Sunday, September 17, 2023

Celebrating Two Giants from California

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 1968 Charles Krug and 1983 Far Niente

This past week, in Texas, we've experienced with mixed results. For one, the weather has finally cooled down to mid-80’s, from a summer which saw an endless assault of 100+ degree days. Literally made me sick.

The other, not so welcome, was the expected outcome of the impeachment proceeds of our Attorney General. Acquitted on all counts, but it came as no surprise. Why would overwhelming evidence of corruption and unethical behavior (I watched the proceedings) necessitate an impeachment, when the political landscape here is so broken beyond repair, in my estimation. I’ve been here 45 years now - a stranger in a strange land.

That said, to end the week, a dear couple celebrated their 30th anniversary and we were invited. A generous wine couple I should say, with a rich and deep cellar. So, why not celebrate being alive and well, with maybe a cool evening, regardless of the celebrations that were probably going on (and most likely at taxpayer expense) in Austin.

Two wines caught my attention. I should say there were an embarrassment of riches at this event, from well made and home winemaker vintages going back 20 years (the Idaho Syrah was noteworthy and delicious) to the magnums of Champagne, the 22-year-old Zinfandel from Turley (stunning and classic!) to some age worthy and serviceable whites and reds. But these two wines are the subject of this essay – the 1968 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1983 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.

Imagine if you can 1968 in Napa Valley. From my perspective it was pretty much ideal. Quiet, peaceful, well-made wines, not yet discovered by the 1%er elites who have pretty much taken over the place these days. And a handful of winemakers plodding along making wine for the ages, The Charles Krug was one of those.

You can find pictures of this wine and other vintages all over social media, trophy shots for “likes.” But I thought, how about cozying up to this wine over a couple of hours and seeing what kind of life it had and what it meant to me.

The cork came out well enough, and the color was what one might expect of a 55-year-old wine, brick with tinges of red. In the aromas, the smell of age was present but not overwhelming. Sure, there was that leathery aspect, you know the smell of a saddle after it had been ridden for a couple of hours. Pleasant, not at all off-putting. Here was a wine reported to have been 12% alcohol, think about that. These days, a “light” wine. Those days, enough, just enough. So how did it fare, what kind of life did it live?

Fortunately, it was well cared for. It aged well. And once the cork was taken out, it sauntered along for a couple of hours. I know, because I followed it and noted its progress. It’s like going to a real good funeral in New Orleans, where the deceased person had a great life and an even greater funeral. The band was playing for this wine. It was historic, it was going out in style. It didn’t really die; we consumed it and transformed it into our life vessels from the get-go. It was delicious. Nice to know now part of the 1968 Charles Krug Cabernet is now part of me. And how very Gen-Z of me to think say, if I say so myself. And I do! LOL!!

The 1983 Far Niente was the next wine. 1983 was a challenging year. I remember, because the company I worked for represented Dunn and Forman, and they had pretty good results. Something about the mountain vineyards that year, which seemed to fare better than the valley floor, what with the rains they had. Far Niente grew their Cabernet in their Oakville vineyard. So, 30 years later, Quo Vadis?

Again, I spent a couple hours with this wine, not just a quick taste and an Insta-shot. Hours, not seconds.

Color was brilliant, deep rich red, very little signs of bricking. It was holding up as well as our friend’s 30-year marriage. Which is to say, very well. Aromas, were again, this leather aspect. This time, more like a baseball mitt, Which I meant to say a little more “in your face.” And it was pleasant, for sure. There was this cherry note and, in the back, this little walnuti-ness, maybe from the tannins? In check, but there. Just to remind you this is wine, not kombucha. It was lovely, delicious, went well with our food, which was lasagna and grilled chicken. So, the wine had to dance with tomatoes, and it did so very well. Very enjoyable experience.

Something about the wine kept calling me back. Like, “Wait, there’s more, I’m not done yet.” Yeah, wine talks to me. Or I should say, at least I’m not invisible to wine. Again, LOL! (OK, Zoomers?)

Yeah, plum, red fruits, the faintest hint of ink, the faintest. It was all in balance. 30 years of resting in the cool dark space of a cellar seemed to augur well for this wine. And it finished out in a celebratory way, with folks around a table chatting and enjoying each other’s company. If only the rest of us would be as fortunate as that bottle of wine, to end on a note like that.

Look, both of these wines are historic. They came from a time and a place that doesn’t quite exist in the same way, in 2023. But what did then, now? Everything is moving so fast, like we’re on these skis heading towards the bottom of the mountain, rapidamente.

In any event, these were, and are, giants, from California, as are our hosts are. It’s always nice to sit outside in the Texas twilight, instead of this Texas Twilight Zone we find ourselves in, most of the time, these days. I will miss the Texas twilight, when I am no longer here. I wish Texas the best going forward. This place will survive these despicable politicians. I’m not sure we will, though.

So, my advice? Drink up!

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