I Opened It…. Was It Ready?

In the last two articles, I talked about ageing a wine and how to know if its ready.  This is a big guessing game to see if your wine has aged to show new characteristics or its aged so much that its past its prime.  It’s a never-ending discussion that I have with industry members, sommeliers and chefs and I love getting all of their opinions on the subject.

After reading all the comments from Facebook, I did finally decide to open a bottle to see how it has aged over time.  I had some beef short ribs from the nearby Amish community that I wanted to braise so now I’m thinking I need a wine that could match up to this.  Here is what I chose:

A 2014 Raymond Winemaker Custom Blend wine.

I can see what you are all thinking…I’ve never seen this wine before in any shop.  Especially with a cute dog on the front.  For those of you that know me, this is a picture of my old dog Cody before he passed away.  I built this label in honor of him and the wine does come from Raymond. 

One of the greatest experiences you can have to truly understand wine is by making it.  Every year that I took students on vineyard tours of Napa, I would book off making our own wine at Raymond Vineyards.  This is a great experience to show you how blending works.  You start off with 4 of their wines and by a process of blending, you develop your own wine style.  Once charted, you can make an exact copy of your blend, bottle it and customize it with your own label.  It’s a great experience and I highly recommend it.

That being said, my blend was a high proportion of Cabernet Franc, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to even out the blend.  I chose this for the following reasons:

  1. I prefer Cabernet Franc since it has similar characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon with less tannin in the wine.
  2. The Merlot gives a softness to the mouthfeel and smooths out some of the end bitterness to a wine.
  3. Cabernet Sauvignon was needed to help with structure and body. It was also added to help with its ageing potential.

Please note that I’m not a big fan of tannin.  For example, when making black tea, if you let the tea steep for a long time, you will extract both the tea flavor and tannins.  However, I’m so much like my dad and I really do not like tannins.  Steep my tea for longer than three minutes and its too much tannin for my palate.  Therefore, if we ever go out to sample wines, you will see my selections for lower tannic wines.  If the wine can be tannic, I’m going to select one that has been aged since the tannins will break down over time and soften.

The Food

Here is the scenario.  I have the short ribs braising slowly in the Insta-pot (yes I have two of them) and the aroma is incredible.  I decided to take some diced white onions along with cremini mushrooms and sauté these.  Once the edges were starting to turn golden, I removed these from the pan and lightly toasted some arborio rice.  I added a splash of white wine and then slowly added vegetable stock to make a risotto.  Towards the end, I added back the mushroom/onion blend.  To boost the mushroom essence, I added pulverized dried oyster and porcini mushrooms and aged parmesan to finish the dish.  The ribs were done so these were removed, deboned and shredded.  The cooking liquid was strained and added to finish the risotto. 

Forget the Dish, What about the Wine?

Now to open the wine.  After opening and inspecting the cork, I poured a small sample to check it out.  I noticed a good amount of sediment in the shoulder of the bottle which tells me that its ageing.  I mentioned in an earlier article that sediment is normal during ageing.  I checked the aroma.  It was a little tight but showing dark fruits (plum and berries) so it appeared healthy.  Now for the taste.  I was:

  • Highly disappointed.  I had made what I thought would be a great blend that suited my palate and that would age for a few years.  Can I tell you that this was THE BEST FREAKING THING I HAD TRIED IN A LONG TIME!  I’m so disappointed that I did not make more of this blend.

Soft tannins, great fruit, very smooth mouthfeel with a hint of tannins on the back end of the wine.   It was a bit bitter on the finish but as the wine opened and warmed up a bit, it showed dark plummy jammy tones and the tannins dropped off.  It reminded me of drinking a grand Reserve Tempranillo for the mouthfeel and tannin levels.

Just like a Tempranillo, it started to drop off and die slowly in the glass.  I had to limit my pour size (2-3 oz.) since in the glass, exposed to air, the wine would age and fall apart after 15 minutes.  How did the wine pair with the food?  Check out the pairing chart below.

Raymond Custom

Blend Wine


Braised Short Ribs with Mushroom Risotto

Aromas – deep black fruit (plum and berries) with a hint of baking spices

Flavors – deep ripe fruit with a hint of cassis and terroir

Aromas / Flavors

Aromas – earthy tones from mushrooms, complex tones from browned ribs, bay leaves

Flavors – complex earthy flavors combined with rich beef tones

Soft tannins, smooth mouthfeel giving way to slightly bitter tannins


Tender beef with creamy tones from the parmesan and cooking liquid

Mushrooms gave a bit of bite (texture)

Slight sour tones



Medium tannins that are soft and approachable


Low tannins from the beef and the mushrooms

Medium + acid

Acid levels

Medium – acid from the wine, the parmesan

Full body


Full body

Long finish and clean drop off at end

Finish / Length

Long finish due to the flavors


This pairing was an exceptionally important lesson for me.  When I was looking for a wine with dinner, I was looking for something to match with the beef.  I did have a couple of choices, but I decided to try this bottle.  Why?  Totally a gut feeling.  I knew the bottle would have to be tried sooner than later and after being moved once across the country, I was scared that it would be faulted.  As soon as I tried it, my first thought was to see if the food would match this wine.  I think it did on multiple levels (five components).  If was to change the food, I would have added a few dried blueberries to the braising liquid to get that fruit essence into the dish.

Most importantly, it reminded me of the past articles related to ageing.  Should you open the bottle?  In this case, I’m both happy and sad.  I’m ecstatic that the bottle was still good and showed exceptionally well for a blend I came up with in 15 minutes.  I’m sad that I did not make more.  I found the blending sheet so I can ask Raymond to possibly make more bottles (if they have the wine available).

I’ll be left with this.  I was able to enjoy a wine with dinner and think about Cody.  A great wine that matched my dog…kindhearted, caring and friendly to a fault. 


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