By K.L. Riley
The holiday season, for wine enthusiasts, is a time for drinking a lot of wine. Some of the wines we drink are a little cheaper due to the lack of family/friends that will appreciate a good bottle, but there is always that one day that we go absolutely nuts and pull out that one bottle that we have been saving for this exact moment. I was fortunate to be at the residence of a close friend with an amazing cellar for most of the Christmas season this year and I’m still in shock. There were two bottles in particular that I want to share with you because I believe that these are wines that we are required to drink as wine enthusiast and these bottles fit that description.
Bryant Family Winery is an extreme cult wine located in the heart of Napa Valley overlooking Lake Hennessey on Sage Canyon Road in Saint Helena, California. With its first successful release in 1992, Bryant Family wines have scored a string of high ratings through the 1990′s with the help of winemaker Helen Turley, including a perfect Robert Parker score in the 1997 vintage. Allocation of Bryant Family wines are extremely limited ( about 1,000 case or less per year ) and unless you are lucky enough to be able to afford the hefty price tag in restaurants you will have to join the wait list or search auctions for a bottle. We opened the 1995 vintage and the first thing that caught my attention was the dark purple color with almost no color variations. Though I have never drank the 1996 wine enthusiasts say that this vintage is cut from the same mold as the profound 1996. The amount of fruit in this wine was astonishing and the bouquet filled the nose with blueberries, raspberries, and cassis. There was also a more exotic side to the bouquet as the wine began to open up. The jammy fruit nose took a backseat to earth, minerals, black pepper, violets and lavender. The palette was almost indescribable and it mimicked the progression of the bouquet very intently. It also opened with jammy fruits but after a short period it turned to intense earth and minerals but the tannins are what differentiates Bryant Family from any other Napa Valley Cabernet, they are subtle yet intrusive, prominent, old world, and delicate. In my restaurant the 1995 Bryant Family Cabernet sells for about $1,950.00a bottle but I have seen them on EBay and at auctions for a low as $500.00. The experience is worth ever penny.
Everyone knows about wines from Bordeaux especially the famous 1982 vintage which was a 100 point year so you could only imagine the look on my face when the 1982 Mouton Rothschild was pulled from the cellar. I am still surprised at how many of these bottles I see everywhere given the notoriety of this wine. Drinking this wine was a history lesson in wine making and an experience that I will never forget.
The wine has a dense and deep color with garnet highlights and a rich, complex nose combining super-ripe black fruit, blackcurrant, bilberry and liquorice with toasted, roasted notes of gingerbread, caramel, mocha and candied peel. Soft and succulent on the palate, at once round and firm, it reveals an elegant structure of velvet tannins integrated into a body bursting with flavor in which black fruit, spice, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, cherry pit, blackcurrant liqueur, chocolate and toast mingle with great charm.
Sheer class, power, nobility and balance make this exceptional vintage one of the greatest of the great and in my opinion this wine still has some time left in the cellar before it peaks. If you’re in the market for a bottle of 1982 Mouton, it shouldn’t be too hard to track one down. In comparing the volume of all other 1982 Bordeaux wines sold at auctions this year, Mouton is at the top of the list. In this past year, a whopping 1,838 bottles traded hands. Even if you took away the 600-bottle super lot, it would still be the 2008 volume leader over Cheval-Blanc, by almost 500 bottles!
Wine quote of the week; “Wine is the healthiest and most health-giving of drinks.”