One of my good friends, See Wee, Is getting married in Singapore. We met while Allan and I had our wine shop, For Love of Wine. He discovered our wine classes and began to come by in his free time to hang out, taste wine, learn from representatives, and in time, teach about wine. When the holiday crush happened, he would even sell wine, just for the sheer joy of talking about it and sharing his passion.
In addition to his upcoming summer nuptials, it is his birthday today. To celebrate all the things, he and his bride just completed an 11 day road trip of Napa and Sonoma, planned by a sommelier friend. He invited us to come along. Alas, between the costs of living in two places unexpectedly, we could not afford to join him for either event.
I decided to send a surprise gift instead. I requested that he send me his itinerary for the road trip under the guise that I would experience the wine and food vicariously through him.
I researched all of the wineries and decided to send a red and a white wine from Hourglass Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley. The Owners came together over music. The winemaker was from Cornell in Ithaca, NY and I am homesick.
The wines I chose and why I chose them
California Sauvignon Blancs always remind me of late spring in Upstate New York. The winters in the Catskills where I live feel so long. In April, when most of the threat of snow is gone, it rains. With the rain, coupled with the thawing ground, there is mud everywhere.
Come May, one starts to smell hints of bud break in the trees before they leaf and flower. Maples, oaks, tree blossoms of apple, peach, and lilac begin to perfume the air. The mountain air is still sharp and cool, but the aromas hint at the warm days of blossoms and ripening fruit to come.
My favorite way to enjoy these California Sauvignon Blancs is after hiking by the creek or at the lake. My best friend Tsa and I hang out with my daughter, the dogs and a picnic. Though the days are still cool, everything hints to the promises of summer. For me, the lush mouth feel of the fume blanc, the weight from oak aging, balanced with the bright acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc and the note of ripe peaches is another hint of the summer to come. For me, drinking this wine is this time of the year, but in a glass.
2017 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals: 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon
Treatment: Stainless Steel Tanks (40%), seasoned oak barrels (45%), new French oak (15%)
Tasting Note (paraphrased from the website): Primary aromas of lemon and lime zest, orange blossom and Granny Smith apples are followed on the palate with a layered blend of limeade, cut hay, white peach, pineapple and vanilla bean, wet stone minerality. The mid palate is a balance of creaminess and crisp vibrancy.
One day, after doing a particularly heavy day of tasting, See Wee and I reviewed our notes. Now, for the record, when I am tasting wine, I am very academic about the whole thing in order to get the most unbiased thoughts of a wine. Only after I have tasted everything and evaluated each wine equally do I actually think, “I like this” or “I don’t like this.”
After this day, reading through my notes, my friend, a scientist by training, said to me,
“Kristen, you like your reds young, not too young, but right before they are ready to drink or at peak.”
As wines age, the aromas we perceive will change. The tannins will soften and create a smooth feel in the mouth. Brighter berry flavors will morph to riper and more dried fruit flavors. The herb or greener qualities may change to more muted earth tones. Imagine eating the fruit off of a cherry tree at the start of the harvest and again at the end of the harvest. Flavors in a bottle change in a similar way.
I was thinking about our particular exchange while stuck in Houston traffic, imagining the beautiful wine that I selected. I realized that this preference could be likened to the anticipation of sex. Perhaps the anticipation of great sex is better than the reality of not quite satisfying sex. Unless the sex you are always getting is amazing, explosive, out-of-this-world, your partner has you crying for mercy again and again, I gather for many, it’s like the analogy I heard in college. Sex is like pizza. Sometimes it’s really great, sometimes it sucks, but you always eat the pizza.
2015 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals: 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot
Treatment: 21 months in 100% new French oak Bordeaux barrels
Tasting Note (truncated from the website): Opulence and richness are the hallmarks of 2015 vintage, and the Blueline Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates this in spades. The aromatics are a mingling of dense fruit scents, with cassis and blackberry bramble, a hint of barrel toast and crushed graphite that echo on the palate. The mouth feel is lushly textured, with a bright nervy minerality in the back mid-palate, a characteristic that defines our Blueline Estate wines. The tannins are sleek with a wide palate impression, and the wine has a long, arching finish.