's a case of the more expensive shiraz viognier in there too, just waiting. If the Hilltops is this good, I can only imagine what that stuff tastes like. We sampled some from the barrel in April 2002, and if that was anything to go by, it's going to be every bit as mind-blowing as the 2001 that we shared with Julian last February.
I can't wait.
8:30: It's just getting better and better. Right now, it's all seamless velvet, and it smells like the skin of an old friend you haven't seen in years. After a swallow, the taste lingers with you for a couple of minutes; it's like coming home from the first weekend you've spent with the person you know you'll spend the rest of your life with, and realizing from time to time on the train that the smell on your shirt, so strange and new, will eventually turn out to be something you'll wake up to every morning.
And you love it.
If you can find this wine, and hold on to it for a couple of years, and drink it with someone you love, you'll be glad you did.