Most wine collectors have had this moment, that trip to the wine cellar or a random Sunday afternoon spent poking around the wine fridge when they discover a bottle they should have opened years ago. I’ve even had clients call me about it in a panic, speaking a mile a minute about the great bottle they forgot they had and that all of the sources they can find say that the cork should have been popped already. At moments like that, I become more of an oenologically inclined (and woefully unlicensed and untrained) armchair psychologist than a wine writer and consultant. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve had to calm down with my most dulcet tones and assurances that their wine is likely just fine…and even if it’s not, that there’s always another one to open up to salve their emotional wounds.
This happened to me recently when, as I was reorganizing my wines, I came across a bottle that somehow had gotten misplaced. This never happens: I’m fastidious about keeping track of them all, and while I often have a hard time remembering my own name, I know where every last one of my precious bottles is at any given moment.
Well, apparently almost always.
Happily, the bottle wasn’t “just fine,” as I’ve told clients a thousand times before…it was delicious. You see, the Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2016, my white Wine of the Week, is now two vintages old, and received wisdom for most Sauvignon Blanc is that it’s meant to be consumed earlier rather than later, the better to enjoy its telltale citrus fruit and freshness, and also because it’s perceived as generally not having the stuffing to age. Certain White Bordeaux and Loire Valley standouts excepted, it’s a grape variety that tends to reward aging for about as long, as the old cliché goes, as it takes to drive home from the wine shop.
But this bottle proved that, with a little patience—or, in my case, organizational carelessness—Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc can occasionally age with grace and complexity. It’s lush nose showed melon, orange, and sweet spice, and preceded a generous, somewhat creamy palate of nectarine, almonds, and honeyed hazelnuts. Unlike most of the Sauvignon Blancs I tend to taste, this was, at this point in its evolution, not a fruit-driven wine, but instead defined by the savoriness that had developed over the past couple of years. It was remarkable, and a wonderful in situ demonstration of the often under-appreciated benefits of allowing Napa Sauvignon Blanc to age for a bit before opening it up.
My red Wine of the Week, on the other hand, is a deeply memorable example of all that Oregon’s Willamette Valley is doing so right, and a wine that, whether you drink it now or in ten years, promises incredible pleasure. The Authentique Eola Springs Vineyard Heritage ’72 Block Pinot Noir 2016, from the Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA, practically vibrates in the glass with the potential not just of the appellation in general, but also with the vision and skill of winemaker and owner Nicholas Keeler, who is doing some seriously noteworthy work there.
He is a deeply committed Pinot Noir specialist, though his Chardonnay and skin-contact Pinot Gris are also more than worth seeking out. But tasting through a line-up of his Pinot Noir is a phenomenal education in not just one man’s vision, but also in the range of expressions that the variety is capable of when sourced from different terroirs. Tasting this one, from the Heritage ’72 Block, alongside a bottle from the same vineyard’s Saint Augustine Block, is a study in riveting contrasts, the former leaning in a more savory direction and the latter marked by more chocolate ganache and sweet spice alongside generously sweet fruit. Both are excellent, just in very different ways. Happily, Keeler is confident enough to allow the land to speak through his wines with shimmering clarity. It’s really not a question of whether one of his 2016 Pinot Noirs is better than another, but rather of which one aligns best with your own personal taste. These wines are worthy of a spot on any dinner table and in any cellar.
Flora Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Napa Valley
Crisp and unexpectedly lush nose, with melon and melon pith, orange, and a hint of sweet spice. On the palate, this is generously fruited but driven more by its savoriness, with an almond edge to the nectarine and hints of vanilla pod and honeyed hazelnut. SRP: $26
Authentique Eola Springs Vineyard Heritage ’72 Block Pinot Noir 2016 Eola-Amity Hills AVA
This shimmers with a beautiful translucence in the glass. Hints of cola spice join red plum, cherry, and a suggestion of rose petals on the nose, setting the stage for a balanced, beautifully structured palate, with savory notes of cardamom, sasparilla, porcini dust, and oolong tea alongside mouthwatering cherry fruit. So energetic; drink this now and for the next decade. SRP: $75