Yesterday was an important landmark in the history of my wine collection. I opened the above bottle, a 3 liter Schug Pinot Noir, circa 2003. I have bought several such large format bottles and, as I complained in prior blogs, I have not found any occasion to open them.

The bottle has a special history. In 2006, when I bought it, I was in Yountville for a business retreat, and it happened to be during a special “Winter in Carneros” event, where one can register, pay a fee and for two days go winery hopping in the region. We did this, and ended up at Schug, a winery at the crossroad where Carneros Highway ends in a T. Schug has a tiny tasting room, and it is well respected for its pinot noirs. On this occasion Schug had opened its winery and had multiple food and tasting stations spread out in their more spacious  barrel room.

During this tasting I found myself in a lengthy conversation about European wines with a white haired older server who had a slight German accent. He seemed to know his Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers well. By now a bit tipsy and disinhibited, I noticed several large format bottles nearby and the idea of buying one hit me. At the time I owned none. I asked this man how much it was, and agreed to buy it. Soon we were in the main tasting room and the bottle came to me without a label. We waited a few more minutes for the label to be printed and applied on. In the meanwhile my wife Julie and our friends Archie and Alice who were tasting with us joined me, waiting for the bottle ritual to end.

The white haired man who stayed with me during all this then took a pen and began signing the bottle. I turned to my friends and asked, “why is this guy signing my bottle?” They chuckled and Archie said, “that’s Mr. Schug himself.” “Oh”, I said, turning to Mr, Schug who was also smiling, “I thought you were some minimum wage weekend hire.” He was quite gracious, and took my cluelessness with good humor. We warmly shook hands and the bottle came home, waiting for an occasion.

As years went by and none were in sight, I finally decided to take an admonishment from the movie “Sideways”. In a memorable scene where Miles tells Maya that he possesses a 1961 Cheval Blanc, and that he can’t find any occasion to open it, Maya responds, “heck, when you open that bottle, this in itself is the occasion.” And so it indeed goes. We had a few family members over for a pool party, and I decided this would be the occasion. I invited Archie and Alice who, fortunately were available. We served the bottle to a group of 8, and as expected there was some left over for a nightcap after the guests were gone.

The wine was quite interesting. It was clearly old, lighter in color and brown around the edges in the glass. It had a distinctly earthy nose that I associate with French Burgundies. Yet it was boldly fruit forward, a California characteristic. It had a hint of sweetness in the mid palate, also very New World, and good acid in the finish. Archie thought the fruit was a bit past its prime, but it was still very drinkable. Everyone liked it.

Opening the bottle was no problem. Just a regular corkscrew did it. One can’t just pour into multiple wine glasses out of such bottles. The wine has to be served into a decanter that one keeps refilling as it runs low.

Having thus gone over the hump of a virgin experience with a 3 liter, I can now look forward to opening more, including a 2005 Schug Pinot Noir which will be next in line. Stay tuned for future reports.