I’ve written extensively over the years about how one of the most magical characteristics (out of the innumerably extraordinary things) of wine is its desire and ability to evolve constantly. Every sip, every moment of added air, elicits new and profound aromas and flavors from the glass.
Going back to older wines that I have made is a little scary sometimes. How did the wine hold up? What winemaking mistakes did I make? What character flaws in the winemaker does that old bottle now reveal? Despite the angst, revisiting past wines is the best way to learn, to re-open the window on my life in the past, and the way that Time changes all things.
On the second day of Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Livermore Valley, I opened a 2002 Sangiovese made from our Home Ranch and called Sequoia. Sangiovese is native to Tuscany and is the primary grape of Chianti, and THE grape of Brunello. Our acre of Sangiovese was planted on our site in 1996 and has been offered as a 100% varietal wine. It is still used in a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon (Vincere).
As you can see from the photos, (these were taken in the Sangiovese block of our vineyard, and the buds that will produce the fruit of the 2022 vintage are breaking), the wine is a little bricky in color, underscoring the effects of oxidation from age. In the middle photo, the broken cork (another victim of Time!) is clearly visible in the bottle. In the mouth, the wine is still vibrant and shows significant tannin, even after 20 years!
The major aromatic component of the wine is sweet American oak, though the green and black olive notes of tapenade play a role as well. American oak was predominant in most of our non-Bordeaux varietal wines until 2009 when we moved exclusively to French oak. The dominance of wood is a vestige of a winemaking style that was big on youthful inexperience – my current tastes are much more new-barrel-phobic, eschewing the greater tannin for the concomitant hegemony of fruit.
Though this particular bottle may be on the downside of its life, it is an interesting wine. And that is one of the obligations of all wine…have a story to tell.