wine drawing


    Aging wine is a tricky practice.

    How many times have you been so enthralled with a wine when you went wine tasting that you bought a whole case, or maybe you just purchased a few bottles because the price ticket was exorbitant?

    This is kind of like when I tasted the 2003 Lazzarito vineyard Barolo by Ettore Germano. The grape is Nebbiolo and it was giving off intense lush aromatics that I absolutely fell in love with. There was dark cherry, cassis, blackberry and currant which is rather atypical of a Barolo. Usually Barolos are leaner fruit with more dust, brick and red cherry on the nose, but this was a hot year and the fruit got incredibly ripe making for a bold beauty. The wine still had plenty of acid and tannins to give it balance and prepare it for some amazing aging potential. Twenty years from when I first tried it the Barolo would actually be so much better. However, the wine would change over time, and this is where it gets tricky. The fruit will drop away considerably, the tannins will smooth out becoming velvety and supple, and the acid will often become more prominent. This transition will leave you with a wine you most likely will not recognize unless you’ve pre-mapped what characteristics will change and you have planned for a new creation that hands down is going to be better than what you first tasted so long ago.


    Let’s get back to laying the wine down for a while…

    So we’ll say you purchased a bottle of 2003 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, because the wine store guy recommended it. It was a special occasion so you bought the $95 bottle even though your fingers twitched as you handed over your debit card. You take the wine home for dinner with your significant other, and lo and behold it was phenomenal. It just so happens that you were celebrating a promotion, and you find out it involves a large pay increase. One thing leads to another, and you end up buying a whole case to start fleshing out your wine cellar.

    A few years go by, and you have drunk a few of the bottles with each one being just as good as you remembered it being. Determined to sit the wine down for many more years so it can reach its full potential you try to ignore the bottles, but some friends come over and you start raving about this incredible cab you have in your wine cellar. You run downstairs, grab a bottle, cut off the wax top, pull out the cork, and pour out four glasses of awesome.

    Only what you have in your glass is anything but awesome. There is almost nothing of what you fell in love with left in the wine. It’s muted, the lush fruit aromatics are gone, the palate is boring, and the damn tannins are playing hell with the balance.


    “This is not the wine I fell in love with!”, you shout. Immediately you are overcome with a morose mood of despondency. You spent a fortune on those wines because you knew they would be perfect. They gave every indication that they were what you wanted in a long lasting wine. You even built a special place in your wine cellar just for them, and now you’re left with crap.


    Before you throw the bottles of swill against the wall or turn the bottles into table legs, there is something you should be aware of.


    You may have inadvertantly entered “The Dead Zone”. The dead zone, also known as the ‘transformation’ is a period in a wine’s life where the fruit driven aromatics are replaced by a more complex bouquet.


    “Aroma: describes the group of wine odors that originate exclusively with the fruit-the fresh, mature grapes… A wine described as fruity will possess an aroma strongly characteristic of its grape variety.

    Bouquet: describes a more elaborate and sophisticated odor… It consists of layers that are resultant of the fermentation and ageing”   – Winetaster’s secrets by Andrew Sharp


    The fruit aromas drop off with age, sometimes so rapidly that the tannins become pronounced and unappealing before they too have a chance to evolve. Imagine that aroma starts high on a declining slope and bouquet starts low on a climbing slope. Where the two intersect is quite often the flat spot.

    This is where one needs to try and not give up on the wine if they want to see what will most likely be an even better wine then the one you originally fell in love with. Wine is meant to evolve and become something new and amazing with time, so leave it in the cellar because it just needs a little more time.


    – Jonathan Hood



    Tasting notes on the two wines I mentioned…


    2007 Ettore Germano “Lazzarito” Barolo Riserva  (A more current vintage)

    96 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

    “The 2007 Barolo Riserva Lazzarito is a gorgeous wine that does a wonderful job of portraying the bold and powerful side of the Nebbiolo grape. Ever-changing aromas of red fruit, cassis, chopped mint, licorice, cola and smoked cedar give the wine elegance and poise. It shows beautiful fleshiness and roundness that is in line with the best offerings from the 2007 vintage. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2028.”

    2003 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

    95 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

    “Rich with surprisingly soft tannin, this dense plum/ruby/purple-colored 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits lots of briary mountain fruit, blackberries, blueberries and cassis, outstanding purity, full-bodied power and nicely integrated tannin. There is no evidence of toasty oak to be found in this beauty from Randy Dunn. Drink it now or cellar it for 15+ years. It finished at 13.8% natural alcohol.”