The Wine Guys

February 28, 2014


Just like the Byrds’ song of the 1960s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” there is a season for everything. This philosophical meandering was brought home at a recent tasting of 2000 red Bordeaux shared with good friends and our wives. It was actually a reprise of a tasting several years ago where the consensus was that Bordeaux from the 2000 vintage needed more time.

Indeed they did. Drinking beautifully now that they are coming into their 14th year, we found that all of them were within an acceptable drinking window. In another column we will share our impressions of that experience.

The insight from the experience, however, was the subjective evaluation of where in the ideal drinking continuum these wines fell — and how they have evolved over the past several years. The experience reminded one of us of a memorable 1970 encounter with a 1961 Joseph Drouhin Volnay Clos des Chenes. Accompanied by a humble hamburger, this Burgundy filled a small room with violets, berries, and cherries and other exotic scents that were matched in the mouth. Never before or since has any Burgundy equaled that intense experience.

Although we have searched in vain for this wine over the years and sought to recapture that amazing experience, so far it hasn’t happened. We now suspect that this may have been the perfect moment to enjoy that wine. If we had tried it two years earlier or two years later it may not have been the same.

Two wines during the 2000 Red Bordeaux tasting caused this reverie, and a subsequent discussion. The wines were the 2000 Chateau Haut Chaigneau Lalande de Pomerol, and the 2000 Chateau La Dominique St Emilion Grand Cru, neither of which were remarkable several years ago but sparkled at the tasting. A disappointing Clos Fourtet although highly rated, disappointed us, but reportedly was judged best in show by one of the tasters the next day when he re-tasted it.

The lesson here is this: If you can buy multiple bottles of wines that you are interested in, do a little research and check suggested drinking windows and begin sampling bottles approximately around these suggested windows. Every vintage is unique and the shipping and storage conditions of wines vary considerably, which can and will affect maturation rates. Keep records of your tasting impressions and try determining when the wine will attain the maturity level that you are seeking. Just like variation in maturation dates, individuals prefer wines with varying levels of maturity, tannin levels, and general drinkability. Enjoy the exploration and experience, and if you have a remarkable encounter please let us know.


Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($15). One of perennial favorites of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, the Villa Maria Private Bin is well-priced. Lots of juicy, expressive fruit and classic aromatics. Citrus notes and melon flavors moderate the varietal grapefruit flavors you usually get from New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Cambia Estate Bench Break Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011 ($34). We have always liked the pinot noirs from this Santa Maria producer. While the Julia Vineyard pinot noir from the same producer is delicate, much like a burgundy, the Bench Break pinot noir is more structured with bolder fruit characteristics. Black cherry flavors and spice abound in this full-throttle, fruit-driven pinot noir.

Ruffino Modus 2011 ($25). This reputable Tuscan wine producer has scored a victory with a blend that is becoming more popular in this Italian region: sangiovese (50 percent), cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The result is a smooth and layered wine with a lot of personality and pizzaz. The sangiovese provides fruit and acidity, the cabernet provides more body and structure, and the merlot smooths everything out. Sweet plum and cherries dominate the palate.