Saturday, February 18, 2012

L. Mawby Leelanau Peninsula Vignoles, 1983

When I mentioned dry Vignoles, Larry Mawby laughed. When I asked if he would consider making dry Vignoles again, he said, "I would consider it." And then he laughed louder. Mawby is now a maker of top quality sparkling wines, and he has no good reason to go back to making dry wines. But in the early 1980s, he was making some excellent dry Vignoles, and this 1983 was probably my favorite of the bunch. In reference to the quality of this wine (or possibly another vintage of it), a staff member at Village Corner in Ann Arbor wrote: "Why buy white Burgundy?"

As with many of my favorite wines, I couldn't bring myself to open the last bottle of 1983 L. Mawby Vignoles until it rested on the shelf so long that I assumed it was now past drinking. But finally, with a backup bottle of white in the refrigerator, I pulled the cork.

It's a very, very deep old gold color when first poured, and the color deepens even more in the glass until it's almost a copper color. The bouquet, though, is pretty nice--apricots, fresh and dried, pineapples, grapefruit. It's amazingly well preserved for its age with none of the flat, ugly, oxidized smell I've experienced with much younger whites. On the palate, it's more of the same, with crisp acidity. It's the acidity, actually, that's holding the wine together.

After about 15 minutes, though, the citrus aromas and flavors seem to take over and dominate. I now smell and taste mostly toasted grapefruit, a hallmark of one type of French oak barrel (Seguin Moreau). And the memory returns: I served this 1983 Vignoles many years ago to Trevor Mast, a highly respected Australian winemaker who was a guest in our house at the time. Trevor's first comment was "Seguin Moreau." It had too much Seguin Moreau, he thought, "but it also has a lot of wonderful fruit that can stand up to it."

Alas, 29 years after the vintage date, the wonderful Vignoles fruit is ready to collapse soon after getting a breath of fresh air. The Seguin Morea is still standing upright. But it's not a bad drink. Larry Mawby, would you consider making dry Vignoles again?

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