I have been doing this blog for over five years now (!) and I have to say that I have been fortunate enough to get my fair share of samples. Most of those wines, of course, tend to be every day kind of wines: between $10 and $30. And that is fine. Actually, it is more than fine since most of those wines are intended to be consumed young; they likely will not get better with time so drinking them shortly after release makes sense.
Once in a while, though, for whatever reason, I get a bottle of wine that results in a “whoa” when I simply open the box. My guttural reaction, however, is that the wine staring back at my from the newly opened package needs time: time to settle down, mature, age gracefully, develop secondary and tertiary flavors.
“Which is why we have way too many bottles sitting in my cellar!” says my wife.
Thus, when I get a “collectible” type bottle of wine, I force myself to not feel too bad in committing what many wine collectors would call an act of infanticide by opening them far too early. Recently, I was sent two such bottles:
2014 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Putnam Vineyard Sonoma County: Retail $65. There are moments in your life when you realize you are experiencing a unique moment. You are not quite sure why it is, but you just get this feeling that you need to soak it in since you will likely not replicate it. Such was the case when I finally got the chance to visit James and Kerry MacPhail (and JimCaudill) at the MacPhail home. There was not much happening—James was filling larger format bottles (about as much fun as watching paint dry)—but once Kerry started pouring the wines, time basically stopped. We tasted through the MacPhail portfolio, but Kerry also slipped in a few bottles of their new Tongue Dancer Pinots. Whoa. Perhaps not as big as the wines he made for his eponymous label, but every bit as ethereal.
A few months after my visit (and in no way related), James left the MacPhail Family Wines label to the very capable hands of the Hess Collection (who had purchased the brand in 2011, but James stayed on as winemaker), to focus on this burgeoning new Tongue Dancer label. James and Kerry are a wonderful contrast: James stoic and introspective, Kerry gregarious and engaging. And if this new label of theirs is any indication, we should all hope that they continue making wine long after they turn gray (that is, of course a metaphor, as James prefers a very closely cropped hair style). The wine? Black cherry, raspberry and eucalyptus eventually emerge from their slumber accompanied by hints of vanilla and mint. On the palate this is magical—rich yet lithe, fruity yet sublime, subtle yet bold. If this does not cause you to question your position in the universe, well, you just are not trying. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
2013 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Vineyard, Alto Maipo Valley, Chile: Retail $125. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc. Unlike the wine outlined above, I have absolutely no personal connection to this wine whatsoever, even though, coincidentally, I will be traveling to Chile this weekend. I will not be visiting Concho y Toro while there (the trip is sponsored by another winery), but I can’t imagine that my view of this wine specifically, and the wines of Chile in general, won’t be impacted by my week down south of the equator. Until then, I will have to do what I have always done when it comes to South American wines–the story rests in the bottle. And what a story. This is the third vintage of this wine that I have been lucky enough to try (and I have a couple of older vintages in my cellar)and this wine is a classic Bordeaux blend: muted nose, black raspberry and green pepper dominate, with hints of tar and tobacco. This is a beautiful wine that harkens back to older vintages, made by traditional powers, across the ocean and several time zones. Restrained and refined on the palate. Long and interesting finish. Wonderful and Outstanding. 92-94 Points.