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I love wine. I had a fondness for it before I started working for Söntés five years ago, but Tessa really taught me to adore it. Now, I’ve learned how to pick out a good bottle at the wine store, talk with the shop stewards about what I like and what I’m looking for on that particular day, and subsequently enjoy a good glass of wine with dinner at home. Something that I know next to nothing about is how to gracefully age a bottle of wine. I’d like to start setting up a wine library for myself, but I have no idea where to begin.

Thankfully, Söntés’ wine steward Barbara Pitcher has graciously agreed to give me some advice. I thought I’d share it on the blog because I’m sure I’m not the only one facing this dilemma. So, what follows are my questions (AV) and her answers (BP). Wish me luck (as I wish you!) in my future wine adventures. We’ll know how well I’ve done in two or three years!

BP: How to start a personal wine library is such a deliciously fun question! But first, I have some questions for you, Amanda.

AV: Okay, shoot!

BP: What kind of budget are you personally looking for?

AV: Let’s say about $15 per bottle, on average.

BP: What size area can you devote to your wine cellar?

AV: I live in an apartment, so I can’t store the wine in a cellar or a basement. I also can’t afford one of those fancy wine lockers. Is there a good alternative? I’ve thought about a few locations, and I think I’ve got about 18 cubic feet or so. There’s a spot on a shelf above the fridge, or I can make room in a closet. Is one better than the other?

BP: That would depend, actually. The closet might be difficult to temperature control, but it could have the advantage that no light would hit the bottles. If the corner above the fridge is, for instance, along the northeast wall exterior wall in your apartment, it might be cooler and someplace you could put a small wine wine rack. Location is an important consideration, as the more dark, cool, and consistent the storage area is, the longer the wines will last, regardless of whether they are New World or Old World wines.

AV: That’s good advice, thank you!

BP: The next question I have for you is this: do you want some specific varietals? What kind of wines do you like?

AV: I like a wide range of wines, but particularly enjoy earthy reds and minerally whites. I tend to stay away from heavily oaked wines, as they give me headaches. After I moved from Rochester to Seattle, I worked at a small, neighborhood French restaurant called Crémant, and that really cemented my passion for French wine. Also, how could I not fall completely in love with Washington and Oregon wines when I live right here?

BP: What types of earthy reds? Like Pinot Noirs or Southern Rhones, which can be bigger tasting, but are aged in the more neutral French oak? Or is it the oaked whites that give you the headaches, so you eschew any kind of oaked Chardonnay? Personally, I like earthy, big, but not highly tannic (from oak) reds. For whites I want something generally extremely dry with good minerality, and aged in stainless or stainless with brief neutral oak, because I get the worst headaches from oaked whites, especially Chardonnays.

AV: That’s it exactly! It seems to be mainly the Chardonnays aged in American oak that do it to me. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in that. For earthy reds, I like Charbonos, Pinot Noirs, Southern Rhones, and Spanish Riojas. I don’t mind tannin, but prefer it on the lighter side. California Merlots are usually too fruit-forward for me; I’m not a big fan of “jammy” wines.

BP: With that in mind, I’ve got three excellent wines that are easy to sip now, but also have some great age potential. Here’s a list along with some tasting notes:

  1. Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Rosé Cava is perfect for any festive occasion.
    1. Tasting Notes on Snooth.com: Beautiful scents of raspberry and cherry on the nose with fresh, clean strawberry and cherry flavors in the mouth and a consistent bead. The finish is clean and crisp and invites another sip. Cristalino Brut Rosé is an excellent match for fried appetizers such as calamari or light desserts such as creme brule. It is also excellent on its own or with fresh fruit.
    2. Champagne properly cellared or stored does age very well. The glass bottle is thicker, and it’s bottled under pressure to protect the wine and enhance the flavors and bubbles. It probably won’t last long in your cellar because it is so good and festive to enjoy, but safely stores 5+ years under consistently dry, cool temperature.
  2. Salneval Albariño is a great wine: clean tasting, acidic with fresh minerality on the finish, great with sushi, Thai foods, and many cheeses.
    1. Tasting Notes on the winemaker’s page: Light straw in color, the nose of this Albariño is seductive with honey, pear, and tropical fruit and a slight mineral component. It is racy and zesty with citrus and floral flavors in the mouth, yet is round and soft at the same time.
    2. Not made for long term aging probably 3 to 5 years max. The ideal window release is 2 years with consistent cellaring.
  3. Resso Garnacha-Tempranillo blend from Catalunya Spain is a versatile red wine—excellent with smoked pork shoulder, gnocchi, and even grilled salmon.
    1. Tasting Notes on winemaker’s sell sheet: 80% Red Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo made from old-vine Garnacha (20+ years) and younger Tempranillo (5-10years) from vineyards in the Gandesa region of the Catalunya DO. Vintage 2009 was qualified as ‘excellent’ for the wines coming from the Terra Alta region because of higher temperatures during that year compared to previous years, and a relatively high volume of rain compared to the average of the decade. So, as a result, the vines were very healthy and vigorous. After the 2001 vintage, the 2009 vintage was qualified as the best in over a decade. It means that wines made in this year can age for longer and they have more character because of its balanced nature. Ressò Red is a deep cherry red color with blue tones. It has a well structured and complex aroma, floral nose with red fruits and mineral tones. Candied strawberries and black raspberry fruit flavors on the palate are augmented by licorice, mineral, and peppery notes. This wine is appropriate with all white and red meats. Ideal for dishes with rice, red meats and all firm or aged cheeses.
    2. Ages from release for 8 to 10 years, but ideal window 2 to 5 years after release with consistent cellaring.

And that’s just the first part of our conversation! Stay tuned to the blog for the second half of our discussion. Check out the second half of our discussion here.