Two recent drinking excursions are all the proof I need (as if after all this time I needed ANY) that wine with time well spent in my basement is one of my life's great rewards.....
1999 PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO Barbaresco "Rabaja" 1.5ltr
Drinking this was like being a homerun hitter and having the pitcher groove one right down the middle of the plate. Can you say "sweet spot"? My long held belief is that most great Barbaresco and Barolo, the two noble wines of Italy's Piedmont region and surely the reason the nebbiolo grape was "invented", start showing their stuff...really showing it...at about 10 years of age. Assuming a good vintage of course, and '99 was very, very good. Oh, and a good producer as well, of which the Produttori del Barbaresco is undoubtedly one of the world's great wine houses. I took this big bottle of deliciousness to dinner out with the VINO gang recently and from the first sniff to the last slurp it was glorious. The Rabaja is one of nine single vineyard "Riserva" bottlings the Produttori does in the very best vintages. Young, the 1999s really didn't show much of themselves, all closed up on the nose and tannic with that hard body that only softens up over time (an uncomfortable allusion to my own self, I realize...*sigh*). Anyway, back to this bottle. First off, there isn't anything much better, wine-wise, than popping the cork on the large format bottle. Just lugging it into the restaurant, you know good times are ahead! After pouring it around, the nose throughout dinner just kept opening and revealing more and more nuance. Sure, all the classic Piedmontese earth and cherry fruit was there, but also creeping in and out of the picture were rose petals, wisps of smoke, road tar (which in this case is a good thing), and ripe plums. On the palate the fruit was velvety smooth, melding with those hard tannins over time to become something pretty profound. The same aromas were echoed on the palate, with cherries and spice more in abundance. It had a pitch perfect acid balance, which is one of the reasons this was so good after ten years. It's acid that holds everything together in a wine, and a reason I fear for so many of the new world fruit bombs that are all blowsy alcohol and high extraction that sacrifices that acidity. This was simply an impeccable wine, drinking at its apogee, that enhanced each bite of food. Wow, if only it was like this every time!
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2003 PATRICIA GREEN CELLARS
Pinot Noir "Dollar Bills Only"
Patty Green, along with her winemaking partner Jim Anderson, are two of the nicest, and most talented people going in the Oregon wine business. They make incredible single vineyard pinot noir under their Patricia Green Cellars label, and a few years ago started selling this "Dollar Bills Only" bottling as a way to access a new, and more value conscious consuming public. I think this '03 on release was selling for $13-$15 a pop, which for better or worse in the Oregon wine world is a stellar price. 2003 was a searingly hot vintage, where whether you liked it or not as a winemaker you were going to be dealing with very ripe fruit and unheard of sugar levels (which translates into high alcohol) for pinot noir. There were a slew of out of balance wines released that were all fruit and not much else. Winemaking chops were of paramount importance and not many are better than Patty & Jim. The DBO was released as more of drink now pinot, but I managed to cache a few bottles away. This was my last bottle of the 2003, and I pulled it out the other night with not too many hopes for anything interesting. But man, did this surprise! There wasn't much if any tannin left, and just a hint of acidity, but the fruit was absolutely luscious. Darkly colored, with mouthcoating purple plums and ripe, sugary strawberries, with a bit of earth and light pepper sprinkled on top. A long, lush, almost decadent finish completed this very happy picture. This was wine that was just out for a good time. It only serves to remind that I don't need...or want...a Nobel prize laureate every time I pull a wine from the basement!