A year to drink while owning
The first year of home ownership is all about groaning and wine
Yesterday the water heater in my country house in upstate New York, there was a leak. The plumber I called laughed when he saw my little 20 gallon tank, which, OK, looks like a toy. He also mumbled something about Rube Goldberg, an apparent reference to the many ducts, tubes, wires, and levers connecting my tank to unknown parts. In the end, it was not only laughable but also irreparable.
After he left, I did what I did to the number of such incidents in my first year of home ownership: I closed the basement door, I went up upstairs, I poured a glass of wine and looked out the window at the loneliness of the woods. In 10 months of owning my 1930s bungalow, I have experienced many such moments, considering not the beauty of my surroundings, but my sanity and the state of my checkbook.
The water heater fiasco marked the first anniversary of the day I found my home after a year of hunting. Four and a half hours after listing, my real estate agent — 90 miles from me in New York City — was in the house to give me a FaceTime visit. Within 30 minutes, I made an offer. The next day it was accepted and I popped a very nice bottle of champagne. It seems like I haven’t stopped drinking since. [JK.]
So, in a sort of ode to my abode, here is a non-empirical but mostly true account of house hunting, repair, and drinking.
The day my offer was accepted. For such an important event, I opened Nyetimber‘s Classic Cuvée, a blend of traditional Champagne grape varieties. Sharing the same chalky soils as this region, it is a good Champagne impostor. This house signature wine is a more off-dry style with some honey, light pastry and earthy notes, the red apple skin and flesh give it both a bit of acidity and roundness.
The day I signed the contract. Because a lot of things could still go wrong before closing time, I didn’t want to party hard. two shepherds Cinsault 2019 sparkling “Bucking Luna” was a fun fizz in a can to be cautiously celebrated until the deal was in the can. The funky/earthy aroma on opening soared into a crisp, lively mouthfeel full of tart cranberry and pomegranate.
The day I closed the house. What should have been a day of celebration was marred by an acrimonious closing. Seller failed to fix a problem she promised to fix, which only came to light on last visit. His controversial lawyer threatened to withdraw from the case. And what was this problem? The water heater. And what did I drink? Although bubbly felt out of place, I felt like a well deserved and the Domain Lange The Willamette Valley “Classic” Chardonnay was delicious balm for my psychic bruises – a round Burgundy-style wine with silky textures, ripe yellow apple, nutty, almond and caramel tones leading to a long, crisp finish. graceful.
The day, 24 hours later, I bought a car. Pro tip: If you’re making two major purchases within 24 hours (and owning a car for the first time in 27 years), you’ll need a little liquid courage. mine was Domaine Cazes Rivesaltes Cuvée Aimé, blend of Grenache Blanc and Grenache, aged 22 years in barrels and 10 years in bottle before release. A delicious and exotic layering of flavors: salted caramel, apple crumb, toffee, figs and candied orange peel.
What I drank on my first night in the new house. We baptize ships, why not baptize houses too? I jumped two household sparklers: Carneros Estate The Dream (2013) and Gloria Ferrier Cuvée Réserve Carneros (2010). Le Rêve was rich, toasty and plush with notes of honey and brioche, lemon compote and baked apples – everything I love in a traditional method wine. And the light, bright Ferrer was a solid expression of zesty citrus, lighter brioche and high minerality with some saline threads through – bright with smoked salmon, capers and olive oil.
What we drank after 2 p.m. in a rental van picked up from Loews, Home Depot, and three IKEA stores. Such an exhausting day, my partner and I needed two bottles. Number 1 was Venturini Baldini Ca’ del Vento Lambrusco rose (Emilia Romagna) was a fun lift at the end of the day with a brick oven takeaway pizza. Tart strawberry, some light yeasty notes like crackers, some anise. Fresh and fun. No. 2 was a Texas high plains sangiovese from Draw lost, a soft, silky style unimpeded by oak and with just the right hint of sour cherry and young strawberry. Bright and high.
What we drank with my first guests on Memorial Day weekend, after sleeping on gradually deflating airbeds, sitting on indoor lawn chairs and watching the rain fall and the gutters flood . Torrential rain crushed plans to drink outdoors, but we pulled out a bottle much brighter than the weather, first mountain“Five Forks” (2020, Virginia). A rich and balanced blend of Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Plush, ripe yellow and other tropical fruits and a quality of exotic herbs. Layered and satisfying. My guests brought Uccelliera 1990s Grappa di Brunello, made with Sangiovese (40%) – complex and wild with dark fruit and candied citrus zest, enhanced by a herbal lift.
What I drank after seeing a snake in my basement. There are few times I drink tequila and this was one of them. At hand was the Tequila Enemigo Anejo Cristalino 89, a big burst of agave minerality layered with sweet coconut barrel spice and vanilla. The soft mouthfeel also smoothed my shattered nerves. No worms in the bottle was an added bonus.
What I drank the second time I saw a snake in my basement. Move over tequila. Benriach Speyside Single Malt “Malting Season” (NAS). Warm and creamy, this wine expresses honey, sweet fruit, spicy apple and sweet oak. 48.7%
What I drank after killing the fourth snake in my basement. 52.8% and I needed it. Benriach Speyside Single Malt “Smoke Season” (NAS). Deeply smoky and peaty, seductive aromas spring from the glass even from afar. Fruit wood, a rich and deep expression of toffee, butter and toffee. Round and comforting.
What I drank after my basement flooded. Four inches of water looks like a small lake when it’s in your basement and you don’t have a sump pump. After bailing out 50 gallons, I closed the door and called one night. Two Texan wines carried me away: a full-bodied Tannat of Bending Branch Winery (Newsom Vineyards) and an Agliancio from Duchman family vineyard. The Tannat overturned my assumptions about both the grape and the Texas, this version filled with ripe cherries and dark fruit, enhanced by a woody edge of cool mint. The Aglianico was a fun surprise – a bright, shimmering ruby wine made in a modern style with sour cherries and dark fruit, smooth tannins and an edgy finish of nut skin and oak that made it interesting.
What I drank after the handyman gave up finishing floor work, leaving two bedrooms of furniture in the living room, two hours before my guests arrived. ancient peaks “Renegade” 2018, Paso Robles, aptly named for desertion times. A powerful blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Malbec: deep, mature and complex with expressions of chocolate, dried fruits, Medjool dates. A robust wine with more staying power than a handyman.
What I drank when the furnace stopped at 12 degrees F. While the little heater I borrowed was a cool comfort, the stone castle 100% Merlot from the Rahovec Valley in Kosovo helped me warm up. The raspberry leaps from the glass as it pours and lingers on the palate with classic dark fruit (plum and berry) notes, softened tannins and a hint of green herbs and a chocolatey finish.
What I drank when the pipes froze, -6 degrees. Turned back to ancient peaks for a Paso Cabernet Sauvignon that evoked black spices and black tea. A modern style that was fleshy and powerful without being jammy, remarkably balanced concentrated fruit with acid and structure. A little wilder and snarkier than a Napa style.
What I drank when I finished renovating my kitchen, I sat and admired the result of blood (yes), sweat and tears. Great Moraine “Dropstone” Chardonnay 2018, Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon. So delicious, I wish I had saved it for a more elegant occasion, but this Burgundian impostor was a perfect reward for weeks of plaster and sawdust, paint fumes and tung oil, putty, of putty and wood filler (and the erratic schedule of handyman #3). Creamy baked yellow apple, some wood spice and nutty caramel notes, and a rich, textured and full-bodied but extremely nuanced mouthfeel.
The moral of the story: Anything that can go wrong in a house, will. And most things that can go wrong happen in the basement. Make sure you have a decent wine cellar to help you out.