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1995 Providence Vineyards "Marangai," Matakana, New Zealand

I don't often cellar wines for long periods of time, but occasionally I'll leave a bottle to sit for 6 or 7 years either because I'm curious how it will change, or because I think it's a special wine that I want to save for a special occasion. This wine falls into the second category.

After living and working in Japan for nearly 2 years, I returned to the States, leaving behing a "family" of Japanese co-workers with whom I helped build an office from the ground up. One of my parting gifts from one of the senior members of the office was this bottle of wine, which he said was one of his favorites of all time.

I wrote his name, Kazuhiko Kitamura, and the date (August 2001) on the label, and filed it away at the bottom of my cellar.

In the last year or so, I've eyed it several times, and today I decided to cook a nice dinner and bring it out. I knew little about the wine when I received it, and subsequent research on the Internet has yeilded little in the way of additional information. Providence Vineyards is not online, and this wine is pretty rare, to the point that it only brings up 3 or 4 hits when typed into Google. The closest match is this importer who carries the 1996 vintage.

The wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, and as far as I could tell from the alchohol content (12.5%) is probably done in a lighter more European style.

Tasting Notes:
This wine has clearly aged quite a bit in the bottle, and is headed towards brick, while still maintaining some of its youthful ruby color. Unfortunately it seems to have oxidized a little more than it should, and when it was first opened, it had a heavy, sharp Madiera-like nose to it. After a couple of hours decanting, it had regained its composure and behaved a little more like what it was intended to taste like. The nose is herbal with notes of sultanas, dried flowers, and oregano, with a hint of dried rasberry fruit. The body of the wine is supple, but a little overly tart with lean flavors of minerals, raisins, dried cranberries, leather, herbs and spices. This is not a fruit driven wine, but one which is expressing something much more restrained and earthy. The finish is long, and unfortunately overly hot -- again I think due to the oxidization. Clearly this was a well structured wine, but unfortunately it is past its prime.

Food Pairing:
Ruth has been sick with a cold lately, and the weather was cold and rainy today, so I decided to make something aromatic and comforting. We started with a wilted spinach and goat cheese salad with red wine and balsamic vinaigrette and then moved on to lemon and thyme stuffed cornish game hens with blackberry sauce and mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.

Overall Score: 7

How Much?: $110 - $115

My advice to you if you own it: drink it now (decant for a long time) unless, unlike me you have some ideal cellar where it has been sitting undisturbed for 7 years and might do so for another 5. This is clearly a well structured wine, but either it was not set up to age well, or I haven't taken the best care of it.

If you're looking to find it, good luck -- the only place I could find on the Internet that carries it is a store in Japan, and not being able to read Japanese I couldn't tell if it was in stock or whether they would ship it anywhere.

Regardless of my disappointment in having waited to long to enjoy this wine, it was a nice trip down memory lane, and a good memory of my times and friends in Tokyo.

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