We recently invested in an electric wine chiller. It’s something that we’ve considered purchasing for a while and now that summer’s almost over, we finally took the plunge. Over the years we’ve slowly amassed a small collection of wine. We both prefer aged wines to their youthful counterparts and have found that even a single year’s worth of cellaring can allow a wine to evolve into something more balanced and complex upon the palate. We see wine as an investment in our own enjoyment. There’s nothing better than to tuck away a few bottles of a particular vintage and pull one out every so often and taste it’s changing flavors and textures as it softens and matures. Harsh edges become smoother, acidity declines, fruit flavors bloom and ripen, the passage of time can do glorious things for a wine. Of course, there is such a thing as too much age and wines can become flabby and soft, colors leaching away into transparency, fruit flavors withering into a watery shadow of their former opulence. Like anything else, aging wine is a balancing act and a bit of a gamble. A corked bottle or a weak wine will not improve with age and that dreamily anticipated bottle could end up a disillusion. Fortunately many of today’s wines are built to last. Considered drinkable upon bottling, a bit of patience will usually reward you tenfold.
I have to admit that I have always been of a mind to save the best of anything for last. As a child I would eat around the choicest bits on my plate, trying to ensure myself a spectacular finish. More often someone else would reap the benefits of my strategy as I would be too full to finish. It was a hard lesson and one that I still fall victim to at times. I love the idea of savoring the best bites but it is very difficult to serve them to myself first. I am the same way with wine. I love to buy and tuck away bottles of enduring richness and character but I am hard pressed to pull them out of the cellar again. Beyond that I tend to squirrel away the best bottles in the deepest recesses of our wine closet so that we are unable to reach or remember them, much less drink them. Fortunately Alex is not of the same temperament and he will dig through my barricades to find a hidden treasure if the occasion seems to call for it. He tends to think any leisurely evening alone at home together (which does not happen as often as we’d like) is an occasion worth celebrating and thus defeats my parsimonious tendencies.
One of the best things about our new wine chiller is that it eliminates the need for planning ahead. White wine by necessity tends to call for advance planning since the desired temperature cannot be reached at the drop of a hat. This being the case we normally have a “house wine” in our refrigerator, these consist of tasty quaffable wines that are not too expensive. Some recent house wines have included the 2002 Truchard Roussanne from Napa Valley. It is a wonderful juicy wine with a medium acidity, a syrupy palate and flavors of marmalade, granite and honeysuckle. Also tasted recently was the 2002 Alban Central Coast Viognier which has a rich golden color and a lively palate with a backbone of acidity and stone fruit that made our mouths water. The 2003 Peter Franus Sauvignon Blanc, from Sonoma, was unusually rich for it’s varietal, medium bodied with grassy undertones to its gooseberry and passion fruit characteristics. The “special” white bottles get pulled out less often than the red ones because by the time we think of it it’s too late. But last night Alex excavated a 2001 Peter Michael “La Carriére” and put it in the wine chiller. It was simply amazing. The color was a deep gold and it was incredibly rich and full bodied on the palate. The very first sniff told you that it was something special and when it hit the palate it didn’t disappoint. It had a rich butterscotch flavor with layers of caramelized bananas, sweet spices, roasted lemons and a smoky background. It was a sipping wine of the highest order and it will last for years. But thanks to Alex I didn’t have to wait that long to enjoy it.