A month before my son Finn was born, I went to see my old friend Jim Mocny. I was the sometimes “honorary Mocny brother” in a band he used to have with his brother Richard. If Rich couldn’t make a gig, I filled in on drums. Jim and I got along well because he never asked me to rehearse. I’ve sat in with Bo Diddley on stage, and jammed with B.B. King’s and Prince’s bands and my old friend Herbie Hancock. For me, drumming, like wine, is best when a product of its environment and not too contrived. The terroir of a given year – the soil, the weather, the feel of a growing season – makes wine interesting. It’s like, if you will, a fantastic jam session. (Though I’m not always a fan of “jammy” wines; but that for another time.)
Jim, a musician and teacher by trade, bought a modest house on a main road in Aurora, Ohio a few years back, fixed it up and turned it into a gorgeous wine bar. It’s sophisticated, but with a country atmosphere that suits Jim, an outdoorsman and fisherman type.
I’ve been to James Place a few times, once to chat and once to sit on the back patio and sing along with Jim as he played his guitar. Lydia and I have been there, as well – it’s the kind of place a woman feels comfortable, being about as far from a punch-palace dive bar as you can get, but without pretence.
Last December, Jim thrust a bottle of wine in my hand as I was leaving. “To celebrate when your son is born,” he said. “I know you love Bordeaux.”
It was a 2005 Chateau Lacombe Bordeaux. About a week after Finn was born, when I regained some equilibrium from experiencing the greatest day of my life, Lydia and I opened it.
For my tasting notes I hastily wrote, “opens with a hint of chocolate; moves to mineral, earthy, tangerine, leather.” Then I just enjoyed the glass and the hell with tasting notes. My amazing son was sleeping peacefully, Lydia was sharing a taste of the Bordeaux with me (we bottle feed), and all was right with the world.
That Jim had given us a 2005 only added to the visceral pleasure that is drinking a Bordeaux: 2005 is, according to the book, “The Wines of France,” by Jacqueline Friedrich, a Bordeaux vintage that’s “superb across the board – the vintage of a generation.”
Indeed, this Chateau Lacombe, which is a moderately priced bottle (yet more than the under $10 bargains I regularly search for; see below), could not have been better for celebrating two generations of Lax men. (That said, the 1952 – my birth year – Bordeaux is considered “old and rare.” Ouch.)
Bordeaux, a vast area of nearly 250,000 acres is located in Southwest France. It’s been home to some of the finest vineyards in the world. It’s an often-imitated wine, but I’ve not found anything quite like it from anywhere else. Though I enjoy white Bordeaux, it’s the reds that have an unmistakable allure. Bordeaux producers commonly combine Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes, sometimes adding some Petit Verdot grapes for spicy measure.
If you’re new to French wines, I suggest beginning with Bordeaux. You can be assured of a noble tradition and winemaking skill; French wines have been drunk for at least 2,500 years. Experience and age in wine, and sometimes in life, have their place.
Scott Lax is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and film maker. He and his fiancé, Lydia, had Scott’s first child – and Lydia’s third – in January 2011 and call Cleveland, OH, home. Learn more at Scott’s blog.