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February 07, 2012


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I always value the posts you guys write about aged NY wines. The posts are interesting and give me useful guidance. In this case, alas, I got to Damiani too late in the summer and they had already sold out the 2007 Cab Franc. But I do still have a Ravines and a couple Shalestone Cab Francs from 2007 that I'm now even more eager to drink.
I definitely do not criticize wineries for releasing early. For one thing, I believe the onus falls just as much on the consumer. If we want to see what these wines taste like after some time, then it's our job to cellar them. For another, seeing how a young wine develops is part of the fun. I love stopping at Shaw and tasting wines that have been given longer to develop, but if the majority of FLX wineries followed that model, I think I'd be a little sad. I enjoy guessing at young wines' potential. This will occasionally result in disappointment, but there can be pleasant surprises, too. Compared to other wines in the vintage, Dr. Frank's 2007 Cab Franc struck me as middling upon its release (and so did NYCR), but when I opened a bottle of it a few months back it drank very nicely. Drinking it felt like my reward for waiting and seeing. If most wineries waited longer to release their wines, it would offer more clarity, but would I enjoy drinking the wines as much later? Probably not.

Ryan - You and I are on the exact same page regarding how long to hold wines. We're willing to let it go too far. We're willing to find out what "over the hill" means. We know that a wine that is "a little tired" is still telling us something interesting. And we're not obsessed with making sure we get to the wine before it begins to "go downhill."

Funny you mention the Dr. Frank Cab Franc; the last time I had that wine was New Year's Eve, 2008. It was almost mute, saying very little. Nice to hear it's found its voice.

And man, you're so right about the role of the consumer. It's not always a financial decision. Wineries need to know that people are interested in their wines with a touch of maturity. We're a region of precocious toddlers, snatched up before adolescence.

Doesn't Shaw sell older wines because a) They keep wine in barrel forever and b) They can't sell them faster?

Good points, Evan. I do wish that more of the top-tier Finger Lakes wineries held on to their wines longer (like in Europe). Even the better California wineries hold on to their best stuff for more than 12 months.

I'm crossing my fingers that Damiani, Ravines, Red Newt, Wiemer, and more hold on to their vintages longer and longer...don't you think there's been some slightly longer delays in the last few years, or am I crazy?

Shaw is the only one, as far as I know, that tries to buck the economic pressures. Upstate Ian sounds like one of those winery owners you allude to who gives more consideration to his bank than he does to his customers. Jealous?

Interesting post Evan, I too recently enjoyed a bottle of that same Damiani Cabernet Franc, it was drinking beautifully. As you point out, holding wines until they have had a chance to hit their stride is both difficult and expensive. But the reward for doing so can be quite an experience.
I think it is also important to note that like the Damiani Cabernet Franc, elegant age worthy wine comes almost exclusively from the best growers and vineyards. That is critical.
I know that our aged Shaw Wines are not for everyone, but for those kind enough to have stopped at our tasting room to give them a try, we find most of our visitors have enjoyed them enough to take some home.
So whether you prefer to age wines in your own cellars or indulge in the older library style vintages, we feel the Finger Lakes is a good place to produce these soft, complex, truly food friendly wines.

Heads-up on an a brilliant age worthy Damiani wine...2010 Syrah Reserve...shhh, don't tell EVERYONE, they only made 71 cs and I want to make sure I get mine.

For the winery to hang on to wines is definitely expensive, but there is a factor that is even more important. Distributors, retailers and most of their customers want fresh product. If most of the Cabs in the shop are '09s, then '07s and '08s get passed over as not fresh. The businesses in the supply chain don't want to be stuck with a lot of "unfresh" product just because a few folks appreciate these.

Ryan up top is absolutely right, the lover of mature long-lived wine has the responsibility for finding the likely candidates on release and cellaring them. Besides, taking responsibility for aging adds to the delight of drinking them at their peak.

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