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old bottle of chardonnay - will curiosity kill the cat?

Hi! We just re-discovered a bottle of David Bruce Chardonnay from 1989... I think I bought it from the "bargain bin" in '89 or '90, and it's been sitting at room temperature (probably), on its side in a wine rack ever since.

I know it's beyond dead at this point - but would it be unhealthy to satisfy my curiousity as to what a 22 year old bottle of chardonnay tastes like? Or should I run (not walk) to the sink and put it out of its misery?

To add to the story, we found this poor bottle because it had leaked a little onto the floor - about a 1-inch-diameter puddle.

My husband and I are starting to get more interested in wine in general - I'm really glad to have found this board, and hope to enjoy learning more on the subject!

Thanks in advance for any answers - and feel free to laugh. I am.

Cheers and grins -

Jules

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  1. It won't hurt you to take a sip! I love aged chardonnay. I just had some Stony Hill Chard from Napa tonight ( a 1994 and a 1989) both were excellent. My whites were picked specifically for aging and they were stored correctly.

    Yours is probably vinegar - leaking is a bad sign. Maybe try it on a salad! :)
    If it is too crappy even for a salad....left open on the kitchen counter...they make great fruit fly traps :)

    5 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      Thank you so much! We'll give it a try tomorrow night, just for kicks. And as far as storage goes... I have my eye on a somewhat underground room in our house - the old "coal bin" which is under the front porch. It always seems to be "sweater weather" down there. Maybe it's time to put a thermometer in, and start monitoring the temp a little.

      1. re: sedimental

        <Yours is probably vinegar> mmm if it HAS turned to vinegar, you will easily notice the "mother" in the bottle. Otherwise, I wouldn't ruin the salad with it. ;)

        1. re: ChefJune

          No worries for the salad - we'll smell/taste first. Whatever is in this bottle, it's perfectly clear, and seems to be a shade of amber (The bottle is light green, so it's hard to tell.)

        2. re: sedimental

          Well, Stony Hill typically ages well. David Bruce, on the other hand, probably not as long. Even under ideal conditions.

          To the original poster: There's no health risk, if that is your concern, to trying a glass.

          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            Thanks, Brad - that's what I was looking for... and since I probably paid $2.50 - $3.00 for this bottle, it's no huge loss. It's simply a little Adventure.

        3. Oh. my. goodness. It's actually drinkable. And to our (admittedly uneducated) taste - NOT BAD at all. I've had much worse-tasting wine in my life!

          Thank you all for your advice and comments - I'm sure I'll be back, as I continue to learn!

          Cheers and good health to all y'all! - Jules

           
          8 Replies
          1. re: jules7ky

            You're a braver made than I am, Gunga Din . . .

            1989 was *NOT* a very good year (to say the least) for Chardonnay in California. IIRC, Keith Hohfeldt was still the winemaker then -- he *did* have a way with Chardonnay, however. What was the appellation? Was it the "Santa Cruz Mountains" bottling or the "California" bottling? Or -- did they do a Sonoma bottling that vintage? I don't recall . . .

            Anyway, I would *never* put a Chardonnay the color of a Sauternes in my mouth, unless it was a late harvest Chard . . . so, my hat's off to you!

            Cheers,
            Jason

            1. re: zin1953

              Jason... It was the Santa Cruz Mountains....

              And all I can say is "Ignorance is bliss". ;)
              Don't misunderstand me - I 've had many wines that I'd prefer to this, and am usually more a bourbon drinker. But for a little Adventure... makes a good story, heh heh.

              By the way... my husband just remarked that Rory McIlroy was BORN the year this wine was corked. I feel the story forming, to be told at the office tomorrow.

              Livin' on the edge....
              - Jules

              1. re: jules7ky

                The SCM bottling was always the one with the best structure, so if any would have a chance to survive . . . .

            2. re: jules7ky

              Impressive. I've only seen that color on stickies that have sat around for a while. And you're not dead.

              Apart from "I've had much worse", how about a tasting note?

              1. re: wattacetti

                Hmmm... tasting note. I'm a total novice at this, you understand, and we decided not to drink the rest of the bottle, so I'll be going from memory.

                The first impression I had was that it was simply weak. Not much character to it at all. The flavor wasn't unpleasant, and it actually went well enough with the garlic-lime chicken we were having for dinner, but it seemed flat.

                I don't normally care for Chardonnay, and it seemed that the element in Chard that I don't like was missing - if that makes any sense at all. There was also none of the dryness on my tongue that I associate with tannins... I could tell it was wine, it was definitely alcoholic, it was not sweet in the least, but it was as if someone removed half of the taste and added a little water to the rest.

                How's that? I'm wishing now that I had made a few notes!

              2. re: jules7ky

                Is that the cork floating in the botttle??

                1. re: Sailing77

                  Yes -- and not surprising after 20+ years . . .

                  1. re: Sailing77

                    Yes - The cork was too loose for the corkscrew to grip it, and slid into the bottle.

                2. It is likely "dead," but you will not be. Have a backup ready, and who knows, you might be surprised. I have been, when I "just knew" that a domestic Chard was so far over the hill, as to not have anything left to reward me. Sometimes, miracles DO happen, but have a backup.

                  Hunt

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Hunt, we tried it last night - with backup, as you suggested, and are both still breathing! (At least I assume my husband is - he's at work.)

                    It wasn't great, but was definitely drinkable (to our admittedly uneducated palates). As I told Jason in an earlier post, "Ignorance is bliss" in this case! It makes for a good water-cooler story, at any rate. Thanks so much for the advice!

                    Learning as we go...

                    Jules

                    1. re: jules7ky

                      Older Chards, can be a matter of taste. With some FR Chards, I really appreciate a few "extra years," but my loving wife is not quite so affectionate with them. Still, when I hit a real 10 - 15 year old "winner," she DOES enjoy. She is just less tolerant of any but the great ones, than I am.

                      Now, some years ago, I found a bottle of a very old Ferrari Carano Reserve Chard. It came from a case, bought upon release, and had been moved from CO to AZ. Somehow, I had missed that bottle, as I tried to drink all whites (and many reds), that I did not expect to age all that well. This guy got lost in the shuffle. When I found it, I brought it up (with a backup), and expected to perform "last rights" on that wine. Wrong! It was lovely at about 10 years, post release.Divine!

                      Some months later, I happened to be in Sonoma, and stopped by to see if there were any library wines. Cannot recall the vintage now. They had all just been sold. Our tasting room hostess had bought two cases of that old wine, but allowed as how, at US $ 3 / btl., she felt that she'd wasted her $. I shared my story, and hoped that she'd offer to sell me some of her stash. No go. She thanked me, did not charge me for either the regular, or the reserve tasting, but held onto her wine.

                      I have found but a few domestic (US) Chards, that age gracefully, but there are some. Three that come to mind are Far Niente, Staglin and then that Ferrari Carano Reserve.

                      In my years, I have never been poisoned by any wine, though a few did make me think that I might be. So far - has not happened. However, I have had to rely on the "backup" several times, but that is just life.

                      As my poor cellar has become so very over-filled, I think that I will soon start to see more "dead wines," as I drill down a bit, in hopes of getting some of those cases into the racks, and others out of my office... !

                      Thank you for reporting.

                      Hunt

                      PS - when I encounter wines that skipped the database, and then are found much, much later, I will often gather a bunch of winos. At worst, we can lament the demise, and talk about "what might have been, had I found that bottle some years before." [Grin]

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        <I have found but a few domestic (US) Chards, that age gracefully, but there are some. Three that come to mind are Far Niente, Staglin and then that Ferrari Carano Reserve.>

                        Recently had a long vertical of Trefethen Chardonnay (Library Selection) that dated back 20 years. Delicious. And last summer at Sonoma Cutrer we tasted a 10-year-old very happily.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Yes, there are quite a few- just not many :) Trefethen is fabulous aged! I have aged both that you mention (over 20 years).... and Kalin Cellars and Mount Eden...and several more. I also think aged Chards might be a bit of an acquired taste. I have many collector friends that love them but the *general public wino* might think they taste "weird". LOL

                          My experience with them is that they all seem to get geriatric around 30 years, you can still drink them, but they are oxidizing and butterscotchy- then they tank. But- there is a point, right before being "not so good"- where (if at a blind tasting) you couldn't tell what varietal it is. They have completely changed from their previous life as a Chardonnay into something very different. They morph. Maybe you noticed that in some of your Trefethen adventures with aging? It is a noticeable "turn"- but in a good way. I really like that period in it's evolution, and always feel lucky when I open a bottle and it has that quality!

                          1. re: sedimental

                            In my experience, I'd agree with Trefethen, but not with Far Niente or Ferrari-Carano. I've had some great older Stony Hill, Hanzell, Chateau Montelena, and Mayacamas Chardonnays, but the ones that have aged the best in my experience have been from the Santa Cruz Mountains: Mount Eden Vineyards, Ridge Monte Bello, and the old ORIGINAL Martin Ray Vineyards (when Martin was still alive).

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Yes, I don't know about Far Niente or Ferrari-Carano...that was Hunts take on them. CA cabs are a different story on aging. A well aged Ridge will make you swoon.

                              1. re: sedimental

                                Yes, but Ridge is the poster child for "The Exception to Everything" when it comes to California . . .

                                One of the best Chardonnays I ever had from California was a 1976 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains) that I tasted around 1996-1998 . . . *at* Ridge on a Saturday morning . . . the bottle had been opened the night before and was stuck, 1/2-2/3 full, back in the refrigerator overnight!

                                Cheers,
                                Jason

                              2. re: zin1953

                                Jason,

                                You should have been there, when we found that Ferrair-Carano Reserve. Surprised the heck out of me.

                                We did a tasting with Gil Nickel, and sampled Chards from the early '80s (this was about 2000, not too long before his death. Now, I do like the fruit on the younger wines, but enjoyed those library wines, as well.

                                At a trade tasting in about '98, we did a breakout session with the distributor of Far Niente here, and did a tasting of the current releases, plus much older release of both the Chard and the Cab. In that room, I was the only one, who chose the younger Chard, and the older Cab. Everyone else chose to opposite. Hey, what do I know - except what I liked best.

                                Hunt

                            2. re: ChefJune

                              Now, I have not had any older Trefethen Chards, but did recently down my last bottle of the '85 Cab, and was still impressed by that, so very many years later.

                              Thanks. If I see any older Trefethen Chards, that seem to have been stored well, I will not hesitate.

                              Hunt

                      2. When moving out of their San Francisco home in 1978, my parents who do not drink, found a bottle of California chardonnay that they received as a wedding present in 1940. Now it had been stored in a cool, dry basement for those 37 years but it was a chardonnay.
                        We opened it with great celebration (and a salad standing by) to find it absolutely tasteless.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: ola

                          I have encountered similar with several older US Chards (though never THAT old). Much of the wine just disappears over the time. I've observed the same with some US Pinot Noirs, that I thought would stand up a bit better. They did not.

                          I am hoisting a glass, to all of those poor vacant wines, that I should have opened years before - to all of you!

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Well, Bill -- you know what I think . . .

                            Broad Generalization, but CA wines (generally) don't age well -- or, perhaps, I should say, "Rare is the California wine that will age as well* as its European counterpart."

                            Cheers,
                            Jason

                            * and, of course, *improve* with that age. ;^)

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Jason,

                              Good point, and one that I will gladly accept.

                              OTOH, I have had some great Cal-Cabs from the '60s and '70s, that requited themselves well.

                              As far as a comparison with their Euro counterparts, no argument from me in almost every case.

                              As far as the bulk of CA wines aging well, I'd just hazard a guess to something like 1 - 2% (may be high at that) would, so the vast majority will not, and many will claim that it's really "by design."

                              Hunt

                        2. oh. my. I just found more bottles in this wine rack. Probably nothing rare or expensive... but it looks like the oldest is a bottle of Fetzer Mendocino port, 1978. Two more Chardonnays, a Pat Paulsen Sauvignon Blanc 1984 (bargain bin again!), 3 bottles of regional strawberry and raspberry wines that are most certainly dead, and from Bolla, Le Poiane Jago Valipolicello Classico 1994.

                          Looks like this rack has become our crisper drawer for wines. I think I'll start a new thread, and impose on The Wine Board's patience a little while longer, if I may!!

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: jules7ky

                            Have you thought about buying a vinegar pot? Could be a way to deal with these gems.

                            EDIT: I would welcome any tasting impressions if you actually dare to try.

                            1. re: wattacetti

                              Absolutely... after this experience, I think we'll at least take a sip of the others. Am I correct in assuming that the reds have a better chance of aging well than the whites? Or is that too much a generalization?

                              And I'm not familiar with a "vinegar pot"... sounds interesting?

                              1. re: jules7ky

                                Well, in California, most people have a vinegar barrel, rather than a "pot." that said, I would never put anything *this* old/bad/dead into a vinegar barrel . . .

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Hmmm but I'm wondering about the regional strawberry & blackberry bottles... They aren't as old as the Ancient Ones, but I know from experience that they simply don't age well, and turn to vinegar if you don't drink them soon enough.

                                  It just never occurred to me that it was VINEGAR... I always thought of it as "wine gone bad". This could be really really interesting, as i teach "Cooking with herbs" and a few salad-based classes.

                                  1. re: jules7ky

                                    Actually, the comment about using wine as a salad dressing is typically a bit "tongue in cheek". However, I have tasted a wine that has "turned" and then actually developed it into a vinegar over time that was very good! Google making vinegar and see what you can do. I just love turning cast off items into works of art. It makes one feel good.

                                    1. re: jules7ky

                                      Who knows? Gotta' open and taste to see.

                                      Enjoy,

                                      Hunt

                                    2. re: zin1953

                                      Born and raised in San Francisco and never heard of a vinegar barrel.

                                      1. re: ola

                                        How do you think "regular" wine vinegar, let alone Balsamic, is made? ;^)

                                        Most winemakers, and many wine "professionals," have vinegar barrels in their garage . . . all you need is a good "mother."

                                        http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/t...

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          <How do you think "regular" wine vinegar, let alone Balsamic, is made? ;^)>

                                          Real Balsamico is made from the must of the Trebbiano grapes after they've been removed from the wine/juice.

                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            Must = juice, pulp, skin, and seeds . . .

                                            The point of my comment was *not* to specifically start a conversation about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, but rather than wine is turned into vinegar -- traditionally -- in barrel, and most winemakers have vinegar barrels . . .

                                            That said, June, you are absolutely right that Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is (traditionally) made from a reduction of Trebbiano juice -- minimum 15° Brix, IIRC -- and concentrated up to a minimum of 30° Brix. The highly concentrated juice is then fermented, yeast converting the sugar into alcohol, and then bacteria converts the ethanol into acetic acid. And then -- to be true Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, it must be aged for a minimum of 12 years.

                                    3. re: jules7ky

                                      On the ageing potential of the reds, "it depends".

                                      The port (if it really is fortified like a real one) might have survived because it's fortified. I don't know that particular Valpolicella (then again, I'm weak on Italian offerings).

                                      Unlike what Jason's mentioned, we only have ceramic pots with little spigots to make vinegars.

                                      1. re: wattacetti

                                        The port and the Valpolicella... Only one way to find out.

                                        GERONIMOOoooooo..... i'll let y'all know how we do. ;)

                                      2. re: jules7ky

                                        Those reds? Not much IMHO. However, you might get lucky.

                                        Have those backups handy!

                                        Hunt

                                    4. re: jules7ky

                                      Well, those will still likely not kill you, but I would be so very surprised if any was worth drinking. I would save the Pat Paulsen, as there might be some value to a collector (he did run for President), but the rest (exception *might* be the Bolla, but I doubt it), be ready to dump, and in a hurry.

                                      Time to clean out that wine rack! [Grin]

                                      Hunt