Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bacchus amat colles.

Bacchus may indeed love the hills, but I've always thought of myself as a bit of a champion of valley-floor fruit.  Another freebie older wine courtesy of the owners of TWWIAGE, a 1985 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, has me rethinking my position on hillside versus valley-floor, at least as to regards the ageability of wines made from hillside fruit.  Dry farmed at an elevation between 1600' - 1800' up on Spring Mountain (by the Napa-pioneering Smith brothers), I think this bottle was a great example of a hillside wine.
The Smith-Madrone is not the oldest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) that I have enjoyed, that is a distinction reserved for a 1982 TWWIAGE.  However, it had to be the most stunningly alive, wonderfully structured and still strikingly relevant Napa Valley CS that I have ever had the pleasure of drinking.  Subtle echoes of black-fruitiness, wonderfully understated integration of oak, with firm, assertive tannins...blah, blah, blah...this wine had all the winning characteristics of a well made, aged and balanced CS from anywhere on the planet.  To me it was very reminiscent of a Left Bank Bordeaux.  Loved it.  Vinomaker, on the other hand, was not nearly as enthused as I was about this wine; he thought it lacked fruit, I thought he was crazy.
Not everyone enjoys older wines.  Some people, and Vinomaker is one of them, prefer more pronounced fruit characters in wine.  I like fruity wines myself, but I also like the complexity of older wines.  I drank a lot of older, French wines growing up, so I have a little bit of experience with how CS, for example, bottle ages - whereas the average Californian is used to drinking younger, fruit forward wines.  That doesn't necessarily mean that I am cleverer than the aforementioned Californian wine consumer, but it does mean I have had a slightly more expansive older-wine education than most.  In the case of the Smith-Madrone, I was able to balance the loss of some of the bold-fruit notes (a minimal loss, I might add), for the the complexity that the wine had attained through bottle-aging for 28 years.  Curiously, Vinomaker finished this bottle of wine the next evening and loved it: for him the wine had opened up and was now displaying an acceptable level of fruitiness.  In my estimation, this beautiful, middle-aged wine had many more years of age-worthiness ahead of it.  And look at that price tag, I wish I could buy this wine at that price today.


New Hampshire Wineman said...

I respect Vinogirl's experience!
As for the review: impressive Cab. and the tension between valley and mt. wines, though of interests, seems to be unresolved!
Being rather old and new to wine, I HAVE to through in for younger wines as a whole!

Do Bianchi said...

Bacchus amat valles!

Envious of the wines you get to taste Vinogirl!

Thomas said...

Younger vs. older wines is a major variance between Eurocentric and Americentric wine consumers, expressed mainly as "fruit vs. complexity."

It is a matter of exposure and experience, and often, like political views, it is a difficult divide to close.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: Vinogirl got her experience from Thud. And don't get me wrong, I love young wines too.

2B: I suspect Bacchus loves ALL grape-topography, or at least he should.
(Glad your move went smoothly.)

Tomasso: I suppose I fall into your Eurocentric category, as I, somewhat tritely, differentiate between fruit and complexity. However, I find some Americans to be Eurocentric too.

Thomas said...

VG: I'm one of those Eurocentric Americans, but of course, I was raised in an area in Brooklyn where all surnames ended in vowels--however--producing wine in the Finger Lakes altered my perspective and opened my mind.

Thud said...

You need to track down a few bottles of various types for me to buy on our forthcoming trip.

Vinogirl said...

Thud: I'm on it!