Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year...and a change in luck

I took Jill out to dinner last night at Spago to celebrate New Year's Eve. Actually, more to say a giant "screw you 2008" but hey, the food was the same.

In 2008, Parker was diagnosed with cone dystrophy, a horrible eye condition that is going to leave her legally blind WITH glasses and with no existing prospects for correction (people, I urge you, support any and all stem cell research). My wife spent a week in the hospital with meningitis. And of course I was diagnosed with incurable cancer (again, support stem cell research). 2008, in short, sucked. Or to use slightly more mellifluous verbiage, as the Queen of England once said in reference to the year where Diana died, 2008 is our "Anno Horribilis."

Luck, it seems, may have started turning already. As you may know, I'm an avid wine collector, with around 4,000 bottles in the cellar. Some of these are relatively inexpensive, many are reasonable, and a few are quite pricey. While I am resolved to beat this disease, I am somewhat mindful that the more expensive wines should be drunk perhaps a bit sooner than I was planning, in part because even if I kick Myeloma one of the things that can happen as a result of therapy is that taste buds can be damaged or destroyed. I might never enjoy wine again.

So I brought one of the gems last night: a 1990 Beasejour-Duffau, which the world's foremost wine critic Robert Parker assigned 100 points and about which he wrote:

I have had the 1990 Beausejour-Duffau a half-dozen times since the in-the-bottle report in Issue #85 (2-28-93). I believe this wine may, in 15-20 years, be considered to be one of the greatest wines made this century. It is in a league with such legends as the 1961 Latour a Pomerol. Beausejour-Duffau's 1990 has always been the most concentrated wine of the 1990 vintage. The color remains an opaque murky purple. The nose offers up fabulously intense aromas of black fruits (plums, cherries, and currants), along with smoke, a roasted herb/nut component, and a compelling minerality. The wine is fabulously concentrated, with outstanding purity, and a nearly unprecedented combination of richness, complexity, and overall balance and harmony. What makes this effort so intriguing is that as good as Beausejour-Duffau can be, I know of no vintage of this estate's wine that has come remotely close to this level of quality. In several blind tastings, I have mistaken this wine for either the 1989 or 1990 Petrus! However, the 1990 Beausejour-Duffau is even more concentrated than those two prodigious efforts. It should be at its best between 2000-2030.

So anyhow, we were enjoying this gem of a wine, having a wonderful dinner, and observing the 30-odd people at three adjoining tables who looked like they were mafiosos. The guy that I assumed was the capo was drinking profusely and at one point started dancing around (I'm thinking at this point it was probably the Greek mob rather than the Cosa Nostra). Anyhow the guy danced right into our table, knocking a bunch of water, our food, etc. on my lap. Thankfully we lost no wine but of course I made a minor fuss out of things and suggested that we grab the remainder of the wine and head home for the evening because I would be upset and unable to have a good time and afraid that if I glared at this guy or his friends we'd be "whacked." :)

Now a few years ago, at an equally nice establishment, the wife had a tureen of lobster bisque dumped on her and the establishment did virtually nothing. After being told that they should be ashamed of themselves, the maitre'd there reluctantly offered to pay for dry cleaning. Pretty pathetic. At any rate, I wasn't assuming we'd get a whole lot more from Spago.

But I was wrong. They cleaned everything up, apologized profusely, brought a complementary split of Krug N.V. champagne (I had brought one for us to the restaurant but that was gone) and advised that the don who knocked the table over wanted to do something nice and had a very good cellar. I said that I'd brought a wine that, were it on their list, would be embarrassingly expensive (and since people seemed to think some of it had spilled -- and perhaps it did -- I did nothing to disabuse them of this notion). The sommelier agreed that my bottle was very nice, but again said the don had a very nice cellar.

At any rate, they brought over a bottle compliments of the don. It was a 1982 Mouton Rothschild, which is about 30% more expensive than even the wine I brought! We took it home and put it in the cellar. Parker writes that this wine, too, is 100 points.

Opaque purple-colored showing absolutely no signs of lightening, Mouton's 1982 is a backward wine. Still tasting like a 4-5 year old Bordeaux, it will evolve for another half century.

At the Philadelphia tasting, it was impossibly impenetrable and closed, although phenomenally dense and muscular. However, on two other recent occasions, I decanted the wine in the morning and consumed it that evening and again the following evening. It is immune to oxidation! Moreover, it has a level of concentration that represents the essence of the Mouton terroir as well as the high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon it contains.

Cassis, cedar, spice box, minerals, and vanillin are all present, but this opaque black/purple Pauillac has yet to reveal secondary nuances given its youthfulness. It exhibits huge tannin, unreal levels of glycerin and concentration, and spectacular sweetness and opulence. Nevertheless, it demands another decade of cellaring, and should age effortlessly for another seven or eight decades.

I have always felt the 1982 Mouton was perfect, yet this immortal effort might be capable of lasting for 100 years! Readers who want to drink it are advised to decant it for at least 12-24 hours prior to consumption. I suggest double decanting, i.e., pouring it into a clean decanter, washing out the bottle, and then repouring it back into the bottle, inserting the cork, leaving the air space to serve as breathing space until the wine is consumed 12-24 hours later. The improvement is striking. The fact that it resists oxidation is a testament to just how youthful it remains, and how long it will last. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2075.

100 years, of which 65 are left and it's not yet begun to be in its prime. There's a message there. In vino veritas.

I bought the man a nice glass of scotch, gave him the last glass of our 1990 Beausejour, and told him he can knock into my table anytime.

Luck, it seems, is changing already. High time for it. And I will be healthy this year.

Happy New Year to you all.


  1. Nick, I just found your blog. My husband, soon to be 45, was dx'ed in March '07. I thought of a bunch of comments to things I read here as I
    have been researching like mad for a long time.
    I can't believe your ins. co.,I guess they are,
    never heard of SJ. He was listed as the best MM
    doc either in this country or the world when Tim was first diagnosed. Nice guy, worth the trip. Also, Dex affects everyone VERY differently. I seem to find women have a real hard time with it and many agree that the hormonal fluctations they go through(AKA PMS)
    is part of it. My husband tolerated it well so
    don't get too scared by things you hear. The man you know who had the allo, did he have MM
    or something else? Sometimes an allo is a much
    better option because it has a high cure rate with certain cancers. In MM, that cure rate is not super high and not well established. Is there a reason why you are not being treated at Cedars Sinai? Real good folks there. I've met and did a phone consult with BD. He is a
    saint and wants so badly just to help patients.
    We took his advice last May over our own spec. who is a top MM doc and we're glad we did. Tim
    is in remission now even after a failed stem cell transplant. Anyway, I agree, 2008 stunk
    My husband did great medically but it was one thing after another all year and I feel as if I've been through the ringer. Hope things go smoothly for you and your family this year. Don't lose hope. A lot of the scary stuff you may have found on the internet when you first started looking may already be outdated. I lost my mind too when I saw stats but I know better now. Oh and one more thing. My husband is NOT sick all the time. Many MM'ers stay pretty healthy, especially the younger folks.
    I had people tell me that he would constantly be ill and that never happened. Stay well,

  2. Denise -

    Thank you so much for your comments!! I am glad to hear your husband is doing well!!

    To answer a few of your questions, I have been advised by several Cedars doctors (SH is Cedars affiliated, as is PZ my general physician, and also SH2 who my friend's father connected me with is a very senior person there in prostate cancer) and all of them told me City of Hope is much better at transplants. SH, in fact, helped establish the program at Cedars and he still recommends City of Hope. So as much as I like most of the Cedars doctors (and I'm looking forward to speaking with BD, even though ML was depressing and not as up on stuff as I'd expect, seemingly) I don't think i'm going to get treated there.

    I hired a firm PinnacleCare that isn't an insurance company -- they are more like a concierge service and they have relationships with many doctors that are considered leaders in the field (KA at Dana Farber is one, for example). They didn't have a relationship with the facility where SJ is located. I'm looking forward to meeting him very much.

    Thank you SO much for your comments -- they are informative and very reassuring. I don't know where you are located but if you are in Los Angeles, perhaps we could get together sometime. If there's anything I can answer that could be helpful to you or Tim, please ask. You are also welcome to email me at

    Thanks again Denise, and Happy New Year -- I hope 2009 brings you and Tim excellent health!



  3. I forgot to mention, my friend's dad did have the allogeneic transplant for MM. And I have a question for you -- when you say the stem cell transplant failed, do you mean it failed to get Tim into complete remission?

    I see also that you are in New Jersey -- that might make lunch a little more challenging logistically. :) But we will be in New York the week of Feb 23rd.

    Thanks again!