Adventures In The Cellar

//Adventures In The Cellar

Adventures In The Cellar

In early 2001, a local man from Washington State wrote to the local newspaper wine columnist about some old dessert wines he wanted to get rid of. The columnist recommended the man get in touch with me and he did. He invited me to his Kirkland beach front property and explained his father recently passed away and that he had to sell the house fast, as time was of the essence. All of the wines in the cellar had to be cleared out; and the place had to be cleaned before he could show it.

I found a treasure trove of Port, Madeira and Tokaji and beyond that, lots of wine that was already way over the hill and dozens of bottles of hard liquor. I told him that I could put a value on the dessert wines, but his best bet to maximize profits would be to ship them off to auction and I could provide the name of three top notch wine auctions for him. He was abrupt and candid, stating that he could not care less about the money, but solely wanted to get the place cleaned out fast. He said it didn’t matter if he had to dump everything, as long as the place was clean in time for the real estate agent.

I looked closer and found Tokaji from 1837 (just a pair of bottles in impeccable condition) and another ten bottles from 1929 and 1930 vintages. The Ports consisted of a pair of unopened cases of 1935 Sandeman Vintage Ports and a handful of C. da Silva Ports ranging from 1905-1926, some vintage and some Colheita bottlings. Lastly, there were a handful of bottles of old Power Drury Madeira. The rest of the bottles had zero interest for me and the table wines were inexpensive domestic bottles that had no chance of surviving so many decades, although I did look through them very carefully.

The man’s father had moved from Illinois to this home in 1942 and all wines were purchased there in 1940 and had a state tax sticker on each and every one, except for the full cases of Sandeman. The man came over and saw I was very interested in what amounted to about forty bottles. He said, “I’ll give them all to you, if you clean out this place.” I knew there were some extremely valuable bottles and I didn’t feel right about taking advantage of this situation, the guy was not thinking clearly and I countered, “I’d be happy to make an offer for the bottles that I am interested in, and would be willing to help you clean out this building next weekend.”

The place was filled with cobwebs and decades of grime and this was going to be a full weekend of hard work. I told him before I’d feel comfortable making an offer, I wanted to try one bottle of 1935 Sandeman Vintage Port. So he gave me a screw driver and I carefully pried open an OWC to find that the bottle was sheathed in a woven straw that was typical of Ports back in the day. It looked as if the wine had been bottled that day; the fill level on all bottles was well into the neck. I paid him cash on the spot for that bottle and the next night shared it with another serious Port enthusiast. We were floored by the extraordinarily youthful showing due to the provenance of these Sandeman bottles.

I called the man and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse for all of the dessert wines and nonplussed he replied, “Yeah, that’s fine with me, when can you be back here to clean out the house?” I was jazzed, as I figured the hard work would be worth being able to purchase these old bottles that were in crazy good condition. It all worked out, the 1935 Sandeman’s were great and I had the last of the bottles of Madeira recently. Only a couple of the Tokaji still remain today.

Power Drury & Co. Special Bual Madeira – Purchased on Dec. 14th 1940 for the lofty sum of $3.59. A very clear optic, medium deep orange-tawny color w/ a broad golden meniscus. This was the best of the four bottles I happened into of this particular bottling. The others were cloudy and none showed all that well; although one was decent the others were barely potable science projects. This on the other hand took me a week to finish, probably the 2nd longest a bottle of Madeira has ever remained open in my home. Aromatically very delightful and I couldn’t help but sniffing this over and over and over. Maple, dried honey, pumpkin spice, mace, clove and herbs filled the entire room. Medium weight and very delicate in the mouth, yet it required several swallows per sip. Medium sweet and closer to a Verdelho than Bual. Given how mediocre all the others were, this shows a spark and intensity that the others lacked. It was all due to the sharp cut of the acidity which helped to elongate what was already a crazy long finish. It was a tasty wine but not great, possibly more about the aromatics, delicacy, structure and finish, than the flavor itself. I wish I could find more of these for the price I paid or even 10x that. 92 points 1/15/11

By | 2016-11-18T10:24:04+00:00 March 29th, 2011|Categories: Madeira|0 Comments

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