As a well seasoned business traveler I have the dining alone thing down. I have my magazine in hand and seek out the best meal I can find. One thing about dining solo is you get to really dig into those massive wine lists. Were you not dining alone the half-hour of study sometimes required, bouncing back and forth between the menu and the list, would not endear you to your dining companion. I am divorced after all. However, this night the magazine would not be required as a far more alluring companion unexpectedly joined me.
As you dig into these big wine lists you get buried under the weight of the prices. Every bottle that catches your eye is both outrageously expensive and way too young. As my attention always drifts to the Burgundies and pinot noirs the shock of the prices of the available new releases is more often than not depressing. These stratospheric prices mean that a restaurant is certainly no place to experiment. One of the main advantages of solo wine list reading is you have time to do your research. Due to the bizarre world of the wine business today, often younger wines are more expensive than older wines and one of the best places to find bargains is older vintages. Obviously this is not always the case, but I have found many relative bargains on some wonderful wines with a few years under their corks that are perfectly ready to drink.
One recent find was the 1998 Pommard, 1er Cru, Les Clos des Boucherottes, Monopole, Domaine Coste-Caumartin, which was selling for some $50 less a bottle than 2005 Big Point California pinot noir. This was a put-your-magazine-away type of wine as no other entertainment was needed. I stashed the magazine away and spent the meal with the scintillating company of the wine alone. It is moments like this that refocus your passion for wine. The Pommard was an otherworldly accompaniment to rich braised pork shank served buried under a small mountain of black winter truffles. As you sip on such a complex wine you can really feel the direct sensory connection of flavors to the pleasure centers of the brain. This is what great wine is all about. While still richly fruity, the black fruits are just giving way to an exotic spicy earthiness that both mirrored and amplified the fragrant truffles on my plate. I spent another half-hour lingering over a last glass and then shared the rest of the bottle with the captain and sommelier, both of whom had been drawn to my table by the bottle I’d ordered.
We finished the last sips and I asked for the check, which arrived with a complimentary dessert and a glass of Kracher Beerenauslese, with which I toasted the late great Alois Kracher who just passed away.
When a meal is perfect, you never dine alone.