Holidays are the perfect time to bring out the wines you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Food, relaxed times, friends and family; what are you saving it for? Many of us who have been drinking wine and collecting the stuff have these little time bombs waiting top go off in our glasses. Open some of them this year.
This week, after our recent trip to far North Texas, my pal Hank offered to open some of the wines we found at my pals place. It was a Petite Sirah (and Syrah) night with some of the regular guys that I taste with in a relaxed, un-academic setting. In other words we sit around, drink and eat and talk about women, not wine. The good news, I am the youngest guy in the group, the baby. Which is rare these days.
Petite Sirah has been one of my epiphany wines over the years. Two especially come to mind. This first was a 1975 Souverain Cellars Petite Sirah. Bill Bonetti, who made his fame as the white winemaker for Sonoma-Cutrer, was regarded as one of the best winemakers in California. Bill’s Italian roots drew him to red wines and Petite Sirah was a favorite among the early Italians who settled in Northern California wine country. Mendocino, Sonoma, Gilroy, Napa, all these areas had (and some still have) Petite Sirah. Bill’s ’75, jeez I had this wine back in 1980, at home, alone. I didn’t even have a proper wine glass, I had a tumbler. But the wine rose and rose and kept rising in the glass. The color, the aroma, the flavors, the length, the wine went on and on. And it was delicious; it was one of those nights a light went off inside me.
Again, the Felice family (friends of our family) and the Italian influence. Yeah, old California was like living in Italy, but with better politics and surf. The wine, again, drew me into its velvet glove. Juicy. So Rich. And ultimately a delicious treat. 12% alcohol.
All three wines had been stored well. All came from the same collection. The 1982 Inglenook and the 1980 Guenoc had to be decanted (cork disintegrated in both). The Foppiano came out in one piece. All three wines were heavily sedimented.
Petite Sirah, when young, can be inky and brutal. The tannins are searing and the wines, when made in the Old California style, really benefit from time. All three were very much alive, but they had reached a point when they probably weren’t going to improve.
The 1982 Inglenook was the most surprising to me. It had a little more of a “claret-style” in that the wine had developed leathery, saddle aromas and more three dimensional flavors. God, it was delicious.
The two 1980’s, a hot vintage in California, were more raisiny. That said, they were also quite tasty. The Guenoc, which was a combination of vineyards (Lake County 68%, Napa County 32%), seemed to have the edge in complexity over the Foppiano. The Foppiano, the one that had the cork come out in one piece, was fruity and still quite youthful. It was a great romp of a red wine. Made me feel 30 years younger.
|Leonard Lopate, watch your back, dude|
While on the subject of California wine, Jon Bonné’s book, The New California Wine is a breath of fresh air. I moved away from California on December 14, 1978. But in my heart, I will always be first a Californian. That’s just the pull that place has on me. And I cut my teeth on the Old California wines. So over the years as my tastes migrated to Italy and the Old World, I would look over my shoulder, back west and have a bittersweet nostalgia for the place and the wine. Jon Bonné has lit a fire in my heart again for California wines and his book is a must read. I have poured through a ton of books on California wines and I haven’t been as excited as I have about this one. And the new wines coming out of California are right up my alley. Bravo Jon!
|Elaine is also a very talented artist|
More to come. But this is December and we have two weekends before the big day arrives. So back to work, case cutter in one hand and wine opener in the other.
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