Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I remember vividly the trip to our local toy store, "Toys Unlimited", to buy Optimus Prime. I was five years old with two fingers jammed into my suck hole. Mom- never above bribery when desperate- decided to cut a deal. I was way too old to still be sucking my fingers (far superior to the thumb, by the way), and the gorgeous, unscathed, fearless leader of the noble Autobots was the bargaining chip.

But the transaction couldn't have been that simple. Mom understood the effectiveness of tangibility when it came to malleable youth, so she bought the toy on the front end. Then, seeing that pristine, tantalizing, Transformers-emblazoned package daily (out of my clutches atop a tall dresser), I was charged with not sucking my fingers for TWO WEEKS. Upon completion of this impossible task, the bounty would at last be mine.

That two weeks must've lasted ten years. But the will of an Optimus Prime-desperate child is strong, and I outlasted Mother and her Herculean trials. I shall take to my grave any infidelity during the probationary period.

The point is that some things are worth the wait. Wine is a particularly good example. High-quality Cabernet Sauvignon is an even better example. And Napa's Quixote Winery makes a product that not only fits the bill, but- serendipitously- was recently in my possession. Sucking your fingers in anticipation yet? Me neither!

Situated in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, Quixote- quite simply put- is a silly place. From the Dr. Seuss architecture to the screw caps placed on $60 bottle of wine (which is fine), these folks do a pretty good job at turning the ubiquitous Napa tasting room on its ear.

From a production standpoint, Quixote basically bottles four wines: a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petite Sirah each for the "Panza" and "Quixote" labels. Made of 100% organically-farmed, estate-grown fruit, those wines- unlike the atmosphere from whence they came- are anything but silly.

A buddy and I had purchased a few bottles there a couple years ago, and being the booze-swilling derelicts that we are, it seemed only fitting that we knock back a few on a Friday night. Among those bottles in our eventual boneyard were the 2003 Panza Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Quixote Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines sourced fruit from the same vineyards. Each featured primarily Cabernet with a little Merlot mixed in. Yet, while the Panza featured a great nose of all those wonderful Cab idiosyncrasies- [insert all the Cab aromas you read about everywhere, and tell me where to buy some damn black currants, please]- in full force, the Quixote (which was $20 more, mind you) had a tighter nose. It also had a lot more "fuzz", or tannic structure, in the mouth. The Panza- conversely- was as smooth as my baby daughter's bottom after an assault with the powder bottle.

In short, the Panza was a tastier, better-drinking wine when compared head-to-head with it's bigger brother.

The takeaway here- one that can often elude the hasty drinker such as myself- is that the Quixote was MEANT to not show as well as the Panza...for now. Upon gleaning some info from current winemaker Matt Reid, I discovered that the 2003 Quixote was made with 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. The '03 Panza, however, consists of 76% Cabernet, 14% Merlot, 7% Mourvèdre, and 3% Syrah (since both contain 75%+ Cab, they can legally be labeled "Cabernet Sauvignon" in the States). The great presence of Merlot and those Rhône varieties softened the Panza, offered less tannin structure, and made for a wine that is "something to enjoy while waiting for the Quixote to mature," according to Reid.

But why pay more for something that you can't have now? All I can say is: try some Cab with age on it. A good one...fine Bordeaux, high-end Napa Cab, something from Washington State. Not all wines are meant to age for 10, 15, 20+ years (few are, in fact). But a good Cab from a good vintage can. Seek one out. Beg, borrow, or steal. Because a well-aged Cab is like the Optimus Prime of wines. It's a transformer. It becomes something completely different over time. And that something is definitely worth the wait...every painful second of it.

blog comments powered by Disqus