Scores of drained magnums were left standing on bars and tables, looking like empty magnums do. Lonely and deserted.
The food stations at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, at the Healdsburg Hotel, had been cleared save for a few dessert plates.
A few hangers on—the kinds of people who are often the last to leave parties—sat and watched and talked and drank wine and smoked cigars as the last of the dancers gave it their all when the anonymous wine arrived.
Tuesday’s Wine Spectator Bring Your Own Magnum Party had an amazing array of great wines on display before the crowd got to them. (See a sample in this video by MaryAnn Worobiec.)
But only one couple brought a mystery magnum. I had a pretty good idea what the wine might be, seeing as Kim and Don Wallace of Dry Creek Vineyards renown had brought the wine. They had set in on one of the tables with a "guess this wine" sheet accompanying it, and by 10ish, noone yet had correctly guessed its identity.
Kim asked me if I’d like a try and I took a stab. It was clearly a mature wine—the first aroma indicated at least 20 years of age. I figured it was a Dry Creek wine, but identifying mature red wines can also be tricky. The aromas were very complex, not youthful, but not oxidized or tied either, and on the palate it offered a delicate mix of rose petal, tar, tart berry, smoke and cedary oak notes. A winemaker next to me (who was probably in kindergarten when the wine was made) guessed American oak, which made perfect sense, too.
I tasted it a few times and took in the bouquet before deciding it had to be from the 1970s, and it turned out to be a 1974 Dry Creek Zinfandel. But it could have easily passed for a 30-year-old Barbaresco or Barbera.
What’s always worth considering when you taste a mature wine that’s still complex, vibrant and aging gracefully is that the only way a wine can last that long is that it has to begin its life in perfect balance. It also needs a great cork and proper storage. But this wine demonstrated that despite all the new fandangled vineyard and winemaking techniques, whether it be new clones, trellising systems, crop thinning, sorting tables or new French oak barrels, there’s something to be said for just letting the grapes do their thing.
Thirty-five years ago, when Kim’s father, David Stare, made this Zin, Dry Creek Vineyard was hardly a temple of high tech, but more of an experimental station in its third vintage and people then were making wines by the seat of their pants.
Christopher Ogorman — St. Helena, CA — June 3, 2009 6:23pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — June 3, 2009 6:30pm ET
Jason Carey — willow, ny usa — June 4, 2009 1:25pm ET
Matt West — atlanta — June 13, 2009 12:41pm ET
Dan Murphy — Tampa, FL — June 13, 2009 4:39pm ET
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