In a recent issue of Wine Access magazine (April/May 2009), my colleague David Lawrason, tasted through some back vintages of Southbrook wines. He gave his top score (93) to a 1998 Chardonnnay (I have to wonder if the current winemaker's ego is affected by that, knowing that a wine made 10 years ago outperformed your current output - I must remember to ask Ann Sperling that next time I see her) ... anyway, that got me thinking as to some of the older Southbrook wines I have in my cellar. Southbrook owner, Bill Redelmeier, is a huge proponent of ageing his wines, a philosophy and passion he shared with his then winemaker Derek Barnett - so the wines made before Barnett's departure in 2001 really have the will of the winemaker and owner on their side: heft and longevity as their backbone so to speak.
I'm now going to tell you about the little journey this wine and I took together. When I first opened the bottle the green pepper smell was almost overwhelming; but in the mouth it seemed to be more than the one-trick-pepper-pony it gave off in the smell, offering up cedar and vanilla notes, to go along with the charred-roasted green pepper. But with each sniff and sip I thought there was something hiding in the background, so I decided to whip out the decanter and give it a go. Now I have had a little discussion with a certain wine agency owner over the validity of decanting - he believes its all in our heads - if you're out there I would recommend you listen up.
0:30 ... Wine now has a smoky, woodsy, earthy character with spiced-leaves and just hints of that once powerful green pepper in the background. On the palate, the green pepper has also softened, giving way to dried fruit, pencil shavings, smoked leaves and soft leather. This wine is amazingly still very much alive, and that was quite apparent as the hour mark tasting showed.
1:00 ... Smoky, leathery and a bit gamy - the palate is smooth with earthy notes and fine Carinthian leather that Ricardo Montalbahn would have been proud to have in his Buick. There were also hints of cedar on the palate and I was thrillled to find that even some tannins were starting to peak out, adding some muscle to this wine.
1:30 ... Lots of change happened in the past half hour. Coffee has become the dominant smell and there seems to be a coffee grounds-like taste.
2:00 ... Not dead yet, but not very much alive either - somewhere in the middle - she's dying slowly here as everything seems to be falling away, leaving just an alcohol and wood based drink behind.
Ten years old and still a wonderful wine to drink - had I not been experimenting I would have consumed the bottle within the first hour. If you are lucky enough to have a bottle, decant for half an hour then enjoy. Lost & Found rating: Treasure