Recently, Meredith decided to tackle the epic challenge of organizing my wine refrigerator.
I’ve known this needed to be done for some time because I know how important it is to store your wines well so they hold up and show out when the time is right. So the state of my wine cooler was never about me not caring — it was more about the fact that I’m always adding new wines!
But as she was pulling out all of my wines, she came across a bottle of 1996 Rabbit Ridge Merlot, and just the mere mention of the name of that wine flooded me with memories.
It’s not a wine label you’ll likely ever hear showing up in a collector’s stash of favorites. When I bought it, I’m fairly sure it retailed for around $10.00. Yet that bottle of wine holds a great deal of value to me because it represents a really happy season of my life.
Back in the late 90s, I used to entertain all the time. I lived on an island in Florida called Siesta Key, and having a bunch of my golf buddies comes over for dinner was something I did often. I’d get fresh scallops to pop on the grill, and, of course, grilling steak for the main course is still kind of a given. And over time, my friends and I had started to make a pretty big dent in my wine collection!
At that time, it was so easy for me to pull out a bottle of Caymus or Silver Oak — because I had that kind of Cab collection going. I had what you might call a wine fridge filled with “expense account wines” that everyone had heard of because they were worth a lot and had a great reputation. But the truth is, I had started to get a lot more curious about wine around that time, and I knew there was so much more to it than sticking with a big label or price tag. So my friends and I decided to set up a challenge:
Who could discover the best bottle of wine for $10?
This shift in how we added wine to our time together ended up being so much fun, and every guy in my golf group seemed to jump into the challenge with real passion! We discovered all kinds of great wines that summer and every meal at my house was filled with great conversations about the wines we were drinking, and I know we all learned a lot.
I was the first one to discover the Rabbit Ridge Merlot — and the very first time I served it, everyone agreed it was amazing. It had all the hallmarks of a beautiful Merlot that I understand now — like a medium body with light floral notes on the nose, but satisfying berry flavors on the palate. And a good Merlot typically has elongated tannins that make it super food-friendly, but also a red you can drink with an eclectic menu!
So I kept buying Rabbit Ridge that summer — just so I’d have plenty in my everyday stash of wines. But then two things happened:
When Mere pulled out that bottle of wine and then asked me if it was an “everyday wine” or a “keeper,” it didn’t take me but a second to decide it needed to be kept. The truth is, I can’t imagine it tastes very good at this point. Cheaper wines don’t typically age as well as more expensive bottles do. But that Rabbit Ridge is so valuable to me because it contains a memory of a time in my life I’ll never experience the same way again.
Someday, when one of my buddies from the island comes out to visit me here in the California Wine Country, I do think I’ll pull out that bottle and open it up with some scallops on my grill. And when I do, I know that no matter how that wine drinks all these years later, the memories it will bring back to me will make this $10.00 bottle of wine taste priceless to me.