Monday, March 26, 2012

Timing is everything


Imagine receiving, and, with much effort, translating a friendly message from some beings just around the corner in our galaxy. We quickly develop the technology to construct a "generation ship," we launch it with great fanfare, and several centuries later it arrives, only to find an empty planet, perhaps made unlivable by its former occupants who left without so much as a forwarding address.

Timing is everything.

That said, this is the second year in a row that I have lost in the "March Madness of Wine" competition, which has already become quite enthusiastically followed. Thanks to Don and Lisa for conceptualizing and running this event. Each time, my wine, despite having been decanted and left in the decanter for over an hour, just wasn't at peak when it was tasted and judged. Each time, it opened up later, and shone like the wine I knew it was, but only after the voting was long finished. Timing is indeed every thing.

Others suffered the same fate, and even more inexplicably than did I. Just look at two of the wines that lost their first rounds in this competition:

1. 2005 Domaine Drouhin "Louise" Pinot Noir: This is best barrel at Dom. Drouhin--their "Laurene" is super-great wine, and the Louise is the greatest of even the Laurene. But it was outvoted by a Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir (2008 Sonoma Coast).

2. 2006 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon: This is Q Creek's flagship cab--the super-cult winery's best wine, which has received no less than 100, 100, 99, 98, and 97 (or so-you get the idea) point scores by Parker over the past five years. But it lost to a 1997 Beringer Reserve Cab.

Format: 8 persons (or couples) bring a wine costing more than $50, in a category assigned to them. Our categories were 1. Pinot Noir (a California Pinot and an Oregon Pinot); 2. France (a Bordeaux and a Burgundy); 3. Cabernet (Washington and California); and 4. Italian vs any non-US wine. The wines are brought under cover, and decanted an hour before the event (while we eat dinner). Then the wines compete against each other, blind, and each person who brought a wine gets a vote. The loser wine is revealed, and the winner wine remains anonymous and competes in the next round. With up to 24 pours for the two finalist wines, the pours for each wine needs to be kept to 3/4 ounce (and a couple who brings one wine will share each taste); there are about 30-32 0.75-oz pours in a 750ml wine bottle (depending on ullage and sediment).

Besides bringing a great wine, the key to success in this event is knowing when your wine will peak after opening. The best wine in the world can't win if it is still shut down when it hits the judges' lips. For instance, that Louise needs perhaps 4-6 hours in decanter, to open up, and it had only 1.5 hours. The Quil Creek Cab shouldn't have been opened at all, for perhaps five more years (though it, as the Louise, was an extremely considerate gift), and neither, as it turns out, should my Bordeaux (2000 Clos Fortet, St. Emilion Grand Cru) have been opened yet (hey; I thought after 12 years it would be fine, and CellarTracker scorers give it 93 points right now, but perhaps my wine cellar is colder than most, thus slowing the wine's maturation).

(Photo is Salavadore Dali's "The Persistance of Memory")

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