At the end of a cold, rainy Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to make a beef stew. Shopping was done and I was on my way home before I started thinking about wine. Halfway home, I realized that while there I had a lot of bottles to drink, I didn't have one that I wanted to commit to the stew pot. But, I thought, surely there's something a few years too old that you've forgotten about. I didn't want to drive back to the store. Not again, not on my day off. So I headed on home.
And sure enough, there at the bottom of the wine cabinet was a bottle of Steele Zinfandel that had been there who knows how long. Perfect! I grabbed the bottle, pulled the cork, and started pouring.
Oh, my! The wine smelled fantastic.
"Wow! What is that?" I asked myself, and looked at the label.
1994 Steele Catfish Zinfandel.
"WHAT THE HELL!!!" I said aloud.
I still can't remember where that bottle came from. I started working at Sigel's in 2001, that would have been an old bottle to still be in inventory at that time.
But, that's what it was.
I've never had a Zinfandel that old. It helps that I know the wine well, I get to taste every vintage as the wine passes through the store. Jed Steele now owns the vineyard, it was planted in 1901. With the 2001 vintage Jed gave the wine its own label with a black catfish jumping through the Steele logo along with "century vine" designation. Neither was on this bottle.
As to the wine? It was very much alive, with a dark ruby core showing the slightest hint of brickiness on the edge with aromas of fresh and dried fruit and flowers. The classic Catfish zinfandel is redolent of velvety red plums with classic brambly Zinfandel finish and this old Catfish holds true to form, except that the plums are dried. Yes, I know dried plums are prunes, but the wine tastes like delicate dried plums without the concentrated sugars that you find in prunes or raisins. Elegant and gorgeous, light yet full. At 13%, it's a wine for those in pursuit of balance.
So, a happy accident. As I write, the wine's been opened for five hours and it's still pleasant. Susan's gone to bed. Too bad there's no one else to share it with.