Fifty years ago last month, my dad won his first Olympic gold medal (in the sport of target shooting), at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. He won his second Olympic gold medal at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968.
Growing up, I always knew it was special that my dad had two Olympic gold medals. But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly understood how special. There’s nothing accidental or lucky about an Olympic gold medal — you don’t get one just for showing up. It takes a Herculean drive and dedication to be the best in the world at something. And my dad was the best. Twice.
Here’s a photo of my dad on the medals podium, and one of my favorite photos of all time — my folks at dad’s welcome home parade in Hastings, Nebraska. If you’re from small-town Nebraska, USA, and you win an Olympic gold medal, you get a welcome home parade. A big one. My mom made her suit (and her hat), btw! My dad became friends with the silver medalist from the Soviet Union, Shota Kveliashvili. He’s from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. In 1984, (when I was 14 years old), Kveliashvili gave me a set of nesting Russian Matryoshka dolls (which I still have and display in my home). And in that moment, a little bit of the Cold War melted for me.
If you want to know more about my dad’s Olympic experiences, my mom writes a blog (Inside the Bullseye) about it. It’s her gift to my brother and I, and to the grandkids. I’ve read stories and seen pictures on my mom’s blog that I have never heard or seen before in my life. The thought that I might never have heard or seen them really freaks me out. So, I am eternally grateful for her gift of history.
How on earth do you commemorate the golden anniversary of a gold medal? I knew I didn’t want to get my dad stuff. My dad has stuff. I wanted to get something special. And so I started thinking about special wines. But tons of wines are special. It should be something special and meaningful. Something a little extravagant. My dad deserves extravagant.
What about a bottle of wine from 1964? Instinct told me it should be red. And Bordeaux. But I don’t just happen to have a cellar full of 50 year old first-growth Bordeaux (that’s my next life). So I went to my go-to source for acquiring wine: Wine-Searcher. I entered 1964 into the search box and voila! 652 wines from 1964 — ranging from a $7 Nero d’Avola (I almost bought this just to see what a $7 wine from 1964 would taste like) to a $13,000 1964 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru (that’s my next life, too).
I settled on something closer to the median of that list . . . a 1964 Chateau Margaux.
All Hail, the Internet. I ordered the bottle from a company that specializes in buying the cellars of wine collectors (so there’s at least some hope the wine has been stored properly for the last 50 years). And two days later, this beauty was in my family room! I really wish I knew the provenance of this bottle of wine. How many cellars has it lived in since it left Chateau Margaux 50 years ago, and how did it end up in the USA? Wine bottle GPS tracking. That’s what we need.
Drumroll, please . . .
Check out the ullage level — I don’t have enough (any) experience with ullage levels in 50 year old wines, so I hoped it was acceptable, and not a sign this was going to be a bottle of salad dressing. After my dad carefully extracted that 50 year old cork, I put my nose up to the bottle and inhaled. Phew! It still smells like wine. Shows its age in the color — a beautiful mahogany hue, with tawny edges. Any fruit that was once in this bottle has mostly ridden off into the sunset. The tannic structure was still intact, still solid — what a happy discovery! Old leather on the nose with flavors of tobacco and truffles. And if I really, really thought about it, some prunes and fig, too. Gorgeous, silky mouthfeel. Surprisingly well-balanced.
A truly memorable bottle of wine — none of us wanted to get to the bottom of the bottle. Honestly, I would have enjoyed this wine if it had tasted like raisin vinegar (not as much, but I would have enjoyed it). Because I got to taste and share a 50-year old first-growth Bordeaux with my family, and raise my glass in celebration of a Golden Anniversary. I’m not sure wine gets better than that.