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Wines $20 to $40

A Great Old Wine

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As I seem now to do every year, I stopped last week in Boulder before heading up to the F&W Classic in Aspen for the annual pre-Aspen wine dinner that Travel & Leisure's contributing wine editor Bruce Schoenfeld throws. As usual, it was a crazy grab-bag of wines (and people), many of them extraordinary (both the wines and the people).

Among the standouts? First, a 1982 Associated Vintners Dionysus Vineyard Riesling, notable partly because it was the first single-vinyard Riesling bottled in Washington State—or so I was told—and partly because it was actually still quite alive, with appealing lemon and stone notes. Later, a 2000 Contino Graciano had aromas of earth, leather and ripe black raspberries and was lush and inviting; an interesting development from a wine that's always quite tart, tannic and palate-zapping on release. I loved the 1982 Giacosa Barolo Falletto that came my way—hazy red in color, smelling of licorice, roses and caramel, with flavors that recalled dried spices like cardamom and cinnamon—though for some reason not everybody did. (Go figure. Lunatics, the lot of 'em.) And a 1999 Yarra Yering Dry Red #1—from a winery that made news lately by getting sold—had aromas of tea leaves and kirsch, then luscious berry fruit poised on the edge of age but not quite there. A very pretty wine.

The wine of the night, though, by general acclaim, was a 1991 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon, which was just fantastic. Aromas of forest floor, spiced currants and graphite led into layers of soft cherry-currant fruit, silky tannins, and more lingering graphite notes. It had aged gorgeously and was in perfect condition, and isn't even Ridge's top Cabernet (Monte Bello is). The current vintage will set you back $40. Not bad. And I like the fact that Paul Draper, on the back label of the wine, suggested that it would age only five to ten years. As it turns out, a very modest prediction.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.