Saturday, January 26, 2013

Over The Moon - Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

I recently turned 29. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I chose to open the first wine I ever laid down - my very last bottle of Moon Mountain 2002 Estate Reserve Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It had 11 years in the bottle, and even though the winemaker said at the time of release (2005) that it could go for 20, I was starting to get nervous. 20 years in a proper cellar, perhaps, but since owning this bottle I've lived in two different top floor apartments and never had anywhere better to put it than the bottom of an occasionally moved wine rack as close to the inside walls as I could get it.

First, if you don't understand why this made me nervous, allow me to explain.

No, there is too much, let me sum up.

The myriad delicate chemical reactions that cause certain wines to develop and/or improve with age rely on several factors being balanced in just the right way. Furthermore, there is a rather broad spectrum of "acceptable" on either side of "perfect," and since every bottle is different and you usually have no way to confirm its treatment before it came into your possession, people like me who just "do their best" with limited conditions end up doing an awful lot of guesswork and finger-crossing.

I see that my fears were unfounded. Upon tasting this wine I was equal parts glad I had waited so long and regretful that I hadn't waited longer - it clearly hadn't peaked yet, as was my main concern. If only I could go back in time and buy an entire case instead of four bottles, but I remember feeling at the time that I would if I could, so c'est la vie. The results I did achieve were glorious. Actually, I misspoke. My joy far overwhelms my regret, they are not equal.

Moon Mountain Vineyard
2002 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma Valley, CA 13.9%
Cabernet Sauvignon 76% Cabernet Franc 10% Petit Verdot 6% Merlot 5% Malbec 3%

I did a casual decant, uncorking the bottle about an hour before tasting and allowing it to gently breathe sitting on a table, away from any lamps so as not to heat it up while it waited. The saturation of the cork and the layer of dark purple sediment were both exceedingly encouraging sights.

Behold, the cork of glory! In the background, you can see my husband chopping the world's most enormous golden beet.
After letting it breathe for an hour, I poured a bit into my glass. I was greeted by the sight of a beautiful, deep, rich cherry red. Like a fresh, clear brick. A little darker in the center, but fading uniformly to the edges. This was another good sign, and my fears had all but disappeared.

It had a richly intoxicating nose of deep, sultry spices. Spiced chutney, blackberry, cassis, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and a faint whiff of barnyard. A bit of sexy musk, ylang ylang, neroli, vanilla, saffron, and Cavendish all declared themselves as well. I could have sat there and sniffed this complex beauty for hours.

On the palate, the exposition was light at first followed up by HUGE monster tannins. It actually got BIGGER than it was when I'd last tasted it about 7 years ago, which was pleasantly surprising, 'cause I do like a nice brawny red. Unbelievably dry with enormous, mouth-filling flavors of chewy Cavendish, cassis, blueberry, and pepper. Slight touch of leather and graham cracker on the finish, fading into herbal mint and pine.

My friends, this is one of the best favors I have ever done myself. When you are presented with the opportunity, buy some nice wines and lay them down for a long long time. This was an amazing experience, and makes me so much more excited for the other bottles I'm waiting on. I am definitely glad I got  to put this in my face.

Also, the label is really pretty.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wilder Child

This weekend I was delighted to discover a trio of new wines by Wilder out of Walla Walla, Washington. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The first wine I tasted was the Wilder Washington Red Table Wine, vintage 2010, 13.5%. The composition remains a mystery.  Color in the glass is a deep, clear garnet, and the nose is redolent of cassis, plum, boysenberries, and spice. Upon first sip, the Wilder Red is bright, light, and fruity with an elegant acidity that fades gracefully away to a dark, seductive earthiness. The finish just goes for miles, a swirling maelstrom of shitake, graphite, and nurse log, with the daintiest little tannins.

It’s only $13. Buy a case. The most drinkable wine I’ve come across in a good long while, definitely put it in your face.

Food pairing for above was a local flank steak peppered and grilled with sauteed shitakes and trumpets on a bed of sweet potato mash.

After that excitement, I was chomping at the bit to try the Wilder Merlot. That’s a horse joke. There’s a horse on the label.  Ahem.

Like the red blend, the Merlot is classified as “Washington.” Vintage 2010, 13.5% abv. Like the red blend, it’s very clear in the glass, though more of a deep violet with garnet edges.

The nose is classic Washington Merlot: dusty raspberry, thimbleberry, briar, cocoa, and espresso.

On the palate, it opens even brighter than the blend with flavors of tart red fruit. Subtle tannins deliver a dry, languid finish of cacao and cedar. Elegant. Subdued. Lovely.

Also $13, put it in your face.

The meal pairing for the Merlot was homemade Russet fries on a parmesan and fried leek burger with paprika aioli.

My experience with the two reds was so overwhelmingly positive that I just had to try the Chardonnay. Which is really saying a lot for me, because I’m not usually what one would call a “Chardonnay drinker.” I made sure to pair it with something classic – lobster ravioli – for just that reason. I wanted to give it a fair shot.

Like the first two, it’s classified as “Washington,” vintage 2010, and $13.  It’s only 13% alcohol though. Also like the first two, it’s really quite pretty to look at, shimmering a bright emerald-gold in the glass with fantastic legs.

The nose is layered yet straightforward with crisp apple, pear, apricot, gooseberry, and a hint of yeast.

Truth in advertising – the same flavors are delivered to the palate in order, adding warm brioche. Very subtle, supportive oak and just the right touch of acidity. A perfect food wine, well-balanced with a clean, lemony finish.

Chardonnay isn’t really MY thing … but if it’s yours, I don’t think you’d regret putting this one in your face.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Whiskey in the Jar

It's March 17th, and since that's a Saturday this year, there's no doubt in my mind that there will be gallons of Guinness guzzled on this night. It seems to me that each year, the focus of Saint Patrick's Day revelry is increasingly on beer. And that's all well and good. I love beer. But I can't be the only one whose first choice today is whiskey, can I?

Whiskey has been distilled in Ireland for 1400 years. It's okay, you can take a moment to let that sink in.

Maybe I'd better say it again: Whiskey has been distilled in Ireland for 1400 years. Everybody pretty much agrees the Scots learned it from them, but the Irish have kindly agreed to stop talking about in an effort to avoid getting headbutted. I'll almost certainly have some forthcoming posts about Scotch whisky (their preferred spelling), don't fret. Both styles are delicious, just a bit different. Irish whiskey, you see, is triple-distilled, whereas Scotch whisky is usually double-distilled. The resulting sweetness and smoothness of the Irish product made it quite a hit with the Tudors in the 1500s, and therefore the rest of England. By the 18th century the word "whiskey" was in the dictionary, and Irish whiskey was a world-wide institution.

Most Irish whiskeys are a blend of traditional pot still distilled spirits and the smoother column-distilled type, although bottles that consist solely of Irish Pure Pot Still Whiskey can be found labelled as such. Like Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey consists only of 100% barley. Across the pond, things are a bit different. Canadian or American whiskey can be varying combinations of barley, corn, or rye; though American whiskeys labelled as "Kentucky Bourbon" must be at least 51% corn.

Because of its signature, triple-distilled strength, Irish whiskey is delicious just by itself. It is also an astoundingly versatile mixer. The popularity of Irish Coffee (which is coffee and Irish whiskey, not coffee and Bailey's Irish Cream as so many seem to believe. Not that that's not delicious) may have single-handedly rescued a floundering post-Prohibition Irish whiskey industry. I seem to witness Jameson and Coke as the drink of choice of many, many, MANY people. Far more than rum and Coke, surprisingly, at least in my travels. And then there's your multitude of classic whiskey cocktails: Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Hot Toddy, and all manner of punch and hard lemonade.

Well, I hope this post made you as thirsty as it did me. Have a very safe and enjoyable Saint Patrick's Day, everyone.  Sláinte!