When good wines go bad

Shangrilas_Beehive_JapanCOLOR.jpgTurn tough times to good times. Purge the cellar. Hold onto cash. As with everything there is risk. Cellar purging has the risk of finding forgotten wines. The last thing we need today is another letdown.
Feces occurs so often that when it does we think in familiar ways, like why we thought the wine would be GOOD. Good pedigree (Alejandro Fernandez), good score (Parker 91), good story (bottled only in the BEST vintages). How did we lose sight? How did we let a good wine go bad? Here is my story.
alenza1996.jpg1996 Alenza ~$60: Once upon a time this was a great tempranillo. Highly touted. Soft and smooth like a…like a…complete that on your own. Blame it on tBoW. He sat on it too long. As I pull the cork I pray this one will tell me the other 2 bottles were corked. Painful truth. The wine is just over the hill. Like a Republican candidate. Dies faster than a vampire born with a stake in its heart or a November World Series. Within minutes it tastes tired, gnarled. Like it just wants to fall into the abyss without notice. [ed. getting a little dark here] The real bad news is I still have 3 bottles. Family holiday gifts!?! 13%
Another equally maudlin story is a one-hit-wonder wine always on the fringe, in the periphery. A notorious loner. Like the Shangrilas (who had a string of hits) said “he’s good bad but he’s not evil”. Tell me mo’ tell me mo’….

2003 Melville Verna’s Syrah
$56: Bought this bad boy at the winery just as tBoW was beginning to fall out of love with Santa Rita Hills wines. melvillevernassyrah2003.jpgSterno alcohol levels were not yet the baccio dela morte that killed the romance. This is the second bottle tasted in 24 months. Tastes a lot like the first one which is pretty good! Jammy to be sure. Dark dark fruit. Coffee flavor. Distinctive like Melville says. Vernas vineyard.jpgThe 100 acre vineyard is not located in Santa Rita Hills proper but rather outside the tine town of Los Alamos (click here for clarifying map), on the way to Santa Maria north and east of Santa Rita Hills. There is plenty of good growing turf outside SRH. We wish other local winemakers would adopt Paul Lato’s point of view that the regional fruit is big enough and should actually be toned down! ankle monitor.jpgThis wine, however, reflects the prevailing POV where bigger is better. Not quite bombastic, the Melville wine would not look out of place under the wing of an Apache Longbow. As we threw down the mother-of-all-over-the-top-wines we wondered what would the Kenneth-Crawford team (aka Kings of Extraction) do with Verna’s fruit? You can find out yourself. Their current release includes a $34 Verna’s Syrah which is actually good value for the region. The ankle bracelet is extra.
Every motley crew has one decent player. In this group it is a wonderful Italian white wine that Costco carried all summer. [ed. imagine an entire generation only knows Motley Crüe the Hollywood band. Click here if you MUST see the Dr. Feelgood vid]
falanghi20043.jpg2007 Falanghina dei Feudi di San Gregorio $10: Coco-nutty and floral nose with key lime flavors. After lying open a few days it tasted nuttier and just as good. Great value. The story: only the “free run” juice goes into the bottle. The varietal is Falanghina. The vineyard has 20 y.o. vines. Viva Italia and viva Kirkland once again. 12.9%
ConcordiaSignaRioja2002.jpg2002 Marques de la Concordia Signa Reserva $16: We will be seeing more of these kinds of wines. Gelsons Market special. A Mrs. tBoW impulse buy. How bad can it be? Well, tBoW is not fond of Tempranillo. I find it to be fairly undistinguished among red wines. Fruity, moderate flavors. Middle to heavy weight. This wine is 100% Tempranillo, aged in the high profile oak program. A bit overripe for my taste. Nice enough but I know there are better wines to be had out there. Like the next one. Aged in new French and American oak. Six years later the oak has given up the fight and the raisiny fruit has won. Worth $8 so at this price it is overripe and overpriced. 13.5%
Marshall Cellars JP 2001.gif2001 Marshall Cellars Juliet Peery $10: Now this is the kind of deal we are actually looking for…and expect to see more of. A good wine that went bad because nobody would buy it at the posted price. Don’t blame the wine. 1500 cases of this vanity project with a bottle you can heft to the oldies. And so handsome! Wide at the shoulder, tapering down to the punt. Clean label design quietly announces its presence. Recommended release price $55. What do you think Whole Foods had to pay to put this out at $10? Marshall had several hundred cases still in warehouse from a phenomenal vintage and said “get rid of it”. Lucky for Whole Foods and lucky for us. To quote
Dotor√© the Discoverer “it’s the kind of wine you can take to a holiday party and nobody will know you paid $10”. Sometimes he is so shallow…but always correct. Because the wine is good. Eight years later the Bordeaux blend still has legs after several days with just a cork in the bottle of steel. Napa floor and Carneros hills fruit with serious tannins that have mellowed but remain present, if less feisty. Great Napa premium flavors with enough Merlot and Cab Franc (24% combined) to keep the Cab in its place. 14.3%