Sunday, March 25, 2012

Just Drink It Already! (Another Wine Dinner)

There was quite the panic a couple of weeks ago when my dad's big refrigerated wine storage unit basically had a spontaneous stroke and was pronounced dead. Some hundreds of wines used to their cool, dry environment suddenly found themselves homeless, in the middle of a freak early spring warm spell. Luckily the basement managed to stay cool despite the outside temps, and Dad found a more stylistic and versatile home for them soon enough. A good excuse to reorganize, at least. I helped with some of the loading up, shocked to discover how much there was still left to drink! "Found" bottles included several 2000 Cotes de Nuits, 2002 Lynch Bages, some 2005 one-offs of CDP, more Burgundy and Bordeaux, not to mention some older Brunellos and Barolo. Also a bunch from Cally. Even some random stuff from Oregon!

"Hey, Dad. These aren't going to drink themselves. A lot of this is in its prime now. What are you waiting for?"

I ask this to the man who looks upon most food (and medicine) expiration dates as mere packaging decoration.

(Note: this is a stock photo. But it's not far off).

Last night was the perfect example of why one shouldn't let these beauties go for too long, and enjoy them while they still have some exuberance. While the wines weren't totally dead, let's just say if you took them out to dinner they'd probably complain about the temperature of the soup. Most of them should have been opened and enjoyed at least ten years ago, maybe more.

Over a selection of treats from Sahadis as hors d'oeuvres, we first opened one of the bottles of Nino Franco 2008 Proseccos that was just lying in wait downstairs. It was OK. Probably best in, hellooooo? 2010? The better bottle was Iron Horse 2010 Rosé, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Very juicy and lively. LIVELY. Operative word here.

Next, over delicious crabcakes, we opened a white Bordeaux, Ch. Montlau 1982. I think one of the main reasons this was ever purchased was the name of the negociant on the label, "A. Schuster de Ballwill, a Moulin Gironde." French Schusters of the Gironde? Why was this never investigated?

Anyway, unlike last time, when the "found" Bordeaux blanc was surprisingly sherry-like and enjoyable, this one, to me, just tasted musty. No fruit left at all. After a couple of sips, I went back to what was left of my sparkling rosé.

Over a satisfying roast beef, scalloped potatoes and string beans almondine, we decanted 1975 Gruaud-Larose and 1982 Ridge Howell Mountain Zin. I got a whiff of perfumed fruit right away after uncorking the G-Larose. And for a little while I think this was putting up an impressive fight to stay vibrant. But after about an hour, the light just went out and it got all soy-saucy, as Stephanie pointed out.

More up to the challenge was the Ridge Zin. Dad asked an interesting question, "Would you be able to tell this was a Zinfandel if tasting blind?" Well, I would have guessed what it wasn't, anyway. It was missing the black fruit and earth of a Cab, the plushness of Merlot, the juicy cherry and dark tannins of Pinot. The closest thing it could be was Grenache. But it really wasn't any of those things, nor did it taste much like classic Zinfandel either. There was still some warm spice left and sweet-tart berries. But this too started to fall short really fast. I had a little of each wine in the glasses after a while, and maybe this was palate fatigue, but I also felt the Ridge went the way of soy sauce after a bit.

Dessert was homemade zabaglione over strawberries. John brought more cookies from Black Hound and our newbie guests, Rebecca and Mitch, brought assorted mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa as well as berry rugulach. To accompany this study in decadence, we opened a 1994 Graham's vintage Port, which magically matched almost everything on the table. This was concentrated and very sweet, but still had plenty of acidity left for balance. I especially liked it with the creaminess of the zabaglione and the cinnamon of my cupcake bite. Looks like this was snatched up at a great price back in the day too.

Even though some of the wine was slightly disappointing, we all had a blast sipping them and chatting, with classic jazz vinyl playing in the background. Hopefully I've talked my parents into cracking some open for themselves more often. This is what it's been waiting for, after all.

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