Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
Brown paper packages tied up with twine,
These are a few of my favorite wines!
On the top of my bookshelf stand nine empty wine bottles. While not necessarily my all-time favorite wines, they all bring me fond memories.
Three are Cabernet Sauvignons made by my good friend Bill Cadman at Tulocay winery. They are the 1987 (the year of my sons’ birth), the 2004, and the 2001 under the reserve “Cadman” label. Thankfully, I still have two full bottles of the 1987 waiting for the right occasions to share with my family. While the wine is still in great shape, in recent tastings, the corks have disintegrated during extraction, leading me to pour the wine through a coffee filter before serving. While not the best choice for taking sediment and cork out of an older wine, it’s better than drinking cork crumbs.
Also on the shelf is a bottle of Empennage under the “Cadman” label, a one-off proprietary wine made by Bill in the 2001 vintage. It's a blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. Blending traditional Bordeaux varietals with syrah has been popular among Australian winemakers and has more recently gained traction in Washington state and now California. These blends are not for the faint of heart, coupling the power and berry flavors of cabernet sauvignon with the power and spice of syrah.
Two more bottles on the shelf are Cabernet Francs. One is a 2001 Moon Mountain Vineyard that I picked up as a closeout when the label was discontinued; it was an absolute steal. The Moon Mountain Vineyard on the east side of Sonoma Valley still exists, but the wines are now bottled under the Repris label and cost a lot more.
The second is a 2005 Willis Hall made by another good friend, John Bell. The grapes came from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Both wines showed power yet restraint and possessed what I call a bacon-like flavor that I associate with fully ripe Cabernet Francs.
Not too many wine drinkers have heard of the cabernet franc grape, which together with sauvignon blanc is the parent of the more famous cabernet sauvignon. The cabernet franc is the predominant red grape in France’s Loire Valley and there yields a lighter, more refined wine than those from Washington and California.
Cabernet franc was once the primary grape of St. Émilion in Bordeaux, but it has since lost favor to merlot, which yields better and is less susceptible to rot. Cabernet franc can also be found in northeastern Italy in the cooler Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions because it ripens earlier than cabernet sauvignon.
My neighbors Preston and Judy are true Cabernet Franc heads. Their favorite comes from Barrister Winery in Spokane, Washington, with grapes from the Columbia Valley from a vineyard not too far from where the Willis Hall was sourced.
But they also appreciate, as do I, the Cabernet Francs from DeRose Winery near Hollister, California — yes, it’s a real city and not just a clothing brand. The grapes are grown in the narrow Cienega Valley, where vineyards have existed since the 19th century. Among the many reasons why I like DeRose is that they offer older vintages of their wines for very reasonable prices.
The only other California wine bottle above my bookshelf is a 1995 Noceto Sangiovese. Made by another good friend, Jim Gullett, this wine was not overpowering nor one of Noceto's reserve or single-vineyard offerings. But we drank it just this year and, at 24 years of age, it was still vibrant, though, as one might expect, on its downward slide.
And since it came from the cellar of former Minnesota State University Mankato professor Mary Dooley — a true leader in her field both as a geographer and a woman, mother of winemaker Stephen Dooley and a special friend — it offered a special memory.
Two other bottles occupy places among the nine: a 2008 Barbaresco "Serra" from Paitin in Piedmont, Italy, and a 1989 Chateau Margaux from Bordeaux. Barbaresco is made entirely from the nebbiolo grape, like its neighbor Barolo. But wines from its best producers can equal and even excel many of the better-known and generally more powerful Barolos.
Chateau Margaux is legendary and one of the five Premier Grand Cru Classé wines of the Médoc. The 2016 vintage today sells for $600 and up. I think I bought the 1989 for less than $90.
Cost aside, it was exquisite. Need I say more?