First ever guest post – hope you all enjoy! By Brandon Fierro!
“Serve good wine first, then the bad stuff, but always save the best bottle for yourself.” — Mike Fierro
It’s surprising that a guy who runs a wine blog has never shared his dad’s only advice about wine, which is both absolutely correct and also par for the course from a man who recycles used motor oil and stockpiles Dark Horse cab.
So here is a review of my best bottle that I’ve never shared.
I got married in 2012. I was the traditional one. I wanted to have a big wedding with a mess of bridesmaids and groomsmen and a slow dance with my mom to “Simple Man,” and my brother proving everyone wrong by delivering a funny, thoughtful, fondly remembered toast, and carefully stage-managed pictures of the wedding party, and a surprise savory snack late in the night right before “Shout” sends the party into the atmosphere. Alex was the marriage misanthrope. She wanted to elope, or just have our families and the handful of close friends we’ve had and still have over to the house for a party that cost no more than $500 and get everyone drunk and maybe laid. Or just screw it why don’t we walk to city hall one day and be on with our lives.
We met in the middle. We had 100 people over for a party in someone else’s backyard, cooked some of the food ourselves, and had already gone to city hall. My brother nailed the speech in what was and still remains the Spinks-Tyson of wedding upsets, and we doled out crab cakes just before the party abruptly ended when a neighbor complained. Or because Alex’s Uncle Ted wanted all of these assholes off his lawn.
At my request we did a wedding registry. You can still find it here. Alex was appalled. By that point in time we had been dating, on and off and off and off and on-ish and finally back on for about a decade, and had already accumulated a lifetime’s worth of relationship detritus and junk, and Alex could not fathom assigning a group of well-meaning schmucks and also other people who were not Fierros to buy us more of it. But I insisted, or maybe we had to buy a Soda Stream or a contour pillow, or something, because we eventually ended up at Bed Bath & Beyond with a price scanner and the most earnest and bright-eyed assistant manager trying to convince Alex that this was the happiest day of her life while peddling Riedel wine glasses, little Vornado fans, hand towels with chickens on them, and Scanpan after Scanpan after Scanpan. Suffice it to say we went directly to the bar after having price gunned some Waterford crystal (still banging around somewhere in the house, over my mom’s dead body will we throw out the Waterford) and then pulling the rip-cord with the nasty taste of the wedding-industrial complex in our mouths.
We were at a crossroads. We couldn’t do a registry at a store. It was too abhorrent and cliché. We couldn’t debase ourselves by extorting cash out of our closest friends and dearest family by doing a honeymoon registry, like some common thug or most of my brother’s friends. And we were drunk. Very drunk.
So when Alex said, “fuck it, you want a registry, love, let’s register at The Wine Library,” it was the only thing that made any sense the entire day.
* * * *
I can’t recall when we drank the last of the bottles of wine that came off of that registry. I know that the concept was received much more fondly than actually utilized (“Wow, wine registry? Cool! Here is some flatware.”), so the haul was nowhere near what it should have been. A compromise appropriate for the wedding – tremendous idea, fair execution, and a drunk Fierro and really drunk Hird. What I do remember, clearer than the best quality Waterford crystal that only my mother would ever consider using to consume liquid out of, is that our haul from that registry included a bunch of bottles of Tignanello.
At the time, Tignanello was the pinnacle of wine to us. The label on the bottle was in Italian, only (no English translation), the wine cost just close enough to $100 to make it seem expensive (cleverly never going over $100), and was stored in the “exclusive” section of suburban wine stores such that I felt like an absolute fucking boss by walking in there, opening the needlessly refrigerated room and strutting out holding a bottle to present to the stoned jabroni behind the counter who could not give two shits about my sweet bottle of Super Tuscan and would have been just as unimpressed by a bottle of $9 Barefoot chardonnay. Anyway, I assume that for a 2012 wine registry we would have ended up with 2008-2010 vintage Tigs, which means they were delicious and enjoyable, made more so because when we drank those bottles we (Alex and I) were young and dumb and full of complete shit. The wine, however, delivered on exactly what it was meant to do – make a couple of unsophisticated newbs feel like we were stealing a piece of the high life that was meant for better heeled and more refined wine connoisseurs and squirreling it away, for some later date when Tignanello was a nightly occurrence as opposed to an exclusive event made possible only by the decision to forego cutlery and extort our wedding guests for respectable booze.
So let’s say I open a bottle of Tignanello now. Let’s say it was bottled in 2013. But it doesn’t really matter, because this wine is remarkably consistent across vintages. Let’s say Alex comes home early from a dinner with clients and we haven’t seen each other in days. And I am halfway through the bottle and she walks into the dining room, looks at the table and says, “oh, drinking a Tignanello? What’s the occasion?” And by this point we’ve been to Willamette and Sonoma and Napa and the Douro Valley and are better heeled and more well refined wine drinkers. Or at least have drank enough wine and spent enough money to make it seem like we are.
But she sits down, grabs the decanter, and pours herself a big glass without even thinking about it. And maybe the wine is tighter than I would have wanted. And boozier. And drier. And rustier in color than a $100 Super Tuscan should have been. But with more complex fruit and floral notes, a kind of unexpected pinot quality that is either off-putting or fascinating depending on your perspective. And maybe, okay, the bottle did spend a winter month in a garage wine fridge that wasn’t closed all the way.
But all you can taste is a glass of Bed Bath & Beyond and Simple Man and a killer toast from the soon-to-be Everyday Wine Guy™ and Uncle Ted telling everyone you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay there. And we quietly contemplate each other and the wine, lost in our own thoughts.
And then maybe open a second bottle to share.