I write to offer you an informal guide to expectations for the aging of our leading Red wines, whenever you may open them. I hope this will be of help at home and in gift giving, when collecting them at their release date, and particularly later at tastings here. Since the earliest years of this new century, I have made a point of holding back a healthy fraction from select vintages, now totaling some 37,000 bottles, based on clear evidence that they welcome much greater aging than critics originally assumed. Even now, some are still surprised, yet such discovery has become one of anticipation for many.
I believe, a large part of any surprise at the sustained and expanding palate appeal in our leading Reds of 10 or more years in bottle, is the natural consequence of their amazing approachability in freshest youth. And we also have seen, that an original broad-brush reputation of a vintage in the region as a whole, can misguide evaluations of a slowly emerging but beautiful wine, grown and crafted with much experience of vintage variations. The 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, for example, the product of a vintage of outstanding promise for aging, was almost masked by its immediate seductiveness on release in late 1997. Our moderate, European scale of potential alcohol (13.0 - 13.5%) at harvest, plus the complexity of our soils, translated by restrictive yield management techniques, construct a wine of vitality many called “deceptive” in those days, but which we recognize now as utterly typical across a surprising range of vintage conditions.
As a benchmark witness to our Reserves’ potential, the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1995 will be presented for tasting at Library 1821, March 1st through April 30th. The wine still shows its signature of an intense ruby core, now embellished by a brick orange at the rim. The original intense red fruit is now more diffuse as dried fruit, with notes of rosemary, cedar, and forest floor continuing with moderate oxidative tones in the aromas. On the palate it is still very fresh up front, with tannins now more moderate through the middle, and lingering on the finish. That pattern is equally on display, to a less advanced degree, in our “classic” non-Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from 2006 and 2007, which I enthusiastically suggest tasting at Library 1821. I am expecting at least 4 to 5 more years of further discovery in the 2006 Cabernet, and rather more in the 2007. In the Reserves, the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon vintages of 2013 and especially 2014, stand out for you to investigate at the Library.
Time is on our side, to expand holdings in favorite vintages of our Reserve Reds, by exploiting visits to Library 1821 to verify expectations. We avoid the mistake of claiming an ideal drinking age for these wines. Their evolution will never lack interest, and will be reflected in our ingredients and techniques in food pairings, from sautés and grillings with vivid accompaniments in youth, to roasts and braises in subtler frames as they age. To return to my first tasting note for Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ’95, “Grilled ribeye topped with a spoon of melted gorgonzola,” tipped the scales of pairing to ravishing heights, but was right on the mark for its age. Today, the wine shines perfectly with risotto of bone marrow, fresh peas, and morels.
As curator of vintage selections, I will be offering further personal suggestions in these occasional Notes. Of special interest right now, in Library 1821, is a flight of young vintages in both Cabernet Franc Reserve and Octagon, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Naturally, the Library’s presentation of the wines is as ideal in temperature and glassware selection as it is in your home. Let us hope there will be as many occasions as you may like, to revisit us this year, and to book a reservation to continue your investigations of the past, always new, at Library 1821.
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