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Cellar Notes

Cellar Selections
Wines in this section are those that need or will improve with age. Some, as noted, may be quite drinkable now, but have the structure to age for at least the minimum period recommended, and often well beyond the stated maximum.
Note:  Prices are Suggested Retail Price (srp), may vary in some markets

 Aging wine...the indisputable advantages.....

*Musings on aging wine.....*
A question I'm often asked:  how do you know which wines improve with age, and which ones won't?
Not a quick answer, actually. Of course it's obvious with some wines--red Bordeaux in good vintages, California Cabernets that cost more than $30 a bottle....serious syrahs, Rhône reds, Brunellos and Barolos, SuperTuscans, all are meant to improve with age and can do so 15, 20, 30 years, exhibiting complex aromas and flavors only hinted at in youth. Don't cheat yourself--if you buy such wines, buy at least one extra to age....and see what miracles time can work.
      Most red wines that are balanced will certainly improve with bottle age, anywhere from 2-4 years for moderately priced ($20+) merlots, pinot noirs, syrahs to 5, 7, or 10 years (and longer!) for similarly priced cabernets, bigger syrahs and merlots, cabernet franc, sangiovese, claret blends. Even wines meant to drink young will often hold or improve with a few years on them. Recently I opened a three-year-old Barbera with robust and concentrated flavors. It was a little tough and tannic the first night, but the next night it was perfect--smooth and round, the tannins mellowed, the fruit more forward--a hint at what 4-7 years in bottle would do.
       Some wine drinkers, however, like vigorous, muscular reds and like the tannin that gives the wines an edge. Chacun à son gout--to each his own taste.  Yet I've had more than one person in my wine classes say to me--"I really like big young reds, but after the first sip or two I find  I don't like them as much. Why is that?"  It's because with the first sip or two you get the rich, ripe fruit of a big wine....but then the tannin comes up hard, builds on the palate and the wine just can't give any more--it needs aging to evolve and give more of what it promised. See  B.E.'s Discoveries
       Time in bottle does what nothing else can. Over time, whether it's two or three years, or 10 or 20, chemical changes occur--tannins soften and precipitate out, pigments darken and eventually lighten, creating sediment. I always decant wines 10 years old or older. But then I often decant very young wines when they seem stiff and tannic--the aeration can open them up and soften the tannins--aging them in a sense. This is why when you open a young red that is too young and tight to really enjoy, it may taste better the next night....or the next. One that recently did:  Catena  Malbec from Argentina, dark and opaque, quite tannic, somewhat hard when we opened it. The next night it was much softer and more appealing. A few years in bottle, 5 to 7, would also do that.
          I make it a practice never to throw out  a young red until I've tasted it the second or third day--if it hasn't improved I can toss it, but sometimes it's a revelation.

Sin Zin, Alexander Valley Vyds, $22, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. If the label doesn't seduce you, the wine in the bottle will--typically luxuriant ripe flavors and the heady aroma of blackberries, raspberries and black plums. Big and handsome, as this wine always is--powerful without being overwhelming.

Ridge Zinfandel Paso Robles, $28-30  Consistently a Ridge favorite with Zin fans. Bright, juicy berry flavors typical of Zins from the Paso Robles region on California's central coast; long finish,, very seductive.

Ridge Geyserville, $40, is more complex--that touch of mataro (mourvedre)--The very essence of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, with intense berry flavors, accents of black pepper enveloped in big, rich fruit comes through in Zins from Dry Creek Vineyard, one of the earliest to focus on Zinfandel. It's plentiful in Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel about $26--I love this Zin--full of berry flavors, very drinkable and appealing.
Well-made, well-balanced Zins can age extremely well, becoming smooth, complex and, surprisingly, rather claret-like.  Tuck away a bottle or two and see for yourself.