Good friends make wine taste better…so does pizza!

The problem with having a very special bottle of wine stashed away is that the pressure seems to build to find the perfect time to open said bottle. This was exactly the case with the most prized bottle in my collection, a magnum (1.5L) of 1987 Ridge Monte Bello. Ridge is absolutely one of my favourite wineries in the world and I picked up this amazing bottle while visiting the winery in June. At $200.00 US this was by far the most I have ever spent on a bottle of wine in my life. For those of you who may be familiar with the Monte Bello (which is their top wine) however, you probably know that at this should have been worth at least twice as much. Now not only was this a special bottle, but being that it was a magnum it required a bit of a gathering in order to make the most of it.

I decided that my birthday was a reasonable occasion to open this precious gem and I set out to think of the perfect location for the event. Would it be River Cafe, my favourite restaurant in the city? Or perhaps Teatro, Divino or another of Calgary’s top dining destinations. After much deliberation I came to the realization that sometimes there is great beauty in simplicity. Armed with this revelation I decided to gather a group of my best wine-geek friends and head on down to what is perhaps Calgary’s best kept secret…Pizza Bob’s.

Although from first appearances Pizza Bob’s looks like an awkward hole-in-the-wall,  with it’s dim lighting, self-serve soda station, rock and roll posters and vlt/video game lined walls they have one major thing going for them…no corkage. That’s right, you can bring in your favourite wine any day of the week and you don’t pay a cent for the  the privilage. Plus they have pretty damn good pizza to boot! You may think I have picked up a nasty crystal meth habit bringing such heralded wines to such a humble location, but in the end it was the perfect venue for an unforgetable night.

I was abuzz with anticipation as we walked through the 1980’s style wooden door and into the dim lighting of Bob’s armed with our own glassware (I would recommend this as their wine glasses leave much to be desired) and with an army of wine in tow. Not only had I brought my prized bottle of Monte Bello, I had also brought my second most precious collectible…a bottle of 1994 Louis Jadot Le Montrachet. Montrachet is a Grand Cru vineyard in the area of Burgundy (only the Chardonnay grape is planted here) in France and is considered by many to be the greatest white wine in the world. This bottle was a very generous gift given to my father that was then passed on to my brother and I. This is an extremely rare treat and would normally be well beyond my means, which again added to the excitement.

As my glorious group of friends arrived and their vinous contributions to the dinner were set on the table, we began to receive looks from the Pizza Bob’s staff that I would expect to greet alien life forms. All told there were 8 participants…and the equivalent of 12 bottles of wine. Things were about to get interesting (sorry if you are reading this Grandma…you may never look past your grandsons gluttonous disregard again!)

As the pizza started flowing and corks were popped it became clear this was a line-up of wines the likes of which would not be topped for some time. I will quickly recount, more as a test of my extremely hazy memory than for your enjoyment, the wines of the evening.

2008 Pierre Gaillard St. Joseph Blanc – Hailing from the Northern Rhone Valley in France and made exclusively from the Roussane grape this was stunning. Although it was one of the “value” wines at the table (value for this night at least), this was a delicious treat showing notes of lanolin, almond and ripe stone fruit and melon.

2004 Domaine Beauregard “Grand Beauregard” Pouilly-Fuisse – This epic Chardonnay supplied by my good friend Al is a bruiser. Forget the finesse normally found in Burgundian Chardonnay, this will give any Californian Chard a run for its money in terms of sheer power and opulence. Flavours of ripe pear, coconut oil, mineral, toast and so much more power through on a finish that lasts for minutes.

1994 Louis Jadot Le Montrachet – As mentioned this is one of the greatest white wines in the world and although not from the best vintage everyone still expected great things. At first this wine was oddly closed, not really providing much character on the nose or palate. Having faith we set the bottle aside and as time wore on this started to show it’s true colours. Each whiff of this wine yielded something different, at times giving aroma’s of freshly pressed linen and in the next breath showing a nutty character and deep minerality. In the end this was spectacular with unreal depth and a spectrum of flavours almost beyond description. I kept my glass aside and savoured every last drop!

2007 JL Chave “Mon Coeur” Cotes-du-Rhone – Another “value” wine in this line-up, this wine is always stunning and I wish I had several cases. This shows why 2007 is a hyped up vintage in the Southern Rhone and this killer wine with its notes of deep black fruit, coffee liquor, baking spices and dark chocolate is a perfect example of why.

2000 Chateau Bellevue Magnum – This wine was intended to deliver an outstanding Bordeaux at a reasonable price, and it delivers big time. Plus wine always tastes better out of a big bottle!

2006 Pierre Gaillard Cote Rotie – This stunning Syrah, with a good dollop of Viognier added, blew me away. The purest blueberry fruit dances on the palate with white pepper, roasted meats and an amazing violet/lavender floral component. If I ever meet Pierre Gaillard I am buying him a beer…hopefully we are at Pizza Bob’s!

1998 Seghesio Barolo Pajana – How am I still typing right now? And there are still two wines to go! Any time I have the chance to drink Barolo I am immediately whisked back to the hills of Langhe in Piemonte, Italy which I was fortunate enough to visit in 2007. This had classic floral and deep cherry characteristics while gripping tannins were a stern reminder that this wine can easily age another 10 years. Classic.

2005 Prince Florent du Merode Corton Clos du Roi – An epic Pinot Noir from the hill of Corton, a relatively small slope with a massive reputation which also serves as the only Grand Cru site for red wine  in the Cotes du Beaune region of Burgundy (there are 7 Grand Cru vineyards on the hill, covering both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay…and who said Burgundy was confusing?). This wine was just an infant, hinting at its amazing cellaring potential with tightly wound cherry, earth and mineral notes. Will be a legend in 5-10 more years.

2001 Montecillo Rioja Gran Reserva – I have a bit of a shameful admission…I didn’t even get to try this wine (sorry Tom, I still love you for bringing it). I was already half in the bag by this point and completely overwhelmed with wine selection. I am sure it was awesome though. I feel a bit of shame.

1987 Ridge Monte Bello – And so we come to it…the legend itself. What can I say…perfection. Absolutely seemless, this was a breathtaking wine. Still youthful in its delicious blackberry and currant fruit, but with a complexity that can only come with age. Moist tobacco mingled with deep tones of fresh earth, cedar and dusty cherry. This is one of those wines you experience rather than taste, gliding across the palate like a soft ocean breeze. Stunning. This is what wine is all about.

Once the dust had settled and the smoke had cleared our humble group had left in our wake no less than thirteen large pizza’s, four jugs of beer and the hollowed remnants of one of the greatest line-ups of wine in which I had ever partaken. Although the rest of the evening (which continued on at several further locations until the wee hours of the morning) is shrouded in a fine haze, that time spent in the company of dim lighting, amazing friends and unforgettable wines will continue to bring a smile to my face for years to come.



*Edit* I made an error which I have corrected stating that the hill of Corton was the only Grand Cru site in the Cotes du Beaune…which is completely false. It is the only Grand Cru site for red wine. Thanks for catching that Al…I was just checking to see if you were paying attention of course.


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