Ramblings: Wedding wine

First off, please allow me to apologize to Julian for being conspicuously absent from these pages for what feels like two months: I sent out my wedding invitations just over two months ago, I began a job at a new company four weeks ago, and I’ve been busier than I ever have been for months as a result.

Thankfully, the firestorm is now over. I’m slowly returning to my usual routine of drinking wine thoughtfully and writing about the experience of it (as opposed to just hunkering down with a glass of something a couple of nights a week and not bothering to write about it). Julian, thank you for keeping things running smoothly here at Full Pour. Oh, and apologies in advance: the honeymoon is in three weeks, so I’ll be disappearing again for a while shortly… 🙂

When I decided to get married, I decided to do everything at my home here in San Diego. After all, our weather is predictably beautiful and I’m fortunate to have a small back yard with a fairly beautiful garden. Of course, once the invitations were printed, the next thing up was “how the heck am I going to feed and water one hundred guests?” To keep costs down (wait – I mean “to give it a more personal touch”) I thought it’d be good to source everything from within my ZIP code (that would be 92104 – North Park, San Diego), which meant trips to Eclipse Chocolat and Schatzi’s Catering to set up food and wedding favors. My buddy Henry offered to bake the grooms’ cake and my friend Chris delivered Sprinkles cupcakes from Beverly Hills (what would a wedding in Southern California be without the obligatory trendy dessert du jour, you ask?). All that was left to me was the beverage service.

This is a list of what was drunk over the course of the entire weekend, along with tasting notes (if I remember much of anything about the wines; I didn’t write anything down at the time) and other notes that I think may place things into context.

The basic ground rules of serving wine at a wedding – to me, at least – would be these:

  • If you’re serving Champagne, it had better be cold.
  • Don’t go by your own tastes – think about your guests.
  • Don’t forget children and teetotallers – not everyone drinks wine.
  • Visual presentation counts, so don’t grab odd lots from your cellar.
  • Spending a lot of money is of questionable taste and effectiveness; most people won’t remember the wine, and ostentation isn’t worth it.

In addition, I have now learned that you should have more water on hand that you ever imagined if you are holding a wedding under the Californian sun. Thankfully, I live two blocks from a supermarket, so a scouting party headed over to fetch another hundred bottles (it took five minutes total). Yes, I had amazing guests.

Anyhow! Back to the wedding. First of all, I married a fellow Californian, so Champagne was right out of the question. I had originally wanted to go with Costco rosĂ© Champagne because it’s delicious and also vaguely cheeky (Costco, after all, isn’t exactly elegant – but their pink Champagne is very, very good). That was vetoed immediately, so I had a quick look at the major Californian labels: Mumm, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer. I’d just had Chandon Étoile rosĂ© at a public wine tasting a few weeks back and it kind of sucked – too sweet, too bland – and Gloria Ferrer’s label isn’t the snazziest, so I went with Mumm. At $12 a bottle, two cases nicely covered our 110 guests (we had 2 bottles left over afterwards). I had some two days after the wedding: it was as good as any other $12 California sparkling wine, and the color was a beautiful pink. The guests generally liked it very much, although it was definitely a touch too dry for the standard American palate. Mumm CuvĂ©e M would have been more widely acceptable, but I didn’t like the label (too blue) or the taste (too sweet). That being said, it’s probably an overall better choice for weddings.

Up next: I’ve often seen weddings where the couple actually getting married has a separate, fancy bottle that they use for their own toast. Being generally shameless, I figured that this was a great idea, so I joined the Mumm Napa wine club (there was no other way to get it) to get some Mumm Napa DVX rosĂ© for the grooms. The DVX rosĂ© was delicious, really – elegant mousse, kind of a strawberries on brioche thing – and (most importantly) the bottle was very beautiful.

We also needed two or three cases of wine on hand to serve with dinner – and I didn’t want to buy any more, so I raided my own cellar for anything that was moderately good and (more importantly) I had a lot of. This is what I decided on:

  • White: 2002 Mitchell Watervale riesling
  • Red #1: 2002 Jacob’s Creek Reserve shiraz
  • Red #2: 2002 Rosemount GSM

A couple of notes here: I guessed that folks would mostly want red wine, and that was true. Only 4 bottles of the white were served, but 18 bottles of the red went out the door. I didn’t taste any of these three, so I’ll only go by what guests had to say: the caterers (who were German) very much liked the riesling, most guests absolutely loved the Jacob’s Creek (which I suspected – it really is a good wine, and it’s good for most people because it’s less tannic than others), and the wino geeks present very much dug the Rosemount, although they also noted it was better with the food.

Oh! As we spent most of 2002 in Australia, it was also important to me to have Australian wines only with dinner, all of them from 2002.

Now, we can move on to the eclectica. The night before the wedding, we celebrated with a sort-of bachelors’ party: after sharing a couple of pizzas, we moved on to these wines:

  • Rockford Shiraz 2000, 2001 (half bottles)
  • Luigi Bosca Gala 1 and Gala 2 (malbec and cabernet blends)
  • Ridge Monte Bello 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 (half bottles)
  • 2004 Hamilton Russell pinot noir
  • 2004 J. K. Carriere Anderson Family pinot noir
  • 2004 Ridge Geyserville (magnum)

It was a special night – what can I say – so we busted out the good stuff. My short take on all of this was that the J. K. Carriere outshone everything else by a mile. I pulled it out of the cellar by accident – I had originally meant to share that bottle with you, Julian – but I decided to just go for it and open it. That is one of the two best pinot noirs I have ever tasted (the other being a Bouchard Finlayson from South Africa): it had everything going on. People just fell in a hushed reverie when they tasted that. Amazing.

The Hamilton Russell was okay but was probably just suffering by comparison. The Geyserville was predictably good. The Monte Bello was lovely, but really demands more time in bottle (for the 2001 especially). I loved the 2004 right now, though. The Rockfords found favor with my brother in law Tom, who’s a chef – I think he appreciated the distinction and originality of the wine. Finally, no one bothered to finish the Gala 2, although the Gala 1 disappeared almost immediately. I didn’t try either so I wouldn’t know what to say.

Saturday night after the wedding I sat down with a small group of friends: my neighbor, old friends I hadn’t seen in years, and three people whom I had never previously met. We stayed up for a couple of hours talking – it was lovely – and went through these bottles:

  • 2002 Grosset Polish Hill
  • 2002 Steingarten
  • 2002 mesh
  • 2000 Clonakilla shiraz viognier (magnum)

It was truly a beautiful way to end the evening. The Grosset riesling was harsh, demanding, and very very strange; everyone else was unfamiliar with the general style (dry Aussie riesling) and I think it’s safe to say that no one particularly liked it. The Steingarten by comparison was powdery soft, lemony, elegant… and then the mesh blew the other two out of the water. It was almost a synthesis of the other two: style and power, soft and mineral, hard nose, long, gentle finish. That was a truly beautiful bottle of wine and a wonderful experience to share with friends.

Finally, to close it all down, to say goodnight, I went for the bottle that I had long ago decided I would drink on my wedding day: the Clonakilla. We bought that bottle from Mr. Tim Kirk himself back in 2002 and hand-carried it all the way back to San JosĂ©. I babysat it through our subsequent move to Washington state and then drove it down to San Diego last year; I put it in the front seat footwell to make sure it would stay cool until I could get it into a wine storage locker. It’s been there for six years and now it’s stained and empty.

How did it taste? Beautiful. It’s a melancholy wine, really; there’s still a hint of sourness and decay among the petals, but very, very little. Temperamentally it’s a lot like J. K. Carriere pinot noir: minimal winemaker intervention, elegant taste, moderate alcohol, everything in perfect balance. I don’t know why I don’t drink their wines more often: that is something I aim to work in the future. It’s been fun trying dozens of oddball wines, and I suspect I’ll always enjoy it, but when I know with moderate certainty that a J. K. Carriere, Ridge, or Clonakilla wine will truly move me, shouldn’t I be drinking more of those?

After a quick detour into beer territory on Sunday – we had a small after party at an elegant brasserie called The Hole (oh, who am I kidding – it’s a dive bar over near the airport) – I went back home and got ready for the final toast of the weekend.

At some point during the wedding – I was busy with guests and didn’t notice – someone snuck in to the party, filled up the sink in the laundry room with ice, and deposited two bottles of 2000 Cristal. I didn’t notice until I went to get the Clonakilla much later in the evening, only to discover it hiding underneath the Cristal. My first though: Cristal? WTF? I mean, in my house? I had briefly considered splurging and buying a bottle the week before – I mean, if your wedding isn’t the right time to blow $250 on a bottle of wine, when is? – but caught myself about to do something stupid, and stopped.

We chilled that bad boy down, put out five glasses, and shared it with three of our closest friends. It was a truly special moment, thankfully unsullied by gratuitous Showgirls references. As for the wine itself: yes, I can see why it would cost that much. The bead was spot on, the mousse beautiful, the packaging and color of the wine truly elegant. Taste-wise it had an awful lot of the breadiness that I love so much – and most intriguingly a sort of oyster-esque quality to it (iodine perhaps). It kept going and going on the after palate, and it got better as it warmed up a bit (note to self: ice bucket for only 10 minutes next time, not 15). It was fantastic.

We then moved on to pizza in the back yard. We next had a bottle of 2002 Giaconda shiraz which I found terribly disappointing – $80 for what I have no idea. It might have required more time, or decanting, or something. It wasn’t bad, just kind of… average. (I’ve had their chardonnay once and that was truly special, hence my disappointment here.)

We followed it up with a bottle of 2002 Ridge syrah (I think; I need to double-check some pictures; if it was, Julian, then that was the matching twin to the one we shared in Sydney way back when), which had a strange yeasty flavor to it. I didn’t finish my glass; most of it wound up down the sink. And then we were done: every good weekend has to come to an end, after all!

3 thoughts on “Ramblings: Wedding wine

  1. Gosh, wish I was there for any of those nights. Great wine slections at all points, at least for those I’m familiar with. Jacob’s Creek reserve shiraz is a great choice for a wedding wine in good vintages (02 and 04 most recently), for the reasons you spoke of.

    Interesting on the Grosset front. They can be very confronting if unfamiliar (as, once again you mentioned), but I would suspect the 2002 would need more time to show its real worth. The 2002 clare riesling vintage was a great one for longevity, and the bottles I have tasted from 02 this year were still bubs. Oh, and Congrats by the way, even if it does come from a stranger on the other side of the world 🙂


  2. You do cut a fine entrance, Chris, and this record of your adventures over the past few days is no exception. What a wonderful time and, from your account, a generally excellent set of wines to accompany it. I loved reading this.

  3. Jeremy – first of all, thanks so much for the congratulations! It may be from a stranger in the opposite hemisphere but I still very much appreciate it.

    You’re spot on about the Grosset – at this stage in its evolution it’s frankly kind of difficult to deal with. I had it when it was young and loved it and trust it’ll come around to somewhere less confrontational at some point in the future, but for now the rest of ’em are staying in the cellar where they belong. The 2002 mesh is absolutely beautiful right now, though, and the Steingarten as well (if perhaps not as good as the mesh is).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *