Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BRAMBLES: Retrospective Reminders

An annual rebirth in Spring!
It is Spring and a surprise was in the bottle.  Surrounded by long-valued good friends, we carefully untombed an old, dusty bottle of Beringer 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Centennial Cask Selection.  Its stiff leaded foil exposed a grey mold ring and a slight seepage to the top of the intact cork; its bottle fill had fallen just to the top of its shoulders.  Carefully the aged stopper was extracted, piece by piece, and the contents gingerly poured through a fine wire mesh on its way to our decanter.  How often do we get to experience a 40 year old wine, I thought?  As much of the grand moment as it was, it was certainly an even better one to share with cherished friends.
Good soldiers of a Good Weekend
Each of us approached the poured glass with varied anticipation. I was guarded, yet excited about what may have been released. Aromas of dried dark fruits with a shadow of freshness met my nose, and then a cascade of dehydrated red and black fruit memories followed; one impression falling into another and another.  The tastes lingered and disappeared, only to be replaced by something else I thought that I recognized.  And in a moment it was gone, giving in to cellar notes, wet earth, tobacco, cedar and tea, and an escape of wispy vanilla. It remained shadowed on the tongue, escaped through the nostrils for what seemed like minutes, and my head was spinning.  A unique wine experience and rich memory was being created at that moment, and it lingered, and then escaped.

Zinfandel in bud
Sublime. That's the word for it. Or perhaps inspiring.  A descriptor like 'impressive' seems too weak, like a washed out, faded watercolor landscape.  But it was a special moment creating a special living memory.  And, once again I was reminded of the value of life-long friendships, the nutrition of rich companionship,  and the living joy of a mature wine.  It does not happen every day.  Outside here in wine country I see the promise that is yet another vintage almost everywhere I look, where new memories are being nurtured to fulfill their possible destiny of creating something memorable. 

A few sunny days following, we sat on the garden deck with a bottle of chilled Loire chenin blanc over a mixed green salad of poached ginger chicken decorated with fruits and nuts.  Bright, youthful  acidity carried melon and stone fruit notes across the palate in a viscous, round stream, and finished tart, but dry.  The acid from our salad then shrouded the wines body, offering a different personality that was dominated by citrus and mineral characteristics, yet still round and lengthy on the palate. Loire Valley chenin blanc can be among the world's most age-worthy white wines I remembered. And, at that moment I was reminded that we create rich, important memories all the time.  Some last a lifetime.

Once again disappointing results of my recent exam with the Society of Wine Educators were announced, and I had an extended self-deprecating moment, that moral malaise of attempting to assess the value in what I am attempting to do.  Candidly, it has been years of wine study, working low paying hospitality jobs, and receiving the unconditional support of those closest to me, all fueled by my passion for making wine memories. Stepping back, it was necessary to examine what I do and what the eventual professional pay off might be for an independent educator.

In truth, I teach about wine almost everyday, and my wine passion has not diminished.  In this Spring, surrounded by the promise of a renewed cycle, there is a great opportunity for a new commitment.  Here was another chance to invest in the creation of new memories that can be recounted and shared in the not too distant future. It is a chance to produce something impressive, but I may just have to be more creative and renew my dedication, I reasoned.  Perhaps the Spring is the season of reminders as well as promise!

Raise a glass to our futures!  Cheers!!


  1. Hi, great blog! I am considering purchasing a bottle of Beringer 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Centennial Cask Selection for consumption on my 40th bday coming up in October. Your review sounds promising! I've found a bottle for around $100... would you recommend going for it??

  2. Ryan, the thrill for us of opening a 40 year old bottle and finding it alive most pleasurably altered our perceptions. We marveled at the uniqueness of the cuvee compared to the other bottles at the table, and how it was almost not describable with the same verbiage used for the younger vintages. You could do worse for an investment of $100! Happy Birthday....it's a milestone!