Holiday travel is worth even the trials and tribulations of delays and crowded conditions when it means time with family and friends. A great coping strategy, when possible, is to turn unexpected circumstances into cause for an impromptu celebration! In today’s case, the key ingredients are bad weather and great wine!
When our day-after-Christmas return flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles was delayed for several hours by snow and sleet — and we had, luckily, found out before leaving for the airport — Michele very graciously brought out a bottle of 2004 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino to turn our delay into delight! There is nothing like a bottle of fine Brunello to turn any circumstance into a special occasion, even an unexpected change in travel plans.
I don’t know enough about winemaking to know what alchemy makes the best Brunello a near-perfect expression of Sangiovese, an entirely different wine (to my palette) than even the very best Chianti. To us in snowbound Pennsylvania it’s hard to imagine a better wine-drinking experience. The wine, at nearly ten years old, is still barely ready to drink, but by now the abundant tannins have smoothed to a point where the texture of the wine is plenty soft, and already with enough structure to carry a complexity, richness, and depth most wines can only envy. The finish is exceptionally rich in mouthfeel, with an unfolding story of tobacco, figs, minerals, and the rich earth of Montalcino that evolves as it lingers longer than seems possible. This is the ideal that most wines aspire to; a glass of great Brunello introduces us to a place we never forget as we journey through other wines. It becomes the standard — and if we’re not prepared to have our standard permanently raised, it might be better not to venture there at all.
So, here’s to flight delays and celebrations, to the quaint hill-town of Montalcino and to that place its finest wines invite us to visit, where rich complexity lingers on the palette until even the most unexpected and annoying travel circumstances are relegated to causes for another raised glass and more delight!