[Snooth is pleased to welcome its newest contributor, Dan Petroski , Assistant Winemaker at the esteemed Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.]
For each and every one of us who made a New Year's resolution or two, there are two and twenty of us who broke these resolutions before we had time to turn the page on the calendar year. I am going to dedicate this post to drinking resolutions, and I encourage, I implore, you to comment with the same, because it is never too late to talk about the art of drinking well.
So, here goes. My resolutions for 2008. One. Drink more often. Two. Drink more often, but drink better (that's what credit cards are for). Three. Drink with friends, more often (that’s what friends' credit cards are for). Four. Drink alone, more often adhering to a bi-nightly schedule of hand crafted Manhattans made in my kitchen (Makers Mark, Carpano Vermouth and Orange Bitters; just in case you were wondering). Six. Don't commit wine infanticide.
Focusing on my last resolution (last, but of utmost importance), I pose these questions: Why do we do it? Why do we consistently disregard ratings and reviews that post wine maturity dates? These are recommendations made by professionals. Not necessarily the reviewer themselves, but the winemaking professionals who provide the reviewers with tasting notes and technical specifications. These "suggestions" as most of us see them should be adhered to. These people have experience with these wines. They lock a vault of tasting notes on the tips of their tongues. Years of tasting the same wine year in and year out. They know the optimal drinking points even when Mother Nature throws them a curve ball in such and such a vintage year. I can only surmise its like speed limits. If you are driving a Ferrari on a California Highway, not even Highway Patrol is going to prevent you from breaking the law. We, alpha-adults, can't resist the temptation of breaking the law when someone else is telling us what not to do. It is simple Freudian Id psychology - we will pursue pleasure whenever it is in front of us, whether it is a perfectly paved road or a Parker 95-pointer. Late last year I got sucked into reading a lot of Parker and seeking out the value wines that were swirled and sniffed under his Lloyds of London insured nose. And I got burned for not accepting the man's experience.
2004 Finca Villacreses, Ribera del Duero. Wine Advocate, 95 points. Maturity: Drink 2011-2027. My first thought was, 2027. Now come on, let's be serious. Twenty years from now? The best Vega Sicilia (which borders the Villacreses property) doesn't even have 20-year maturity dates; and the Estate was acquired by a new winemaking family in 2004, how would they know their first offering wouldn't be legal to drink until the ripe age of 21. (I did my research.) So, I instantly wanted to taste this wine - and to impress my friends with a Parker 95-point wine acquired for $39 a bottle. The menu was set - select tapas dishes including some of the essentials; Serrano ham, Manchego skewers, potato and chorizo Tortilla, and braised short ribs. I uncorked the wine an hour before anyone arrived, decanted it, trying to prematurely age the inky wine and knowing that it would be a good two and a half hours before the first glass was swirled and swilled. A cheap Cava paired well with the Manchego and quince and when the party raged on we moved on to the meatier dishes and the first glass of top-heavy Tempranillo was poured. Blended with a small portion of Cabernet and a smaller portion of Merlot, the wine was locked tighter than a money belt on a first-time tourist’s hip.
I spent the earlier part of the night speaking volumes of a wine I never tasted. I recited the review from memory; I made a claim or two about the vintage. I felt officially a part of the vin-de-garde when I spoke of Spain (to Napa Valley natives) as the "new new thing." To paraphrase the Talking Heads, I said, Spain ain't no Australia, it ain’t no Argentina. Over the course of the night, I swirled, sniffed and sipped with sadness in my sockets. I was embarrassed with myself for not listening to the wine industry professionals; especially since I do it everyday when I tell visitors to the winery that the 2001 Merlot is drinking brilliantly at the moment, the '99 Cabernet is Bordeaux like from first sip to last, the 2002's are still showing industrial jam like qualities and the '04s need another four years before you can sit comfortably in a room full of leather and mahogany, pour yourself a glass and after a sip, seductively whisper, "what took you so long."
So, my New Year’s resolution, redux - listen to the experts, don't stop buying wine, but resist the temptation of opening it. I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on young wines, ready (or not) to drink!
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