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A TGB READER STORY: Dinner for an 82nd Birthday

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.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Hurray! An imaginative dinner, an exquisite wine, and a relationship aged to maturity.

Your tale was exquisite too.

I may just be a hillbilly, but I can still appreciate an elegant, nice read. Thank you, I enjoyed this. :^)


Love it!

You are so fortunate to have the wine collection, your culinary ability, and above all... each other! Salud!

My thanks to the readers who left appreciative comments on my story. I'd like to clarify that this birthday dinner occurred back in February, well before the Coronavirus restrictions took hold. We could have gone out to a restaurant then -- not now, of course.

What an exquisite evening – gourmet meal, aged wine and lovely company. Your husband must have been pleased with his birthday celebration; this was the best occasion to drink his wine. The pleasures of the palate are undeniable.

Sometimes occasions are lost. Visiting my mother in Paris every year I would bring back wines, liquors, champagne. My husband wanted for us to wait to open the best bottles for the “right occasion” but he died not long ago. My 80th birthday came in late March but it was not an occasion for me to open a vintage bottle and drink alone. I have a Champagne Dom Perignon 1980 waiting – will there ever be an occasion? I think in life it is important to seize the right moment – and you did! Perfect.

Brought memory of 2001 visit to Montalcino and great food and wine. Thanks.

What a lovely story. Thank you!

You described it so well I could almost taste it.
Thank you for sharing that experience.

What an elegant, lovely tale, true and timely. Thank you so much for writing about it and sharing it with us!

Lovely story!

Reminded me of our travels through Tuscany when you could still bring back bottles of wine, although we never kept them for very long.

I'm all for drinking good wine on any occasion and happy to read you decided against leaving it to the "heirs". Duck legs? Wow!

Whew, now I'm starving.....

Congratulations to your husband on the occasion of his 82nd birthday.
I felt like I was back in my favorite mystery writers' books, Donna Leon and Louise Penny where you can't read a page without salivating for what Brunetti was about to dine on, and the gang at Three Pines were cooking.
I was relieved to hear the Brunello withstood the test of time. We saved a special wine for many years and it didn't fare so well. Given these times I'd say, raid the wine cellar !

Such a delicious tale! Your husband is so fortunate that you are a superb cook. . . . and you both are blessed to still have each other--plus a nice collection of vintage wines! Happy Birthday to Diana's husband! Thank you , Diana, for making all of us envious AND hungry!

Simply wonderrful.

Properly mature. How wonderful!

A lovely story! Thank you for sharing.

The story reminds me when we rented a village house in the hills behind Lucca to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, lo these many years ago. Our host made his own wine and stocked the house liberally. We invited all comers during the three weeks we were there, but when our daughter arrived bearing Brunello, the host claimed that if we could afford Brunello he would have to charge for his wine. He never did.

Delicious story.
What are you planning for your birthday?

Our host made his own wine and stocked the house liberally. We invited all comers during the three weeks we were there, but when our daughter arrived bearing Brunello, the host claimed that if we could afford Brunello he would have to charge for his wine.

Shima Idahams
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