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Daily Glass: Another Day, Another Enigma

March 8, 2020 Leave a comment

It was just another Sunday. It could’ve been any day in the oenophile’s house. You know, when you open a bottle which you think will be enough for the evening, but then people come over, and you open another, and another, and another. Yes, it doesn’t matter if it was Sunday or not. Just another day.

The important point here – wine is an enigma.

e·nig·ma
/iˈniɡmə/

noun

a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand

This is not the first time I have to evoke the enigmatic virtue of wine – I had quite a few puzzling experiences, with the wines going amazing – undrinkable – amazing (here is one example), or with the wines needing 4-5 days to become drinkable after they had been open. The element of mystery of not knowing what you are going to find once the cork is pulled out of the most familiar bottle is definitely a big part of the excitement, but some times it becomes too much excitement, in my opinion. Anyway, let’s talk about that Sunday, shall we?

Guardian Cellars is a small produced in Woodinville, Washington. I visited the winery in 2014, and tasted through a bunch of wines which were one better than another (here is my excited post about that visit). I brought back with me a bottle of 2011 Guardian Cellars The Informant Wahluke Slope – 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier – and every time I would pull it off the shelf, I would put it back – you know how it is with single bottles, it is very hard to find the right moment to pull that cork. By the way, this bottle was simply stored in the wine cage standing in the room with temperature fluctuating around 70F and no direct sunlight – but not in the wine fridge or a cellar. Don’t really know what prompted me to finally get this bottle out, but I did. And it was delicious. Not a hint of age, dark garnet color, intense nose of blackberries, perfectly balanced dark berries, pepper, and crushed rocks on the palate. This was simply an excellent bottle – not the one which prompted my “enigma” outburst. And that note about storage conditions? People, don’t be afraid to keep your wine, even if you don’t have a cellar, wine fridge or a basement. If you do it right, you might be rewarded handsomely – well worth the risk.

I thought we might be able to get by with just one bottle, but then my daughter arrived with her friend who is “in the biz”, so the next bottle had to be special too. Another single bottle found its proper fate – 2006 Sequoia Groove Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley (this one was stored in the wine fridge in case you are wondering). There was nothing enigmatic about this wine – well, except maybe how quickly it disappeared. The wine was an absolutely delicious, succulent example of Napa Valley greatness – still dark garnet, black currant, mint, and eucalyptus on the nose, ripe berries, currant leaves, touch of anise, good acidity, firm structure – a delight all in all.

So the Sequoia Groove was gone, what next? After short deliberations, 2013 Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley was pulled out. I really like Neyers wines, enjoyed many of them in the past, including the bottles from the same vintage. The bottle was opened with no issues, poured in the glass, and this is where the strange things started. The wine was too sweet. The nose was fine, but on the palate, it was just sugar, sugar, sugar. Okay, let’s decant. 30 minutes later, 1 hour later, 2 hours later, the wine stayed the same – a sugary concoction.

No wine can be wasted in this house, so the content of the decanter went back into the bottle. The next day it was the same. Two days later, the sugar significantly subsided, and the wine started to resemble a lot more a classic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon as one would expect.

So what was that? I know the wine is a living thing and transformation still continues in the bottle. Still, how one can know when the wine is drinkable, and when it is not? Was this a fluke, an issue with a particular bottle? Maybe. Over the years I noticed a significant bottle variation in Neyers wines overall, so this would support a theory of “just a fluke”. Or was it just a state of this 7 years old wine? Maybe. There is no good way to tell. However, I have two more bottles of the same wine, and they are not getting opened for a while.

Going back to our evening, just for the fun of sharing some pictures, our dinner menu included some BBQ chicken skewers – while I don’t have pictures of food, I have a couple pictures of burning charcoal which I’m happy to share 🙂

While Neyers was declared undrinkable, I had to entertain my guests with something else, so I pulled a bottle of 2015 Wind Gap Mi-Pente Pinot Noir Sonoma County, one of my latest Last Bottles finds. Wind Gap is best known as Syrah specialist, so I was surprised to even find Wind Gap Pinot Noir (I’m not even sure Wind Gap brand exists anymore – it used to be run by talented Pax Mahle, who now went back to his own brand Pax – this story definitely deserves its own post). The wine was delicious – crunchy cherries and smoke, firm structure, lots of energy – this was an excellent finish to the good Sunday evening.

Here you are, my friends. Wine is an enigma. Who else thinks that wine is an enigma? Raise your hands glasses.

Most Unusual Wine

November 30, 2010 3 comments

Last Saturday I stopped by Cost Less Wines and Liquors in Stamford. This is almost the routine stop for me, as every Friday and Saturday there is a wine tasting in the store, and as I’m sure you know by now, wine tastings offer opportunity to experience difference wines and learn from that experience (and such wine tastings are usually free!).

Four wines were open on that Saturday night – one Champagne and 3 red wines. The Champagne was Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, very simple and elegant, with nose of yeast and apples (may I add it is very reasonably priced too?). Then there were three reds. First one was Chateau Lafleur Gazin Pomerol 2004, one of the properties managed by venerable Christian Moueix, owner of Chateau Petrus (one of the world’s most famous and equally expensive wines). This was a typical Bordeaux wine, with good fruit and unmistakable earthiness, or terroir as it should be called properly.

The next wine was one of my favorite California Cabernets – Neyers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, bristling with black currant and eucalyptus flavors, very nice and balanced wine.

All three wines I mentioned were good – but rather typical. And yet the title of this post promised “most unusual wine”. This leaves us with the wine number 4 to be the most unusual wine, right?

Yes, and unusual it was! Ceretto Monsordo 1998 from Langhe DOC. Wines produced in that area of Italy are typically single grape varieties – I’m talking about Barolo and Barbaresco, made out of grape called Nebbiolo. Ceretto Monsordo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Nebbiolo, but it is only a tiny step towards “unusual”.

What makes me say that it was the most unusual wine (for me, of course – all the experiences are personal)? My reaction to the very first sip was: this is how liquid steak should taste like. While fruits, tannins and acidity are definitely present in good balance in this wine, the main sensation is savory, as piece of good steak, grilled with enough spices on it. Yes, the flavor can be described as earth, tobacco, pepper and smoke, but such a description will not fully convey the sensation of having a sip of that wine in the mouth.

Am I getting too excited? May be. As I said, the experiences are personal. All I can tell you is that you should try to find that wine to have first hand experience with it – and I will be glad to compare notes later on.

But – this begs the question: what is your Most Unusual Wine?

Is There Too Much Of A Good Thing?

September 14, 2010 2 comments

Assuming you like wine ( otherwise, I don’t think you would be reading this blog), what would you say of a prospect of trying many hundreds of wines in a day ( about 5 hours, to be precise)? I would think at first you would get excited, right. Now, let’s do some simple math – let’s say you will be tasting 500 wines, 1 oz each… will make it equal to 20 (!) bottles of wine. Don’t think that sounds appealing anymore? This is where the bucket with romantic name “spittoon” comes to the rescue (I’m sure many of you are appalled now – what, spit wines?! No way!) – but this is what the professionals have to do. So why is all this talk about professionals and wasted wine? Simply because that this past weekend, thanks to my friend Zak, an owner of Cost Less Wine and Liquors store in Stamford,  I was able to join him in the “trade-only” wine tasting events run by two of the Connecticut wine wholesalers, Wine Bow and World Wide Wines.

Believe it or not, tasting wines in such quantities is a hard work. Of course nobody tastes 50o wines in the row – spitting or not, but your palate gets really tired from tasting and tasting and tasting, and while I’m looking only for the fun component of such an event, people in the trade have to actually make business decisions – getting right wines for the store or a restaurant is a border line between success and failure. Luckily, this hard work is associated with pleasure, so enough of the sad picture – no need to take pity. Yes, it is a great opportunity to try an amazing variety of wines, a lot of them being simply great wines, and for me personally it was also an opportunity to make progress in the treble journey ( which I did), but I will report on this in the next post.

It is impossible ( and probably pointless) to write about all the great wines – but I would like to mention a few highlights. First, among the Cabernet Sauvignon, Neyers Ranch Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 and 2006 were simply outstanding, with pure Cabernet expression of black currant, chocolate and hint of eucalyptus, all beautifully balanced. Ladera Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Lone Canyon and Howell Mountain were all between excellent and outstanding – again, with beautiful and clean California Cabernet expression at its best. It is also worth mentioning that all of these wines are quite accessible with retail prices at $30 – $60 per bottle.  Few more personal highlights among the reds were Morgan Monterey Syrah 2007 (less than $20 retail), amazing 100% Syrah demonstrating all the “textbook” Syrah spicy qualities, and then couple of Zinfandels,  Bradford Mountain Dry Creek and Bradford Mountain “Grist” by C. Donatiello Winery, both from 2005.

There were a lot of great white wines, but I would like to mention only one, again as personal favorite – the wine called Eisrebe by Joseph Phelps. This is desert wine made from the grape called Scheurebe ( that was a nice surprise for my “treble journey”), and it is done in the style of the Ice wines, except that as there is no chance for the grapes in  California to naturally freeze at -8C, special cryogenic methods used to achieve “ice” wine result. The wine had an amazing balance of the white fruits, honey and ripe comice pears with refreshing acidity, so it was not overpowering the palate. Amazingly enough to me, this wine was also perfectly complementing wide variety of desserts, which is not very common from my experience.

All in all – it was a great fun, and I have to conclude that when it comes to the wine tasting, there can be no too much of a good thing (well, a “good thing” is an important hint here), and therefore I will gladly repeat it at any time.

Cheers!

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