Monday, January 9, 2012

Holiday Leftovers

The cellar at Castello Banfi Winery,
near Montalcino, Italy

With the Holiday season behind us, a few gripes to file under "first-world problems."

First, leftovers.  I don't have any gripe about leftovers - in fact, they are one of the best parts of any holiday meal.  But sometimes throwing that turkey and stuffing in the microwave leaves a bit to be desired.  One solution?  Meatballs.  Throw all of that extra turkey, beef, chicken or whatever together and make some unique and tasty meatballs.  The New York Times has you covered on this one.

Second, a problem I've had the good fortune to encounter only occasionally: the dreaded over-the-hill bottle of wine.  I had two recently, both 1997 Napa cabs.  1997 was a great vintage but 15 years have passed.  Despite these being good bottles from quality wineries, they were both just a bit over the hill by the time I got to them.  While I'd enjoyed a couple bottles of one of them previously, and had a pretty good reference point, the other was a one-off for my collection and I was disappointed thinking about what I may have missed out on by waiting.

Guessing how long to hold a wine is often just that: a guess.  You can make an educated guess based on tasting the wine early on, or going by the track record of that wine and the quality of the vintage.  That's why a serious collector may buy a case, open one almost immediately, and try to gauge when the remaining bottles will hit their prime.  But even when experts list their drink-by dates, they are still just guessing (albeit usually with quite a bit of experience and knowledge to back up their guesswork).

One way I've found to take some of the guesswork out opening your prized bottles is by checking tasting notes on  Though the notes are not from professionals, the users on CellarTracker are generally pretty knowledgeable and you can find information on almost any bottle of wine you are likely to encounter.  Best of all, it's free--though donations are strongly encouraged for regular users--and CellarTracker is also an excellent way to keep track of your collection and avoid forgetting about a bottle that's hiding on a low shelf.  While there may be no perfect system to know exactly when a bottle has peaked, at least you can move the odds in your favor!
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