Getting reacquainted with old friends

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  • Family affair: Cignale is provided by Tara Empson, left and her parents, Maria and Neil

    Family affair: Cignale is provided by Tara Empson, left and her parents, Maria and Neil


I love to look at our old Watercolours of Bermuda that were painted by a distant cousin, and if I play Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique for the hundredth time, it still brings tears to my eyes.

But what about the equivalent in the art form that I have chosen for my path in life? You only get one chance to enjoy and, then, as Leonard Cohen sang, “like the smoke, it is beyond all repair”.

At this time, I find myself quite torn and let me explain the reason why.

In 1998, my wife and I took a collection of wines that consisted of some 200 bottles going back as far as the 1960s and we stored them in a cool, dark and quiet place.

For 20 years they have not been touched, but during the past week I have unwrapped the pallet, catalogued them all and restored them in a facility that puts each bottle on display behind a glass door, as it is our intention to start opening them.

The first one in hand was a magnum of 1974 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and I am comfortable in saying that there may have never been a finer wine made in that “valley of plenty”. It was given to my wife and me by the winemaker, who is sadly no longer with us.

I remember him calling us in the early 1990s to ask if we had opened it. I told him that I just could not bear the thought of sharing it and his suggestion was “get two glasses, open the darned thing, get into bed with your wife and drink it”.

A 2017 tasting called it “stunningly aromatic” and rated it 96 out of 100. We could wait.

Last Sunday evening, we opened a bottle of Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our current stock is the 2013 that the Wine Enthusiast describes in this way: “This is a remarkable value, over-delivering in terms of its varietal characteristics of cola, cinnamon, grippy tannin, black pepper, cedar and leather. Medium-bodied and approachable, it’s right for the table or cocktail party, able to please a range of palates.” We sell it for $29.95.

The Dry Creek cabernet sauvignon that we uncorked was placed in the bottle when Jimmy Carter was president, Elvis performed his last concert and I met my wife!

Although a moderately priced wine, it has stood up to the ravages of time quite remarkably. My wife has just sent founder David Stare an e-mail to share with him this fact and told of the classic cedar that only time can give to a fine wine. The vintage was 1977. We also have a 1978 to look forward to.

I remember when I came back to Burrows Lightbourn in 1998, I saw Simi wines in the warehouse and was so happy to be reacquainted.

You see, I worked for JE Lightbourn from 1975 until 1980 and during that time I visited Simi with my brand-new wife, and secured this agency on only my second wine trip to California.

I have spotted in our collection a magnum of Simi that is embossed with gold and the bottle states that these rare magnums will only be made in exceptional years. This one is from 1990.

This is how Canadian critic Natalie MacLean describes our Simi Landslide Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley: “Dark, rich, deep and intensely flavoured Californian cabernet from a respected producer. Aromas of black fruit, toasty oak and some spice. Great balance with a long finish. Pair with roast beef.” $39.80.

I only have space for one more, so I think that I had better make it about two dear friends of ours since the mid-1980s — Maria and Neil Empson who are wine industry folks based in Milan.

Today, I deal mostly with their daughter, Tara, who we have watched grow from a small child. We buy so many of our fine Italian wines from their firm, but let me tell you about a small vineyard that they own. It only produces about 400 cases of a Super Tuscan wine each year, of which we get about 100. That’s fair, considering the size of our country.

They named this wine for the wild boars that broke through fencing in 1983 and consumed most of their first crop.

It is called Cignale and I will let Robert Parker tell you about the 2010 that we have in stock: “Ninety-four out of 100. The 2010 Cignale lives up to the reputation of this great vintage and this storied Tuscan blend of 90 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 10 per cent merlot.

“The wine is brimming with dark fruit nuances. Blackberry, plum and purple fruit are in a leading position. The oak tones are evident and I would suggest giving this wine more time to evolve and integrate.

“It tastes very young now and I’d like to see that toasted spice fold into the ripe fruit flavours. The tannins are still sharp, but they also show enough elasticity to soften with more bottle ageing. This is a long-term red from Tuscany.” $54.90

This is what we have found in our collection; a three-litre double magnum of 1990 Cignale. By the way, Maria Empson is also an artist and produced six sketches of wild boars which appear on Cignale labels.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published Feb 2, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 2, 2018 at 7:59 am)

Getting reacquainted with old friends

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