Being on vacation, I brought some cigars along to enjoy while sitting on the back deck in the Hunter Valley. I was also looking for a cause for celebration (beyond just being on vacation!) and had it by having our best quarter ever for my group. We are already over 200% of sales plan for the quarter and finished the year on a high note. I also got a call Friday at 5:00 pm that we closed our biggest deal ever so far, so I knew I had plenty of justification (or just plenty of excuse!) for smoking "Castro's Cigar." (I will explain more later on how this great cigar made for Fidel Castro found its way to me!)
I also like the idea of smoking a victory or celebration cigar to 'relish the moment.' Red Auerbach, as General Manager of the Boston Celtics, would sit in Boston Garden watching his beloved Celtics and when he knew the game was in hand, he would light up a cigar, further intimidating the other team. This was a bit arrogant and I am not sure if he ever lit up, only to have the other team come back and win. (Does anyone know?)
I was even more influenced though by Will Smith in the movie "Independence Day." After a victory in battle (and isn't life an everyday battle?), Will would always savor the moment by smoking a cigar. I have followed suit and also like to relish the big victories with a good cigar, and had every reason to do so today.
I know this blog is about wine and we will get to the wine soon! However, my choice of wine cannot be adequately justified without explaining how a cigar intended for Castro made its way to me. These cigars are made by Cohiba. They consists of the very best tobacco leaves (similar to premium wines using only the very best grapes). Cohiba then provides these top end cigars to Castro for his private stock.
(I am not certain if everything I mention here is exactly correct, but it makes for a good story, so I will continue!) Every now and then, some cigars are gifted to special friends or used for diplomatic purposes and found their way into the hands of some of the sheiks from Qatar. (I actually do not know if it is now possible to buy these cigars on the open or secondary market at all, but plan to find out!) My friends son is a physiotherapist living in London and provides regular massage to one or several of these sheiks, who as a tip provided some of the cigars to my friend's son, who then passed on two to his father. His father smoked one and gave the other to me for my birthday. Therefore, I have been waiting for the perfect setting and occasion to smoke this very special cigar and today was the day.
Many of my friends drink cognac or brandy with a good cigar, but I am not into harder liquors. Therefore, I enjoy a good cigar with red wine or port and decided a good bottle of red wine was the answer today. I originally was going to play it safe and go with a bottle of the 2007 McWillams Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz. This is an outstanding wine and was awarded the 'best red wine' several years ago by Campbell Mattinson. I love this wine and knew it would be a great wine to drink while smoking the cigar.
However, I thought that smoking Castro's cigar was a rare and unique experience and deserved a rare and unique wine. Since we were up in the Hunter, I did not have full access to every wine in my cellar, but found a 1992 Lindeman's Pyrus. I have had the 1987 Pyrus which was a magnificent wine and decided it was time to open a bottle of the 1992. I was excited as I cut off the seal that the cork appeared in perfect condition - something you cannot guarantee for a twenty year old cork. Still being careful, I used the Ah So cork remover as the best option to get the cork out in one piece and fortunately that is what happened.
I started to decant the wine and was glad to see it still had full crimson color that had not yet turned brownish (a sign that the wine had oxidized to some degree and would be less than optimal if not downright bad). It took a while to work the wine through the filter, even though there was very little obvious tannin separate in the wine. It was just so thick and luscious. While I am sometimes hesitant to use an aerator on a 20 year old wine (since I do not want to break down further an already fragile wine structure), this wine still had a solid structure and I knew that decanting an older Pyrus would take some time and I wanted to help it along with aeration!
We left the wine to decant while out shopping and by the time I got home, it was ready (or maybe since I was just so anxious to get started, I made myself believe it was ready!). Of course, I used the Riedel Vinum Bordeaux glass to drink the wine.
It had roasted nut, plum and full berry flavors. The wine was perfectly balanced with well integrated tannins. It matched a perfect Bordeaux blend using each grape in a well balanced proportion. The grapes were Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. This was an easy wine to drink, so smooth in texture and at 12.5% alcohol. I loved this wine and it beautifully matched the cigar in terms of rarity and elegance. This wine also won three Gold Medals early in its career.
|Wine, cigar and Sandalwood incense burning in the background!|
I spent 50 of the most blissful minutes I have ever experienced smoking this cigar and sipping this wine! I was expecting the cigar to go for about 2 hours, as I usually take about 1 hour, 20 minutes to smoke a Cohiba Robusto and this was bigger than the Robusto. I think there were several reasons for the time being shorter than I expected. The first was that the tightness of the rolled tobacco leaves was not as tight as a typical Cohiba and therefore drew more freely and was quicker to burn. Secondly, I was concerned with wasting any possible cigar flavor, so I was puffing harder and more frequently than I would with a so-called 'normal' cigar! I just did not want to waste a puff!
I usually cannot smoke a cigar beyond the last 25 cm - 35 cm, as they become too harsh and also are hot on the fingers while holding them. This one however, did not become harsh at all and I could have smoked it to the very end except it was too hot to hold. However, I did get it down to about 18 cm before snuffing it out!
The total experience took 50 minutes and I also got through about 2/3rds the bottle of the 1992 Lindeman's Pyrus during that time.
While I have had some truly decadent experiences previously in life, I believe this 50 minutes now has reached #1 in terms of decadence and pure sensual pleasure in such a concentrated period of time. I know I will never have a better cigar. I will have comparable wines (heck, I still have two more bottles of the 1992 Lindeman's Pyrus left!) but the combination of the wine, the cigar and the reason for celebration was a truly unique and pleasurable experience.