The Port

When I look back at my career I’ve worked on some exceptional teams with some exceptional people. There are a lot of nice things I could say about any number of them, but today I want to write about one in particular, a true polymath and renaissance man: Bob Antia.

Bob not only has a wealth of knowledge and experience in a wide variety of topics; he’s an exceptionally gifted mentor and communicator that always been very generous with his time. He’s just naturally great at relating to me and honestly I don’t know it’s always that effortless for him or if he’s just that Good at Me, but each time I talk to the man I feel like I’ve learned something and I feel inspired to Do Something With It. No small feat!

Working with Bob
I worked with Bob at Guardent building a managed security services offering that was later acquired by VeriSign. The few years I worked with him were among my favorites, and he’s one of the few people that has successfully negotiated with Ma Bell and performed a knife-switch move that involved three separate datacenters. The guy is a pro.

One of the things he’s known for is a rather exceptional collection of port. There was a Sunday my wife came into the house after running an errand and asked about him after hearing a Bob Antia on NPR’s The Splendid Table to discuss that very topic; surely that wasn’t the same Bob Antia but how many could there be, right?

When I emailed him to say she heard him the radio we traded some emails back and forth and I made a mental note of one offer in particular:

If you find yourself in the Boston area there is always an opportunity for a port tasting!

Port is one of those things I don’t really know much of anything about.1 My BFF Eric is a big fan though, and the few times I had tried a port it was one he poured me. I thought it would be great to find a time when we were both in Boston and could get a peek through Bob’s port collection and also get a chance to introduce two of my favorite people to each other — there is considerable cross-over not only from their love of port but professionally as well.

When another friend invited us out to Boston for a June wedding I finally had a window of opportunity! As close friends and family will no doubt see coming a mile away, I had unfortunately waited until too late to let him know I was in town2 and he happened to be leaving on a trip with his family soon and we couldn’t get our schedules ironed out, but he did something equally amazing for me and offered to bring something by that I may enjoy.

Bob Antia's Curbside Delivery
Bob Antia’s Curbside Delivery

Bob soon rolled by with one of his kids riding shotgun and dropped off a bottle of Dow’s 1977 vintage port, scolded me for tipping the bottle and drove off into the sunset leaving me with a bottle of port as old as I was. He says a common practice is to survey the people you’re sharing a bottle with on which has aged better — I can say with certainty that I’m going with the bottle, but like he says, there’s always next year!

 

A couple of nights later I met up with my BFF and his special lady for dinner with my wife at a tapas restaurant in the South End, and I presented the bottle to my friend, not sure when I’d get to try it because there is some effort that goes into having a bottle of vintage port, you can’t just open it up and start pouring, it needs to be decanted for a few hours and there is sediment in the bottle that needs to be removed unless you want it in your glass. A day later I started getting iMessage photos from Clare taken in their hotel room of the decanter Eric bought at William Sonoma that afternoon, and I was delighted! We weren’t sure if we’d be able to enjoy this bottle at the wedding reception or not and we didn’t know if we’d have enough time with our mutual friend the groom, but we drove to the wedding with a decanter full of vintage port between Eric’s feet.

When we did eventually get to the port it was truly a wonderful experience; my wife said it reminded her of savoring a piece of chocolate and that was a fantastic observation. It was rich, luxurious, spicy and sweet all at once. A hint of licorice, berries, and herbs with the seductive deep plum-like red coloring, it has some weight to it while it’s in your mouth. It almost seems to have an unexpected viscosity to it when you feel it on your tongue. Because I was driving us back to the city, I didn’t have more than a glass of it, but the experience of drinking it was a true thrill; an exceptional bottle shared with equally exceptional people that I love dearly. I owe that moment to Bob and his generous heart as much the friends I shared it with and hope that I can get that tour through his cellar and continue to learn more about port and anything else he is kind enough to share with me.


  1. I love learning about anything that has nuance and sophistication to it, which is probably a contributing factor to my love of single-malt scotch. 

  2. For what it’s worth I also didn’t bother to contact anyone in Boston until I got there and got settled in our apartment we rented for a week because I’m just that horrible!