I am a winemaker, but I am also an avid wine consumer. I was lucky enough to spend more than 30 years working with my dad; drinking his wines with my mom’s lunchtime meals are among my fondest memories.
During Caymus Vineyards' first years, in the 1970s, we drank Dad's older homemade wines, produced during the two decades before we started working on our commercial winery. We drank them every day … I knew his '60s wines like the back of my hand. In those days, money was spent on other items, and rarely did we have a bottle of wine on the table with a label on it. I learned to drink wines young and old, but preferred the older ones.
My tastes have changed of late.
About 10 years ago, Napa Cabernet was ripe for change. In my opinion, one of the important catalysts of this change was Turley Zinfandel. The alcohol levels of those wines routinely exceeded 16 percent—and yet critics awarded some of them 95 points! As controversial as the wine was, it was darn good, and we had to admit it.
In giving such high ratings to the Turley wines, critics began to accept higher alcohol levels in all red wines. Until that time, this vintner was afraid to exceed 14 percent.
The Turley phenomenon happened about the same time that we vintners were replanting two-thirds of Napa vineyards due to the phylloxera root louse, which severely weakened any vines that were grafted on AXR-1 rootstock. Folks who were interested in improvement replanted to phylloxera-resistant roots, along with healthy clones of Cabernet that would produce fewer grapes and better wines. Our trellises changed, plant density increased, and the hard-to-ripen Cabernet could now reach a greater degree of ripeness.
The new wines are an improved version of what we were making 10 years ago. Along with the alcohol being a bit higher, the acid is noticeably lower, resulting in wines that are more supple and textural. The best new wines rely on fine tannins for structure, balanced with bold ripe flavors. They are less astringent—and they've got "plaque." To me, the descriptor "plaque" explains the weight and coverage of the wine on the palate.
When it’s right, it reveals an unmistakable quality that is real and genuine. Additionally, working with riper fruit enables us to steer clear of that often bothersome herbaceous "Cabernet" character. Amazingly, the new wines can emulate a bottle bouquet of truffles. I also find it possible to offer a wide array of aromas, including crème de cassis, cocoa, sweet tobacco, smoked meats and blackberry.
I am not putting down the aging of fine wine. Maybe I’ve acquired the taste for young wines because I taste them most every day? "What tastes good young, tastes good old" applies here. But more important than drinking wines young or old is the fact that these new-style wines can be exceptional. But yes, I now like drinking them young, and rarely reach for an old bottle these days.
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — February 21, 2007 2:46pm ET
Doyle Souser — Camarillo, CA — February 21, 2007 3:10pm ET
David Nelson — CA — February 21, 2007 3:23pm ET
Carlos Gallegos — San Jose — February 21, 2007 6:38pm ET
William Vance — NB, Canada — February 21, 2007 7:00pm ET
Jim Gallagher — Jim Gallagher — February 22, 2007 2:54am ET
H L Sutherland Md — miramar beach, fl — February 22, 2007 2:57pm ET
James Mccusker — Okemos, MI — February 22, 2007 4:39pm ET
Wendie Waters — Dallas — March 5, 2007 12:41am ET
Joe Rance — Denver — March 5, 2007 11:41pm ET
Steven M Ruths Md — Santa Barbara, CA — March 10, 2007 10:25pm ET
Scott Cheney — Michigan — March 16, 2007 2:58am ET
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