I know that we all need oxygen and the air it resides in order to live. But I learned a big lesson when I started sipping a red blend recently: wine needs oxygen and air more than we do. Not always, mind you. But when a red wine needs to breathe - you'd better let it breathe. Or waste a perfectly good bottle of vino.
This lesson came to me courtesy of 3 Girls Red Blend (2012, 13.5%, Lodi, CA). This wine is named in honor of three daughters of the owners of Oak Ridge Winery, located in Lodi, California, one of my favorite areas for red wine. It's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Merlot, which usually makes me very, very happy.
I say usually, because to my discredit, I was born without the gene for patience. Yeah, I'm not alone either, from what I can tell. At least in my immediate family anyway. OK, moving on. So if you aren't a normally patient person, the concept of opening a bottle of wine and not being able to pour and sip as soon as you want to, instead of waiting for the wine to "breathe", is a bit foreign. I thought I had this issue solved with the purchase of a wine aerator, but sometimes even that doesn't help. You just need to let the wine gets its dose of oxygen the good old-fashioned way: time outside the bottle. Preferably in a really cool decanter.
This was one of those times. My first sniff of 3 Sisters brought out aromas of cherries and cherry syrup. The first taste brought flavors of chocolate cherry and mocha followed by some earthy spices. It was rather warm at the end of it all, so I wouldn't call it a very balanced wine. It was just okay, and I was a little disappointed because I have such high standards for my beloved Lodi wines.
As luck (or life) would have it, I was interrupted in my sipping and came back a while later to a totally different wine. That breathing time (about 90 minutes) opened the flavors of the wine up, smoothed them out into a luscious taste and brought out some yummy richness to the overall feel of the wine.
There was my Lodi red - all fruit forward and mocha-y and with a hint of that wonderful "Lodi spice" at the end of it all. The warmth was gone - replaced with smooth tannins that added to the overall flavor.
You can find 3 Girls at World Market or through certain online wine sites. You won't find it on the Oak Ridge Winery website, which kind of bugged me, but when I realized it was a World Market exclusive, it made sense.
Oddly enough, I had recently purchased a bottle of Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (2012, 13%, Lodi, CA), not realizing that it too was made by Oak Ridge Winery. When I realized it was, and looked back at my notes on it, the first thing I wrote was "needs aerating". Hmm...sensing a pattern here. Because the flavors of cranberry, smoke, earth and dark green herbs just weren't working for me. And usually they do. I also noted that there was "a lot going on here...almost a Pinot Noir in its lightness".
So I think, in the interest of fairness (and having a great excuse to buy another bottle), I should go out and procure another 750 ml of this Old Vine Zin, open it, LET IT BREATHE, and then taste it again.
I'm just fair like that. Not patient, but fair.