Friday, July 18, 2008

A Young Riesling and an Old Cabernet

A few notes from not long ago, when I cooked up a simple dinner of pork chops, roasted potatoes and salad for a co-worker/pal and myself. Just for the heck of it, really, there was no occasion whatsoever. It was late – and a school night – so we didn’t go crazy opening stuff but did end up with a couple of interesting if oddly matched wines.

Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett, Carl Schmitt-Wagner 2005
Though I don’t do it nearly often enough, I love starting with a Mosel Kabinett as an aperitif. They carry the added benefit of being one of the few wine styles that actually work with, as opposed to begrudgingly sit with, the salad course. At first glance, this was muted, aside from a healthy dose of sulfur on the nose, and seemed poised to disappoint. Luckily, it became more and more interesting with time in the glass. Intensely apply, with ripe gala and golden delicious fruit, cut through by a vein of pungent, slate-laced minerality. Though not as nervy as I tend to like, it had a pleasantly round acid profile, soft yet still uplifting on the finish. Peach nectar and orange oil emerged on the mid-palate. Lovely if slightly simple aperitif-style Kabinett and a surprisingly good value in the increasingly expensive world of German wine. $16.50. 8.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Terry Theise Selection, Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY.

Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon "Bates Ranch," Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 1987
This was my dining buddy’s contribution, a cellar holdover from an earlier era. The label art, which surprisingly hasn’t changed much since 1987, actually makes the Schmitt-Wagner look new school. And the wine was correspondingly old school. Not unlike the Riesling, this started out a little muddy and unfocused, showing possible signs of being a little worse for wear. But like the Riesling, it opened up to reveal some definite interest. Wild red cassis fruit, a little bay leaf and black spice and a spine of rocky earth came to the fore. Tannins were fully resolved with acidity in good balance. On the off chance that you’re holding any of this, it’s definitely time to drink. But it remains a compelling example of hillside Santa Cruz Cabernet and a taunting reminder of times past. Just try to find 12.5% California Cab today…. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon from Bates Ranch and 5% Merlot from Bien Nacido Ranch, all dry farmed. Release price unknown; current vintage is $28 from winery. 12.5% alcohol. Cork.

Update: By freak coincidence, Joe Manekin over at Old World Old School wrote-up a bottle of Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyard 1979 Cabernet on this very day. Check out his post.


Nancy Deprez said...

Interesting notes! Yes, I also do find the 2005s not too high in acidity, often preferring the 2004s these days for German Riesling!

Wow, that's an old bottle of California Cab!

Joe Manekin said...

I love the UPDATE. It reminds me of Unsolved Mysteries, when, what was the host's name...anyway when he would say, 'Update,' and they would give more info on a past case that was recently solved. Freaky show.

And as it relates to the posts today - that is indeed a most unusual coincidence. I guess good wine bloggers sometimes think alike. I'm adding an update to my post as well.

Schmitt Wagner's wines, even the kabinetts, age pretty well I think. Yes the acidity tends to be more round and the overall palate impression a bit subtle (one might say simple) and creamy, but they really develop in interesting ways. '92 Spat from the same vineyard is a tasty drink. And a co-worker has had these wines back to the 60's, even Kabinett, that inexplicably retain lots of youthful traits. Oh, and very old (80+yrs), ungrafted vines as well.

TWG said...

School Night? for whom?

David McDuff said...

Ah, you take me too literally, Tom. School night, work night, weeknight... I meant it euphemistically, as in needing to go to work relatively early the next morning. My days in academia are long past.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for your thoughts on '05 vs. '04, Nancy. I'd like to drink old CA Cab a bit more often, so this bottle was a little treat.

And thanks for the return update, Joe. Indeed, kindred minds think alike.

I've also had some older Schmitt-Wagners. I remember at least one Spatlese from '73, drunk a couple of years back, that was extremely soft and limpid, yet still quite pretty. I had considered including some thoughts about age worthiness but cut myself short for the sake of brevity, a trait that obviously doesn't come naturally. Actually, it does when I'm talking, just not when I'm writing ;-)

Wicker Parker said...

It's hard to find an American white wine that clocks in at 12.5%, let alone a California Cab, although the Renaissance winery still makes cabs in the high Sierra Foothills that just barely touch 13% -- without reverse osmosis!

David McDuff said...

I'm behind the curve when it comes to Renaissance's wines, WP. Thanks for the reminder.

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