Last weekend, I went up to Napa Valley. I hadn’t been there for what must be a couple of years now. Past visits have just shown it to be a zoo for adults; a very, very expensive zoo. Not much has changed, at least for the better anyways. It seems that everywhere charges $20 for tasting and a one day visit will run at least $100 per person if you try to stay on a budget. And that’s not including buying very overpriced wine, when in reality there are much more affordable and approachable options out there.
But beyond the bitching, I bring up the wine visit as the group of us went to my old employer, Rubicon Winery née Niebaum-Coppola. Their wines have grown ever-more expensive and now that I don’t have a 50% employee discount, they are just flat out of reach. As an Italian friend was joking around while having a taste of their flagship, $145 2006 Rubicon, it reminded me about another Rubicon I had just had recently. That one was a 1996, which was, back in 2000 a “mere” $90 a bottle. To be honest, I find that older vintage to be a lot more enjoyable than this brash, overly oaky glug of red juice that the Rubicon has become.
That 96 vintage I actually encountered numerous times by chance or by buying it myself. One time was a bottle that I bought (remember, I had a massive discount a decade ago) for my parents’ wedding anniversary. They found it to be memorable to say the least and finished it without letting it sit around. The other bottle of this vintage that I remember fondly was one my grandparents picked up about the same time. They held on to this bottle until just last month.
Whether due to both of them getting on in age or just pure curiosity, we opened the bottle and shared it. It sucked. While not turned, it was flat, dull, and completely lacking in anything interesting. The bottle had basically been wasted. Sure, their aging conditions weren’t perfect and they don’t have a proper cellar to keep the wine in, but really, who does?
This disappointment was something of a wake up call to any kind of wine aging that I might contemplate. While a couple of bottles I brought back from Spain are going to get a couple more months in the bottles before drinking (they’re currently having some unfortunately bottle shock and aren’t terribly good) everything else I have is meant to drink now. Of the five or six cases I have lying around, any of it can be downed. Nothing in there costs more than $25 a bottle (most is below $15) and it is all just ready and waiting.
I don’t buy in to this aging crap. Too many things can go wrong and it’s all just a ploy by wineries to basically sell you a grape-based time share. Stag’s Leap loves to sell their $300 a bottle wines with the caveat, “at its peak in 3-5 years”. I’m not spending $300 for a wine I have to sit on for half a decade and pray that it rests lovingly until then. I want a wine that I can drink now and then go out and buy more of if it’s good.
So to everyone waiting on that special bottle to become even more special, stop. Open it and drink it. If there’s one lesson to be learned in all the wine and Pinot snootiness of the movie Bottle Shock, it’s that the right occasion to drink a wine is whenever you may want it to be, even if that’s sitting in a fast food joint, eating a burger, while sipping a amazing wine from a paper cup.