“Oh, my gosh — I gotta drink that wine!” I’ve opened the little wine chiller — the one in the closet where I put my more expensive* bottles (and that is a relative term you understand) and discovered a bottle of wine I stashed in there 10 years ago. This is an ’05 for pity sake — it’s aged enough to be either really yummy, or it’s turned to vinegar. It’s a good, expensive (again, think relative) wine from Paso Robles so it shouldn’t have reached the vinegar stage — I hope.
Although we’ve all heard about aging wines from France, aging isn’t normally necessary for New World wines. My bottles come from California where the weather gets warm enough for the fruit to actually get ripe and sweet, as opposed to Europe where the sun doesn’t shine as much. Just for fun, I looked on-line at vintage charts for French wines. 1990 Rhone wines were considered “outstanding,” as were the 1999 Burgundys and the French vintages from 2005 were outstanding across the entire country. As far as I’m concerned, California wines are “outstanding” from the day they’re put in the bottle.
Since I was already on-line, I also checked out some older French wines up for auction: How about a bottle of 1978 Burgundy that was going for just under $42,000? A Chateau Petrus ’61 was listed at $47,000 for three Magnums. And the 1982 Rothschild was up there in the forty thousand range, too. Can you imagine drinking a wine that cost more than a car? Ounce for ounce, probably more than your house? The mind boggles! So although I favor new-world wines, if someone offers me some Chateau Petrus or a glass of ’82 Rothschild, I’m not gonna turn it down.
So back to my 2005 Cabernet … I tilt the bottle slightly and hold it up to the light. There’s a good amount of sediment along the side where it’s been lying pretty much undisturbed for a decade. Yep, let’s open this puppy up and take her for a test-drive.
I set the bottle aside and dig in some more — what else is back here? After I finish rooting around, I’ve dug out two identical ’05s from the Maloy-O’Neil Vineyard and one ’05 from Chumeia. These are two small, family-run Paso Robles wineries. Or were. They have both since gone out of business. So while I want the wine to be great and yummy, another part of me is, like, “oh, I hope not because we will never be able to get anymore.” Now that’s a serious dilemma.
When I finish pawing through the chiller, the final tally is four Cabernets and two Zinfandels which are all over a decade old. Obviously, I am not going to drink them myself. Time for a party! The weather is spring-like, the flowers are starting to bloom, so this is the perfect time to have a get together on the patio and open some wine!
The day of the party I open the wines a few hours in advance so they can breathe and decant one of the Cabs. The idea is to taste the two identical ones side-by-side and see if decanting has made a noticeable difference. It turns out, it has not — at least as far as I can tell.
Nevertheless, we all enjoy the wine and yummy hors d’oeuvres. It has not turned to vinegar, thank goodness. At the end of the evening there was still wine left in a couple of the bottles, so I slapped the corks back in and let them sit on the counter. Surely they would be good for something. And yes, they were! A whole week later a couple of friends came by and we poured out what was left and, lo-and-behold, it was even better than it had been last week. Who knew?
So next time I discover a bottle of old wine in my chiller, I will open it and set it on the counter for a week. Unfortunately, I might have to wait another 10 years for that little experiment. Something to look forward to, huh?
* Just to give you an idea — I’ve never paid more than $50 for a bottle of wine.