Wine of the Week: Old friends, new vintages

WASHINGTON — Reviewing wines from a winery you have not visited in a long time is like reconnecting with an old friend from high school. Within minutes, you are reacquainted and feel like it’s been five minutes — not five years — since you’ve last seen each other.

There is a high degree of comfort in those moments — a sense that time has somehow been preserved. This is the exactly the way I feel when I open certain bottles of wine. It’s like visiting an old friend: reliable, fun to spend time with and always gone too soon.

Unlike with old friends, with wine, there are always newer vintages, and the wines are reborn anew each year. But the wines, although different in age, tend to somehow seem similar, almost as if there is a consistent quality or characteristic that runs through its lineage.

Many wine writers may refer to it as a house style or brand, but I have come to think of it as more of a characteristic, much the way a child may resemble a parent. Familiar, yet somehow different; comfortable, yet somehow new.

Here are several wines that I have reviewed in the past, but now have the good fortune to revisit with current vintages.

I know it may be cheating to throw a nonvintage pick into the mix, since these wines by definition are a composite of prior vintages blended together to achieve a particular style, but enough time has passed — almost nine years — since I last reviewed the Nonvintage Domaine Chandon Brut Classic from California that newer vintages have all but replaced the older ones in the cuvee. The flavor profile relies on a blend of the three traditional grape varietals used in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. It provides a consistency in style that centers on a creamy mouthfeel with notes of crisp green apple, nectarine and pear. Fine-grained bubbles highlight the hints of citrus on the medium-crisp finish. $20

Australia has been blessed with relatively consistent weather which, in turn, leads to relatively consistent vintages. That explains the reminiscent feeling I recently had when tasting the 2014 d’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. A blend of marsanne and viognier, this wonderful Rhone varietal blend radiates pretty scents of green melon, grapefruit and orange zest on the nose while lush flavors of peach, apricot and nectarine glide over a citrus-based frame. The noticeable acidity keeps the wine in focus and brightens the notes of lemon/lime on the medium finish. Even more remarkable: This wine has only increased $2 since my last review in 2007. $18

Opening a bottle of 2013 Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon is like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to 2008. The former ambassador from Chile, Mariano Fernandez, showed me how wonderful this wine can be, year in and year out, during a dinner at the embassy several years ago when he served several vintages side-by-side. This Cabernet from the Maipo Valley of Chile displays aromas of black plum, cherry, cassis and Asian spices on the fragrant nose. Well-structured and bone dry, this cabernet provides solid flavors of blackberries, plums and violets with hints of vanilla and toasty oak on the soft finish. Even more incredible, this wine is age-worthy and can sit comfortably in a cellar for several years. $12

The Jordan Winery in California is actually the inspiration for this article. The 2013 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley in California is like visiting an old friend … from France. Concentrated aromas of blackberries, dark cherries and violets are perfume-like in nature as they waft up from the glass. In the mouth, the wine is big and rich up front with expansive flavors of cassis, dark plum and black cherry, leading to a softer, more elegant and polished finish, where notes of earthiness and vanilla slide in, reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux. I definitely recommend letting this wine spend an hour or two in the decanter before serving. $55



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