Monday, January 3, 2011

What's In The Bottle: 2002 Meritage

N.B.  With this post, we are hoping to begin a periodic series that we'll loosely call "What's In The Bottle." With each post one of us will bring up a specific bottle of wine they have tried recently and discuss it with the same candor we respect in one another and our visitors at the winery.  These wines will run the gamut from Fox Run's current release wines, 'library' wines, tank/barrel samples, and perhaps even some bottles from other wineries or regions.  Not strictly a review or attempt to grade a wine, this is more about frankly relating what is in the bottle and why that is, might be, or may become.

Idiosyncratic though it might be, New Year's Day is almost certainly my favorite holiday dinner.  As opposed to the restricting traditions of Thanksgiving (give turkey a rest, people!  Better had it been made the national bird of the United States as Benjamin Franklin seemed inclined, so that we no longer forced ourselves to pretend it is delectable) and the confusion and expectations surrounding Christmas dinner (Force the turkey-issue for the second time in a month?  Ham?  Some other Roast?), New Year's Day is one that often goes overlooked due to a lack of history and the presence of College Football Bowl Games.

Without overlooking the bowl games, our family harkens back to our very-Anglo roots for this one meal of the year 'anglo' ("and go"...anyone?  Did that work?  No?  Alright, moving on then) all out.  Potatoes roasted crisp in goose fat from the Christmas goose, roasted vegetables, creamed mushrooms, yorkshire pudding, and - the crown jewel - the standing rib roast.  This is a hefty meal that goes against the New Year's resolutions that so many will be trying to follow for the next week, but if we are breaking our own at least we are doing so in a blaze of glory.  Nevertheless, once a year it is a treat and also relatively stress-free to pull together.

So what wine does one have with a meal like this?  Fortunately, the flavors are relatively pure and simple as fantastic as they are.  This means a complex wine will not be lost in the fray of flavors and can serve as a wonderful counterpoint.  While I have no compunction about grabbing a very nice bottle of wine from my cellar (I firmly believe that sitting on special bottles for the "right occasion" is the surest way to spoil the wine and limit the number of special wines you will experience), having food that begs for such a wine is certainly a bonus.  Although it far predates my start at Fox Run, I have one bottle of 2002 Meritage that I decided was ready for the opening.

2002 Meritage:
  • Composition:  50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Quantity Produced:  220 Cases, very little of which I imagine still exists.
  • Neither ABV or Dryness are specified, but 12.5% ABV and zero grams residual sugar are most likely.
First things first, I was glad the wine wasn't corked.  Not that there was any reason to expect it to be, but when you only have one bottle of something that is always on your mind.  The next nagging question was how tired/old the wine would seem.  We make Meritage blend wines with an eye towards cellaring potential, and many Finger Lakes Wines are cruelly cut down before their prime, but over eight years of age on a red wine from the Finger Lakes is not entirely common.  The wine was still a dark burgundy color, however, with only the slightest signs of orange creeping in around the edges.

More importantly, it still smelled like a fresh wine.  To my nose, the wine was dominated by the merlot component of the blend with its plums and blueberries.  There was also a nice overlay of oak with the spices and vanilla on the nose, although I must be honest and say it was a tad more than I would still want to see.  My loves in aged red wines from the right years and right regions are tabacco leaf and leather, two smells that are beguiling in a wine glass even if they sound bizarre, but this wine left me unsatisfied in this regard.  That is not to say the lack of these aromas are a fault in the wine, or even that they should be there, but I certainly would like to try the Finger Lakes red that pulls it off!

Upon tasting the wine, I was pleasantly surprised with how vibrant the fruit components were in it.  Despite the large proportion of cabernet franc and sauvignon in the blend, the typical forest floor and earthy cassis flavors were not so evident as brilliant cherry and muted blueberry.  The finish continued in this vein for quite some time before turning to dark chocolate.  Structure wise I was very pleased with the tannic component of the wine, but actually found the acid a bit much through the finish (a factor contributing to the bumped up tannins).  Given that this is a red from the Finger Lakes, acid is part of the game that you have to accept from the start.  The question it causes me to wonder is how the perception of the acid in the wine has changed since it was bottled, but the balance of the wine going into the bottle is one only Peter can answer.

In the end, the wine passed the most important test of any wine with flying colors: it was enjoyed and seemed to disappear without anyone knowing how.  Given the meal we were enjoying, the slightly higher acid was absolutely a blessing in terms of the wines ability to cut through the rich foods and refresh the palate.  This is the factor that makes Finger Lakes wines of all types, when well made, some of the best food pairing wines on the planet.  And on this first day of 2011, it made for a wonderful pairing indeed (although I probably wouldn't push it to 2012).

By:  Kelby Russell, Winemaking Team

Music of the Day:
  • Mel Torm√© and Judy Garland; "The Christmas Song" performed live by two under appreciated vocal legends (it's still the twelve days of Christmas!):

Support Artists, buy the music you like!

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