Just thought I’d share some fun notes with you about a forgotten bottling of well-made American juice. Returning from Chicago this past Monday, where I drank not a single impressive wine, Lady Deborah and I stopped at an old-reliable for burgers and Captain Lawrence on draught. Finally settling at home, our minds and palates still hungered for some good vino. We decided to crack a bottle of something interesting, meaning, something that was either potentially great or potentially disappointing, but satisfying nonetheless. We settled on a bottle that had been rolling around the bottom of our Eurocave for years which we have been ignoring for one reason or another. It was a 1992 Villa Mt Eden Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino…..the last bottle of its kind leftover from Deborah’s Sleepy Hollow restaurant Goldie’s by the Bridge, which has been closed since 1998. What we unearthed, while not extraordinary, was an unexpected delight.
Deborah explained to me that this vintage of VME was the last one made at the hand of Jed Steele before he moved on to pursue his own now-famous label, Steele. This bottle even bears his signature. In the mid-nineties, it sold on Deb’s list for $45, and probably all got consumed too young.
The bottle I opened this week was certainly past peak, but not by far. I pulled the intact cork and poured a couple of ounces into each glass, careful not to agitate it too much. The initial whiff revealed a maturing claret-styled red that, although was full of excellent olive and beef blood aromas, seemed to be delicate and fading fast. The taste was quite left-bank in character (licorice, tobacco, sandalwood), but the West Coast nature of this Cab was ultimately revealed through its sweet currant fruit. The tannins had softened to the point where the wine lacked the material to harbor its pretty flavors. By the third pour, the aromas turned horsey and slightly maderized…..not a bad thing at all, but hinted at the wine’s ensuing collapse. And with an absence of ample acidity, we felt it coming. We then rushed to finish the bottle, whereupon savoring the final sip we declared that it truly had more soul than most others of its ilk, and would have made a lovely game dinner wine.
Sometimes, you just never know what’s hiding inside a bottle of questionable development. What I’ve learned is…..there’s only one way to find out. –Michael Koehler