I wanted to bring this post to the surface in honor of Rick Bakas' #pinotmoment movement. This, was my Pinot Moment and a very memorable moment (night) it was...
(Originally posted August 2009)
Recently, amid a night of inspiring company and satisfying food I found myself torn - caught in the crossfire of two developed and mature wines, in what turned out to be a Pinot night to remember. Reflecting on the experience brought this thought. If pressed to identify these two wines by sex, both would indeed be female. Beautiful, elegant, and civilized in their seductive charm.
Prior to dinner, my attention went to the 1999 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir from Mendocino. She was sophisticated with nine years of refinement. Upon opening, the mild-garnet wine gave effortless pleasure. A playful nose of spicy red fruit coiled with notes of tobacco, burnt toast and hints of bitter chocolate. Denying no fruit - bright, tart cherry flavors conjured childhood memories of campfires filled with "pudgie pies" stuffed with cherry filling. Carbon laced raspberries lingered on the finish reminding me to stay serious. No doubt, a beautifully polished Pinot from the North Coast of California.
Just before dinner, we were graced by the star of the evening. The spotlight shifted, the crowd went silent and the 1981 Mayacamas Vineyards Pinot Noir from Napa entered the room. As the capsule was removed, a formidable cork was revealed. I actually think I heard the cork laugh (though politely) at the waiters corkscrew I brandished. As I proceeded with care, the laughter grew to a roar and erupted as I swiftly broke the delicate cork in two...
Undeterred, we called in the professionals and with the skillful twist of an Ah-So corkscrew, we were back in business. For over 40 years, Bob Travers has been making wine the old fashioned way. Situated high atop Mount Veeder, Travers' winery is a testament to all things traditional as outlined in a recent article by Appellation America. Cement vats are employed, fruit is never over ripened, substantial tannins are allowed and alcohol is kept low. This method produces very long-lived wines, allowing me to write about this wine today. Everything about the Mayacamas intrigued me. The label alone was captivating with a design like something out of a fairy tale. Even the material seemed artisanally made of a thick, fibrous texture that has worn well with time. Following a proper decanting to remove a few bits of crumbled cork, the wine was poured. Medium garnet at the center with an onion skin, orange hue approaching the thin rim, this lady prominently proclaimed her 27 years of uncontested maturity. Only a fine pedigree and graceful aging can produce the hypnotizing aromas and flavors that followed. My glass was a bouquet of orange peel and earthy mushroom draped over notes of coffee. Dusty, warm apple and starchy banana elements took me by surprise, showing depth. How does a 27 year old Pinot from a Cab house maintain so much fruit? Still medium bodied with dominant flavors of woodsy, sour cherry. Even after 30 minutes the grand dame held her fruit but with time the wine spun down gently, into an old world must as she faded away.
Torn, yes. Tough, grateful to have been able to dance with both.