The local radio station announced that there was a major accident on the Golden Gate Bridge and northbound lanes were closed. Fortunately, I was still on route, taking a short cut as a snaked my way through the San Francisco’s notorious rush hour traffic. What I would often do in situations like this is find a café or restaurant I hadn’t tried and stop there for a light snack and glass of wine while waiting.
I was driving north of upper Fillmore Street, a then (and now) trendy area of the city. The street went south to north, up and down a number of San Francisco’s famous hills ending up in the Marina District close to the San Francisco Bay. Driving slowly and looking left to right I noticed a new place that advertised oysters and fresh seafood. That caught my attention immediately. And the parking gods were smiling when I saw a car pull out right in front of where I was.
Entering the restaurant, apparently other commuters had heard the same message. The place was packed. I managed to find the only available bar stool. Squeezing in, I scanned the wine list and decided on a Louis Jadot “Pouilly Fuisse” to start. Suddenly, the woman next to me turned in my direction and announced, “So you’re finally here!” I smiled and responded, “Yes.” She continued, “We were wondering when you’d finally arrive.” The two guys next to her and girlfriend looked at each other and then turned away from the women and shortly thereafter left. This beautiful woman whispered in my ear, “We’ve been trying to get rid of them. Thanks for helping. Hello, my name is April and this my girlfriend Michelle.”
We sat and chatted for a few minutes. I was about to turn away and begin scanning the bar menu when April said, “We’ve ordered a dozen oysters. Would you like to join us.” Oh my, my traffic woes were now quickly fading from my mind, replaced by the platter of delicious oysters put in front of us. Another dozen followed the first dozen oysters, and then a basket of the most delicious fried calamari, done with the most perfect batter I had ever tasted arrived and was gone all too quickly.
Just about the time I thought it couldn’t get better, a young man and woman walked in the door. I noticed he had a bottle under his arm. A larger looking bottle from what I could see. The barstools next to me had just been vacated. He asked if he could sit there and I replied, “Of course.” I then turned to April to answer her question about the purpose of my trip to the city. But my sentence was interrupted by a “thump.” The young man had put the bottle of wine under his arm on the counter. I looked at it and my mouth dropped open.
I was a magnum of Pétrus Pomerol. “I figured it was time to drink it,” he said looking at me and smiling. “Would you like to join us?” I replied that of course I would and then thought to myself, “Would he like for me to vacuum and wash his car too and maybe do his laundry for a week too?” I’m not sure how much they restaurant charged him to open the wine but before you can say “Bordeaux wines” the bottle was open. The dark wine colored cork looked like it could tell a story by itself. But the cork didn’t have a chance to speak as the first glass was slowly poured and handed to the young man. He sipped slowly and then told the bartender to pour four more glasses (and one for himself)– one for his lady friend, and one for me, April and her friend Michelle.
And oh my, did we revile in that wine. The first sip was extraordinary. The second was almost beyond words. Deep flavors of plum, cherry with flashes of caramel, tobacco even coffee and then a feathery stroking of the back of the tongue with sensuous hints of mint and mineraly earthiness. We were all quiet. Not speaking. We were in Petrus heaven worshiping the wine. And then we burst forth with a cacophony of words trying to find things that made sense to describe this incredible nectar of the gods.
I later read that the wine is rated 98 or 99 on a scale of 100. I can understand why. After the last sips were drained, we five knew we now shared a special bond, united by our experience with this wine. As we departed, hugs and business cards were exchanged with promises that we must meet here again, and soon. But alas, it never happened. I’m always the one to organize these things so perhaps I dropped the ball?
Fifteen minutes later, driving across the now opened Golden Gate Bridge and heading home, I turned the classical music station off and just thought again and again and about lucky I was to have caught the traffic report, found a place to park (always a problem then and now in San Francisco), enjoyed delicious oysters and then a stunningly magnificent bottle of wine with strangers. “Oh my,” I realized, “sometimes traffic problems can be a blessing in disguise.”
(Unfortunately, over time I forgot the year of the magnum)
Paul Rest lives in Sonoma County, California. He has been enjoying California wines and foods since arriving in California. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.