Revisionist History (and the Benefits of Time)

John Levenberg, Master of Merlot

When wine critics or  journalists make  proclamations about a particular wine, it is only a taste of a moment in time. The wine that they’re tasting is a changeable thing, subject to alteration over the years- good or bad. I was reminded of this fact when I had winemaker John Levenberg and his lovely wife Lea to dinner and they brought along a bottle  of 2005 Bedell Cellars Reserve Merlot that John had made (he has since left Bedell and is a successful consultant.) When I first tasted it, I declared the Merlot “too oaky” and wrote about it as such. And it was – back then. And now, two and half years later, he’d wittingly or otherwise,  brought along a bottle of the same wine to dinner last week. “I think this is the wine you didn’t like,” he said.

The uncorking of the bottle was a tense moment. We tasted the wine. It was terrific. The oak was fully and seamlessly integrated, the fruit clean and bright. It was simply a lovely wine.  The passage of time had performed exactly what it was meant to do- and sometimes does – or does not. John professed to be as surprised as I was though- I am sure he was being humble, of course.

This actually isn’t so terribly uncommon- the great wine critic Robert Parker has gone back and tasted wines that he has declared to be one thing or another- and had the boldness and the grace to revise his findings and sometimes his score. Thanks to John, I had that opportunity – and I’m on the lookout for another bottle of that wonderful Bedell.


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