Flashback: a shy Lorenzo Petroni.
Flashback: a shy Lorenzo Petroni.

You couldn’t ask for a better spot than Nick’s on Main. I could go there every week. An intimate bistro located in Los Gatos, the food is as impeccable as the service; thankfully there’s no pretension, despite the Lambo dealer next door and the understated Bentley showroom across the street (and, yes, there is an Apple store less than half a mile away on Santa Cruz). So when we went last night to meet up with family to celebrate a birthday, we decided to pull a bottle from the cellar. Why not? It was my wife’s idea. Pay the $20 corkage, and enjoy some good wine on a special occasion. That was her decision. Mine was choosing the bottle.

One of the things I love about wine — aside from the fact that it ignites conversation, and brings food to life — are the stories.

There are so many stories when it comes to wine. We all have memories of sharing a special glass, with someone we love, or possibly with someone we are trying to love (hint: el big pouro).

Some of these stories are fictional. Like Sideways. They can be poetic metaphors for life. Are we just all a bunch of soft-skinned Pinot grapes?

Others are the stories that wine marketing folks craft to differentiate their 2009 Cab from every other $40 bottle on the market. This is clever stuff: the old barn that burned down, the former TV star that bought a ranch, the globe-trotting heroine that invented a medical device that saved five million lives in a small tent village on the outskirts of Uganda. Okay, strike that last one. I might be thinking of Angelina Jolie again.

Then there are the everyday stories. Like dinner at Nick’s on Main to celebrate a 14th birthday.

I knew there’d be meat aplenty (with a few fish exceptions). Sure enough, a few hours later there was nary a veggie entrée in sight. Just six carnivore pleasing dishes: lamb, steak, ahi tuna, salmon, ribs, pork. On and on.

So earlier I pulled a 2005 Petroni Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma. And, of course that bottle had a story too.

It was Lorenzo Petroni (North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco), a man larger than life. When I found the wine on Cellartracker and then located the distinctive light blue topped bottle in the cellar, it was like Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. When I touched the bottle, I could see us a few years back enjoying a crazy wine country lunch at Petroni’s — again, meat as far as the eye could see. He is a character to behold. Laughing, bellowing; and it was my first time seeing someone with a special shirt designed to attach a napkin. What a pro, I thought. I’m so naive when it comes to the Italian ways of celebrating friends, wine and food. I also remember him telling us the money came from the restaurant. The winery was about passion, not profits.

So when I think wine pairing with meat. I think Petroni. And my natural inclination is always Cab at dinner (how narrow, I know).

The wine itself was what you’d call firm. I suspect it will age well, there are strong tannins. Oddly, as others at the table pointed out, the finish had a strong mineral component (almost Chard like!). But after the bottle breathed a bit that led way to a nice spicy note. Come to think of it, the wine embodied much of the personality of the man himself. It was boldly different, almost un-Cab like, at least in the standard Northern California sense.

But I won’t remember the wine so much as I’ll remember heading back to Almaden Valley later and spending time with my cousins. Those follow-on stories involved Airsoft (all new to me… kids today!), a hole in the wall, and Hearts.

My California cousins.
My California cousins.
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear