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Wine is alive, and schizophrenic!

I’ve been seriously into wine for twenty years, and have tried wines from almost every wine growing region in the world.  I don’t drink the crazy expensive stuff, but do pretty well.  One of the reasons I love wine is the fact that it is alive, changing from year to year and even over days within the same bottle.  There have been wines that have greatly improved after opening, have greatly deteriorated after opening, and have pretty much stayed the same.  There was a red Guerrouane AOG from Morocco we had many years ago that transformed from a corky, musty mess to a fabulous, full bodied and deeply flavored red after a day exposed to air.  I am very used to bottles changing, but recently ran across a couple that pushed the envelope, and one especially that is just a crazy chameleon.

Here they are, the 2011 The Crusher, from the Wilson Vineyard in Clarksburg, CA and the 2007 Magnificent Wine Company CAB.  Cheri and I opened the cab from The Magnificent Wine Co. first that night, which we thought was bad.  It was sour andCIMG1876 had an unpleasant after taste.  We chose not drink it.  So we did what we usually do in those circumstances – planted it on the counter to oxidize for a while.  We’d revisit it the next day.  I promptly opened the next bottle, which was The Crusher.

This was beyond bad.  Here are my notes: heavy, heavy wood.  Tastes like a peaty scotch, which I don’t like.  No fruit can make it through.  Unpleasant from start to finish.  Avoid.

We were ready to pour it down the drain, except that I had just bought both The Crusher and the previous cab from the Kingston Liquor Mart the day before, on the 2 for $20 shelf.  Two bad bottles at $10 a piece was too much, so for maybe the third time in my life I went back to return an opened bottle for a reason other than it was corked.  I was absolutely convinced that this bottle had no chance of coming around, even after days on the counter.  It was horrible.

So I get to the store and discuss this with the owners, Frank and Nick.  They are very gracious and immediately offer to replace the bottles with something else.  You can’t really ask for much more than that, so I am happy.  Then Frank grabs a little plastic tasting cup and pours some out.  I wait for the grimace, but instead I get a raised eyebrow.  My thoughts: you’ve got to be kidding me.  But he wasn’t kidding,and he knows a lot more about wine than I do, so I grab a cup and pour some out.  Now this still wasn’t my favorite wine, but it was much, much better.  I could drink it, although the wood was still a little ashy and didn’t blend with the fruit very well.  Still, if this had been even close to the wine out of the bottle I would never have returned it.  Time for some serious humble pie, which isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last.

Thanks to Frank and Nick for their understanding.  I am still shocked by how much the wine changed.  So much so that I brought home another bottle and we now have the topic for our first Lab experiment.  Since this wine changes immensely over time, let’s see what some of the devices which are sold to aid the aeration process actually do with a willing subject.  We’ll open the bottle, try a few different aerators, a decanter and good old overnight on the counter.  The results should be interesting.

The moral of this story is twofold: you can always learn something new and wine can change an incredible amount as it oxidizes (which I knew well but not well enough).  Actually I also learned to try the wine the next day before I bring it back!  We’ll report on the Lab results soon.  In the meantime, if you don’t really like the red you’ve opened, give it some time and strange things just might happen.  I’m still very surprised at this particular bottle, and am very curious to see if it follows the same path again.  By the way, the 2007 Cab also improved greatly by the next afternoon, but that one wasn’t the Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde act of The Crusher.

A votre sante!

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