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Wine my brother drinks 4: Peter Michael Les Pavots 1997

image from www.weimax.com My brother Jim is a wine aficionado of some repute, though he hangs out in much more rarefied wine circles than I do. His thoughts on the Peter Michael, a big-name Napa red wine that often shows up at state dinners. It's part of a feature that appears occasionally — Wine my brother drinks. Jim writes:

The late 90's: I was in my late 30s, starting to make money and beginning to grow up. Nicer restaurants, better cars and the dawning realization that there was more to life than Budweiser and the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field.

One night my business partners and I went out to eat at a hot new restaurant that a client of ours had a small stake in. We let the sommelier choose the wine and the rest is history. His selection was the 1997 Peter Michael Les Pavots. I can still remember the explosion of flavor of the first taste — arguably the first time that I had really ever noticed the nuance and complexity of wine and the resulting effect on one's palate. It was love, pure and simple and I was hooked.

More, after the jump:


To make a long story less long, I called the client to rave about the restaurant (it actually was pretty good) and to find out if the restaurant would sell me a couple of bottles of that remarkable wine. He did me one better, sending me to his wine guy, a man who had a wine and cheese business that did some retail but for the most part was a source for restaurants. Thus my education began.

Leonard took me by the hand and walked me through his world, which was heavily French but certainly open minded. The basic tenets he stood by included drink what you like, don't get caught up in what year a wine was produced (all years produce good and bad wine, to classify a wine based on the year it was bottled was just stupid) and when it comes to value, look no further than the Rhones. And most important, when in doubt, drink Champagne. We spent a great deal of time (and my money) and I drank and amassed some really good wines over the years. Leonard is gone now, as is his business, and I miss him.

Leonard got me a case and a half of the 1997 Les Pavots at $85 a bottle (because Leonard could get anything) and I opened one up the other night. Robert Parker had given this a 96, but I discount this a bit because these were the heady times for California cabs. Anything Napa in 1997 was the Holy Grail.

But I wasn't disappointed and it was pretty much as I remembered from that first fateful meeting. A meritage, the '97 is 79 percent cabernet, 12 percent merlot and 9 percent cabernet franc with 14.5 percent alcohol. It was still a huge wine, big and bold with a ton of black fruit and a pleasing finish. The bride called it "thick," as if you could have added water to it and produced a very good table wine. To me it was black fruit and more black fruit, from start to finish, which didn't bother me in the least. Awesome color, deep red/purple so intense you can't see through it with a searchlight.

Our guest liked it, to be sure, but was convinced it was on the downslope of its bottled life. I don't know about that, but it probably would make sense to drink the case I have left sooner rather than later. After all, as I have started to understand after all these years, I bought it to drink and enjoy, not to hoard. Cheers, Leonard.

  • bburnsey

    I guess inexpensive is relative to one’s income. But the same laws hold truth, don’t get too caught up in vintages, and drink the stuff, don’t save it to impress your friends, as it may not be too impressive when it has started to decline in the bottle.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/robbyschrum Robbyschrum

    Great story. I had a similar experience with a 1991 Peter Michael. Will always be on the lookout for something from that producer.
    Though I must disagree regarding your conclusion in paragraph 2. I’m not sure there’s more to life than Budweiser and the Wrigley Field bleachers.

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