Monday, August 17, 2009

Auctioning, 1997 Cakebread Cabernet and Lisa’s Lamb

This weekend I was looking forward to Sunday dinner. It was Lisa’s turn and she was making her outstanding rack of lamb. Syrah is the traditional pairing for lamb, but by no means is Cabernet Sauvignon atypical. I had had my eye on an old bottle of 1997 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon to open with the lamb.

The 1997 Cakebread Cabernet was my first auction wine I had ever purchased. Now, we are not talking in person at Christies. I had snagged a bottle of this at a great price on an auction website years ago, I think late 2002 or so. I had two in storage and had sold one recently as I felt I would only have time to drink one and I had been offered a great price. Online auction wine sites are a place where you can get great wines with minimal hassle. One literally looks and works just like EBay! I also would like to note that most people selling these kinds of wine online are usually pretty honest and I have yet to get a bad bottle. Now, would I buy a case of 2000 Chateau Latour from an unknown person? Probably not as Latour is investment grade wine and if I had wanted to sell it later the provenance of the wine may be unknown and factor in to a lower closing bid than I would like. Provenance is simply a wine’s history - where did it come from? Did it come from a big name wine retailer, a poorly stored closet or retail shelf, or a collector’s temperature and humidity controlled wine cellar? Provenance is a big factor, maybe the most important factor, in determining a certain wine’s ultimate value and whether or not I would buy an expensive lot of wine. If Provenance cannot be determined, one should be wary of fakes or poor storage. Provenance is also one reason to maybe pay a premium for expensive wine from a winery as opposed to saving 10% and getting it at retail. Purchasing wine directly from the source is as good as it gets!

On to the lamb!

Lisa’s lamb has evolved over the years but more or less has been in stride for a year or so. One rack that is about 1.5 pounds or so is seasoned and seared in a sauté pan. Next the lamb is removed and brushed with real honey mustard: fresh honey and Dijon mustard. Then it is coated with a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs, finely chopped dried cranberries and fresh garlic. The lamb is then placed in the oven to finish cooking for 18 or so minutes on medium heat. Remove, let the meat set for 5 minutes and serve.

Back to Cakebread and my wine roots

Cakebread Wine Cellars was the first winery after Robert Mondavi that I had started to pay more attention to back in 2000 when I first started to pay attention to more than a wine's color. I was drinking as much Cakebread as I could, and it was not much because at that time I was not buying a lot of $30 Chardonnay and $45 Cabernet being 23 years old. A few friends thought I was crazy to even think about spending more than $10 on a bottle of wine, but I felt there was more to it to me than most people. I was fascinated by wineries (and still am); how the wine was made and what it made me think about when I smelled it and tasted it. Cakebread Cellars was a cool place to go visit with a date or with family and friends visiting from the east coast when I had lived in San Francisco in the early 2000's. A tasting of their wines in their friendly barn-like tank room was only about $5. A wine and food pairing was only $30 or so for 5 wines and five tasty bites that matched the type of wine. Cakebread had a cache name at the time, and still does with more novice wine lovers. It’s been years since I have bought a bottle of their Cabernet, the last being the 2001. The winemaker’s had changed (Bruce stopped for some reason), and, well, my palate had already moved me on to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars by the 1999 vintage which turned out to be my first real romance with a winery. Paul Hobbs subsequently with the 2001 vintage had me hooked and to date is my favorite wine maker. But I still have an old soft spot for Cakebread from the days I was cutting my teeth getting to know what wine was and how to appreciate it.

1997's Still Kicking!

The 1997 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon is better than I was expecting and still probably has another year or two in this drinking window. Though, it won’t get any better so I would not wait if you do not have or want to. The aromas started to really jump from the glass after an hour of being open. Massive juicy and fragrant black currant dominated the nose, while the palate was medium bodied with a full finish that was a little more tannic than I would have wanted. Decant this wine 1 hour.

Color: Excellent, gleaming ruby to rose edges, no brick, deep red center

Nose: Screaming black currants, black cherry, some older loamy and leather secondary aromatics. Very nice indeed!

Palate: Medium to mostly full bodied, showing its age gracefully with a slight look back at its youth. Currants and cherry, some spice and tobacco, a touch of sage. Drinking nicely, but may not be for everyone if your not into a little age in your wine. The finish resonates the aged fruit flavors, though there are still some serious tannins hanging around.



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