By Diane Darrow of Another Year in Recipes
My very dear husband of 50 years was about to reach his 82nd birthday. How to celebrate it? We’re in blessedly good health for our ages (I’m 77), but we can hardly bear to go to New York City restaurants any more, no matter how fine. Can’t stand the cramped spaces, the noisy crowds, the loud music and especially the cost of the wines.
We both love wine and Tom has been stashing away special bottles for many years in a closet at home: now-well-aged French and Italian wines that – in any restaurant that would carry such older bottles – would cost more than a month’s grocery bill.
The solution was clear, and the choice was easy: We’d dine at home. I’d make him a really lovely dinner and he’d open a bottle of...what? After much agonizing, he chose his prized 1977 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino.
He’d been saving this single bottle of the esteemed Tuscan wine for more than 30 years and it was time to be practical about it. How much longer are we going to live? How long are our taste buds going to be functioning? Do we really want this wine to be left to our heirs who may not even drink wine, or sold off to strangers in an estate sale? No! We’ll have it now.
We did, and it was wonderful. I made us a dish from Italy’s rich regional cuisine: duck legs braised with porcini mushrooms, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, white wine and tomato paste.
Alongside we had plain green beans and a big baked potato – and the Brunello. Once opened, the wine (like ourselves) was quite fragile because of its age but it simply blossomed with that good food – as did we.
Dinner was long and leisurely. We finished the bottle while nibbling on pieces of Grayson, a flavorful farmstead cheese from Virginia. It and the Brunello appreciated each other just as Tom and I do, even after all these years.
It was a fine birthday celebration, both down-home and elegant, with all participants properly mature.
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