Once again I was reminded of the frailty of the new style American red wine. You know the wine I'm talking about. Those super-ripe, rich, and high octane behemoths that seemingly are de rigueur in the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate if you have any hope of attaining the 90+ point score that is the holy grail for American winemakers. I get it. A high score leads to two tangible benefits: the wine is so much easier to sell, plus you can jack your prices up because there is a certain sad, needy segment of the wine buying public who just have to have those bottles. And from experience I can tell you that in blind tastings, which is how the Spectator and Advocate supposedly do much of their scoring, these big bruisers will always stand out as impressive over the more nuanced, better balanced, and more age worthy reds.
The downside, as I was reminded last night, is that wines that should easily age for 10+ years are already toppling over the Cliffs of Drinkability at just 6 years of age. I took a bottle of 2003 Owen Roe "Walla Walla- Isadore Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon to an otherwise stellar dinner at Bar Avignon (their bavette steak, exquisitely tender and perfectly cooked, may be the current top piece of beef in PDX) last night with my good friend Jake. Now there is practically no one in our local wine biz who has my respect more than Owen Roe's absurdly talented leader David O'Reilly. Which is why it was somewhat shocking that this $40+ cab (back in 2003) was already edging over the freshness line. It was still deeply colored, rich, and quite delicious. But the vibrancy of the fruit was already starting to slip away, and in a wine still to young to develop those treasured secondary aromas and flavors that are the reward for wine dorks like who cellar these bottles for several years. This in a wine that The Wine Spectator rated at 90 points and said "Best from 2007 through 2014." I wish I had popped the cork about 2 years ago and enjoyed it while it was still bursting with youthful exuberance. It was like a 40 year old guy who suddenly starts to develop senility. He's just too damn young, isn't he?
It just proves what I've been discovering more and more, which is that this new style of American red wine, which demands a 14% or 15%+ alcohol level from letting the grapes get so ripe, while undeniably delicious and hedonistic drinking experiences while young, just don't have the acid and tannin balance to ensure longevity. As I tweeted about this one "Great 5 yr. wines, after that, drinker beware!" Which really is a fucking shame considering the prices being asked, which start at $40 and rapidly escalate. No wonder my cellar is filled with southern French and Italian wines. Half the price, incredible food affinity (thank you acidity and tannin and moderate alcohol levels), and possessed of so much more potential.