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of recent cellar sleuthing....for B.E.'s comments on aging, see Cellar Notes
Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1991, Dry Creek Valley Sonoma. 1991 was an excellent vintage -- I remember it well and many of the wines have aged magnificently; it still has time ahead of it. The Dry Creek '91 Reserve, decanted January 17, 2015, had a huge, billowing aroma of ripe blackberry with hints of chocolate and licorice. Color still dense, a deep purple garnet to the rim. The vibrant, lush fruit maintains a grip of tannin that will keep it going a few more years, so perhaps not yet at its peak--but I wouldn't have wanted to miss the luuriant blackberry and boysenberry flavors at this stage of its evolution. Lovely with braised short ribs.
Clos du Bois Marlstone 1991, Alexander Valley Decanted July 26, 2014 Outstanding. Still dark and dense deep garnet in color. A blend of 54% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 6% malbec, 5% cab franc. There are lovely flavors of blackberry (typical of Alex Valley cabs); it is extremely smooth with saplike fruit (the merlot and malbec, I suspect). Truly this is the reason to allow wines to age--they simply transform into something quite beyond their infancy at release. Luscious to drink, long smooth finish. At its peak? I'm delighted with it now, but it still has a grip to it that portends more life ahead.
Simi 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Alexander Valley. January 2014. I plucked this bottle from my cellar to take to a gathering in Napa Valley celebrating Zelma Long's 70th birthday with a group of stellar women in the field of wine. As Simi's winemaker in the 1980s, Zelma made this exceptional wine....and I was relieved to find it, as we all did that evening, still exceptional. The cork crumbled as I pulled it but it was tight in the neck of the bottle and the wine was sound, with very little ullage. I had stood it up a day in advance, and we decanted it. The blackberry flavors so typical of Alexander Valley cabernet fruit are still vivid, the wine beautifully evolved and marvelously lush in texture, richly aromatic and long in finish. We all got a few choice sips. Anyone who owns this wine is lucky. Thanks, Zelma.
Cosentino M. Coz 2001, Napa Valley. A Bordeaux blend from the outstanding vintage of 2001, one of the best of the 21st century so far. It was part of a lot of venerable Napa Valley gems I donated to a fundraising auction for the Rhine Research Center in Durham. The winning bid came from my godson and his brother in California, enthusiastic young wine collectors in the bay area. Still dark and rich (we decanted it), very firm-structured, the wine showed layers of complexity, with flavors of black currant, cedar, licorice and black fruits, very long in the finish. It was a treat to enjoy its flavors unfold over dinner. Still has some years ahead of it.
Caymus 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection, Napa Valley Opened with friends in Oxford MS over the holidays. Outstanding Cab--but not at its peak yet, as I suspect it will be in another five years or so, and likely something to swoon over from 2018-2020. Black currant fruit concentrated and intense, framed in oak and tannin just beginning to soften. Aromas took a while to really open but very rich and vibrant when they did. Alongside Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1995 SLV--also in need of further aging but not as complex as the Caymus. Both, however, solid treats with grilled; beef tenderloin. Thanks, Duke and friends!
Raffaldini 2005 Montepulciano, Yadkin Valley, NC. Wow! give us more like this! I think this was Raffladini's first release of Montepulciano, and I'd been saving it to see how it would age. Verdict: beautifully! Dark, dense, with still-intensely flavored ripe-berry fruit, bursting with boysenberry, blueberry and blackberry flavors. Tannins have mellowed, but it still has a nice grip, fine balance and that tasty juice; a long appealing finish that lingers very agreeably. Recent vintages have not seemed quite as concentrated as the 2005--which was a knockout right out of the gate and has more than lived up to its promise. In Italy the montepulciano grape produces mostly lighter, easy-drinking reds (such as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo), so it is interesting to see how impressively the grape can perform in North Carolina. Let's hope more of this grape is planted in the mid-Atlantic. [fall 2012]
Château Gruaud-Larose 1982, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux. June 2011. A fabulous treat, courtesy of fellow Virginia judge Andy Williams, who decanted this venerable bottle and brought it to share with judges at the recent Virginia State Fair wine competition (scroll down for some good VA wines).
The Gruaud-Larose '82 amazed us all with its still-vivid color, its generous well-matured fruit and aromas of smoke, blackberries, and sweet cherries fairly billowing out of the glass. Tilting the glass showed its bricky orange edges, but the wine was still lively, very smooth, some tannins extant, but with great complexity and fine length. Some thought it could go another decade, but I thought we caught it at an excellent time to really enjoy the brightness of the fruit melded with oak.
I originally tasted this wine in the mid-eighties when I still lived in New York and attended a tasting hosted by importer Chateau and Estates. Back then I found it very dense, opaque and closed, even a little heavy. What a lovely surprise to taste it some 16 years later and find it so delightful and charming.
Many thanks, Andy!!!
Uh, oh! Recent "sleuthing" turned up a forgotten case of assorted Zinfandels, aged ten years, some older. Normally, we don't age Zins, though years ago when I was on Ridge Vineyards tasting program, I regularly purchased new releases that piled up, some for years--which provided some amazing tasting experiences when I finally got around to uncorking them. Would any of these be as good! I invited some friends who love Zinfandel over to crack a few bottles and see.
Quivira 1997 and 1998, Dry Creek Valley. I decanted these wines to try together, expecting the 1997 (an excellent vintage in California) to be the superior of the two. It was musty and funky on the nose--no fruit. We set it aside--"don't judge it yet," I said. "After all, it's been confined in that bottle for thirteen years; let's give it some time to flex." The 1998 was a more pleasant surprise--plenty of fruit, tannins mellowed, still berryish, smooth and attractive. Half an hour into our meal, however, the 1997 had bloomed, showing lovely black raspberry fruit, slightly smoky, richly textured, very delicious with our pot roast. In fact, it got better and better, revealing more layers of flavor--and totally eclipsing the 1998, which had flattened somewhat and now had none of the complexity or wonderful length of the '97. Though both wines surprised and delighted me, the '97 really showed its breed. It had aged like a fine claret--likely because of its excellent balance (13.5% alcohol, unheard of for Zin today!).
Rancho Zabaco Reserve Zinfandel 2000, Dry Creek Valley. Dry Creek Valley is one of the stellar places for great Zinfandel, so I shouldn't have been surprised by this wine's outstanding character and flavor, even at 10+ years. Still dark and deep, due perhaps to the addition of petite sirah, still powerful (14.3%) in ripe berry fruit with a hint of black pepper. Not especially complex, but a handsome red, plushly drinkable.
Bodes well for the remaining wines of the case.
Tignanello 1994, Antinori Vineyards, Tuscany. Decanted 2/2011, for my wine class at Duke. Simply lovely! What a great moment to catch this wine--the color still firm, the fruit rich and beautifully evolved with complex flavors of black plum, ripe berries and a hint of currant and wood; smooth, silken texture. Made from 80% sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon, it was superbly balanced and wonderful to savor as it lingered elegantly in the glass to the very last drop. If you have it, enjoy it now (or soon).
Shafer 1983 Merlot, Napa Valley. Decanted. Stunning! Bet you wouldn't think a Merlot of any stripe could age 27 years--but this one has, and beautifully. Spicy cherry flavors, tannins fully mellowed but the fruit still has vigor-- it's simply delicious to drink now (and could quite possibly give Pétrus of comparable age a run). Interesting to note its alcohol of 12.7%. Will the 2001, which I had a few weeks earlier, age as well???
Shafer Merlot 2001, Napa Valley. Decanted. Quite vivid and appealing; certainly not your typical Merlot (but Shafer Merlots have never been "typical"!). Vivid color, good fruit concentration, nicely evolved with somewhat tamed tannins and rich texture. I wouldn't necessarily have thought it would age so nicely, since it's a powerful, full-bodied wine (14.9% alcohol), but the fruit was ripe enough--and not overripe or raisiny--not only to last but evolve into interesting flavors with complex aromas of black currants, smokiness and dried flowers.
Château Prieuré-Lichine 1982. Decanted. Well, it couldn't last forever. This '82 from Margaux in the Haut-Médoc is well past its peak. Alas. I'm wondering what to do with the ramainder of my of my case! Fall 2010
Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 1988, Napa Valley. Decanted. Terrific. Over Labor Day (2010) with friends on Bald Head Island. With grilled rib-eyes. Superbly evolved Cabernet, smooth but complex, with layered aromas and flavors of black currants, cedar, and an appealing smokiness. Fine balance, still vivid and lively.
Jordan Vineyards 1979, Alexander Valley. Decanted. I live for wines like this! Thirty-one years old, yet possessed of rich color; complex aromas of black fruits--currants, plums, berries mingled with a slight smokiness. Great balance and acidity, a bgeautifully evolved Cabernet, with smooth but still vivid texture and layers of lovely flavors. Kudos to Rob Davis (and his mentor and consultant, the late great Andre Tchelistcheff). This is the kind of wine that makes an evening utterly memorable. [7/10]
Franc 2012, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma) $27. Biltmore Estate
in Asheville, North Carolina, is making some outstanding wines, some
sourced from grapes grown in California. This is an excellent Cab
Franc, with ripe red currant flavors, excellent balance. A tasty red
now, but with the structure to improve with a few years on it. A
bit more intense is Biltmore's The
Hunt 2012, Sonoma County,$39.99. A blend of 40 percent
cabernet sauvignon, 35 cabernet franc, 25 merlot, aromas of ripe
berries, oak and vanilla, flavors of black cherry, this solid red can
handle hearty fare, such as roast meats, venison, duck confit now, but
will develop wonderful complexity and rich texture with some years of
bottle age--say, in 2020-2022 (it will be here before you know it!).
NC Wine Exclusive: There's a little spot in Wake Forest that stocks only North Carolina wine --Jenn's Vin at The Factory on Main offers afternoon and early evening tastings (4-8 pm) of some very good NC wines from top wineries, including Shelton, Biltmore, Jones von Drehle, Rag Apple Lassie, RayLen. Jenn Norris, who grew up in the Yadkin Valley, is proud of her home territory's wines and decided to share her enthusiasm. Her countertop mini-wine bar backs up against the ice-skating rink at The Factory, which attracts local soccer moms and dads but also soccer tournament visitors from Long Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, even Canada--who have returned home with bottles of NC wine. It's a keen spot for watching the action on ice and enjoying a sip of some very good NC wines. Featured recently: Biltmore's Blanc de Blancs sparkling, RayLen's Category 5 blended red, Jones von Drehle Tempranillo and Blackberry wine. Well worth a weekend detour for Triangle wine lovers. Check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jennsvinncwines
Traveling west in North Carolina? On your way from the Triangle or Triad you'll be near the Yadkin Valley, home to the lion's share of NC vineyards -- so take a short segué and stop in for tasting. A complete listing--maps, phone numbers and websites--is here: www.ncwine.org/wineries
North Carolina is home to over 140 wineries. The state has long excelled with Muscadine grape varieties, native to the region...and still does. But wines from Vitis vinifera, the European grape varieties (syrah, chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier, the cabernets, merlot, as well as Italian and Spanish varieties) are doing the state proud with full-flavored, well-balanced wines that are very good to drink.
Wine 'growlers' ?? You may know the term for beer, served in liter or 1.5 liter refillable jugs, but it's an old and traditional wine concept in Europe, where it's common in the countryside to take your own jug to the local wine vendor or cooperative for refill. I'd much prefer this practice to boxed wines--brings new meaning to the term "drink local." But who does it? And where?
In Virginia, Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville has adapted the practice--the first to do so in the U.S. as far as I know--and it's one I hope takes off. Available in both white and red blends, growlers are a one-time $10 cost for the “jugs” and $25 to fill with wine. The growler is a half gallon, equivalent to 2 1/2 bottles of wine. That’s just $10 per bottle! Stop by the winery and be the first in Virginia to own your very own wine growler." virginiawineworks.com