Sunday, February 05, 2006

Lost and Found Joy

Those of us who don't have ritzy, elaborate wine cellars do occasionally find a fringe benefit to the disorganized clutter that is our wine cellars. For, among the disorganized collection of bottles that lay about in makeshift racks and untagged boxes in various parts of the cellar are forgotten, hidden gems. Here and there, a sole survivor of a stash thought long since depleted.

Usually, a momentary burst of self-scolding for poor cellar management gives way to sheer joy, as though one had just been presented with an unexpected gift. For example, last year I discovered a bottle of '94 Phelps Insignia from a stash I thought was long gone. It was a revelatory moment, that forgetfullness can be as rewarding as patience. To say that this cab-based wine was intense and delicious doesn't do it justice. For I was rewarded with an extremely well integrated, velvity wine that was awfully close to perfection. '94 was such a lush, approachable vintage that the others by no means were enjoyed too young. But it was thrilling to enjoy the more mature version as well.

I made another discovery the other day, not as exciting as finding a lost Insignia but nonethless instructive and fun. I found I had forgotten all about a bottle of an unusual and enjoyable dessert wine from Wolffer, located on Long Island's South Fork. It's unusual because it's made primarily from chardonnay, which is almost never used to a great extent in great dessert wines. The current vintage of this Long Island late harvest wine is made from 78 percent chardonnay, with a smattering of gewurztraminer, vignoles and trebbiano.

I picked up this wine while we were touring Long Island wineries about five years ago. By the way, if you're a wine fan and you're from the Northeast and you've never visited Long Island wineries, you don't have a clue. Not everything there is good, but there are jewels to be found. You don't have to go to California to go Sideways.

On that particular trip, I was really knocked out by the wines of a couple of different winemakers, one of which was Wolffer. I bought a few of their wines, but somehow this skinny bottle of dessert wine slipped out of sight in a wooden crate I use to store dessert wines and LBV ports. I opened it last night and, wow! There's a lot of flavor packed into this '99 chardonnay. I got honey and cherry blossoms and mango, and even butterscotch candy. Fairly intense, with decent acidity. The current vintage is described as light in color, but the '99 had a rich orange hue. I forgot just how much I liked this wine when I tasted it at the winery.

Yeah, I really feel bad for all those poor souls stuck with expensive, professionally installed wine cellars. Their chances of being surprised in their own cellars are so painfully slim. I don't need no stinkin' redwood racks...right!


Anonymous Lenn Thompson said...

I've not had the 99, but the 03 Wolffer LHC is a thing of beauty. I've got a few bottles that I'm planning to hold onto long term just to see how it evolves. Great acidity makes me hopeful.

The 04, while still good, doesn't have the intensity of the 03. Would love to taste some 99 or even older vintages though!

4:48 PM  

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