Monday, April 21, 2008

A Few Mature Wines

I only began cellaring wine a few years ago, so if I drink a mature wine at home it means that I bought a wine that some one else cellared for me. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to taste a mature wine at a tasting, which can be a special experience also, especially if the wine is very expensive or difficult to find at stores. Here are a few recent experiences with mature wine:

2001 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard, $40. BrooklynLady and I loved this wine when we visited Adelsheim Winery. We toured the estate, wandered through the sleeping oak barrels, smelled the fermenting grapes in the big steel tanks. We brought home two bottles of this, their top wine (in my opinion). BrooklynLady had a birthday recently and we opened this to compliment our marjoram-crusted rack of lamb. When you see 2001 you might not think of this as mature wine, but '01 was a "classic" vintage in Oregon, a normal year in which some great wines were made, some bad ones, and everything in between. Because in most micro climates the weather never really got hot enough for long enough, the wines do not typically have the stuffing that requires long term cellaring in order to tame. Not that they're sub-par, they are not. But they are different from the same wine in 2002, for example, in that they might mature more quickly. Just like in Burgundy - they say you should drink your 2001's and 2004's while waiting for your 2002s to mature. I might compare 2001 in Oregon to 2001 in Burgundy. Many of the reds from both places are mature and drinking beautifully right now.

This wine from the Quarter Mile Lane Vineyard was excellent. Some rusty orange color was showing near the rim. The nose was mostly secondary with earthy damp wood and leaves, cinnamon, and a hint of red cherry to remind you of youthful days gone by. Lovely flavors including stewed cherries, lively spices, and something like the smell of moist potting soil. A lingering juicy finish with fleeting floral mouth aromas - this was complex and delicious wine, and it made me resolve to hold onto some of my newer Oregon Pinots, as they clearly become quite graceful with a few years of age.

2000 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny La Marginale, $12 (secondary market). Deetrane bought some of this a few years ago in an internet auction and I graciously took a few bottles off his hands. This is wine maker Thierry Germain's top wine in the sense that it takes a longer fermentation and ages in oak. I always enjoy his entry level Saumur-Champigny, by the way, a good value, and much easier drinking. This wine was a monster, incredibly taut muscles, everything still flexed. The nose was secondary, with lots of tobacco and a bit of funk at first too. The palate is still fairly ripe, with mushy black plums and lots of tobacco again, some leather too. This was nice wine, but lacking in dimension. It certainly went well with steak, but it was not memorable, didn't inspire me to buy the 2005 version ($35) and lay it down.

1987 Domaine Terrebrune Bandol Rouge - IPO Trade Tasting. Now THIS, this is mature wine. Heartbreakingly beautiful, this wine. And this is just from a few swirls and sniffs at a trade tasting. This wine was perfectly translucent deep purple still. Wine maker Reynald Delille said that 1987 was "nothing special" as a vintage, which makes this all the more exciting. He smiled when he saw my face after sticking my nose in the glass - the nose is so beautiful! It's not only the tobacco, the resin, the soil that is so beautiful on the nose, but the clarity of those smells, the harmony they create together. And the palate - these aromas followed through in a simple and elegant way, still absolutely transparent and clear, still working well together, absolutely harmonious. I was completely taken by this wine, and the IPO guide says it will arrive in September and should cost just over $100 a bottle retail. This honestly is a very good deal, in that a bottle of perfectly mature wine from a top producer from other wine regions usually costs much more. You can read more about Terrebrune in Bert's excellent profile. Not sure yet if I will buy a bottle of the 1987 (assuming a retail outlet in NYC buys it first) or instead buy a few of the 2004's at about $30, and lay them down myself.

1947 Domaine du Viking Vouvray - IPO Trade Tasting. After tasting through and thoroughly enjoying Lionel Gauthier's off-dry and sweet wines from the 2002 and 2005 vintages, the woman whose name I have forgotten but who also makes and lives these wines asked me in her beautifully accented English "Would you like to taste something a bit older?" Yes, yes I would. She pulled a bottle from under the table, a bottle of chestnut honey colored wine. The label said 1947 but there was no other identifying information regarding the designation. She said it was most probably sec-tendre (the name "Viking" is new, only since the late '80s). Whatever it was, it was stunning. Still very fresh and alive, even though there were some sherry notes mixed in with the petrol, tar, caramel, and honey. This was an amazing experience, and clearly speaks to the value of a well regulated cellar. Inspiring.

I wonder...does my wine fridge have the right humidity to perform this kind of alchemy on a bottle of the newly released 2005 Sec Tendre? Is it better to simply purchase an old bottle like this, as opposed to risking the time, space, and money attempting this at home?


David McDuff said...

Not to be morbid, Neil, but if you're looking to keep a bottle of 2005 for sixty years, I think death might be a greater risk than space and money. Twenty years or so, on the other hand, could be well worth the investment and far less painful than anteing up for a library released 1947.

peter said...

But an un-humidified fridge is a very dry environment. I'd be wary of long-term aging in there; better to find someone with a damp cellar and stash your treasures safely.

Anonymous said...

Oh man...I would have loved to taste that 1947!

I'm of the opinion that you should buy older bottles that are in excellent condition/prov. when the opportunity presents itself.

Brooklynguy said...

you don't think i'm gonna make it to 96 David? let me tell you something: i eat nothing out of cans, only fresh organic stuff. i exercise, don't smoke, and i'm lowering my caloric intake now too - best way to live longer. so there :)

i'm not even sure if my fridge is humidified. its a eurocave but i don't think it is. thanks for mentioning this peter, i've been meaning to look into this.

hey jack - what's your method for evaluating the condition/providence of a bottle?

Joe said...

Hi Neil - (1) I am amazed at that Marginale price - are you sure Deetrane's activities lead to proper wines? (2) what do you mean "lacking in dimension"? I'm just curious - I see you weren't impressed, but I am not sure what you didn't like about it? Lacking acidity, complexity I guess? The reason for my interest - I'm sitting on an '03 that I was planning to bring to a tasting this week...

Brooklynguy said...

hi joe - people don't think highly of wines like this on Wine Commune. it's more of an Opus One, Veuve Clicquot kind of auction site. And maybe the wine just wasn't that good to the owner when he sold it. the wine is definitely not off in any way. by lack of dimension i mean that it's kind of one note - tobacco/earth and that's it. lacking complexity. i have a couple of the 03s also, and my guess is (only a guess) that they'll need more time before drinking. maybe if you decant a few hours ahead?

Joe said...

Hi Neil. Sounds like a neat place to troll for gems (nothing like it here) - I was just curious given some of your Deetrane stories :)
Interesting - we will definitely decant these early - the team usually decants 1hr+ before we start, and taste through the night so we should see its evolution (or lack thereof?). FYI - I enjoyed a bottle of the '03 with Marcus in the fall. Cheers!

RougeAndBlanc said...

I tasted an '89 Pinon Vouvray Moelleux 1er Trie at the wine attack. Although not quite the same as the Viking Vouvray (based on your review), it is still mind blowing stuff at this time. Francois told me that it will be awesome in 10-20 years. Try one and see what you think.
BTW, what do you think the retail price of '47 Viking be?

Brooklynguy said...

andrew - they're not selling the '47 retail. it was just something she brought to the tasting.