When I wander into my local wine shop, the Fine Wine Source, I never know what may happen. There are times when it is a hive of activity, in which case, sometimes I decide to come back at a later time. Other times I have been drawn into conversations with others about the nectar of the Gods, that we all thirst after. I guess I tend to be a rather social individual, and then there are times when I am with my Bride and she gets carried away with all the fun that one should associate with wine. To me wine is fun, and I am not one that strikes poses constantly with a wine glass, and perhaps I am just a peasant, but I find that individuals that preen and walk with a wine glass by holding the base look pretentious. There are times for some serious wine tasting and there are times when one has to let their hair down and enjoy the moment. Two things I have learned over the years is to eat before going to a wine shop, just like one should always eat before going grocery shopping. The other is to drink water before going, to cleanse one mouth. The eating part is also basic to me, because in fifty years I have never learned the fine art of wine spitting, perhaps, because most of the wines taste too good, and I am not there to drink.
The first wine that I will discuss, I have mentioned earlier, only because after my Bride and I tasted this wine, I saw a light bulb light up over her head and she decided that it was going to be a Christmas present for me. We were each poured a tasting of EL Ixsir Cuvee X’eme Anniversaire Red Non-Vintage using the Coravin system. Ixsir Winery was founded in 2009 in the northern part of Lebanon in Batroun which is a coastal area. They are a mountain winery, and one of the highest in elevation for the Northern Hemisphere. The name Ixsir derives from the Arabic word “Iksir” the original Arabic word for “elixir.” History has recorded that man has searched for the perfect elixir for eternal youth and for love. The winery is very progressive and has been named one of the greenest buildings in the world. The winery owns one-hundred-twenty hectares in the Batroun with several different vineyards capitalizing on the terroir. The winery grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Caladoc, Cinsault, Merlot, Obeidy, Viognier, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Quite impressive for a young company, as far as I am concerned. The EL Ixsir Cuvee X’eme Anniversaire Red Non-Vintage is a special bottling of three very recent vintages of their EL, which is their top cuvee and a blend of fifty-five percent Syrah, thirty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Merlot. Each of the wines had aged for twenty-four months and then had been blended and aged in French Oak, of which half were new barrels. The concept of having the three bottles in the case was that the first bottle should be tasted in five years, and then at least ten years for the second bottle and the last should be held even longer. As a reference point, this wine was issued 30 April 2019 and the Wine Advocate awarded it a score of 93 Points and a suggest “Drink Date” of 2022-2040. When we tasted the wine, we were told that the 2014 vintage which was the real powerhouse of EL was leading this wine and it was big and inky and really overpowering; it was way too young and feisty to be properly enjoyed and there was real merit in cellaring this wine. Though at this point in my life, I can honestly say that I can tell a future winner, even when it is young. I can handicap wines, but don’t ask me to handicap horses.
The other wine was from California, and I had never heard of it, but that is totally understandable from my point of view, because I am not a professional and wineries seem to grow exponentially. Vine Hill Ranch VHR Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2017, a family-owned farming estate from the last century. Alexandra and Robert Phillips in 1978 moved to the family ranch that their grandfather had purchased some twenty years earlier and named it Vine Hill Ranch. They not only farmed the land, but were dedicated to land preservation and assorted community services, and the tradition continues on with the third generation. The estate had been documented as a vineyard and other crops since 1884. They still maintain the old ledger style of documenting the crops in their seven blocks. This wine was made from predominately twenty-year-old vines that began with three weeks of being on the skins for fermentation and post-fermentation using wild indigenous yeast. The juice was then aged for twenty months in French Oak, then bottled without fining or filtration. They produced eight barrels with careful allotments to special restaurants and not a lot to spread around after. A dark garnet color wine with lilacs and violets greeting, before the meeting of all the dark fruits, spices in a totally balanced wine with great tannins and a long finish to enjoy the mix of oak and terroir. Even fresh from a Coravin pour this wine promises to be wonderful ten to twenty years down the road, though I doubt many bottles will be around that far in the future, the wine is that delicious even now.