TN's: Drinking '97 Chardonnay and NV Cabernet with my wife

My wife and I actually sat down at home and had a meal with just the two of us a while back. No food was thrown and no drinks were spilled. Nobody wanted to know why their sister had gotten 6 pieces of carrot and they had only gotten 5. There was no whining for second or third helpings of dessert. In short, it was heaven.

1997 Signorello Chardonnay Estate Unfiltered Napa Valley. This is a very special wine for me and my wife, having been the white wine we had at our wedding reception in 2000. This was the one bottle from that day we thought to hold onto, but we decided it just couldn’t remain in the cellar any longer–despite the wonderful memories it sat there representing. So, we popped the cork. First off, it looks fairly healthy, but is a bit burnished gold in color. What is amazing to me is that despite being 9 years older, we both immediately “recognized” the aromas and taste of the wine that was at its core—it is just now darker in tone and more advanced across the spectrum of qualities. It is still obviously complex aromatically—bringing back those old memories of vanilla bean, graham crackers, clove, nutmeg, lemon drops, mango, butterscotch, pistachio nut shells and the tiniest hint of botrytis-tinged meringue. In the mouth, it is full-bodied and very creamy, still showing a good deal of flamboyant oak treatment and lots of toasty brown spices. It is rather luscious still, with a lot of glycerin that coats the glass. It fills the mouth with layers and waves of key lime pie, meringue, apricot and oak spice flavors. This wine is still a power-house in many ways, but it is nicely balanced by some of the nuances of flavor that probably have emerged with age. It has lost some freshness, I’m sure, but it still delivers a lot of flavor, body and drive. It was best at about one hour after opening, after which the texture began to turn a bit mealy and rougher-hewn. The alcohol was never apparent, though, and the wine certainly does not appear to be cracking up or anything. Still, I have to say that I really wish the oak had integrated better, as it gets rather tiresome after a while to have the finish so dominated by oak flavoring. It just detracts from the luscious flavors it offers up through the mid-palate. Still, we were both rather gratified that the wine had good life left and we were quite happy to re-live those memories!

N.V. Opus One Overture Napa Valley. This non-vintage Opus is from a blend of 1999 and 2000 juice. While not nearly as good as a previous bottle we’ve had of 1996/1997 a few years back, this is still decent, especially with a meal. Initially, it is fairly compact on the nose, opening up only slowly to reveal more substantial aromas of bridle leather, tobacco leaf, dried cranberries, black raspberry and milk chocolate that give it a quiet, refined character. It is much the same in the mouth—coming across as a gentlemanly wine. The entry feels a bit thin and bitter-edged, with crisp red fruit and a crunchy character through the mid-palate—featuring pretty flavors of tangy cranberry, black cherry and powdered chocolate. After about an hour the fruit starts to fill in a bit and make the pretty character a bit more significant, even though it never really turns the corner on serious depth. The finish turns decidedly more herbal, with a menthol and dry-aged oak graininess that I could live without. Still, the whole manages to be more than the sum of these parts, and while nothing special, it manages still to deliver a fine level of surface pleasure in a calm and quiet fashion.


Michael, thanks for posting! I never knew there was such a thing as NV Opus. Was this a one time thing or do they regularly make it?

Zach, it is made every year, from a blend of vintages and from juice that does not make it into the Grand Vin, so to speak. I believe it is only available at the winery, though I imagine some show up in the secondary market. Susan and I have visited twice and rather than shell out for the vintages they were selling (none of which we liked), we took flyers on these. The first time we were amply rewarded, but this time not quite so much. It was around $30 the first time we bought it and more like $40 the second time a few years later. I can only imagine what they are asking for it these days!

Thank you Michael for sharing your memories on the Chardonnay from both 2000 and today. It is amazing how much we can connect wine with wonderful moments in our lives.

Michael - was $55 back in 2006, so a safe assumption would be $60-70 now…

Depending on the blend, as you say, it’s nice. I have no problem saying I enjoy many older Opus wines.