after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

wine that saves lives

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t says:  What do you look for in a “nice” bottle of wine.  A pretty nose?  Complex flavors?  A long finish?  Yes to all of those!  How about a wine that saves lives?  That’d be like icing on the cake …

In contrast to our last post about Dreaming Tree, it’s time to focus on some “spendier” wines: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wines from this region are famous, pricey, and, unfortunately, not always tasty.  Those under-$20 bottles are very hit-or-miss (with the hit:miss ratio being very low).  Meanwhile, you start getting to the $35+ and now things start to improve rapidly … but there’s still a wide range of hitting and missing.  Damn.  In a world of limited income, there’s just not enough green to waste on “ok” wine, much less bad wine.  Well here’s a deal that was introduced to us at The Wine School at the “Luxury Wines of Napa” class we all went to:

2006 Ehlers Estate “1886” (USA, CA, Napa, St. Helena; $49.99 at PLCBFirst off, note the sexy bottle.  This is one of the few times when you’re allowed to judge the book by its cover.  It’s pretty!  Also note the heart-shape hiding in the E (n.b. it’s not an anatomically correct heart).  So what gives?  Well, you see, Ehlers Estate began with Jean Leducq, a philanthropist who started the Leducq Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research.  As a future cardiologist, I approve of this link between drinking wine and increasing cardiovascular health (albeit indirectly) because it turns out that that whole “a glass of red wine a day is good for the heart” might not actually be true.  That’s a shame … oh well … Ehlers to the rescue!

a’s parents visited Ehler’s Estate a few years back and had a wonderful time. (Check the vineyard out here.) The tasting was well worth the $25 which can usually be circumvented with schmoozing or a wine purchase. Their “lower” Cabernet, if you can find it, is also quite good – a Merlot-lover’s Cab thanks to the luscious fruit and soft tannins.

Next, note the original price and the PLCB price:

it's like a 50% off sale!

It’s no lie – this bottle really did sell at $95 at one time.  Nowadays, the cheapest I’ve seen it for is about $87 … except in PA where it’s being blown out at $50.  Must mean it sucks, right?  WRONG.  It does not suck – quite the opposite!  In the glass it’s super-dark and opaque.  On the nose, it’s dark berry-ful.  On the palate, you get dark fruit meets cola meets a hint of raspberry (that little bit of sour).  a gets a little more cherry and chocolate on his palate.  I didn’t get the classic “green bell pepper” of Cabernet Sauvignon, but maybe I’m just not keen enough.  The mouthfeel is reasonably plush, but there’s still some mouth-watering acid and integrated bitterness (tannins) there, giving structure.  The finish lingers for a while – 30 seconds or so.  Keep in mind that this wine should ideally be decanted for a bit before drinking so that it’s allowed to open up and show off its flavors and soften some of its tannins.

So why the “deal” of $50?  I suspect it’s because Wine Spectator scored it 87/100.  Never mind the 94 points that you’ll see on the PLCB’s website from the Connoisseurs’ Guide or the 92 it currently has on Cellartracker, that 87 is a scathing published score for a Napa Cab and usually spells doom for a particular vintage’s bottling … which is probably how PA ended up with so much of it (PA likes buying the excess at a “good deal”).  So I guess then the real question remains: is it worth the price?  Well, I’d say that for the $100 original price it is not – when I taste a $100 wine (not that this happens very often – I can count them on one hand), I expect to be moved – to be brought to silent pause in order to fully appreciate the evolution of flavors throughout the finish.  This wine is delicious, but not quite “moving”.  Is it worth $50?  I’d say so.  It stands above all those standard under-$20 bottles that I normally pull out on weekend dinners.  So it’s “special”.  In our book, it deserves a special occasion – something like Valentine’s day.  It deserves to be decanted and served with nice stemware.  It deserves the respect of the $50 you spend on it.  And, even if it turns out you don’t “love” it, you can at least be happy that your dollars might have gone to support medical research.  And those who are environmentally-conscious will be happy to know it’s 100% organic and biodynamically farmed.

Buyer beware, however, as whatever the state has is whatever the state has (and they’ll likely never get another shipment), so find a way to get a bottle either at your local PLCB (the item code and store locator in the above PLCB page will help – search “Philadelphia” in the city field as your only criteria – searching by zip codes sucks) before it’s gone.  Even without a real “cellar” to store it, keep it on its side in a cool, dark place (i.e. not in the kitchen) and drink it sometime over the next year or two.  Those with wine cellars can keep it for longer but it’ll be hard to wait …

Oh, and one last thing … before you plunk down the credit card (or cash if you’re bawler) at the Wine and Spirits Shoppe, look at the cork (you can do this because there’s no foil on these bottles).  Ensure that the cork is not protruding out beyond the rim of the bottle.  ALSO, turn the bottle on its side and then rotate it about its long axis, and look at the cork to ensure that no purple of the wine is encroaching beyond a centimeter or so up the cork.  If the purple color makes it all the way to the top of the cork, put the bottle down and walk away – it’s likely a compromised bottle.  I would say go and tell a worker there about it, but that might be an exercise in futility (e.g. when I spotted one such compromised Ehlers bottle this past weekend at a PLCB store and told someone, they just took the bottle from me and put it behind the counter without asking for any clarification or even looking at the bottle – I sense that after I left she just put it back on the shelf).  So … y’all be careful out there …

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

23 January 2012 at 11:42pm

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