Several weeks ago I went to West Seattle Cellars to taste through a lineup of wines that included a blind tasting of the 2007 Leonetti Cellar Merlot and the 2007 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot. Walla Walla Vintners’ wines are often referred to as “baby Leonettis” due to some stylistic similarities (NB: Walla Walla Vintners abuts Leonetti’s Uplands Vineyard). While the blind tasting wines were clearly the belle of the ball, with a flight of Washington wine before me, how could I resist?
The prequel wines were interesting, and I took my time tasting through them as is my wont. Alas, when we got to the blind tasting wines, it was closing time and both the Leonetti and Walla Walla Vintners were gone. Rather than catastrophizing (much), I contented myself with the thought that I would have to wait a few years to see what the wine tasted like as I had previously purchased a bottle. (Side note: People at the tasting generally preferred the Walla Walla Vintners Merlot as it was a more open, drink-me-now wine. No surprise there.)
Flash forward to March 23rd. As I wrote about six weeks ago, starting in January I have been counting down to my 40th birthday on May 23rd by opening a special bottle of wine on that date each month. The list has included Leonetti Cabernet 2002 (notes deliquent) and Betz Pere de Famille 2002. On this night as usual there was a good deal of discussion about what the wine should be. Ultimately my curiousity got the better of me, and I decided I wanted to know what was inside that Leonetti bottle. Sure, opening a just-released 2007 Leonetti Merlot is a bit like pulling up a Redwood sapling, but there are plenty of trees in the forest right? I rationalized it all. I told myself it wasn’t for me. It was for my readers. They had a right to know.
I took the bottle from the cellar and poured a bit into my glass to see how tight it was and how much time it would need. I then carefully emptied the bottle into a decanter and went to put the wine outside to keep it at a proper temperature. This is where the story becomes NC-17 for you wine lovers out there. Underage readers and people who do not like horror stories please stop reading now.
The decanter I had chosen is somewhat rounded at the bottom (“Why God? Why did I choose that one?”). When I placed the decanter on the ground – you know this is coming – it proceeded to roll over. I watched as this beautiful wine that I was attempting to rob of its youth poured out onto the porch in the Seattle rain. My first inclination was to throw myself on the wine like a person trying to smother a flame. Straws were discussed but this discussion quickly became moot as the wine, rain, and mold on the porch melded into one. All was not lost. About half of the bottle remained.
As I drank a glass of the wine and reflected on growing older, I thought about how ten years ago it would have taken me a few hours (days?) to recover from an incident such as this. At the tender age of 39, I just went to the cellar and opened a Walla Walla Vintners 2002 Cabernet that had been the runner up to open that evening. We enjoyed this wine (notes to follow) while waiting for the Leonetti to aerate.
So I guess there is some benefit to growing older.
And the morale of this story is…drink no wine before its time. An alternate morale would be, when in doubt, use an orbital decanter.
Leonetti Cellar needs no introduction. In 1974, Gary Figgins was working as a machinist at the Continenal Can Company when he decided to plant an acre of cabernet sauvignon by the Leonetti home in Walla Walla. Figgins bonded the winery in 1977 and produced the first vintage in 1978. The 1978 cabernet was entered into a competition and judged by Wine & Spirits magazine “the best Cabernet produced in America” – Washington’s “Judgement of Paris” moment. And the rest as they say…
Gary’s son Chris Figgins, who received a horticulture degree from Washington State Universiy, now oversees all winemaking and viticulture for Leonetti. Chris has been at the forefront of sustainable winegrowing practices, notably through his work with Vinea, a Walla Walla Valley winegrowing group dedicated to sustainability. Figgins serves as vice president for this group.
The 2007 Merlot represents an accomplishment for the Figgins family. This is their first merlot to have the designation Walla Walla Valley. With the Reserve, Cabernet, and Sangiovese already bearing the designation of the valley in which they live, the 2007 Walla Walla Valley Merlot is the realization of a long-held dream to make Leonetti wine exclusively from valley fruit. The vineyard sources for this wine are impeccable – Seven Hills, Loess, Mill Creek Upland, and Pepper Bridge vineyards; the results are exceptional.
|Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2007||Abundant sweet oak aromas along with pain grillé, violets, orange peel, and smoke. A thick chewy taste yet surprisingly soft tannins. A full mid-palate and a pleasing finish round it out. Give 3-5 years and do not spill on porch when opening. 93% Merlot; 7% Petit Verdot. Seven Hills, Loess, Mill Creek Upland, and Pepper Bridge vineyards. 2,389 cases produced.||$70|