Friday, July 13, 2007

Longing For The Palate Of Old

I was grilling out Tuesday night, and on my way out of the grocery store, decided I wanted a simple Zinfandel to go with my summer meal. I have fond memories of Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull. On many a night, my siblings, parents, and myself would linger at the table after dinner over a bottle. Overcome with a sense of nostalgia, I grabbed the bottle off the shelf and took it home.
I think it is fair to say that when I opened the bottle, I did not get what I remembered. I've never been under any illusion that an $8 bottle of wine can aspire to any level of greatness. I had no expectation that this bottle would change my life. What I did expect to find inside was an easy drinking, fruity zin. What I got was a harsh chemical component, and even more tannin than the last glass of cab I had.
Maybe I got a bad bottle, or maybe it was an off year, but I don't think so. I pondered this for quite a while. I suppose it is possible that my memory of those days has faded, and that the wine was always as bad as it is now. I considered the idea that much like the memory of a loved one who has passed on, I forgot the bad, and elevated the good memories. I suppose that is possible, but what I suspect is that my tastes have evolved. I recognize imperfections more readily, and I can "taste" the wine better than I could before. Most of the time I am happy about that. It is wonderful to be able to stick my nose into a great glass of wine, and appreciate the nuances of what is in front of me. There are days though, when I wish I could shut off that honed sense of palate and just enjoy what is in front of me.

Edit: on Saturday I tried a sample of Dancing Bull at a tasting, and I detected none of the harsh notes I mentioned above.

I've always believed that the best part of wine is the connection it creates between the people who drink it. There are people who can tell you everything about a great wine they had at a party or dinner. For those people the wine is the highlight. But I'm more likely to tell you who was with me the night I had a great bottle of wine. For me the people and the night is the highlight, and the bottle just serves as the silver lining.
It would be great to appreciate this wine as much as the memory it represents. Maybe there is an added step in cultivating a mature palate. The ability to turn it off.

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