Now that you have acquired an older wine, often referred to as a library wine, you might be asking, “How do I open this without making a mess of the cork?”—or—“What’s the best way to serve this wine once opened?”
First, the basics—it’s natural that a cork will soften with age. It’s also natural that a wine may develop some sediment as it ages. Well fear not, with the proper tools and technique, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.
Let’s go through the steps.
1) First, store your bottle in an upright position several days prior to opening, preferably in a cool location. Doing so will allow any suspended sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
2) Next, choose the cork extractor you prefer—here are our recommendations:
Best – The Durand is a two-pronged wine opener—also known as an “Ah-So”—but with a built-in corkscrew. This is not an inexpensive item, but if you open a lot of older wines it could be a nice addition to your cellar.
Good – A standard two-pronged cork puller is also known as an “Ah-So.” Gently insert the longer tip between the glass and the cork, and gently rock back and forth until it is fully inserted in the bottle. Then slowly twist—while pulling up at same time.
Good – A pressurized cork extractor (like Cork Pops) is a device comprised of a needle and a carbon dioxide cartridge. Center the needle in the cork and penetrate it all the way through, then press the cartridge until the cork extracts. Hint: It’s best to cover the neck of bottle with a napkin or paper towel, as sometimes a bit of wine and/or sediment can also be extracted when under pressure.
OK – A corkscrew with a long, grooved shaft will make extracting an older, soft cork easier than using a shorter corkscrew without the grooving. Make sure it is centered directly in the cork, then twist it well into the cork. Be sure to pull up slowly.
If none of these methods work for you, as a last, last resort, find a blunt instrument that is narrower that the cork. Put the bottle in a sink and then place a plastic bag (or something similar) over the bottle neck. Then slowly and carefully push the cork down until it is no longer blocking the neck of the bottle. Hint: You definitely want something covering the opening of the bottle—as the wine will have a tendency to push upwards and out as the cork is pushed down.
3) Now that you have the cork out, you are ready to serve your wine.
Best – Carefully and slowly pour the wine into a decanter. Once you start to see sediment, stop pouring.
OK – If you don’t have a decanter, line up your wine glasses on a counter. Take a glass in one hand, and carefully pour the wine with the other hand. Be sure to keep the neck of the bottle in the same position, and fill the next glass…and so on. Hint: You want to minimize turning the bottle upright as doing so will disturb the sediment that has settled into the bottom of the bottle.
4) Maybe you didn’t have time to let the bottle sit upright for a few days, or perhaps you see pieces of cork floating in the bottle. As a last, last resort, you can pour the wine through a fine screen or coffee filter to a decanter, or even a pitcher. If you don’t want to serve from that vessel, you can always rinse out the wine bottle well, and pour the now-filtered wine back into it.
5) Remember, most older wines only require decanting to ensure that the wine is clear—not to allow the wine to “open up” or “breathe.” Library wines do not need more oxygen at this point.
6) Also, we recommend you serve and drink the wine soon after opening. The older the bottle, the sooner you will want to drink it to retain as much fruit expression as possible.
The 2018 Trilogy is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and if you’ve been keeping track, you’ll note these are the same three varieties that have comprised Trilogy since 2013, although in different percentages. The blend is not a given; each year we start from scratch, evaluating the wine lots and determining what will make the finest wine.
Of course Trilogy is always centered around a strong core of Cabernet Sauvignon…that much we do know. Cabernet gives the wine its strongest, most concentrated fruit component, as well as its full body and fine tannin structure. Cabernet endows the wine with aging power. Malbec, on the other hand, gives the wine an opening, with rich, dark fruit that makes you sit up and take notice right away. Petit Verdot, in contrast, stretches the wine, leaving you with a long, satisfying finish. It adds color too, but it’s the lingering quality of Petit Verdot that I really love.
So you see, at least in 2018, and in the previous five vintages, Malbec and Petit Verdot provide the framework for Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s like a painting you’d find in a museum, where the gilded frame is the platform and the finishing touch on an otherwise beautiful portrait. Next year may bring a different blend, with other varieties. We never know until we start to taste the new lots. What we do know is that our mission with Trilogy, since the beginning, is to create the best wine possible from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley. In that we will never waver.
We have officially picked all of our Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for the year. We started the Pinot Grigio on August 15th, and finished the Sauvignon Blanc on August 31st.
We then started harvesting the Lavender Hill Chardonnay in Carneros on September 6th. The very next day, we received Merlot from the Estate. This is the earliest date on record for reds.
The last week was pretty crazy…Phoenix-like temperatures in the 115 degree range! On top of that, the valley was blanketed with smoke from a fire burning in Butte County. Fortunately, both have subsided and we are back to average harvest temperatures once again…at least for the time being.
We will be bringing in additional Merlot, as well as Petit Verdot from Oakville, on Monday and Tuesday. Then we will finish up with the last of the white grapes on Wednesday.
The harvest has been pretty fast and furious thus far – keeping things exciting. We were very proactive with our irrigation regimen before and during the heatwave, so the fruit is still in excellent condition. We are extremely pleased with the quality thus far, and expect to make some fantastic wines!
Note: The following was excerpted from an article written by David Stoneberg and published in The Weekly Calistogan. The full article can be found here.
The winter, with its abundant rain and the ensuing growing season that was perfect for ripening wine grapes has many growers optimistic about the 2017 harvest. For some, workers are already harvesting their sauvignon blanc and chardonnay grapes; others, though, are waiting for the first grapes to cross the crushpad…
Oakville – Linda Neal, grower, Tierra Roja Vineyard, “Yount Mill kicked off the Oakville season on Aug. 9, harvesting for sparkling wines, with other white varietals quickly following, reports Kendall Hoxsey-Onysko. Turnbull follows with sauvignon blanc at the winery on Aug. 23. Winemaker Peter Heitz writes, “The flavors are fantastic!” Flora Springs may have started two days later, but did so with a saber flourish as winemaker Paul Steinauer christens the first load…”
“To ensure we are obtaining only the most premium fruit, we have had to make the difficult decision to replant vineyards when the quality starts to deteriorate due to various forms of vine disease. Two of our Cabernet blocks in our Oakville Crossroads vineyards have recently been pulled out. This vineyard site in Oakville at our Crossroads vineyard had previously been planted to Chardonnay, and has now been re-developed and will be planted to Cabernet very soon.
This is a newly-planted vineyard, also at our Oakville Crossroads vineyards. This was formerly Pinot Grigio, and has also now been planted to Cabernet.
Crews are currently going through all of our vineyard blocks and suckering. Buds, or nodes at the base of the leaves, produce shoots called laterals or suckers. By doing this, more energy is focused on the vine – which increases grape quality. It also keeps the vine off the ground, and helps prevent unwanted molds and various insects.
The area between the nodes, the internodes, are supported with adjustable ties which are attached to guide wires. As the vines mature during the growing season, the guide wires – and thereby the vines – will be raised on the trellis system. The vines will be trained in such a way as to evenly distribute the clusters of fruit, and the canopy of leaves will protect the fruit from direct sunlight in order to prevent burn. The canopy will be open just enough to allow filtered light, as well as sufficient airflow throughout the vineyard.
Finally, we have the start of bloom in our Hillside Reserve Cabernet Vineyard.”
Led by our winemaking team Paul Steinauer and Enrico Bertoz, explore the impact of different barrel coopers by tasting eight different barrel samples of the same wine. Experience the art of barrel making with a demonstration of firing and building a barrel. Small bites included. Limited to only 50 guests.
We started the harvest on Aug 16th picking Pinot Grigio in the Oak Knoll appellation, and we just finished on Tuesday, Oct 11th with Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville appellation – so just about a 2 month harvest.
All in all, it was a terrific harvest! We experienced a very light amount of rain that did not affect the grapes at all. We only had a few days with any unusual heat spikes. We are however, very glad to be finished, in that there is a significant amount of rain in the forecast from Friday through Monday. There are many wineries that are forced to leave their fruit out through the rains, and again, a relief to not be one of them.”
—Winemaker Paul Steinauer