1997 seemed to be (at least to me) one of those years when just about anyone anywhere making wine was having a banner year. All the right conditions came together around the world and descended upon vineyards, the results were pretty amazing. From the smallest runs to the largest, all were putting out pretty delicious bottles of wine. This also seemed to be the time when smaller producers were making a real name for themselves, like Oregon and Washington State. Both of which have been making good wines for years and everyone was just getting to know them.
I went to one wine tasting at the Wine Thief on Whitney Ave hosted by owner Karl Ronne. We fell into a conversation about the year and wines that I liked. I wasn’t a stranger to grape but what was on the menu was really outstanding. So much so I began thinking I might want to start a wine cellar because these wines were really good, as such, the endeavor began. My basement was seven feet below ground and in one room the ambient temperature was 55 degrees. That room also housed the sump pump which always had water and was great for humidity. According to the experts (mostly Karl) that was a perfect place to start. After many conversations with the very knowledgeable people at Wine Thief about what to cellar I started building.
It is widely held that selecting wines begins with the basics red or white, which to select and for how long. Whites maybe three years while reds can go for decades, both however depend on the quality of wine. So how do you choose? The aging suggestions for common types of wine include Beaujolais – 0 to 3 years, Bordeaux red – 5 to 20, Vintage Bordeaux white – 4 to 10, Cabernet Sauvignon – 5 to 15, Vintage Champagne – 5 to 10 years. Another suggestion you can find on line compares the life of cellaring a wine with the cost of the bottle. Yes, the more expensive the longer it should last. I spoke with Karl about this suggestion and he seemed to agree in principal but strongly suggested consulting a professional before making selections. There is also a wealth of information on the internet today.
In the end, added to the cellar were quite a number of varietals and cases. Over the years it was fun to open them and compare the tasting notes from the previous bottle. What I found earlier this year was that time was running out for the surviving bottles. They were not only turning that lovely tawny color, some were beginning to break down. A couple were not drinkable. So again, a call to Karl who seemed pleased that I was still caring for the cellar and wine. He gave me this sage advice, it’s time to start drinking and have fun. He also explained this about cellaring wine “wine in the bottle continually changes to become something else, in terms of taste. It may get better or not depending on what you like”. That help reset my expectations and so, every week, out comes a bottle or two or three, clearing out the wine cellar. It was a great deal of fun to find the bottles, it was also a lot of fun to build the racks and all of that, though it is a little melancholy consuming the last of those bottles. Yet, it is still great fun experiencing what else these wines have become.
Now this could be an adventure if you’re so inclined. You can go to your wine shop or give The Wine Thief a call and have a conversation and pick up a few bottles, learn more about wine, have friends over and have fun. Or, here are a couple places that allow you to bring the wine of your choice. They include:
Jenelle’s (203) 624-2233
Both are in New Haven, CT or go to www.yelp.com to find places near you.