It's interesting. I love drinking good wine. But I love just as much sharing good wine. That may sound obvious, but it's taken me a while to fully appreciate it. In my "early wine days" I recall standing in the cellar pondering what wine to choose to serve friends who were coming over. I'd sometimes reach for something special...and then flinch. That bottle was for a "special occasion." Eventually, I came to realize that the opportunity to share that with friends was a special occasion! There are probably a couple of underlying reasons for that evolution.
I don't question the fact that I have more "special bottles" in the cellar than I used to have plays some role. But perhaps more important, the definition of a special bottle has evolved. Once upon a time, that definition would have included factors such as cost and the ratings from sources such as Robert Parker and Wine Spectator. "Wow! That one's a 97!" Today, cost and ratings would play no part. One of the bottles in the picture above is pretty expensive and I believe has pretty high ratings. The other two bottles cost ~$20 each and I have no idea if the wine has even been rated. I don't really care what critics think. I care what I think. That's probably a natural evolution as my own knowledge has expanded.
I also expect that the fact that my two simultaneous cancers, and resultant projected limited life expectancy, played a role in my "awakening." My friends "threat" to put yellow stickies on the good bottles in my cellar so they could claim them when I was gone was meant to be humorous--and it did make me smile. But it also made me realize that there was a downside to thinking a bottle was
"too special to open." Life is too short to continually be putting off drinking "the good stuff." (To be clear, the diagnosis was ~12 years ago and I'm still here--like Scrooge, given an opportunity to change).
But more than anything, I think it has simply been the experience of sharing good bottles--and enjoying it--that has changed my perspective. That probably began with events I attended where people share wine. Washington DC's annual Heart's Delight series of events includes a Collectors Dinner, where each participant brings one or more very special bottles to share with his or her table. I've attended each of those dinners--and learned a lot. People brought forward some amazing wines. And, over time, that made me step up my game. I started thinking more about what constituted great wine...and bringing better wine. And as I did, I found that offering people wine that brought a smile to their faces made me happy.
I've also attended the last eight IPNCs (International Pinot Noir Celebration) in Oregon. Bringing wine to the dinners to share with friends and tablemates is absolutely not required--IPNC provides lots of wine. But many experienced veterans of IPNC do bring bottles--some, lots of bottles. When I first encountered that, it confused me--I pulled aside a winemaker to ask if I needed to go find some wine to bring. She laughed and told me to relax. I did. But the next year, I brought a few bottles. Good ones. And I enjoyed sharing them. And people shared with me. The next year, I brought better. And so on.
Slowly, the light went on. That sharing is not limited to public events. When good friends visit, it's a chance to share something I think they'll really enjoy. And that's the measure of merit. Will it make them smile. So, seeing friends enjoy the very refreshing 2017 Ameztoi Rubentis Tzakolina (rosé) by the pool was as rewarding as watching them enjoy the magnum of highly regarded 2010 Rhys Pinot Noir at the table. It didn't matter that one cost less than $20 and one cost more than $200.
So my perspective has become not "Is this occasion special enough to open this?" My question has become "Isn't this an opportunity to open something special?"