Jack Kerouac often wrote about stars. In Dharma Bums he also wrote about tea, among other things, saying that the fifth sip [of tea] was ecstasy, while the third was serenity and the fourth, madness, or fondness—or some variation thereof, I forget which. I contend a great wine can provide all that and more in one tasteful, which is to say, more than a sip.
Though wine isn’t a sipping thing, is it? Although we could sip a bottle in its entirety, I suppose. But not dainty sips. Otherwise we’d need a gurgling little fountain and some Vivaldi playing in the background and maybe invite a few lady friends with floppy hats to join us, and make polite small talk about Buenos Aires or how wonderful Venice is in Winter…so moody.
However, tasting wine also is not a gulping act, either. Nonetheless, on more than one occasion I have witnessed guys in expensive pin-stripped suits look at each other intently as they swirled mouthfuls of very expensive, over-hyped, 98 chart-topping-points Cabernet from the newest must-have winery… They were tasting but they were also dancing and dueling and probably doing something else too; their self-infatuation and self-satisfaction a kind of torpor, a kind of Tropic of Cancer. However, I am not here to write about lawyer types who engage in homoerotic drinking rituals with pricey wines. I am here to write about a brooding Argentinean Red from Mendoza.
The Vistalba Corte C 2009 is an intensely fruited and concentrated wine, so taut, its flavours almost bead on the palate. I realise ‘beady’ as a term potentially does not convey much, except to possibly express the notion of intensity, as in someone staring at you “with beady eyes”. The Corte C out of the bottle, freshly poured, right now, is young and brimming with intensity, its narrative compressed into what I liken to a cluster of flavours; as in a cluster of beads or even a bubble cluster. If a visual representation of such a “cluster” of flavours on the palate were possible, it might look something like a slightly deformed, somewhat dark raspberry.
In its present state of development, freshly uncorked (yes, real cork)! The wine is a brooding Noirish spool of intrigue, compressed as it is, for the journey ahead. On the palate, the purplish-red liquid bristles and intimates at other narratives to unfold. At moments, it is almost briny and intensely fruited, and then something else, constantly morphing on the palate. Discerning what flavours one is perceiving can be a challenge; a la, “Is that Black-currant ? “ Or is it more Cherries mixed with a bit of chocolate mixed with…?”
Enter the need for time and air.
I sat back and allowed the wine to come forward. Sure enough, the wine began to yield… Lashings of morello, chocolate and spice. Notes of black currant…soft oak tannins…lots of power and drive. These eventually gave way to hints of raspberry on the outer reaches of the finish, for a moment leaving a reddish glow sensation, as if experiencing a kind of red, annular eclipse on the palate.
A while later, I purposefully re-corked the remaining two-thirds of the wine (no vacuum seal) and refrigerated it. “Let it rest” I thought. It definitely needed air and some time to compose itself. I tend to give wines such as this at least another 24 hours repose anyway.
Some 30 hours later, after allowing the bottle to acclimate to room temp, I tasted. The wine had indeed begun to integrate.
The Vistalba Corte C does not possess the Mercury-weight density of a bad-boy Cab or Shiraz. It doesn’t need it. What I most admire about this winery thus far is that they make wines whose ambitions do not exceed the attributes of the land on which those vines are planted. While the Corte C is to be regarded a more “serious” wine than say, the Tomero Malbec, its cousin by birth; its gravitas is earned all on its own, not forced upon the wine by the tannic over-disciplining of extended cooperage. A deep ruby core had come into focus, lightly toasted sandalwood aromas… A sonorous back-note of [rasp]berry was resonating on the palate, as if somewhere in the room there were a Cello. If I listened more intently, could I possibly hear YoYoMa playing a low e… held in a slow-fading sostenuto? Let me have more wine, I’ll let you know.
Many years ago, my friend, the late David Lett made a Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes he had sourced from Sagemore vineyards (nee, Sagemore Farms) in Washington State. It would be the only Cab Sauv (1976) David would ever make at The Eyrie Vineyards. He had become famous for his Pinot Noir, after all. No one took notice or gave it much thought. I tasted it in his winery, then a former Turkey processing plant and right then and there added a case of twelve to my other purchases. He sold me the Cabernet at some ridiculously low price of $48. for a case of 12. I drank a couple, they were too green and decided to have one bottle per year. The first six were still bound up tight, almost herbaceously green. But then, the wine started to come around. I had one lost to a bad cork. I drank the last bottle of that wine in 1988 with another dear friend, Mark Estrin, later of Red Car wines, who as it happens, has also passed on. We drank and grinned at each other like school children, wishing there were six more bottles remaining.
The point of that little vignette is that the Vistalba Corte C, while not “green” or stemmy, is very much wound up tight—though not undrinkable. (If drinking now, double decanting is highly recommended). But it doesn’t have that massiveness associated with wines “meant to age”. I would love to taste this wine in 5-10 years time and would not be surprised to find it has legs for a more extended journey. The Viñalba Corte C is at a nabulae-like point in its development, where numerous things–polarities and contradictions–seem to co-exist simultaneously… A bit like an emergent universe, like a nascent galaxy; its future, bright.
—Raphael Antonio Nazario. Originally posted in March 2012, VinoVeracity blog.