A wine store is as good a place as any to people watch. Often as I stand surveying customers peruse the store I notice a marked widening of eyes as a browsing customers gaze falls on one of the many bottles of wine in the store priced over $100.00. Currently the most expensive bottle for sale at Bin 905 Distinctive Wine and Spirits, the fine boutique retail store I call home, is a double magnum (3 litre) of 1998 Dal Forno Amarone priced at $2800.00. This particular bottle never fails to catch people’s attention and causes onlookers to motion their friends over to view the bottle that costs as much as the first car I ever owned.
The inevitable question that arises after viewing one of these bottles is “is it worth it?”. Is a $100 dollar bottle really that much better than a $20 bottle? My most common reply is…it depends. Sometimes the price of a bottle is inflated due to hype, limited supply, high “scores” from a publication such as Wine Spectator or for various other reasons. And sometimes it’s value is increased by the fact that it really is just that good.
I pondered this topic last night as I watched the Sommelier at Teatro, one of Calgary’s top restaurants, open the bottle I had brought for the evening. They now have a “no corkage” policy Sunday’s at Teatro which means you can bring in your own wine and you will not be charged for it. As it was my first time dining at Teatro and my father was fitting the bill for dinner I decided to bring a special bottle for the meal. I am lucky enough to drink good wine almost every day, but it is very rare that my wine purchases exceed $100.00 per bottle retail price. The bottle I had chosen for this evening was a 2003 Tardieu-Laurent Cote-Rotie. Priced at $112.00 most of my friends and family would never dream of dropping that kind of coin on a bottle of wine. As I sat anxiously awaiting the verdict as to whether my hard earned cash was well spent or wasted my fears were quickly quelled as I watched the face of the Sommelier as he stuck his nose into the decanter and inhaled. His eyes widened as the aroma’s registered and he looked up with a look of pure joy on his face. He grabbed a nearby waiter and had him smell the wine as they both shifted their glances from me to the wine and back. “He’s impressed” said my Dad and I knew I was about to have an outstanding wine experience.
A little background on the wine before I describe the orgy of the senses that ensued. Cote-Rotie is a small region in the Northern Rhone Valley in France. The name means “Roasted Slope” describing the sun-drenched hillsides that comprise these vineyards. Planted mostly with the Syrah grape, Cote-Rotie is a bit of an oddity in that the laws permit the use of the grape Viognier, a white grape variety, to be included in the red wines. The best examples of Cote-Rotie are some of the finest red wines in the world, often commanding a high price to accompany their grand reputation.
Back at Teatro our server had just finished pouring the wine and as I raised the glass to my nose time slowed. It was like a scene from The Matrix. My nostrils were bombarded by a sensory attack so intense my poor sensory receptors nearly shut down. Notes of freshly ground espresso, Turkish olives, dark chocolate, roasted meats, blueberry compote, exotic spices, granite and more rose upwards like the mist rising from an epic waterfall. I could see my Brothers lips moving across from me but I didn’t register a word he said. They say a great wine should speak of the place it was born and when I tasted that epic Syrah I was transferred right to those roasted slopes of Cote-Rotie. The wine was absolutely seamless, it’s immense power balanced by it’s purity and finesse…like a linebacker wearing ballet slippers.
As I sat in that beautiful dining room surrounded by my loved ones and allowing the last drop of Cote-Rotie to linger on my tongue there was no question of money. I certainly won’t be able to afford to drink it every day, but that wine was worth every penny and sometimes you really do get what you pay for.