Last Friday Night’s Wine Orgy

Last Friday was the kind of night this wine-lover lives for, with one exception: the absence of my wife and kids. They’d gone up to Napa early for the weekend, and I’d stuck around so I wouldn’t miss the Saturday farmers’ market at the San Francisco Ferry Building. An old friend called, Jon Pageler, who does North American communications for Diageo, the wine and spirits giant. Jon got me into wine in the first place, years back: Every time he opened great bottles, I was the guy in the room who swooned. Over time, he hooked me up with wine-education junkets, to kick-start my wine-writing career, and helped me get deals on good wines, to build a small cellar.

Jon lives in Manhattan now, so it was great to hear from him, and also to learn that a bunch of our old crowd was game for a dinner together: Clara Jeffery, coeditor of Mother Jones magazine; her (male) domestic partner; treasured old friends Kate and Jamie. One thing led to another, all very last minute, Jon bought a bunch of beautiful dry-aged rib-eyes, and we cooked up a feast at my place. Nothing fancy, just big, bad steaks and tons of wine and a home, so we could linger and drink all night. When Jon arrived early, I had a great excuse for poking around my makeshift wine cellar and pulling out fun bottles—anything he wanted, was the idea.

Jon’s curiosity took us to a Prosecco I’d just received in the mail, a flight of massive Peter Lehmann wines from the Barossa, an even more massive PiƱa Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (“I love mountain fruit,” Jon said), and a Pine Ridge Fortis, which was flat-out astonishing, a huge and complex red that started strong, burst into glory around the midpalate, and trailed off into lingering reverie.

“Oh God, it’s been too long since I had a serious Napa thing,” Jon exclaimed, tasting the Fortis.

But the wine I want to call out just now is the curious outlier in the group, the one white, the Prosecco. I love Prosecco; cheap ones are often just fine, and they’re a great way to start the night off on a sparkling note, while keeping the price point casual. But this one was better than that: It was downright attention-grabbing.

Caposaldo Prosecco VSAQ Brut
Grapes: 100 percent Prosecco
Aging: Not relevant to this wine style
Alcohol: 11.5 percent (blessedly low!)
Price: $14.99
My Tasting Notes: As I’ve said, I’m a big Prosecco fan, but this might be the best one I’ve ever had. Now, I’ve never done an exhaustive tasting of the varietal, but I’ve only occasionally been truly knocked out by a Prosecco; I’m usually just quite pleased, on my way to a nice buzz, enjoying the light and refreshing quaff. This wine, though, had us all refilling our glasses—even Jon, who kept putting down his various reds, pausing in his comparisons, and picking up the Caposaldo bottle to imprint the label on his memory. I wouldn’t want to speculate on various fruits and flowers, so I’ll just say that it was beautifully dry, bright, bready in a nice way, and balanced, with subtle complexity.