The past few weeks have been a lot of fun wine-wise, as I've been given a lot of nice bottles by friends and family. There's a great looking Pinot Noir sleeping quietly in the cupboard that I'm dying to try, but I'm saving that to share with the lovely young lady that brought it back from California with her.
Tonight I'm sipping on one of those gifts, another from Dad, the 2002 Avenue Cabernet Sauvignon. Like the Mama Mia Zinfandel I had recently, this is made by the Silo Winery, located in Napa Valley. I've probably stated this a dozen times, but I don't drink a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon. Don't get me wrong, I love the grape, but I generally can't afford the good stuff. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir need a lot of care and attention, and can produce spectacular wines, but are almost never enjoyable at the bargain level. That's part of why I chase all of the weird grapes, as a lot of them make perfectly drinkable wines at decent prices.
I'm happy to report that this is a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon, even though I don't know the price. The aroma is amazing, but very subtle. Some wines have a powerful aroma, but if you can smell a wine without the glass even being in your hand, then there's generally something wrong. It's kind of like being in a diner early in the morning, sitting a couple of booths away from an off-duty stripper who's still wrapped in that melange of cigarette smoke, baby oil and cheap jug perfume, sending out the olfactory equivalent of a set of powerful sub-woofers.
You know that sensation when you're dancing with a classy woman during a slow song and she puts her head on your shoulder and you just get the slightest hint of some perfectly blended perfume, which she has just barely dabbed behind her ears? And you lean in a bit and breathe deeply and hope that the song never ends... A wine with a subtle aroma is a lot like that.
So here's what I get from this wine when I take the time to appreciate it: incredible chocolate aromas, with hints of cherry. Maybe some pipe tobacco. The flavor has more chocolate, but with some black pepper flavors instead of fruit. And even though it's 14.2% alcohol, you really can't smell it or taste it. Likewise, the tannins are present but not powerful. Excellent balance all around.
I don't think I've done any wine dedications thus far, but I'd like to raise my glass tonight to the memory of Elizabeth Hankins. She was my senior English teacher, though I had taken her summer creative writing course for all four years of high school. She was a published poet and taught me a great deal. By my senior year we were pretty close and I had a great time in her class, scoring a 5 on my AP English exam. She made all of us keep a weekly writing journal (an analog blog for my younger readers). I recently found my old journal, along with all of her comments in the margins. With ten years gone by since I last saw her, I decided to get in touch with her. She had retired from my high school, but one of the other English teachers I knew was kind enough to pass along her e-mail address.
I wrote her a long and thoughtful e-mail, bringing her up to date on what I've been doing since graduation, along with a lot of heartfelt thanks for everything she taught me, as well as the unique way that she dealt with students. Most people considered her a harsh woman, but if you worked hard and showed an enthusiasm for the written word, she really opened up. I got a reply a couple of weeks later, and she was delighted to hear from me. Unfortunately, she was suffering from esophageal cancer.
I wrote back offering whatever help and support I could, but didn't get a response. Two days ago, I got an e-mail from one of her relatives informing me that she had passed away. Said relative was moved by my letter and wanted to let me know what had happened. I'm glad that she's not suffering anymore, but at the same time, I'm really sorry that I didn't get to see her in person one last time. The whole unfortunate coincidence of my decision to contact her really rams home the idea that if there's someone in your past that had a great influence on you, that it's important to reach out to them and let them know before it's too late.
And with that, I have more wine to drink, and more letters to write.