Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' Artemis Cabernet 2007

Usually I don't write about wines that are nearly impossible to come by. I call it the Wine Spectator syndrome. They are forever raving about wines that I will never have the chance to see, let alone drink. That is, unless I'm in the same provincial French hamlet where they happened to find this local wine for a mere €250. I like to talk about things that you can run out to the store, buy one, take it home and try for yourself. This time I'm going to go a little rarer because I had an excellent bottle of wine with friends the other night. It was a 2007 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars' Artemis Cabernet. This wine is still available in a couple of better wine stores, but they're presence is getting scarce. One of the reasons is that 2007 was a phenomenal year for much of California. Near perfect climate conditions made for one of the best years in recent history for them. Even average Cali wines turned out really tasty and, in turn, came to be great bargains for wine lovers.

My family joined my friend Henri and his family for dinner recently. We sat on their covered patio overlooking the garden having some beer and cider before dinner. (Shiner's Ruby Redbird and Ace's Pear cider to be specific. Both delicious.) Henri's wife Linda had everything food related under control as she usually does so when we saw her fire up the grill for the steaks, we knew it was time to open some wine to decant it. I brought over the Artemis, uncorked it and gently poured it into the decanter. Even with a cool breeze wafting across the patio, I could smell the wonderful aroma of this dark purple Cabernet. Blackberry was the prominent ester with a faint vanilla floating behind it. I polished off my Ace Pear cider and cleansed my palate with a few mild crackers. I wanted badly to dive into the wine, but I also wanted to wait on the steaks. I waited and it all paid off. The medium rare steak was magnificent. We also had some roasted veggies from the garden that lay before me and some crusty French bread. What made the whole meal complete was the Artemis. It was one of the more complex wines I've had in awhile. There were blackberries, black cherries, raspberries, currants, cedar, vanilla, and new word I learned, "petrichor" or the smell of earth after it rains. (It's a word not associated with wine yet, but I'm working to change that. Petrichor. Try it out yourself.) That's the terroir influence shining through all that fruit. It was wonderful.

I finished my steak and veg and sat back fat and happy with half a glass of wine to sip at my leisure. And sip it I did. Even after the wine was open and decanted for about forty minutes, I could tell the tannins were still very present. This made me realize that I could have saved this bottle for a least another five years and it would have softened a little more and been even tastier. As it was, though, I'm glad I opened it and enjoyed it. Even better was having great friends to share it with. Which is really how wine is supposed to be enjoyed. Friends, food, and fermented grape juice.

As I said before, finding this particular vintage might be difficult if not impossible. If you find one, just get it. You'll be glad you did. If you pick up a more recent vintage of the Artemis, the tannins will more than likely be pretty bold. Just let it air out for a while in a nice decanter. I've never had a bad bottle of wine from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and I can bet you won't either. Cheers.

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