Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Progress of Progression

Knowing how a wine is going to age is a straightforward question with no easy answer. Experience with a specific wine from a particular site over many vintages gets you closer to a general answer, but with all the variables attached to a season's weather, and that wine's winemaking, barrel regime, the quality of the cork, the way the wine was stored, etc. a definitive response is very hard to come by.

One way to judge ageability is to see how a wine reacts to oxygen over a period of several days. On August 27th, I opened the 2007 Lineage alongside a barrel sample of 2008 Lineage and evaluated them over a period of a week to gauge how they would progress in your cellar.

The thing that struck me immediately was how well-structured the wines were. In the past, Livermore's lack of tannin (compared to wines from further North) has caused the wines to be taken less seriously by the press and they should have been. With this lineup of wines, there is no problem. The 2007 Lineage was "rich," with a "tannic mid-palate," and "great length." The 2008 Lineage had "nice tannins" but was "tight." The second day, the wine had opened up aromatically and structurally to reveal licorice and black cherry and wonderfully focused tannins. On August 28th, 2007 Lineage had begun to open up a bit...still emphasizing black fruit and massive tannins, but now tobacco and roasted herbs and black cherry liqueur were showing themselves.

Earlier today, on the 31st, the wines were at their most impressive. Left just with a cork in a half-filled bottle, the oxygen that would have thoroughly decimated many of those high pH trophy wines from Napa, was showing, instead, how beautiful the first two vintages of Lineage are.

The fruit in 2008 Lineage evolved from dark cherry to black cherry and cassis, the mid-palate maintained its viscosity and some of the tannin had rounded out. The wine had great length and persistence. The 2007 was simply glorious. Aromatic notes of forest floor, black fruit, loam, dark plum unfurled in a very open, inviting nose; in the mouth, the wine showed its world-class pedigree in its round viscosity, gorgeously persistent mid-palate tannins with great length.

There wasn't a hint of oxidation in the wines...there was obvious "age" and transformation, but there was no sense that the fruit for the wine had been harvested too ripe...structurally the wines have really held together well. Try this exercise at home, next time you have wine that is supposed to be ageable. If the wine isn't more complex and delicious the second and third day than the first, the wines were not made with balance in mind.

The first vintage of Lineage is nearly sold out. If you'd like to get in on the ground floor of this exciting project, click the link to order. The 2007 Lineage will be released on October 17, 2010.  

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