Wednesday, April 20, 2011

wine tasting

some time back in 2008, Jarronn and i were driving in virginia for some reason i can no longer remember, and we stopped at rappahannock cellars to taste some wine. i'm always amused by wine tasting and being told that a particular wine has "hints of blackberries, strawberries, and peaches." while i can appreciate a glass of good wine, recognizing the "hints" of fruit flavors in a wine, without prompting, is not my specialty. Jarronn, on the other hand, had pretty keen senses when it came to taste and hearing. and i still remember him that day calling out the tastes of different fruits and even being able to taste hints of different woods used in the barrels.

at the end of our tasting, Jarronn chose a bottle of red wine made from norton grapes, and we headed home. the bottle was placed in the wine rack on the counter and reserved for a special dinner we assumed would happen some time in the future and would potentially be enjoyed by a few of our close friends.

sadly, we never got to share the bottle of wine.

instead, it sat on the rack, and for awhile i couldn't imagine opening it. similar to other things in the house, i didn't want the bottle to go empty.

when i came around to the idea of opening it, i wanted to make sure it was on a special occasion. that it was with close family and friends. i thought i'd share it along with some wine i'd bought in napa valley. but we never had need to open it. i took it to a friend's party, and we never got to it. and the bottle continued to sit on the rack.

finally, i came to the realization that i might actually be doing the wine a disservice. that i had assumed that the wine would get better with age, but in reality, that rule doesn't apply to all wines. some wines stop maturing. and i could possibly miss a window of opportunity with all of my guarding and waiting.

so one friday night, while cooking dinner for myself, i decided to open the bottle of wine for myself (don't worry, the plan was never to drink the whole bottle in one sitting). opening the bottle felt special, significant, and like it connected me to Jarronn.

i sniffed. i swirled. i tasted. and the wine tasted...average. i thought that as the wine breathed that it might have gotten better with time. but as i tasted more and more, i realized i really didn't like the wine. i couldn't remember how it had tasted at the winery, and i clearly couldn't get Jarronn's second opinion. but i found myself working hard to drink it. wishing that i was enjoying it. knowing that i wasn't.

all of that waiting. all of that anticipation. and the end result was pretty disappointing. it was a reminder to enjoy more things in the moment, while we can. but it also seemed to teach me that certain things are meant to be enjoyed at a specific time or in a particular season. and when the time is over, it's over.

i never finished the bottle of wine. but i did save the cork.


  1. Norton wines take several years in the bottle to develop and then need to breathe for an extensive time before enjoying. After trying 105 Norton (sometimes referred to as Cynthiana) wines, we've found only a handful of exceptional examples, but many other enjoyable vineyard bottles. After trying 104 Norton wines, the only east coast "drink now" examples we truly enjoyed were from Virginia's Castle Gruen Winery and Pennsylvania's Stone Mountain Winery Cellars. We will keep our examples from Rappahannok Cellars for six or more years before opening. Doug Frost, a Kansas City wine writer and Norton fan, describes the wine as "powerful, muscular, crazy intense in malic acid and capable of staining teeth or even wineglasses. [The wine is] probably something most drinkers have to learn to love, with its rough and rustic personality often evident. There are an increasing number of Nortons that taste modern, clean and even sleek." I really like how Kim , a Madison, WI journalist stated an introduction to Norton wines as “I love the way [Norton] wine becomes an example of what it means to be American, a symbol of a country and a culture" after reading Todd Kliman's The Wild Vine.

  2. WOW! Thank you for the education!