If Memorial Day is about remembrance, I can think of no better memorial to America’s dead than opening an old bottle of our own. Militant sacrifice created the world we live in. Tonight’s wine would not have existed without them. So let’s turn to the past…
1997 saw my sophomore year in high school. Girls still confused me. MMMbop, Backstreet Boys, and Spice Girl pop had usurped Grunge’s musical devolution (at least we still had the Smashing Pumpkins? Bush? Foo Fighters? Come on! Anybody?).
Meanwhile, something far more relevant was happening: grapes. Willamette Valley weather in Oregon had challenged growers. Grape yields broke records, but rain marred the harvest. Most wines turned out light, acidic, pale, and not worth cellaring.
However, Archery Summit, founded just a few years before, was experimenting. After a rough season, they fermented and bottled their Pinot Noir clone PNP-40 without blending others in.
In the winery’s caves, faced with a line up of 95, 98, 99, and 2000, somehow I kept returning to it. So much so, that I woke the next morning with a bottle in my car. The last thing I remember was starting that evening’s second course.
Sane and sober, I returned to it. So how does high school taste?
Appearance: It looks a clear, deep garnet, like the brick on a Victorian building.
Aromas: Moderate aromas of dried pomegranate, fruit leather, white rose, and a mild tobacco waft up. Nowhere to go but still enticing.
Palate: This is dry, with mouthwatering but now mild, soft acids. Medium, dewy soft tannins turn to dry, sifted flour. The medium alcohol sits there: present but unobtrusive, like its medium body.
Flavors: Up front, red apple skin and pomegranate fruit waft up and then melt, step back, thin into a light homemade cigarette paper, with rice. These with some fruit fragments last for a long time.
Conclusions: This wine is mellow, old, a bit cranky but fully committed to isolated retirement: how I imagine Sean Connery is doing these days. It is far from dead, actually still very good (4 of 5). If anything, in this moment, right now, it probably tastes more balanced and complex than upon bottling.
If only one could ever buy it.
Nevertheless, this Memorial Day, drink American. Open something special, something old, something that transports you and makes you thankful to have the chance to. Freedom never tasted so fine.