Usually, when I buy a case or half-case of wine, I drink a bottle or two from the stash in the first year to get a handle on the wine, then open the rest when I expect they have reached maturity.
Somehow I managed to keep my hands off the half-case of Cayuse Syrah En Cerise 2000 I had bought when it came out, so I had all six bottles to pour for guests last week when my wife and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with 30 friends and family. I think I drank the backup bottle about a year after rating the wine (94 points) and thought, "well, damn, this has a long ways to go. Hands off, buster."
|Our 40th anniversary wine selections.|
It pleased me mightily that not only did the wine connoisseurs in the crowd recognize what a terrific wine it was, but folks who usually grab a bottle of something in the supermarket for dinner were exclaiming over this one. For the record, all I told those assembled was that I had chosen some wines from the regions I write about (Washington, Oregon and Australia), wines that I had bought for my own cellar and now had reached a good stage to drink. I didn't give it any special buildup.
They liked the aperitif wines, both from Oregon (Argyle Brut 2001 in magnum and A to Z Pinot Gris 2006). With the first-course salad, we had Pewsey Vale Riesling Contours 1998 from Australia. The dry, vibrant wine had picked up a waxy flavor to go with its original lime and mineral qualities, and it had gained some richness of texture. With it, banquet chef Matt White at The Little Nell, where we did the event, served tart greens and ricotta freshly made by the hotel's chef, Ryan Hardy. A few strawberries, Marcona almonds and a drizzle of balsamic sauce made it a great dish and the salad (see below with wine) did no harm at all to the wine.
But the wine that caused the biggest buzz was the red. The dish, braised shoulder of lamb atop risotto with peas and pancetta, did great things for the Syrah. It had developed into a gorgeous wine, much more delicate than what it seemed originally. Here's my tasting note from 2002: "Glorious stuff, rich, ripe, deep and powerful, a dynamic mouthful of dark berry, cherry and plum fruit mated with peppery, exotic spice notes and a distinctive mineral character that doesn't quit. Drink now through 2010."
|Ryan Hardy's strawberry, Marcona almond and ricotta salad.|
All those flavors were there, and some ineffable extras, but the big deal for me was the refinement the wine had added over the years. Or maybe it had just subtracted the fat. Either way, it had fulfilled its promise, and from young vines no less. It was only Cayuse's third vintage.
An electric buzz went through the crowd when they tasted it. Novices and experts loved it, contradicting conventional wisdom that you don't serve complex, mature wines to newbies. It drives me nuts when I hear people say they'll open a certain bottle when they have someone to dinner who will appreciate it. Don't wait. Serve the best wines you have to anyone sharing the table who wants them. How else will they know how good wine can be?