I have a birthday this week, and I’m going to be old. Seriously, if I don’t die of old age before I’m finished writing this, I will officially be the oldest person you’ve ever known. Like, take the most ancient person on the planet, add 37 years to that, and that’s how old I’m going to be.
Getting older sucks. Yeah, I’ve heard all the platitudes: “You’re only as old as you feel,” and “age is only a number.” Unfortunately, none of them resonate as much as, “Mother of God, you’re how old?” And don’t tell me I’m overreacting. You know what other aging people do? They fill a needle with Botulism and inject it in their face. Over and over again. I would say wallowing in self-pity is downright healthy, comparatively.
At least this is not a “Round Year,” like 20 or 30, because I’m in no mood for the agonizing self-reflection that typically accompanies Round Year birthdays. Napoleon was 30 when he became the First Consul of The Republic of France. By age 30, I had been promoted from “That Guy In The Cubicle On The Left” to “That Guy With An Office Next To The Cubicles.” This called for a 9.2 event on the Richter Scale of Failure, so I spent my 30th birthday in Sedona trying to work through my Success Dysmorphia with the Hopi Indians. I shit you not.
One of the fun things I’ve done in the past on my friends’ Round Year birthdays is to buy them a bottle of wine that was made the year they were born. I did this for my buddy Troy not long ago, and the obvious symbolism helped to take the suicidal edge off of turning the Big Four-Oh. It’s like saying, hey, you are not an Ensure-guzzling, Depends-wearing, decaying meat-stick of a human being, but rather a bold yet elegant creature, soft and balanced, truly refined and aged to perfection.
To tell you the truth, though, I could really use with some of that positive-thought action. My last Round Year birthday was the worst – think of being in paradise with someone who’d rather be there with someone else – so warm, cozy feelings of being soft and balanced and refined and elegant are just what the psychiatrist ordered. So, I decided I would splurge and get myself something from vintage 1964, decant that bad dog for five hours, suck it down with an over-priced hunk of artery-hardening cow flesh and bask in the awesomeness that is My Year.
My first thought was to get a Bordeaux, because they’re usually the safest bet for longevity. When it comes to food, wine, sex and head-removal, the French pretty much perfected it all about 400 years ago. I then looked up some reviews on the 1964 vintage and here’s what I found, courtesy of The Wine Cellar Insider:
1964 Bordeaux wine was slated to be the product of a stunning year with warm spring, even flowering and a warm, dry summer. By the start of an almost perfect September, the French Ministry of Agriculture had declared the vintage would be great, if not one of the best Bordeaux wine vintages in history!
Awwwwwyeah…1964 in the house, bitches. Say. My. Name.
Everything was going great until October 8, when the heavy rain began to fall and never stopped. It rained non stop for weeks. Several growers delayed picking, hoping the rain would stop. It didn’t. Many producers waited as long as they could to harvest, hoping for more maturity in the fruit. In the Medoc, the harvest was conducted in dreary, wet, sunless and often rainy conditions. However, that was not the same for Pomerol and select chateau in St. Emilion. Because Pomerol picked before the heavy rains, many of the 1964 remain stunning today. But the wines of the Left Bank are for the most part, green, rustic and dilute.
Alright. Well. Maybe just whisper my name, or kind of mention it in passing…
But hey, I’m a half-full-wine glass kind of guy, so I just disregarded that whole “green, rustic and dilute” thing and went straight to finding a 1964 Pomerol. And here’s what I found:
Do you want to know the definition of irony? If you work in the wine business, you can’t afford to buy great wine. I have heard that some wine bloggers get free wine because of how awesome and popular their blogs are, so I sent a letter to Jean-Pierre Moueix at Petrus and asked for a comp. It’s a good thing I took four years of French in college, because I didn’t have to waste a lot of time translating “you’re out of your fucking mind.”
If I had five thousand bucks to spend on a bottle of wine, I totally would. I’m not that much of a Stuff & Things Guy, but if I was rich, I’d blow money out the wazoo on experiences: Every First Growth Bordeaux, every Grand Cru Burgundy, every overpriced Napa cult Cabernet would be a nightly fixture on my crappy IKEA dinner table. But as I’m not part of the 1% at this time, I had to explore my options. After some deep digging, I did in fact find a variety of 1964 vintages from Barolo to Napa, a good many at prices averaging around $200.00.
When it came time to pull the trigger, however, I couldn’t do it. I was afraid to. The truth is, it’s very likely that any wine from 1964 that costs less than $1,000.00 has probably gone bad. There are the obvious outward signs, of course, like damp corks and seepage and damaged labels and shoulder-fills, but in many respects it’s impossible to tell if a wine has gone south until you pop the cork and taste it, at which point you may have just dropped a couple of grand for 750 milliliters of pure liquid suck. Most often, you’re paying the big bucks for a bottle that’s been stored properly its entire life and not subjected to the conditions that can make a wine turn.
I cannot say the same for me. As much money as I’ve spent in my life, I have been subjected to heat, subjected to cold, shaken, dropped, left out in the sunlight and stored improperly on countless occasions. My front label isn’t nearly as flawless as it was thirty years ago and, well, I won’t go there with the seepage metaphor. Yet, the same things that easily destroy the character of a wine can potentially build the character of a person. Better still, a person who has gone bad can sometimes go good again, whereas the same can’t be said for wine. It makes me think that if people had vintages, they should be the opposite of a wine’s – it’s the year you taste it, not the year it was made. Vintage 1997 Me was brash, explosive, confident and bold; Vintage 2013 Me was bitter, reserved, tannic and unrefined. As I dive into my fifth decade in this bottle, it feels like John Taylor, Vintage 2016, is ready to kick some ass again.
Officially Becoming The Oldest Male Homosapien On Planet Earth Pairs With: Le Haut-Medoc de Haut-Bages Liberal, 2009. I couldn’t take the chance that My Year produced a bottle of shit-brown, prune-flavored vinegar, So I got me a bottle of the wine that has spoken to me for most of my adult life. It’s one of the first Bordeaux I drank on my Big Three-Oh; it was part of my introduction to French wines, which was a huge turning point in my life; it’s a wine I equate not just with good memories, but powerful ones. And what does the Wine Cellar Insider say about the 2009 vintage?
2009 Bordeaux wine is the sexiest, most opulent vintage I have tasted from the region –
Whoawhoawhoa, stop right there! That’s all I need to hear.
In the end, what sucks about getting old isn’t the grey hairs, the self-pity, the bad knees or the boner pills, it’s the inescapable conclusion that there are fewer days ahead of me than behind me. And despite the fact that The Universe has been known to subject me to the occasional Cleveland Steamer, I’m digging this party, and I have little interest in seeing what happens after the cops come and shut it down. It especially doesn’t help that I have this fear that, upon my Great Passing, I’ll have been wrong about this whole God thing and my personal hell will be performing in an Eagles tribute band that plays an empty lounge at the Comfort Inn & Suites off Highway 10 in South Fork for all eternity. If I’m lucky, maybe the smart kids at Google will develop an app that will allow me to upload my eternal essence into my iPhone 19S, but in the meantime, I’m sticking with the idea that a
bottle glass of wine each day is the key to longevity.