The hardest thing about doing wine review tastings is that you usually have to taste pretty young wines.  These young wines are not bad – especially the ones I go out of my way to taste; life is too short for bad wine – but they’re not as good as they’re going to be.  And that can be a real problem, especially when you know that the wine that you’re drinking OUT OF YOUR OWN CELLAR is going to be sooo much better in just a couple of years.

One of the complaints I’ve received about my occasional tasting notes and/or videos is that I’m tasting wines that sometimes cannot be purchased anywhere any more.  I would like to say I’m sorry, but I’m really not.  At least not from my standpoint. I always enjoy doing tastings of wines that I like and that I know I’m going to be finishing once the tasting notes or video are done.

Let me explain.

I recently did a tasting of a young Hug Cellars wine, the 2009 Cedar Lane Vineyard Merlot.  I don’t like the video that much – I was rather distracted – but I decided to upload it anyway.  I really liked the Merlot – I finished it over a couple of days, and it evolved beautifully in the bottle. As good as it was, it was better the next day.  And it would have been absolutely stellar two, three years from now.  It’s especially difficult for me because only 69 cases were made.  That’s not much by today’s standards, especially when you realize that the “bigger” wineries often make 5,000 or more cases of a single wine.  But that’s what happens when you’re in love with the quality and flavors of wines produced by small, “boutique” wineries where passion and love blend with expertise and focus in the making of outstanding wines. And, by the way, Hug still has a limited number of bottles available.

That reality came to me the other night as I rummaged through my wine cooler and found a bottle of 2005 EOS Estate Zinfandel. Uh oh.  “Zinfandel doesn’t age.”  At least that’s the common sentiment that’s usually voiced about Zinfandel. “It doesn’t  have enough tannins or good acidity to age properly,” experts often harrumph.  And I had a bottle of the EOS, six years after vintage. Not even their top-of-the-line label.  Better drink it now before it turns into … something strange. Or whatever.

I was stunned.  It was a deep garnet, the years having taken away the vibrant purple typical of a Paso Robles Zinfandel.  There was a lot of fruit still on the nose, with hints of nuts, toasty oak, smoke, and pepper. And on the tongue it was lusciously Pinot Noir-like, rich and silky with a creaminess that lingered.  There was still a lot of berry fruit on the palate, along with nuts, pepper, and smoke – age having muted the fruit enough to let the other flavors shine through.

I was so shocked at how good it was that I called the Wineaux Guy and shared my experience with him.  We commiserated over the misconception that Zins don’t age, even though we’d had Peachy Canyon and Dusi Zins that had aged beautifully.

Of course I had to mark this wine off of my list on CellarTracker.  I looked at the public tasting notes and was shocked.  The tasting notes were done by two separate people.

They absolutely hated it.

Wha???  How could that be?  I noted that the notes were written two years ago, and realized that one of them complained about it being “sweet and cloying” which was not the case two years later.

I haven’t put my CellarTracker notes in yet, but I will after I write this.  The wine was delicious and had matured beautifully.

Which brings me back to my original premise.  After these two experiences, I’ve decided that I’ll taste a wine when I think it’s ready to drink.  I will share my new acquisitions as I receive them, and I’ll store them carefully in the wine cooler(s) until I feel that they’re ready to drink.  If the readers have purchased the same wine, they will be delighted (or not) that they made a great purchase however many years or so ago.

Sorry.  I just won’t waste another wonderful wine to taste when it’s not ready.  I have another bottle of the Hug Cellars Merlot, and that one won’t see the light of day for a couple or so years from now.

I have a bottle of the 2007 Merlot.  I might share that one soon.

Stay tuned… Meanwhile, enjoy the video!



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  1. I love everything you’ve written here. I sometimes find myself behind the tasting bar, explaining to people that test—zinfandel *can* age! It just has to be the right zin at the right time.

    I’ve found zins usually age best when they’re a bit acidic at the beginning of their bottled life. The acid gives them structure and as it dissipates, so does that overtly fruity brightness that some people don’t associate with “fine red wines.” 😉

    I think part of the issue is that zin is so fruit-forward and approachable in its youth that it appeals to the beginning wine drinker demographic, and then the big Bordeaux drinkers think it’s not “their style.”

    Anyway, great post! Hug is an awesome winery, and Augie is a great guy.

    PS: Thanks for mentioning us (Peachy)!


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