Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Mount Veeder Cabernet Retrospective

When someone writes about wine that is either very old or very expensive - or both - as a reader it feels like the writer is just engaging in oneupmanship. What's the point of flaunting it if readers have no chance of ever experiencing it?

At the risk of doing essentially the same here now, there is a broader take away: though there are certainly risks, there are also incredible rewards for those patient enough to cellar wines for the long term. The two pictured here, eight and eighteen years of age, exemplify the rewards. Having sat in the cellar for many, many years, the corkscrew went in with no small amount of apprehension. Altogether too often the prospect of opening an older wine ends in disappointment. The bitter truth is that very few wines are built for the long-haul, not to mention that storage conditions have a compounding effect the longer the term. But this time I got lucky.

Why should this matter to you? Because it proves that these rewards still exist. And if you've got the patience and a little luck, you would be well served to find a handful or two of bottles to stash for consumption a decade or two from now. 

So, how good were these wines?  Spectacular. Opened unceremoniously to enjoy over dinner on a ho-hum Saturday a few weeks ago, the bottles quickly made an otherwise ordinary evening a memorable occasion. The crowd favorite was the 2007, which still appears to have had plenty of life left in it. But the 1997 was my jam jar: supple, layered, and harmonious. Hard to believe it was 18 years old.  There are enough similarities between these wines to identify them as
siblings from the same family, as well as contrasts that raise fun questions about the impact of age and the differences in weather, winemaking, and viticulture.  All fun explorations for the wine geek in each of us.

Drinking wines of this age is like listening to a good story. It's hard not to look at the vintage imprinted on the label and think of all of the life that has been lived in the intervening years, the things that have changed, and the things that remain the same. While nostalgic and romantic, the experience also induces gratitude and excitement for the possibility the future holds. There aren't too many acts as simple as drinking a beverage that conjure such a wellspring of emotion and deep thinking.

The best news of all is that, thanks to the democratization of peer-to-peer auctions/trade, aged bottles are available to those willing to pay the (often quite reasonable) price and take the risk.

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