Tue 17 Feb 2009
In this chronicle of 100 wines, readers, it’s March 1984, yes, a hair less than 25 years ago. We drank a variety of wines that month, of course, including the Callaway Petite Sirah 1975 from Temecula (“the most intense wine I’ve ever tasted” — $9.99) and a thrilling Mayacamas Sauvignon Blanc 1980 (“exceptional balance, suave and smooth” — $10.99). Two of the wines, though, were so memorable that even today I remember how knocked out by them I was. Both were from a producer that doesn’t seem to earn much praise or even thought nowadays, the venerable Simi Winery in Sonoma County.
We drank the Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 1979, Alexander Valley, on March 10, with sauerbraten cooked for a friend’s birthday. Here are my notes: “Can’t say enough about this wine: beautiful deep ruby color; wonderful nose — dry, dusty, tannic, fruity, cedarwood and cigar box undertones; same in the mouth — deep. complex, woody, mouth-filling, long finish.”
Without a doubt, the Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 ($9.49) was the best red wine from California I had tasted up to that point in my life and would remain one of the best wines I tasted in an eventful year, in terms of my wine education. More about that later in this chronicle.
Then, on March 19-21, we drank what is one of the most memorable wines of my career as a wine drinker and (coming up with startling rapidity) writer. My first note on the Simi Pinot Noir 1974, Alexander Valley, is “Can’t praise this one enough.” Indeed, this nine-year-old pinot noir from a winery not noted for pinot noir wines is still one of the best examples of the grape I have tasted. “Beautiful fading brickish-red-brown color; mature subdued nose; soft & mellow, fruity still, a touch of the ripe earthiness of the pinot noir grape, full in the mouth, long finish — a really wonderful wine — a bargain at the price,” which was $8.49.
By the way, look at the alcohol levels on these wines: 13% for the cabernet, 12.5% for the pinot noir. Why strive for anything higher?
You may attribute my fervor for these wines to (relatively) youthful enthusiasm — I would turn 40 at the end of 1984 — but I promise that I remember them and my response to them clearly, even this morning as I type these words.
Isn’t that function of memory tied to sensual experience the reason why we drink wine, take notes on wine, think about wine, write about wine and savor the complete process?