Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Morning After

Tax Day has come and gone and the federal, state and city income tax returns are slowly crawling their way through the postal system in route to the correct locations. In years when money is owed I always wait until the last day to pay the pound of flesh, and though it wasn't a large amount I waited to the last day to 'render unto Caesar.'

Once the chore was complete it was time to celebrate so we went top shelf for the evening. There was a small rack of lamb that went on the grill after bathing in Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary. There were some cut up redskin potatoes tossed in garlic, olive oil, rosemary and pepper and baked in the oven until crispy.

Finally, there was a 1996 Staglin Family Cabernet Sauvignon that had been resting in the cellar for some time. It was decanted while the lamb and potatoes cooked, though a bit found its way into my glass. Deep and dark color with a somewhat restrained nose at first. After some swirling there was fruit and earth and blackberries. The first sip was wonderful. The fruit was there, there was great acidity and very round tannins. The finish was remarkably long and in the very end left just a little acid and tannin to clear things for the next sip. The depth of the fruit was just amazing. There was a sweetness that came from perfectly ripe fruit and not fruit left to hang until the ultra ripe stage that seems so in vogue today. The wine was perfectly balanced. It was 13.8% alcohol.

When the lamb and potatoes were done I poured a generous glass from the decanter. The nose was now alive with dark cherries, blackberries and cassis. Another sip confirmed what the first sip had promised and expanded on it. The wine was ready for the lamb. The gaminess of the lamb was complimented by some gaminess in the wine and the tannins and acid in the wine cleared the palate between bites of lamb. The mouth-feel on this wine was just remarkable, full and rich.

The wine was perfectly mature and I can't see it getting much better, though it certainly should hold for a few more years. That is great because it has a "litter-mate" resting in my cellar. Over the course of the evening the wine remained constant. It took over three hours but at the end of the evening the wine was gone.

This wine reminded me of why my first love in wine was Napa Valley Cabernets. It was a 20 year romance that ended several years ago when the 15% "fruit bombs" became the fashion of the day. At one time the cellar was probably 80% Napa and Sonoma Cabernets. Now it holds less than 20% of those wines, and those that are there are 1997 or earlier. Sad what has happened for the sake of fashion.

So -- we now have nominee number two for the best wine of the year. The first wine to consider was the 1998 Luciano Sandrone Barolo La Vigne that we drank in January. It's nice to know that if I can't decide which is the best at the end of the year there is another bottle of each in the cellar. New Year's eve is looking very promising.

Scott and Ellie were also in a wonderful mood last night as they got to eat the trimmings from the lamb.

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