People commonly ask me when they should drink Hertelendy wines. It’s a great question that does not have any easy, one-size-fits-all type of answer since everyone’s palate is completely different. Wine is liquid art—just like how you may have an affinity for Picasso’s artwork, someone else might think a kindergartener painted it, having his “genius” go over their heads (which I’m totally guilty of). The best way to go about answering this question is to begin by breaking down people’s palates into three categories: youthful (0-5 years), middle-of-the-road (5-10 years), and vintage (10+ years).
I acknowledge that I have a different palate than many other wine enthusiasts. I personally LOVE to drink young wines and decant them for 1-4 hours (or sometimes even days like with a Barolo). I’ve even gone to sacrilegious extremes with hyper-decanting (i.e. putting wines into the…ahem…blender) super late at night when I’m with friends, and we lack the time to properly decant. There is an art of knowing when to drink your wines and how long they should be decanted, and for this purpose, I’ll only be specifically discussing Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
When you age a Napa Valley Cabernet, you’ll get a softer, Old World Bordeaux-like result, but you’ll also lose some of the appealing character and enticing fruit forward notes. To me, that’s the quintessential soul of the wine, and it’s that distinct boldness that I’m drawn to, like a moth to a flame. When winemakers strip that essence away with fining or filtering techniques, they’re creating a more balanced, old school style, but in my opinion, they also lose that “wow” factor that the bold fruit brings. The first “aha moment” I ever had with wine was with a bold yet balanced Napa Cabernet. I had been making wine by that point, but that experience was the first time I realized that wine could be strong, smooth, and elegant all at the same time. It was like I thought a modified Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (think the Fast & Furious car) was akin to a Ferrari, and then actually experiencing the performance of an F40 Ferrari and having my mind blown. I’ve drunk expensive Burgundian Pinot Noirs, and while I can appreciate them, I don’t get those epiphany moments as I do with bolder style wines. In the past 12 years of winemaking, my palate has changed, and I no longer make extremely bold wines that’d strip the enamel off your teeth; I have gravitated towards discovering my own distinct style of bold, balanced, and elegant.
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish balance in wines—the Holy Grail in winemaking—but if it’s soft, delicate and lacks fruit, I’m not as interested as its edgier counterpart. Generally speaking, Napa Cabs hit their pinnacle between years 1-5 (there are many exceptions of course). Once a Napa Cab gets to year 7+, raisination occurs and the wines start tasting sweeter like raisins or molasses. At this point you’ll have to wait several more years for it to come out of that raisin-like state and back around to being more Bordeaux-esque with that soft delicate style of balance. I’d say this point is the sweet spot for those that love the vintage wines. However, why lay down a bottle for 10+ years when they’re so fantastic young!
I would recommend that if you’re drinking our 2015 Hertelendy Cabernet Sauvignon right now, decant it for 2-4 hours before dinner. Thirty minutes before dinner, place the decanter in the refrigerator and let it cool down to around 55°-60°F (because decanting at room temperature in many locations can get hot during the summertime). You’ll be amazed at how rounded the wine gets from doing these two simple things! All of that intense fruit forwardness will carry through and pair beautifully with your entrée—preferably a filet mignon or slow braised short ribs. If you’re drinking the 2014 Cab, I’d decant it for 1-2 hours, and for the 2013 Cab, I’d decant for 1 hour. I’d also take a similar approach vintage-to-vintage with the Signature Mountain Blends. If you only have 1 hour to decant your 2015’s, don’t worry; it will still be better than no decanting at all. However, you’ll see more improvement as the wines are able to breathe and open up.
If you were to ask me when to drink the Hertelendy Chardonnay, my typical response is that it’s ready now regardless of vintage—just serve it cold at 48°F and enjoy the evolution of the wine as it warms up. Albeit unusual, some people enjoy decanting our Chardonnay for 15 to 30 minutes prior to serving. This is a stylistic preference based on how you prefer your Chardonnay.
These are merely my recommendations. I clearly don’t follow many rules, and encourage you to experiment to see what works best for your palate. Please let me know how it goes!
Cheers & enjoy!