Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chateau La Nerthe

When Lindsay and I first began dating we were lucky enough to spend seven weeks in Europe. This was in the middle of that initial rush of a relationship. When every moment and emotion is spent thinking or being with that person. Thus every summer, we always look at each other and say, "Lets go back to Europe." Unfortunately, we have yet to return. Thanks, failing economy.

When we were there, we traveled throughout Europe with a rowdy clan. Every Thursday afternoon, once classes for the week finished, we would rush to the train station in Lyon and in a mangled garble of French, Spanish, English, and arm motions find a train to take us somewhere - Interlaken, Munich, Nice.

One weekend our group rented a 4 door hatchback with standard transmission Peugot and drove towards the Mediterranean following the winding Rhone and into the heart of wine country. We stayed the first night in Orange and in the morning headed a few more miles south to the town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. To my palate, the hearty reds from this region are simply the greatest wines in the world. Of course, we were just morons bouncing from one winery to another. Tasting legendary vintages as if they were beer and purchasing bottles to drink which could have kept resting another ten to fifteen years.

Traveling with us was a dear friend, Ryan LoProto. Now Ryan had a tendency to speak loudly and attract attention. One of the wineries we stopped at was Chateau La Nerthe, a charming property situated about five minutes from the center of the city. We wandered the vineyards walking through rows of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. As the afternoon wore on, the oppressive heat of the afternoon subsided under the canopy of trees surrounding the property. We decided to go on in and nose around.

Entering the cellars of this property, we found no one to greet us. So we just wandered around the cavernous interior of this chiseled hillside. Here were some of the great chefs of France (Alain Ducasse, Paul Bocuse, etc.) with their own mini-cellar of bottles covered in dust, cobwebs, and just sleeping in this catacomb of wine. As we marveled at the enormity of this cellar, Ryan let out a loud scream for one reason or another. Likely he was quoting Family Guy.

This scream shattered the stillness of the damp cellar and alerted the proprietress of the property to our presence. She quickly scolded us and escorted us out of the cellar and into the tasting room. Feeling the need to recompense for our transgressions and trespass, we promptly bought five or six bottles of 2002 Chateau La Nerthe, including a vanilla laced, gravelly white.

Who knows the true value of those wines today or if they were even ready for drinking, but we had the matron open them for us, we sat on the hillside adjacent to the building, and drank every last drop of those bottles before moving on to other things. Tragically, less than a week later, Ryan died in Pamplona, Spain. This event forever flavors our memories of Europe, but I always think of Ryan around this time of the year. Sitting on that hillside, drinking great wine directly out of the bottle, and talking of the future.

Flash forward to last week. I had been looking all over for La Nerthe in the city. One can find it on restaurant wine lists - Juban's in BR has a great selection of the stuff. Finally, I found it sitting on a rack at Elio's. Almost neglected and covered in dust, this wine was just waiting to be discovered. As Lindsay and I are getting married soon, I decided to buy a bottle and give it to her as a gift. When I gave it to her, it was at the end of a long and frustrating day for the both of us. But the revelation of the gift and the memories of that bottle, softened both of our moods. As the car stopped in the driveway, I grabbed the paper bag from the floor. Swinging to my left, I opened the door. The bottle continued its motion forward while a piece of the bag stayed in my hand. There broken and spilling onto the driveway was that bottle of beautiful, deep, red wine flowing towards the drain and away from our house.

"Don't worry, I am sure you can get another one," Lindsay reassured me.

Some things though you can't replace.

8 comments:

flojindamesa said...

GREAT story.

Kevin O'Mara said...

I gotta say, that was a really well-written story. Thank you very much for sharing it.

Kelly said...

Your best story by far!

QB said...

I think I just cried.

MindyMoo said...

Awesome story, with two stunning surprises... just a great read. Thanks.


MindyMoo from Broadmoor

Anonymous said...

I did that in front of Elio's with the whole staff watching... I feel your pain!

tigeratlaw said...

Nicely done. RIP Ryan.

Anonymous said...

Typical Rene!