Do California Wines Age?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Well, last night’s class was certainly a doozy!  With the help of Food & Wine Magazine’s Guide to Wine author Mary Burnham, we dove strait into this myth buster of a class to find out once and for all, do California wines age well.  With a truly all-star lineup of wines from vintages dating back up to 30 years ago, we had a rare and unique chance to test this theory through many angles.  To give us a bit of background info, Mary explained to the class the dynamic of how California wines made their way into the international wine market and why these benchmark producers are to thank for it.  So for this class’s blog, let’s do something a little different.  I’m going to turn more of the attention on to the wines poured as they most certainly deserve praise for their stupendous quality!

Wines Tasted

  1. Kistler McCrea Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2002
  2. Stony Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay 2003
  3. Calera Mills Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 1999
  4. Labyrinth Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2000
  5. Opus One 1981
  6. Far Niente Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1984
  7. Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon 1989
  8. Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994
  9. Joseph Phelps Insignia 1998
  10. Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel 2000
  11. Turley Ueberroth Vineyard Paso Robles Zinfandel 2004

Our favorites?

Calera Mills Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir 1999

This wine pulls you straight into its heart with aromas of medical red cherry, ripe strawberry, dried fig, earthy mushroom, tarragon and even a bit of spearmint.  You’d think that on the palate this wine could just barely keep up with its electrifying nose, but you guessed wrong.  It burst onto my palate with an oh-so appetizing combo of chili spice and dark chocolate that was perfectly rounded out by its velvety texture.

Opus One 1981

This wine performed everything that I could have dreamt of.  Aromas that swim right out of the glass and into your nose including black cherry cough drop, red roses, moist soil, and medium-rare lamb.  At 31 years of age, this wine is still BLISTERING with youthful acidity and entirely smoothed-out tannin that were both endorsed by enticing notes of cinnamon spice, chopped cloves, cacao beans, and a prolonged finish of menthol.  One word can best describe this wine.  Showstopper.

Thanks to Mary for helping us solve this mystery and to Brian for helping us do so with this grand slam roster of amazing wines!

-Julie Albin

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