Cabernet Franc Late Harvest, Palmer Vineyards, North Fork Long Island NY 2007

You get home from a weekend of wine tasting, partially unpack and then collapse. A few months later you find bottles from the trip. But when you open them, annoyingly, you don’t travel through space and time to that ethereal tasting at the winery. Those homely charms of the noble farmer, who described the wine as if it were their own child, now taste like dirt.

Context is king. Humans have fantastic mental control but the mood of the moment, and our blood alcohol level, can sway our perceptions and recollections. Your crap day at work will still be a crap day no matter how many souvenir glasses you fill.

With this in mind, I open Palmer Vineyards’ 2007 Late Harvest Cabernet Franc.

As mentioned in my last post, our trip to Long Island’s wine region was a lesson in demographics: a day’s drive from New York City means no worthwhile wine cost under $20. Palmer Vineyards was little different.

In early November of 2007, Palmer Vineyards harvested their cabernet franc, but not all of it. Grapes that didn’t make the first cut stayed on the vine. As November winded down, frosts set in and the vines shut down. Grapes that hadn’t rotted or been eaten started drying out. Once water content was low and sugar high, harvest led to fermentation. With so much sugar, a fully fermented wine would be little more than red rubbing alcohol. So Bob Palmer stopped fermentation at 14% alcohol by volume, retaining natural sugar, and hid the wine away in small French oak barrels.

Chilled or not, this makes for a voluptuous dessert wine. Sure, I’m not transported back to that barn, refurbished in antique-store-zeal with the 1930s Hotel Majestic counter, innumerable faded signs and nick nacks. Nor does my head swim, having tasting at ten wineries that morning. Nor is December’s chill anything like that June’s heat. Nor do I have to yell over the din. Nor, luckily, is a Beatles cover band forgetting which key they’re in.

In stead of all this, meeting Palmer’s late harvest again, is a bit like meeting an ex. We’ve both changed. She suffered a bit of heat damage stuck in the trunk during a NY city traffic jam. And I’ve become a bit jaded over the plight of New York viticulture. The romance is gone. But although we don’t swoon at meeting again, we still understand each other.

Catching up with this wine, I re-learn to respect it. It tastes like cabernet franc: dark fruits and bell pepper. Its acidity corrects the dried fruit notes from tasting too tired. There’s enough complexity to keep up conversation. It is oaked just enough to put an earthy edge on the sweetness.

We may have moved on, but at $25 per half bottle, we remain on good terms.


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