Monday, February 22, 2010

Open That Bottle

The time had finally arrived to open the 1999 Solaia. After holding its corner spot in the wine cabinet for years, we were ready to uncork the Marchese Antinori super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. We'd held firm over the years to follow the winemaker's and experts' tasting notes that advised an optimum drinking time between 2010 to 2020. No way we were waiting a month longer.

Dinner was planned to perfection: tender, rare rib-eye steaks with shallots in balsamic glaze and a dollop of Parmesan butter, all atop a bed of lemon-splashed arugula. The cork had a crumbly mid-section but came out whole and well stained. We held our breath and felt a twinge of disappointment when the wine poured brownish red. Just an Italian thing, we hoped.

Some air and time brought it back to life as the wine delivered lovely blackberry fruit, silky tannins and a complex earthy finish with eucalyptus that gave way to floral tones as it evolved in the glass. Delicious? Yes. Worth the wait? As much as we hate to say it, no.

Maybe we should have jumped the gun those couple of times we were tempted to bust it out. Perhaps it would have shown that freshness, that powerful, brooding fruit or je ne sais quoi that makes Solaia such a knockout wine. We'll never know.

What we will be doing, however, is opening more wine. Sure, many Euros and higher-end wines need time in the bottle but we don't want to miss another Solaia moment. Ideally, we'd buy three bottles of our favorite age-worthy wines and open them in stages to better determine optimal cellar time for our tastes, our environment.

For now, we'll take up the call of departed Wall Street Journal Tastings columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher: drink your wine. With all the wine deals around at every turn, there's never been a better time to restock.