The wine is a rich, dark, golden yellow – much darker than most of the chardonnays I normally drink. Mark takes photos of the bottle before we cut the foil around the top. The cork crumbles as we try to open the bottle. Little pieces scatter to the floor, some damp pieces cling to the corkscrew. I use a knife to flick out small chunks and more cork crumbs. Eventually, what’s left of the cork slips down into the bottle.
We expect it to smell “corky” – that mildewy, bitter, sour smell/taste that coats the back of your tongue. But it doesn’t. The wine smells more like whiskey, robust with a woody taste of alcohol. I look briefly for some muslin to strain it, but we settle for a metal strainer because it’s handy.
I get to finally use a beautiful carafe I’ve lugged through four moves, and we filter the wine into it, to prevent further contamination by the old cork.
“Do you want to drink it?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I say.
The wine, bottled in 1987, came from a winery across the street from a facility where Mark’s great uncle lived. Uncle Herb was a smart man in many ways but very gentle and unable to cope very well with life. He had lived in different facilities for much of his life and once, survived an attack from another resident who’d gone berserk with an axe. Herb died sometime in the 1990s.
On a visit to Herb in 1990, Mark bought the bottle of wine as a gift for me. We set the bottle aside and intended to drink it for a special occasion. Occasions came and went and we never seemed to remember to open it.
About a year ago, Mark found the winery on the Internet and called them to inquire about the now very old bottle of chard. They were very nice but told him they thought the chardonnay wouldn’t have lasted this long. Still somehow we didn’t get around to opening the bottle.
We’re trying to reorganize and yes, get rid of some stuff. Today, Mark decided we should open the wine. We decided that it is, after all, a special occasion – a time to celebrate and remember Uncle Herb.