“Can the wine age?” It is a common question in the wine geek world and one that often inspires heated debate. Truthfully, most wine is consumed young (too young perhaps?) even by those who consider themselves connoisseurs. So why does aging matter? There are two sides to that question. Allow me to dispense with one immediately — there are those who prefer the mature, secondary and tertiary flavors that the wines develop with age to the fruit-forward exuberance of young wine. That is personal preference and thus, not worth debating.
However, there is another reason – one that speaks to the heart of many wine collectors around the world. It is the simple fact that wine is a memory, a postcard from the past. Opening a wine that has been aging in the cellar for years can remind one of the day that wine arrived – after a long search perhaps, or anticipation of the new vintage. Wine can remind one of the summer that fed those grapes, the vacations taken, connections made. Each bottle in my cellar carries a story with it, sometimes that story is simple – a recommendation by a friend, while other times, it is connected to deeply personal memories. When I open these bottles with friends or family, I allow them into the story, into my past and present. And, just like any good story, the bottle only gets better with age.
Well – at least some do. Case in point: Paumanok Vineyards Assemblage.
A dear friend from Toronto came to stay with us, and I decided to take him to the North Fork the next morning to see Charles and Kareem Massoud at Paumanok Vineyards. But there was still tonight – what should I open? A Paumanok Assemblage, of course, and a 2005 at that.
What a beauty! Fully resolved, though not showing any sign of slowing down, it showed beautiful notes of dried cherry and tobacco, with a core of red fruit and savory herb. Not only was this bottle showing the aging potential of Long Island red wines, it was a snapshot of the past decade. I was still quite new to wine when I first visited the winery and tasted the 2005 vintage in barrel. The components were impressive already, showing clear ripe red and black fruit as well as savory, herbal touches. I waited until it was released – and bought a few bottles in October of 2007. What a year that had been, especially with my son born in May! I didn’t do much drinking that year, nor much buying, but I knew I wanted these bottles and I was going to put them away in storage… which is where they spent most of the past decade.
I opened one in February of 2015, with another good friend, on my visit to his Connecticut house. We had many excellent wines that day, but the Paumanok had a story, as did the 1979 Domaine de Chevalier he opened for me (my birth year). Those are the two wines I remember, and I still keep the empty bottle of the ’79 in my house as a keepsake.
Fast forward to the morning drive, into the sunshine of the late summer in New York. We sat outside, on the deck of Paumanok Vineyards, and the time seemed to fly by. Were we there seconds? Minutes? Actually, more like five hours… but who is counting?
The 2014 Assemblage made it to our table as well. Blacker fruit than the 2005, riper at this point, but still with the classic Paumanok note of bright plum and savory herb. The tannins asserting themselves at this point, but it was easy to see that this too will age well…. Another decade perhaps before we meet, old friend?