Friday, March 05, 2010

It Was Finally the Right Time to Open the Leonetti.

Now mind you, I'm a frugal kind of "girl" and I don't keep a lot of Leonetti Cellars around in my modest wine collection. Since I've been single in the last 12-years, I find what I would spend for one bottle of Leonetti Cellars I could buy almost three bottles of exceptional wines from the Walla Walla Valley. Hey, my maiden name isn't McIntyre for nothing. Scots are known for their frugality.

In the last month, for some reason, I kept staring at my last bottle of Leonetti Cellars, a 2001 Columbia Valley Merlot. What ran through my mind was, "Do I open it? Do I put some more age on it? Or shall I just tuck it away 'forever' and let my kidlets and siblings find it someday in my estate and either enjoy it or have a good chuckle?"

I eventually just stuffed those questions in the back of my mind, like I often do knowing that when I least expect it, I will have my answer. You see, I didn't buy any of my Leonetti's. They were either gifts or wine trades from one very special person. If you are any kind of a professional or self-proclaimed "wine-o" you have to know about the wines from Leonetti Cellars in Walla Walla. Quality exudes from these luscious red wines.

Exactly a week ago Friday morning, I finally had my answer on what to do with the last bottle of the Leonetti Cellars. I called some friends and invited them over to my house the next evening. One of the friends I invited is a student at the Eno/Vit Center in Walla Walla, whose wine palate I respect. The other phone call was to long-time family friends who just moved to Walla Walla from Seattle. They are extreme "foodies" and known to make road trips with bottles of Leonetti Cellars just in case the restaurants they dine in doesn't have any "decent" wine on the menu.

Saturday afternoon, just before I headed out to run some errands, I finally opened the bottle of Leonetti Cellars Merlot - 2001. I wanted to give it some breathing time. As I opened the bottle, I was reminded of how I obtained it. I giggled to myself, fondly remembering this elderly and very distinguished gentleman and how I would type some special projects for him. And even though I was on law office time and worked at the law office that bore his last name, he would often drop by a gift of thanks. He would drive in the parking lot and stop his car at the front door of the office before he headed to his personal parking space in the back. He would come in the front door with a bottle of wine wrapped in a plain brown paper sack and quietly place it under my desk. He would then head back out to his car, drive it to the parking spot and come in the back door like he always did every morning.

Through the last ten years we would exchange opinions about the local wines. I would often tell him about some of the new wineries and their wines and he would tell me about some new wine gadget he had just purchased and whether or not it worked. Sometimes we would trade bottles of Walla Walla wines and I often felt as if I got the better part of the deal, but that's how he preferred it. He had a good palate and understood quality - well, not just with wine but with everything in his life.

My friends showed up that evening and we had a feast of cured meats, cheeses, olives, flat bread and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons. We gathered around the kitchen island which seems to be the gathering place, while the formal dining room now gets ignored. The Leonetti was poured. The color of the Merlot was a deep red with just a halo of copper showing that the wine indeed had some age. Aromas of fall leaves and sweet straw came from the glass. The anticipated sip brought large flavors of bramble berries and undertones of currants and licorice. It wasn't big on oak, but rather silky on the tongue. The finish kept traveling with hints of spice. The wine was just what we hoped it to be - it didn't disappoint. Of course, before we tasted the wine we had toasted the gentleman who gave me the bottle. The room remained silent as we pondered the wine and the moment.

I have discovered the most important thing about wine, and especially wines of this quality like Leonetti Cellars. Wines shouldn't be tucked away forever like trophy pieces. They are meant to shared and enjoyed. Wine can make new memories and revive memories. This bottle was given to me with a lot of thought behind it and given with the intent for me to enjoy. It was a bitter-sweet ending that I would eventually share this bottle of wine with friends, just as it had been shared with me.

Here's to you, Dutch. I feel honored to have had you in my life.

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