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of recent cellar sleuthing....for B.E.'s comments on aging, see Cellar Notes
Clos du Val 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Surprised a few folks in Richmond recently by serving this one blind. No one guessed it, though I was only interested in how they liked it--and everyone did. Aromatic, vibrant and succulent, with spicy black currant flavors, subtle oak thoroughly integrated with the fruit, very well-balanced, smooth but lively and quite vivid for a 15-year old Cab--drinking extremely well now--so the Stag's Leap District and the Reserve must have years ahead of them. Wish I had more of this one.
Swanson 1996 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 1996 was a good vintage, though not exceptional, but there were plenty of lovely black fruit flavors, spicy aromatics, and incredibly smooth texture. Typical of good California Cabs to have the structure and depth to age two decades--and this one, round and long in finish, still has a stretch to go. If you like richness that still has a snap to it, enjoy it now if you're lucky enough to have it.
Merry Edwards 2011 Pinot Noir Georgeanne, which I tasted with Merry at the winery when it was still in barrel. It was impressive then, but now, 5 years later it is delicious--spicy and smooth, great depth and layers of ripe berry flavors. It has years ahead of it, 5-8 certainly, but the juicy spiciness and smooth texture are beguiling now (November 2016)
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!
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!!!
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]
Carolina is home to over 140 wineries. The state has long
varieties, native to the region...and still does. But wines from Vitis vinifera,
the European grape varieties (syrah, chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier,
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.
Some wineries are doing great things with grapes nobody thought would grow in these parts, like Albarino, Tempranillo and Malbec, as recent tastings have shown. Look for these in Triangle wine shops, especially A Southern Season and The Wine Merchant in Cary:
Jones von Drehle Malbec 2013 Yadkin Valley. This succulent red has the plummy rich fruit of malbecs from Argentina. Nicely dark and well-rounded, it will suit grilled or roast meats.
Jones von Drehle Petit Manseng 2014. A dry, tangy, palate-whetting white wine with a steeliness like sauvignon blanc but a broader flavor profile--aromas of floral citrus and accents of lime and kiwi fruit. Great choice for shellfish.
Sanctuary Vineyards Albariño 2015 Native to Spain, this fresh fragrant white wine boasts lovely floral aromas, and crisp dry flavors hinting of citrus. Very nice as an aperitif; also a good choice for seafood. (See story at B.E.'s Best Buys)
Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Franc 2013, 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 another excellent Cab Franc, with ripe red currant flavors, excellent balance. Tasty 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!).
Traveling west in North Carolina? On your way west 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
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