The Joys of a Cellar

It was officially Mother’s Day and it was just the two of us, and originally, she had told me where she wanted to go for dinner.  Then she kind of wavered, because our one local son likes to give her a hard time about making steaks.   I mean we have gone so far as to discuss purchasing a sous vide system for the kitchen.  Now, you have to understand that we are both children of parents raised during the Great Depression and meat was cooked thoroughly back then, just in case a pair of shoes required to have new soles applied.  I am not sure if it was because of concerns about the reliability of refrigeration systems, but well done, seemed to be the order of the day.  I mean when I met my Bride, she only ate chicken and fish, and I am a carnivore.  I learned to eat more types of fish and she slowly learned to have an appreciation of red meat, especially medium-rare.  We did not need industrial cutting tools for dinner.

Instead of going out to a steak house, we were going to be the steak house.  She was making a dinner worthy of any of the steak houses that we have ever been to, and we have been to plenty.  A big tossed salad with all the veggies, just like I like it, and with a creamy garlic dressing.  We had potatoes and creamed spinach, two of the most popular sides offered at any of the great steak houses.  Now we have probably four to six tenderloins waiting to be carved into filets resting at the house, but she splurged and bought two of the largest filet-mignons that I have ever seen, I mean she could have done one, and we would have been sated after sharing.   She made both, and they could have competed or bested any of the filets that I have ever had out and about in all of our travels, not to mention that we had enough that she decided that the next day we would a garden salad topped with filet. 

Now you may ask what all of this has to do with “the joys of a cellar.”  I have been recently reading some articles by authors that I respect and there have been mentions of drinking older white wines and not necessarily from France.  I thought I would go down there and see what I could find that might be in a corner, and I was also concerned because I knew that we still had some splits down there.  One of the other benefits of having a cellar, is that there is always a backup bottle of something else, kind of like an insurance policy.  The first bottle that we tried was a split of MacRostie Chardonnay Carneros 2000.  We bought this bottle and never tried it, and that happens at times and I had to look up the winery.  MacRostie Winery and Vineyards appears to be more focused on the Sonoma region, and they do list a vineyard in Carneros that they use for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though the winery uses both estate grown and contractual fruit.  I am not sure how long they have been in existence though their first vintage was in 1987 and a Chardonnay from Carneros, but they are only on their third winemaker and they actually have 130 different small fermentations that they nurture along for blending and creating of their wines.  The winery uses whole cluster pressing, and a mix of new and old French Oak and about ten months of aging; I mention this, because this is from their current winemaking notes and here was an almost twenty year old bottle of Chardonnay where the cork came out whole and it had a lovely deep golden color and no trace of foxiness to the nose or signs of oxidation.  My Bride was a bit concerned, because the color was so deep, but when she tasted it, she was totally happy as it was just mellow and totally old world mellow.  Here was a wine that my logical side of my brain would have determined to just throw out, because it was a very old white wine and a split, which tends to age quicker, but the romantic side of my brain urged me to try it anyways.  I would say that we are both glad that we did.  The other wine was a twenty-year-old red, which would not have concerned me, but because it was a split, that give me a few minutes of worry.  The Swanson Vineyards and Winery Merlot Napa Valley 1999 required decanting, not because I was being fancy, but the cork totally crumbled and I had to push it into the bottle and then strain the wine through a funnel and a coffee filter.  The winery was founded in 1985 and the founders still live on the property.  They were also touted to grow Merlot, against the trend of Cabernet Sauvignon which was the powerhouse at that time and still today in the valley, and yes, they do Cabernet Sauvignon as well.  I cannot say for sure if the 1999 was pure Merlot, but the current Merlot wine has some Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The current wines are aged for eighteen months in a mix of French and American Oak, both new and used.  In my mind’s eye as I was decanting the wine, I anticipated seeing perhaps a weathered red brick color, because one expects to see red wines lighten in color, as white wines darken.  Instead I was greeted with a deep color that looked like a young Merlot, the nose had softened, and so had the fruit and the tannins, into just another marvelous mellow wine that we both enjoyed.  My Bride was really surprised that it was a Merlot and that it had such a long life and was not showing signs of being too old.  A perfect dinner, some perfect wines to go with the perfect Bride on Mother’s Day, even if she had to cook. 

About thewineraconteur

A non-technical wine writer, who enjoys the moment with the wine, as much as the wine. Twitter.com/WineRaconteur Instagram/thewineraconteur Facebook/ The Wine Raconteur
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