From the Depths of the Cellar

10:32 pm Gems in MY Glass . . .

Notable wine journalist Dan Berger, his wife Juliann, fellow wine judge Tom Bohr, his partner Etha, and I recently dug into our wine cellars and pulled out a few aged bottles to share with friends over dinner at Ca’Bianca restaurant in Santa Rosa.  Admittedly, my cellar is not nearly as deep as Dan’s, nor Tom’s, but each bottle represented had been stored in ideal conditions, a must for properly aging wines.  The wines selected from the cellars of Dan and Tom, aged for decades, included a 1970 Napa Cab Sauv, a 1975 Napa Cab Sauv, a 1970 Margaux Bordeaux, and a 1976 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer (Germany) Riesling, among others.  My mature wine contribution was a 1998 Napa Cab (a mere 18.5 years aged).  Travel vicariously with me through the years:

Freemark Abbey 1987 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  If you are one who thinks new world Chardonnay isn’t ageworthy; think again.  This elegant ~30-year-aged Chard displayed the color of a golden sunrise, and a bouquet that captured notes of honey-drizzled baked apples.  In the mouth it was velvety smooth, as layers of buttered toast, nuttiness, hints of earth, applesauce, creamy pears and citrusy accents were revealed.  The delightful finish was persistent.

Van Loben Sels 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Dan recalled this wine released at ~$12, and BV Reserve in those days was selling for ~$9 per bottle.  Imagine that!  The grapes were grown on the property across from Robert Mondavi Winery, which the Van Loben Sels’ then owned (now the site of Opus One Winery).  A pleasing earthy aroma set the stage for aged leather, spice box notes, tobacco leaf and dried currants on the palate.  Resolved tannins and nice oak nuances added further dimension.

Beaulieu Vineyard 1983 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Opened with an herbaceous aroma that led to harmonious notes of dried cherry, underbrush, orange peel, savory spice, cassis, a thread of minerality and subtle dark chocolate gracing the palate.  Fully integrated tannins and slight acids held up the mature fruit, and the pleasing finish boasted notes of toffee.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac 1970 Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux; Margaux, France:  This beautifully composed Grand Cru Classé exhibited an inviting bouquet, and incredible brightness considering its age.  Cherry, currant and dried earth melded with secondary notes of smoke and well-integrated oak, followed by tertiary flavors of saddle leather, baking spice and tobacco.  The wine finished gracefully with a touch of herbs and plenty of length.

Trimbach 1979 Cuvée Des Seigneurs De Ribeaupierre Gewurztraminer; Alsace, France:  The hue presented hints of age, and the nose offered nuttiness.  In the glass, this Gewurz showcased lovely fruit elements of lychee, honeysuckle and citrus, with a drop of honey and roasted almonds, all supported by a dynamic backbone of acidity.  The mouthfeel was silky, and the wine was nicely weighted.

Wehlener Sonnenuhr 1976 Riesling Spatlese; Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany:  Wow.  A testament to the ageworthiness of this noble grape, this vivacious Riesling was wildly expressive with floral, slate and stone fruit aromas.  Sleek with a fine acid backbone, it delivered consistent flavors of peach and apricot accented by lime zest on the palate.  Minerally with remarkable liveliness through the memorable finish.

Inglenook Winery Reserve Cask 1983 Reunion Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  This engaging Cab Sauv was sourced from Napa Valley vineyards, including plantings at the JJ Cohn Ranch.  It showcased earthiness, dried cherry, cassis, eucalyptus, cedar and savory spice elements from the satisfying aroma, through the palate, to the lifted finish.  This wine was holding its own, with the fruit at the core enveloped by soft tannins and still present acidity.

Caymus Vineyards 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California: (Dan shared that this wine was crafted by Randy Dunn, who later, in 1979, founded Dunn Vineyards). This nicely aged wine opened with smoky overtones, worn leather notes, spicy nuances of French and American oak, tobacco, cassis, plummy fruit, and dusty earth accents.  Well defined with soft tannins, nice acids, and a finish that lingered on and on.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1998 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa Valley, California:  Fresh and bright, this appealing Cab Sauv enticed me into the glass with dark fruit and spice on the nose.  Full bodied with a beautiful texture, layers of cassis, plum jam, tobacco, boysenberry, anise, and underlying oak nuances filled the palate.  Supple tannins and nice acids support the pretty fruit; still youthful.

Wendouree 2003 Shiraz Mataro; Clare Valley, South Australia:  The minty, berry aroma clearly identified sense of place with this tasty, full bodied Australian red blend.  Layers of blackberry liqueur, dark cherries, red plums, oak spice and eucalyptus flowing onto the palate were buoyed by bracing acidity.  Well-structured and velvety smooth with precise balance and a vivid finish.

These gems, some of which had been bottled before some of us reached legal drinking age, were enlightening, eye opening, and a delight to sip and pair with Ca’Bianca’s delicious cuisine.  I look forward to exploring additional ageworthy wines in years ahead.  With patience over the next decade or two, perhaps some of the bottles in my cellar will still be resting, awaiting the right time to pop the cork for tasting, reviewing and sharing!

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