When we moved to Portland ten years ago next month, I brought with us several cases of wine. I'd been collecting bottles throughout the 1990s and just finished working for a Berkeley-based wine importer and retailer. In that position, I took advantage of the significant employee discount to stock the wine larder. "We won't get a chance like this again," I persuaded my wife. I bought a significant amount of wine, at least at the time. I wasn't making wine yet, you know.
Then came the great move north, with baby, cat and life's belongings. That meant engaging a moving company for all the big stuff and renting an air conditioned minivan to drive the family (baby) in cool comfort. And of course, the several boxes of wine. Meanwhile, Anthony the cat and I sweated it out driving our old VW in caravan with the rental. We thought we had A/C in that old heap, but it just turned out that San Francisco air was so naturally cool that we never noticed the A/C didn't really work.
Here in Portland, I still store my wine in the cellar in cardboard boxes, bottles upside down and close to the concrete floor to maximize cooling. There's no air conditioning in the house, but the cellar keeps pretty cool in all but the worst heat waves. I've worried about the wine collection, which I've continued adding to, evidence that we had, in fact, plenty of fine opportunities to buy wine. Then I try older bottles and they're great, and I don't worry so much. What do they say about cellar in Bordeaux rising slowly in the summer to the upper 60s farenheit (maybe higher)? Wine's fragile but not that fragile.
Of course, I've also had some cellar disappointments. Was that only because of my cellar conditions? Probably not. I know people with fancy, temperature controlled cellars who have off bottles. The one thing I've noticed is that I don't want to cellar half bottles all that long. Recently a half bottle of '96 Ch. d'Epire Savennieres was shot. That was nice wine in its youth and really shouldn't have had a problem making it to 14 years. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was my cellar. Maybe it was the half bottle format.
That d'Epire was the last "original" bottle I'd opened, before tonight. I'm down to about 2 cases of originals, those bottles hauled up here 10 years ago. What's left is a mix of 1980s and 1990s Bordeaux, Port, and Rhones, for the most part. That's what I was mostly into back then. Since then, I've gotten more into German, Italian (especially) and Oregon wine. I have old bottles of all those, but they were all procured since the move.
What did I drink tonight? A lone half of the 1995 Ch. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape. I'd waited on this wine for so long because reports suggested it was highly tannic and needing time. Now at the 10 year mark in Portland, I'm thinking about those older bottles I still have and wondering if they really ought to be opened sooner than later. One, because I don't have a pristine cellar. But two, what the hell, it's been ten freaking years. What am I waiting for at this point?
The Beaucastel only reinforces this thought. The wine is mature, at least out of half bottle. Slightly oxidized upon pouring, it got more youthful in the glass, revealing a lovely mix of peppery cherry fruit and mushroomy, bottle sweet, earthy aromas. No brett here that I could find, no barnyardy or band aid notes. The wine is indeed tannic, and I'm sure this bottle would have dried out before the tannin resolved. Perhaps larger, slower aging bottles in colder cellars will live a lot longer. This bottle was delicious, with a great burst of flavor in the middle palate and a long finish. There's something difficult to describe but clearly obvious in a really good wine. This one had that quality. Enough words. Go try it for yourself, even if you have to wait a decade for it.