Running and Drinking and Toasting
On saturday morning of last week my wife’s uncle was finally able to rest after a hard fought battle with cancer. He died peacefully at his home with his family at his side, RIP.
Two of his favorite pasttimes were having a drink and running, something he combined quite admirably into a running group, who said about themselves that they are “a drinking club with a running problem” and that they could do “a mile in 6, and a six pack in 20” (a few can run faster than that, the group consisting of many top flight runners, and no doubt many could drink faster than that).
One of his last wishes on earth was that his family and friends participate in one of the traditions of the running club; the toast. I have heard competing theories on where the tradition of toasting originated, from the practical matter of proving to one’s guest that the wine they were about to drink wasn’t poisoned to the more gustatory matter of Greek noblemen added burnt bread to cheap wine to take the bite out at official functions where they were required to raise a glass in honor of the state, or a 17th century custom of added spiced bread to wine. All seem entirely probable, and all could be apocryphal, but all three are interesting enough to be worth mentioning.
So what does one drink when you’re toasting someone whose last wish was to have you raise your glass? you break out the good stuff of course. My wife and i pride ourselves on keeping a small esoteric collection of bottles around the house in our loose collection of boxes we call a cellar. While we have a lot of very interesting bottles, there are few we could call truly exceptional, given our youth and income. One bottle we did have that was unconditionally excellent, as well as being one of the most interesting wines we own, was a single bottle of 1997 Château Musar, which is the most famous wine of the small wine industry in Lebanon. Château Musar has endured almost completely uninterrupted in a country that has seen both the best of times and the worst of times and what’s more they have maintained a consistent level of quality. If there is a better bottle to open on a special occasion, I haven’t found it.
Serge Hochar, the winemaker at Musar, has long been a proponent of terroir based wine making, and has limited the use of sulphur in his wine making, as well as employing the use of wild yeasts, three practices that have led to wild shifts in the nature of his wines from year to year (if you haven’t figured it out already i applaud all three efforts in a wine making industry that has begun to collapse into it’s own monotastealso please read this excellent piece from Decanter on Musar).
Château Musar 1997, Bekaa Valley Lebanon, 50 Dollars US
Chateau Musar (the name of the winery as well as the name of their top red) is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, carignan, grenache, and mourvèdre which is an odd a blend as your going to find outside of the occasional novelty gewurtz blend. The first thing that comes to mind when smelling the wine is cedar smoke, leather and dates. The wine has some pie spices (though not enough to call it spicy, per se), dried apicots and prunes and a good amount of acid to control the fruit. it finishes like it starts, a lingering smokiness that recall after meal pipes and cigars.
An outstanding wine to honor an outstanding friend and family member. So I’ll leave you with the running club’s toast “here’s to dan, raise your glass, here’s to Dan, he’s a horse’s ass.”
What to listen to: Turn the music down, you’re toasting.
What to eat: Lamb is the best choice.
Where to buy: Here