It is actually still “winter”, but here on the north Olympic Peninsula, I can see brave bulbs poking their heads up and the crazy Autumnalis Cherry tree is blushing with pink buds and brave blooms.
Soon it will be time to begin spring racking of all the fresh 2009 wines that are done with malolactic fermentation. This is always a time to be dreaded but sort of exciting too. I dread it because it is just flat out work in pumping out wine barrels stacked four and five high then washing the barrels of who knows what at the bottom – bee wings and dead yeast lie in clay-like sediments that do not wash easily. Once the barrels are freshened the wine goes back in and I will start checking out the 2008 vintage wines as I prepare for bottling in May.
Spring cleaning, though, is also an opportunity to check out the winery’s “library” of past vintages and see how they are coming along. I did this recently and found some prizes. Not so much “surprises” because we all know Washington State fruit is packed with great tannin and acid and these attributes allow the wines to age beautifully. I expected our wines to be fine, but there is always the “I wonder…” factor.
I am pleased to report that after tasting through a range of past vintages that were at least five years old and many eight and nine years old, I didn’t find any that were clearly going over the hill. Colors were bright, fruit aromas were fresh, tannins were smoothing out, and major “yum” factors abounded. Wines like the 2002 Cabernet Franc were crazy good and the 2003 Merlot was rich lovely.
Let the excuse of “Spring house cleaning” be an invitation for you to take a peek in your cellar. Don’t wait for just the “perfect” time for “that” bottle. If you don’t have a special stash, then start one. There is nothing like a well aged red wine – there really isn’t. And, of course, Camaraderie can help you with this resolution.
I also invite you to slow down a bit this year. The national statistic is that 85% of wine is bought and consumed within 90 minutes! In this age of wine “appreciation” tools that promise “instant breathing” and gratification, I say get some nice big wine glasses that don’t cost all that much and let the wine breathe in there while you also take some big deep breaths and savor. Why be in a rush? You will both benefit.
Don Corson, winemaker