These Cabernets - with good balance and robust structure - can be expected to perform well after 10 years, mimicking the great Bordeaux wines that can last decades in the bottle.|
THE DEMOCRATIC PRESS
May 16, 2023
It was the year Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as president, Apple introduced an iPhone with a fingerprint sensor, and "selfie" was named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.
It was also the year in which many Cabernets were bottled, now considered ideal for opening according to wine connoisseurs.
"At 10 years old, wines are in the middle of the dance—no longer new, but not old either," said Karen McNeil, author of The Wine Bible.
“Many of the simple fruit flavors joined the wine and became something with a more refined and complex smell and taste. However, the structure of the wine is still impressive. It's not as fragile as really old wine can be."
A decade is the perfect time to assess the progress of California Cabernet Sauvignons, which sell for around $50 or more when they're released. These Cabernets - with good balance and robust structure - can be expected to perform well after 10 years, mimicking the great Bordeaux wines that can last decades in the bottle.
Looking at this decade's benchmark, we opened ten bottles that have been dormant since 2013 and found that while they are complex, they are also surprisingly new (see Fact Box).
Statistics show that it is not common to age wine for ten years before opening the bottle. In a 2018 survey conducted by researchers at Sonoma State University, 90% of people said they drink the wine they buy within two weeks of buying it. Only 6% said they preferred to keep the wine to age.
“Uncorking a young wine — one that might have aged — is not terrible,” MacNeil said. "Only great wines can age. Even if you don't let such a wine mature, you still experience something wonderful." But you miss the beauty of "half trance".
The skinny on vintage
The 2013 vintage, winemaker Nick Goldschmidt recalled, was a pleasant vintage that posed no real challenges.
“It was early hatch-wise and then cooled off as the season went on,” said the founder of his namesake brand, Goldschmidt Vineyards in Healdsburg.
Wine Spectator's 2013 vintage report noted that Sonoma County had "a long, moderate growing season" and Napa Valley had "an ideal season, dry conditions and a long, sunny summer."
Meanwhile, wine critic Robert Parker told The Wine Advocate that while 2013 was a dry year, it could be "a game changer".
"The (2013) produced outstanding yields, while the consistency in quality, depth of flavour, texture, freshness, vibrancy and richness was absolutely stunning," said Parker.
According to Goldschmidt, wine is a story of time.
"When you drink (10-year-old) wine, you try to remember what you did then," he said.
Regarding its vinification, Goldschmidt said he fermented Goldschmidt Vineyard Plus, 2013 Game Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon on its skins for up to 40 days. During this time, he varied the temperature between 66 and 82 degrees to stabilize the wine for long shelf life.
"There should still be fruit and some of that Oakville excitement, but now you're enveloped in the vanilla and creaminess that comes with age," Goldschmidt said. "Blueberry, black cherry and some dark plum should be the dominant sensation of the wine... But all of this should be supported by the natural acidity of the grape itself."
To grow up
According to David Ramey, oenologist and oenologist at Ramey Cellars in Healdsburg, the magic that unfolds after 10 years of aging is twofold.
"There's a smoothness on the palate," he said, "and aromatic complexity. These aromas — including tobacco, cedar and cigar box — merge into a bottle bouquet."
The winemaker created Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley, Pedregal Vineyard with the goal of evolving it over time.
"I make wines to age because I graduated from Bordeaux and I'm a classicist," he said. “The production methods that have evolved in Bordeaux since Roman times have a specific reason. They produce excellent wines with a long shelf life.'
Justin Seidenfeld of Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg agreed. Seidenfeld made Rockaway, Cabernet Sauvignon Single Vineyard 2013, Alexander Valley and said the cabin is at its peak.
“I love young wine, but the magic you see in aged wine can be overwhelming,” Seidenfeld said. "Aged wine not only develops the flavors and feel of the wine, but the depth of flavors becomes more extreme and reveals new flavors that you didn't see when tasting the wine."
According to Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley, well-made Cabernets begin to shine between 10 and 12 years old. But Fernandez said he usually waits until the 15-year mark or even longer to unclog them.
"At 10 to 12 [years old], many are on the brink of maturity and just starting to show the beauty and tenderness that you find at 15 or 20," he said.
Fernandez made the Shafer, One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 in the Stags Leap area of Napa Valley and said it still has plenty of vibrancy after a decade of aging.
"You're just starting to see the beginnings of a complex maturity that's really a sweet spot for a lot of people," he said.
However, many people like the lively aromas and flavors of young wines, he added.
"I try not to tell people when to drink wine," Fernandez said. “But what I think you miss when you don't drink older wine is the nuances and the subtle layers of aromas and flavors. It gets to a stage where you can no longer recognize just one scent. It's an interesting complexity and stimulates the imagination."
Oenologist Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or email@example.com. On Twitter @pegmelnik.
Wine, the democratic type
Northern California is surrounded by vineyards. It's Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you get the most out of this exciting agricultural part of culture by inviting you to join the wine culture - the events, the bottling and the fun. This is a place to discover wine, the one you are interested in or the one you still don't know.