By The Glass
Put away some special bottles to mark life's key celebrations
WHEN my daughter Montana was born in 1997, I could hardly wait. After all, 1997 was an excellent vintage ... the perfect reason to cellar some great wines to commemorate her birth, her 21st birthday, her wedding day, perhaps celebrate my first grandchild.
In addition to Montana, 1997 brought me wonderful wines from California, sweet whites from the Loire Valley in France, a fantastic port, and outstanding vintages in Germany and Tuscany.
I was blessed in more ways than one, in the sense that someone has to taste these wines periodically to check their maturity. I can safely say, as my household's wine professional, they're maturing nicely.
Nine months ago, that anxious feeling returned: With another child due in 2006, would I be so lucky again? A few weeks ago, just days after the birth of my son Zachary, I e-mailed wine experts, asking, "I know it's really early, but what's the 2006 vintage looking like?"
Bruce Neyers, national sales director for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants and owner of Neyers Winery in Napa Valley, replied that he expects a late harvest, set back by more than 70 inches of rain in Napa Valley, compared to a 35-inch average. "Look for a smaller than normal crop, later than normal, and hope we don't have any early fall rains. Quality could be very good as we regularly make our best wines in late years." A smaller, more concentrated crop makes for better intensity of fruit and rounder texture ... very cool!
Mark Bixler over at Kistler Winery in Sonoma is also looking out for rain and hoping for a rise in temperature. "When the weather has been warm in the past two weeks, the good news is that the vines really did respond and have growth spurts. A week at 80 to 85 (degrees) would make everyone feel better." Hmm ... definitely promising, I thought.
John Gorman from Southern Starz, who imports wines from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, had this to say: "... looking pretty grim in several parts of South Australia. Victoria and Western Australia looking good as well as areas that came in early. Will be a spotty year with some incredible highlights." I'll need to start planning my buying strategy.
I KNOW I am relatively safe in that French champagne and German riesling will nearly always produce styles with the structure to age effortlessly for 20-plus years.
For champagne, I'll look toward a few of my favorites: Salon, Krug, Charles Heidsieck and Pol Roger to start. From Mosel, Germany: Zilliken, J.J. Prum, Dr. F. Weins Prum, Fritz Haag and Schloss Lieser. In the Rheinhessen, Gunderloch is outstanding; from the Nahe, Donnhoff reigns supreme. From the Rheingau, Kunstler and Leitz round off the list.
For other wine-geek parents -- or "eno-dweebs" as a fellow wine guy has anointed us -- here are recommendations on regions to consider, by year. Just be sure to tell your significant other that "it's for the kids -- really it is!" (Wink!)
2005: Red bordeaux, burgundy (red or white) Rhone Valley reds, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, wines of Germany and Rioja, Spain.
2004: Burgundy (red or white), California cabernet sauvignon, Northern Rhone reds.
2003: Red bordeaux, Australian shiraz from Barossa and McLaren Vale, Northern Rhone reds, sauternes, port, Santa Barbara or Sonoma County pinot noir, South African reds; Germany.
2002: Burgundy (red or white), Loire Valley whites, Sonoma County pinot noir and syrah, Oregon pinot noir, reds from Argentina; Germany.
2001: Sauternes, Italian barolo or barbaresco, Spanish reds from Rioja and Priorato, Oregon pinot noir; Germany (Mosel region).
2000: Italian barolo and barbaresco), red bordeaux; Alsace.
1999: Burgundy (red), Northern Rhone Valley reds, Italian brunello di montalcino, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, Oregon pinot noir.
1998: Australia Shiraz from Barossa and McLaren Vale, bordeaux from Pomerol and St. Emilion, Southern Rhone reds, Italian wines from Piedmont and Tuscany, Oregon pinot noir.
1997: California reds, vintage port (Taylor & Fonseca), Loire Valley vouvray (Champalou and Huet are outstanding sweeter styles); Italy (Tuscany), Germany (the Mosel).
1996: Champagne, Italian Piedmont, Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, Loire Valley whites, especially vouvray and Coteaux du Layon.
Kevin Toyama is manager of the Beretania R. Field Wine Co. and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org