The season has turned. tBoW has suffered the first schnüpfen in his nélson. [ed. he caught a cold]. The A/C bill will drop only to be replaced by the heater bill. And we are loading up on, and pulling corks of, red wines once again. This is a good time to discuss something every “collector” must consider.There are certain venial and even mortal behaviors of which all wine people are guilty. They are so commonplace and, ultimately, so forgivable we call them the Wine Sins. As we share notes on recently opened bottles we will also share thoughts on what you should be careful not to do with many bottles of wine.
Holding onto that rare expensive special bottle of wine too long. Sin Rating: MORTAL, 99 points. Everybody does this because we have been brainwashed to think wines should age. It is part of the trophy wine program. Higher cost + longer age = “greater” wine. WRONG. NOT. Just look at Al Davis to see what happens when you age too long. Better you should consider when you most enjoy wine during its arc of life. At the peak? Right before the peak? Shortly following the peak? Or well after the peak when the wine is old and crusty with charms only mad dogs and Englishmen can appreciate. This does not mean one cannot buy wines with a good chance of being well beyond their peak. You should mitigate the risk when taking this chance by paying a low low price. The worst scenario is when you hold on too long so that when you finally pull that cork, all you have are your memories and long lost hopes. The hellish pain follows.
1988 Jean Boillot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Corbeaux $15: Bought this from one of the many recession cellars close outs. Provenance assured. Very good high neck fill. Auburn color. Old, dry. Some fruit but definitely on the downside of the parabola. In a split which only made prospects worse. All the warninng signs proved right. Gotta be from Londonderry to like this. 12%
1996 Domaine Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee $68: Same source as above. Big name. Big ticket. Big disappointment. Lesson here is this is too long a trek for a Village wine to make with any strength left. Disappointing. Past its peak and close to being over the hill. Some might say wait for it to open. That door is closing not getting any wider. 13%
2005 MacKenzie Mueller Carneros Estate Unfiltered Pinot Noir $38 (club price): Look what we found in the upper bin. Classic Carneros Pinot Noir from one of those under-the-radar winemakers who just turns out vintage wines every year from his home vineyard. This wine is middle weight with terrific red color in the glass. All the tannins have resolved. The wine is balanced. It is big enough for chicken and meat loaf and it is also graceful like a prairie Mrs. dressed in her Sunday go-to-meeting clothes. No pretensions or off flavors here. Stunningly delicious California wine. Makes us wonder if the best domestic Pinot Noirs are being made at the southern tip of Napa in the furthest reaches of San Francisco Bay. We held onto this one just long enough. At five years it is exactly where we like to taste wines on the tBoW wine arc-of-life parabola. 14%
Buying the vintage or the region blind. Sin Rating: VENIAL, 88 points. This is one of those venial sins that are so easy to commit. AKA buying the hype. Don’t be stampeded. Buy one first or go to a tasting pushing the hype. Then buy your faves. Of course, like most lesser sins in life there seem to be so many exceptional circumstances when this sin ain’t so bad. Like the 2009 vintage from Beaujolais. Or the Beaujolais region in general. Or Mösel Rieslings. Or Gattinara Nebbiolo. Bothered by that funky shaped bottle or truly awkward labeling practices? You are missing out on some wonderful wines.
2009 Durdilly Beaujolais Les Grandes Coasses Vieilles Vignes $17: Such a deal! This wine was better the next day and it was already plenty good when it was first opened. Plenty of fruit. Delicate color and weight like a daisy in the mouth. Terrific value from North Berkeley Wine online. Demonstrating once again that Beaujolais and the Beauj 2009 vintage produced many superb bottles. Hah! 13%
Failing to try wine from an unfamiliar region because you think it is dorky. Sin Rating. MORTAL 95 points: Malibu remains an unfamiliar wine region. If you don’t believe me listen for yourself to the conversation among Malibu flag bearers on their Winedown Internet chat show. [insert link] Malibu wines are dorky. There are too many things going against the region. Rich folks playground means rich folks playing at winemaking. Malibu is for surfers…and developers…and actors in various stage of career ramp-up or run-down. Too much Hollywood to be taken seriously. And if you’re a wine geek you know that we are way too far south for decent Cabernet Sauvignon to be produced. If you have actually tasted enough wines from the ‘Bu to form an opinion you already know that the Cabs are rich, fruity and thick. [ed. fill in your own punch line here]. On the other hand there are a handful of vintners who show promise for the region: see Charles Schetter of Malibu Sanity and Carol Hoyt of Hoyt Vineyards. So when we visited John and Donna Freeman – proprietors of Colcanyon Vineyards – at their home overlooking the Malibu coastline at about 1200 feet elevation we expected spectacular views and ordinary wines. We were surprised to taste the hands-down best Cabernet Sauvignon from the Malibu Coast or Interior. And we are not the only ones who think so. This wine won a double gold medal at the 2011 San Francisco Fair. More on gold medals and their other wines in a forthcoming post.
2008 Colcanyon Cabernet Sauvignon $50 (not released): Distinctively pleasing nose. Not the fruit forward character we associate with other ‘Bu Cabs. Teasing, powerful, promising. Middle to heavy weight in the glass. Powerful but not BIG in the mouth. As we try to imagine what the blinded judges at the SF Fair were thinking when they swished, swirled and swallowed we come up with Stag Leap; the eastside of Napa Valley. More refined than the westside mountain wines from Spring Mountain. Softens up without losing any flavor. Integrated. Having tasted the 2007 version 30 minutes prior and noting the significant differences we ask John how can the 2008 be so different and superior to the 2007? He tells us everything was the same; from barrels to time in French oak (7 to 8 months), irrigation, weather, name it. All the same. He has the records (John is a biocellular scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, he would have records). Then it can only be one thing. Vine maturation. Indeed the vines were 7 years old in the 2008 vintage and 7 is the magic number for maturation. All of 60 cases to be released sometime soon. Apologies for showing 2009 labels. Reviewed next post (or so) so you can count on seeing this one again! 14.8%
Turning up your nose at unfashionable chains like BevMo or Total Wine or even avinous emporia like World Market. Sin Rating: VENIAL 89 points. File it under Dumb Snob. We learned our lesson big time this past summer when we discovered the world of Portuguese Vinho Verde and Spanish Verdejo. Cheap wines long ignored and the objects of crinkled noses when the bottles might appear. BUT now we know better. The irony is too sweet. The serious retail shops we frequent barely have a selection of either style. But the cheap-o chain shelves are well stocked. Celebrate the cheap! Enjoy the tasty! Laugh with every cork you pull.
2010 Trajarinho Vinho Verde $15: Call tBoW biased. We have been beating the drum for these wines all summer long. Picked this up at Elvino in Venice. A bit pricey for Vinho Verde so we expected great stuff. We got it. This is sophisticated, dry with the spritz. Still with very good fruit. Truth be told we prefer the fruitier wines…for summer. This works in the fall. Just got written up in LA Times. We usually beat those guys to the punch but not this time. They picked a very good one with this bottle. 11.5%
2010 Ca’ Nova Colline Novaresi Rugiada Erbaluce Vino Bianco $12: This label has a lovely vineyard image which must help keep the buyer interested. Along with the price. Otherwise who would buy an unfamiliar grape, Erbaluce, that makes a white wine from the Piedmont which is the home of Barolo and truffles. Robert Rogness of Wine Expo that’s who. Peaches, melons on the nose and soft summer flavors in the mouth. Lovely. The mega U20 value white. If you find out what the Rugiada is all about please share. 13%
Al Davis – RIP. TJ Simers wrote a great column on the life and passing of Brooklyn Al in the LA Times. Avail yourself.