Have you ever saved a great bottle of wine thinking it would get better with age and then opened it a few years later – only to discover that it was past its prime? That’s because the vast majority of wine is meant to be consumed now or within one to two year’s time at the most. The wines that tend to age well are the more expensive Cabernet Sauvignons and other highly tannic, red wines. Through time, the tannins (which have a bitter flavor) will soften with the wine becoming smoother, richer and more balanced. Whenever in doubt, ask the winemaker or shop manager for advice on if and how long to age the wine.
Retail Wine Tip
Carmel Road Pinot Noir is a fantastic Pinot Noir from Monterey and one of my all-time favorites. Rich flavors of red berries, spice, earth, chocolate and a silky finish, it is a great value at $16.99. The Carmel Road Chardonnay, $13.99, offers pineapple and lemon flavors with a crisp finish. You can find these at BevMo, Rocca’s (San Martin) and Whole Foods.
Local Winery Buzz
Fernwood Cellars is a jewel of a winery owned by Matt and Tiffany Oetinger and located at the end of the historic Redwood Retreat Road in Gilroy. The land was originally owned by Matt’s great-great-grandfather, who sold a piece of the ranch to Robert Lewis Stevenson, who was ill with tuberculosis. Stevenson’s nurse read handwritten manuscripts of “Treasure Island” to Matt’s mother when she was a small child.
Matt’s great-great-grandfather acquired the ranch through a federal land grant and built a hotel, called Redwood Retreat, which provided spiritualist events to visitors from San Francisco. A hotel fire and five generations later, the land passed to Matt’s Mom.
Matt was at UC Davis studying to be a veterinarian when his dad, who was tinkering with home winemaking, asked him to take a wine class so Matt could pass along some tips. Matt not only learned about winemaking, he found his life’s pursuit.
After graduating with a degree in biology, specializing in viticulture and enology, Matt went to work for Clos La Chance where he was the vineyard manager for four years. He also designed and installed the vineyard at CordeValle in San Martin.
Matt designed a vineyard on his family’s property as a project in graduate school and planted vines in 1999. His first vintage in 2001 garnered gold medals throughout the state.
Currently, there are 12 acres producing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Zinfandel and Mirepoix – Fernwood’s popular Merlot-based Bordeaux blend.
But, the Cabernet Sauvignon is its flagship wine. Aged for 20 months in 100 percent French oak barrels, this wine is rich and complex with subtle nuances of cocoa and spice.
Matt told the story about a vertical wine tasting that he recently held – where he poured his Cabernets made from each year between 2001 and 2009. Tiffany, his wife, was so impressed that she urged him to “make more wine like that.” Matt chuckled when he explained that, in fact, he was making wine like that every year – but it was the effects of aging that made the wines especially delicious. Matt’s Cabernets are meant to be aged 10 years or so before drinking.
Matt’s winemaking philosophy is all about quality.
“All of our wines are fruit driven with intense flavors,” he said. “Aside from my dad’s El Dorado Zinfandel, our wines are made exclusively from estate grapes. We limit how much fruit we harvest from each vineyard, making sure we pick only the highest quality grapes.”
He continued: “When I get an email or phone calls from someone to tell me they celebrated an anniversary or special event with one of my wines, there’s a definite satisfaction for me – knowing that we made someone’s life a little more pleasant, if just for an hour.”
Fernwood Cellars is open the third weekend of every month and offers its wine members exclusive events like its upcoming Lobster Boil.
Wrap thin strips of prosciutto around the top ends of long, skinny breadsticks and place in a decorative glass. Surround with olives and small cubes of cave-aged gouda cheese.