Birthday Wine


Back in December of 1997, I worked at a company that had our department holiday party on the Napa Valley Wine Train. I was in HR at the time, and there were 4 or 5 of us, I think, not a big crowd. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a passenger train that goes up Napa Valley for maybe an hour, and then comes back. It stops at one winery on the route, and serves pretty nice food and wine along the way. The train cars are decorated in an old fashioned way, like I imagine they might have been in the old west. You depart from a train depot in Napa, which of course has a gift shop with lots of wine stuff to be had. So that December day, just outside of the gift shop, were some crates that said, Maya. “Wow,” I thought, “Is there a Maya wine?” I went in and asked. The answer is yes, there is a Maya wine, and no, you can’t have any. Turns out it is a botique wine, very difficult to come by.

Well, if you’re at all like me, once someone tells me I can’t have something, I WANT IT MORE. Suddenly I was all about the Maya wine. I remember my BFF, Rosemary, and how when I would go to her house, there was some wine on top of the fridge that never got touched. I asked her about it, and she said her dad had bought each of the kids a bottle from the year they were born, and was saving it until they were old enough to drink it. Well, you can only imagine how wine stored on top of the fridge turned out to be (not good), but I liked the idea. And here was a wine that shared my daughter’s name! I MUST BUY SOME.

So, I started calling around. I called the vineyard, but they didn’t have any to sell. I called several small, independent wine stores, and got a resounding NO everywhere I called. One man laughed in my face (Well, in my ear, as I was on the phone). One man told me that they SOMETIMES got a case, but that the owner of the store gave or sold the bottles to his friends, and customers never got any. I had no idea there was wine that was difficult to procure. I’m a Safeway wine shopper.

Finally, I got lucky. I called a local wine store and told him my story. My daughter is Maya, and born in 1996. I want a bottle of 1996 Maya wine to toast her with on her 21st birthday. He said, “Most of the people who come in looking for that wine are posers wanting to show off for their friends. You’re the first down to earth person I’ve come across on this search. If I get any in the store, I will call you.” And he did. I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1999 at this point, but he called me and told me my wine was there. I was thrilled. I rushed to the store and bought it…the only time in my life I’ve paid that much for a bottle of wine (I think it was about $130, about 10x what I usually pay). It has been carefully stored in Ted’s brother’s wine fridge ever since, safe and sound.

Until Saturday. Saturday, we will celebrate my darling Maya’s 21st birthday with lamb curry, carrot cake, and a glass of Maya wine. I think there are 9 of us, so no one will get a lot, but we will toast to her health, and she can keep the bottle as a memento to her mother’s obsessive personality.

I hope it’s not corked.

4 thoughts on “Birthday Wine

  1. So…I did a little research on your Cab Blend there, and it sounds like it is very robust, so your dinner will be a nice accompaniment. Most tasters say it is still “drinking young”; if you don’t have an aerator, perhaps decant it for at least an hour beforehand and display that wonderful and significant bottle so that you are getting the full gift of the wine’s potential.

    (If I was to buy that wine here in NEO, I’d be paying almost double due to the automatic markup on non-Ohio wines. And I wouldn’t pay two bucks for a magnum of Ohio wine. Ugh.)

    What a fantastic story, J. How lovely.

  2. Nance, I’m sure it will be long gone before dinner. I don’t know that any wine goes great with curry, but likely a sweeter wine would be the way to go, or beer. We generally drink our wines with appetizers at family parties, and I’m sure this one will be no different.

    As to decanting, I have read both things, so I asked the advice of the nice guy at the wine store who sold it to me (he still works there) and he said no, don’t decant it. Put it upright (it’s been on it’s side for the last many years) a few days ahead so if there is any sediment it can settle to the bottom. Open it to breathe an hour or so before drinking, but don’t decant it. Personally I’m always confused about the decant/don’t decant thing.

    Hard to believe a wine this old is still drinking young, but I do remember when I bought it, the merchant told me if any local bottle could stand up to that long a time, this was a good one. Steve is a wine lover, and often gets old library wines, and we drink them with mixed results. Some are good, and some are well past their prime. Steve has actually had this year of Maya before, several years ago, and he really enjoyed it. He wants to try to get a second bottle for Saturday, so everyone can have a little more, but I don’t know if he will or not. Kinda spendy.

    I’m sorry about your Ohio wines, but I am always fascinated by your tales of wine shopping in Canada.

  3. Oh, shoot. How did I miss “curry” when I read “lamb”? You’re right, of course.

    It’s tricky, but not impossible, to decant wine without its possible sediment, but since your Wine Guy has already had this vintage, he’s your best Adviser. I can’t wait to hear how it was! (Remember Carson’s contraption for decanting in Downton Abbey? That’s what you need now! Sidenote: I MISS DOWNTON ABBEY!)

    We’re currently drinking down our cellar, which had gotten a bit unwieldy. Unfortunately, we discovered we were really poorly stocked in Whites, having mostly heavy Chards and citrusy Sauv Blancs. Nothing in between (and that seems to be what we always need lately). Love the cab blends.

    I’m so excited to hear about this wine!

  4. Nance, I think you need to hop on an airplane and come have a sip! Sorry, you can’t have a whole glass, no one can, because I only have one bottle. The party starts at 2:00, and the weather is supposed to be LOVELY.

    (I miss Downton Abbey too! Did you watch Victoria on PBS? We binged it and really enjoyed it. It’s no D.A., but it was really good.)

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