I opened the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, which had come as a sample in the mail, on a night without L. She was still in Foley, Alabama, reporting a story for the New York Times about single-sex education, and I was taking care of our daughters at home. For my own dinner, I’d marinated a flank steak, and for the girls I’d made burgers—all of this from the pasture-raised steer I bought earlier this year with a few other families. I had flageolet beans, too, made in a garlicky way, and sautéed frisée (when I buy frisée these days, I’ve discovered the basic truth that only the lightest, palest inner leaves make good salad, and that everything else makes great cooking greens).
The girls were indulging, for the night, my desire to put the family around a table and actually sit and eat and talk. And as I opened the Cabernet, and began to enjoy it—this is a very full, plush wine, with intensely concentrated dark-fruit flavors and smooth, gentle tannins—it occurred to me that Cabernet hasn’t been a significant part of my drinking life lately. I think it’s an unanalyzed frustration with all the noise around Cabernet: the fact that the good stuff, in California, is so ridiculously expensive; the corollary fact that every low-budget label on Earth seems to have a Cabernet; and the simple problem that lame Cabernets are especially lame. But suddenly I was drinking it with my flank steak, and remembering its joys, and pouring yet another glass, and remembering also the role of Cabernet Sauvignon in periods when I’ve begun to drink too much. Something in the song it sings with a good steak, and the way the combination is like some kind of cathartic aria for my anxious male heart, keeps me drinking and drinking and drinking, and eating in equal measure.
But with the girls there across the table from me, as happy as can be, and their mother out of town and my recent experiment with drinking less going so well, and showing such great results, all that will-to-savor had to bear down on the second glass alone, and I finished it slowly, and said thanks for the will power that keeps drinking in check, and therefore keeps drinking available.