we get letters!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

True confession – after what? 5 or 6 years of buh-logging (albeit off and on, but more on than off) – I’m finding that like every other form of written communi- cations, it’s evolving. Of course, it’s still a jungle out here in the blogosphere. Part Oklahoma Land Grab, part Alaskan gold rush, and liberally strewn with mangled bodies. But having just waded through 142 posts from dozens of bloggers, many completely unfamiliar to me, I can assure you the form is alive and well and morphing in many interesting directions.

Here on the home front, I’m finding that many of the topics that previously would have gone into a newspaper column fit comfortably into the blog. In fact, much more comfortably than they ever did elsewhere. The timing of blog “publication” is right now, instead of weeks down the road. There is immediate feedback. Dialogue. Discussion. Disagreement, to be sure, but that’s all part of the process. So now, I’m going to introduce a We Get Letters feature (we listened to a lot of Perry Como when I was a kid). Shoot me your questions (paulgwine@me.com) and I’ll bundle them up occasionally, or just riff on one really interesting topic, right here on the blog. And I will send you an email answer right back so you don’t have to wait.

Here’s what came in over the digital transom this morning:

“Paul, I enjoy your blog. Glad you’re back. Thanks for taking the time to write thoughtful (and free) posts.

I have a question for you. A friend of mine bought a case of wine for his son when he was born that he plans to cellar and give to him when he is in his 20s. He went with a left bank Bordeaux. I would like to do the same for my daughter. However, I would love to be able to go with a Washington wine. She was born in 2011 which was a cool year. Do you have any recommendations for Washington wines that might cellar for 20+ years (and be generally available - not a Cayuse type wine). I'm a member of Betz and thought about his Père de Famille but based on the Betz drinking guide (little card they hand out), it doesn't look like it would make it. Thanks for your advice.”

First of all, I think it’s great that a new parent wants to lay down a case of wine for their daughter or son to enjoy two or three decades from now. I wish I’d been the beneficiary of such largesse myself. Wasn’t gonna happen in the Gregutt household. Dad was a beer and martini-loving Mad Man; Mom was probably the only pure-blooded Sicilian on the planet who hated wine.

But what should this new father do as far as laying down a case of 2011s? He’s quite right – it was a very cool vintage here in the Northwest. But that could prove to be an asset rather than a liability. Cool vintage – higher acid – lower alcohol – better balance. So the main thing to do right now is wait. Why wait? Because the 2011 red wines are just now beginning to be released. The vast majority are not yet out of the starting gate. Some are years away – Corliss, for example, whose wines are eminently ageworthy as far as their limited history can show, won’t release their 2011s for another 3 years.

I did a quick check on my recent entries in the Wine Enthusiast database. It’s free and searchable, and you can troll for wines designated “Cellar Selections” to see what I am guessing has the best aging potential. So far the list of 2011s from Washington is mighty thin. That’s not a comment on the vintage; it’s simply a fact that the most ageworthy wines are rarely among the early releases.

What is there so far is the 2011 Leonetti Cellar Merlot and a couple of Rieslings – the 2011 Efesté Evergreen Vineyard, and the 2011 Ch. Ste. Michelle/Dr. Loosen Eroica. Not much help. But again, the good news is, you’ve got 21 years to figure this out! What I probably would not do, at least for now, is buy a case of any single wine from 2011. It’s a crap shoot. No one – not me, not the winemaker, not any wine reviewer in the world can predict how Washington wines will age with any certainty. Up to a decade? Not too much of a stretch. But 21 years or more? No way to tell.

So what I would do is check back in a year to see what 2011s are out there that have the potential to last. Maybe buy a couple bottles each of two or three wines. Wait another year and do the same. You have at least five years to nibble away at a full case or two of mixed choices before the wines get harder to find. Even then, they will turn up on auction sites quite regularly. And five years from now, it will be a lot easier to tell which wines have the stuffing for the whole ride.

spring release at college cellars

Full disclosure – I am on the Advisory Board (unpaid volunteer) for the Enology and Viticulture program at Walla Walla Community College. College Cellars is a bonded, commercial-quality winery operated by the students of the program. I have no involvement in making or selling these wines.

Under the direction of instructor Tim Donahue, College Cellars wines have made excellent progress in the last couple of years. Tim is especially excited about the white wines his students have produced, and for good reason. A recent tasting of newly-bottled Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc wines was impressive.

If you are coming to Walla Walla for Spring Release weekend, I hope you will include College Cellars on your ‘must visit’ list. Tim and viticulture instructor Jeff Popick will be leading tours and pouring wines. Students of the Culinary Arts program (under chef Dan Thiessen and instructor Jay Entrikin) will pair the wines with delicious small plates. Four wines/four generous nibbles for $15, and all proceeds benefit the Culinary Arts Student Club. For a look at the menu (yum!), visit College Cellars online.

1 comment:

Bob Neel said...

Magnums will have better chances of ageing well, but 20+ years is a stretch.

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