ADVERTISING: Advertorial: GEORGE BALLING: Wines from your past
We all have known for the full span of our wine journey that our palates change over time. During some periods we may bounce between varietals and growing regions quite rapidly as we move from wine to wine that we like better, for whatever reason. The great importer Kermit Lynch said it best some years back when asked which wine was his favorite. “Right now, I am really in to Vermentino” he said, “but that will change. Wine is not like marriage. It’s OK to move around.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Sometimes, though, it is fun to go back — and by back, I mean way back — to revisit wines that we enjoyed at the very start of our wine experience. Back when I still worked in my first career and lived in Alameda, Calif., I journeyed to “wine country” with a group of friends. I was awe struck, and while at this point in my 30s, I never envisioned working in the wine industry and owning a great wine shop. I am pretty sure this is when the whole thing started for me.
We visited three or four wineries that Saturday. Two of them remain some of my favorites to this day. I joined their wine clubs that day and still love drinking their wines. Trefethen Winery and Joseph Phelps Winery are some of the oldest and most solid producers in all of California. To this day too, the Trefetens and Bill Phelps, son of the late owner and founder Joseph Phelps, remain close friends. We carry wines from both wineries in our shop and I love taking them home from time to time, as a special treat and trip down memory lane.
To this day, I still adore white wine; I could actually give up red easier than white. Back at the time of my inaugural wine country tour, though, white is all I drank. At Trefethen I fell in love with their dry Riesling and their estate Chardonnay. Both, I know now, are unique for domestic productions. Domestic Riesling is rarely made in a completely dry-style like the Trefethen. The wine is and was vibrant with fruit, and has a light petrol note on the nose which is wonderful. This is a wine that has stood the test of time with me, as has their estate Chardonnay. Trefethen does not allow their Chardonnay to go through secondary malo-lactic fermentation. This secondary ferment is what gives Chardonnay a buttery note. While the wine still spends time in oak barrels, it provides a delicious contrast to some of the more opulent California Chardonnays. It also gives the wine tremendous age worthiness.
Similarly, the Joseph Phelps estate Chardonnay is incredibly age worthy. While the Phelps does go through both malo-lactic and oak barrel aging, the grapes are and have always been harvested early, when acid-levels are high, giving the wine great longevity. I have had both the Trefethen and Phelps white wines with 20 years of age on them and still found them to be wonderful. So much for the notion that domestic white wines can’t be aged!
In both these cases, these are wines that I enjoy revisiting. But from the standpoint of my tastes, I really haven’t moved away from the style of the wines. I loved them then and I love them now.
This past week we received some samples from another winery I visited that long-ago Saturday — Caymus. We had recently included a wine from the Wagner Family, founders of Caymus, in our wine club, so they wanted us to try more of the wines. One of the bottles they included in our sample pack was the Conundrum. When Conundrum was first made it was only made in a white version. They now make both a red and a rose as well. When I first tried the Conundrum, I drank the wine regularly, it is and was a white blend with a slightly sweet edge to it. While some of my tastes have held from my early wine drinking days, I don’t much enjoy sweet wine any more, with the exception of true dessert wine.
I have yet to try the sample of Conundrum but plan to in the coming days. I will report in at a later date on my thoughts all these years later. I want to stress, though, that the Caymus wines are certainly well-made; they just represent a style I have moved on from. Having said that, it will be fun to revisit them many years later and see how I feel about them now.
For all wine consumers, sometimes part of the wine journey is to journey back in time. While we may not embrace all the wines of our past like we once did, it could make for some fun tasting and fun memories.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country.
After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.