One of the things I enjoy most about wine is the opportunity to experience things outside my wheelhouse. A recent score from Benchmark Wines in Napa yielded two such opportunities for learning and exploration: a 1980 Barolo from Ceretto and a 1986 Ribera del Duero from Ibernoble.
Older wines can be a bit of a gamble, as one would expect, but much to our surprise and delight, these wines were still rockin' some 29+ years later. Sure there was the overtone of strawberry bandaids (the result of Brettanomyces, aroma compounds produced by yeast that makes its way into the wine often from poor winery hygiene), but the wines were still unbelievably smooth. The tannins had all but dropped off, the workhorses that they are pulling their weight as preservers of the wine, allowing the fruit to shine with balance.
Another thing I love about wine is the social aspect of bringing friends together to share in the experience of drinking a bottle. I hosted my first formal dinner party with these wines, 10 people, 8 chairs (figure that one out!), 3 roast chickens, 3 lbs of potatoes, and so.many.laughs.