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Castello di Borghese 2003 Reserve Cabernet Franc. (Credit: Lenn Thompson)

I don’t love the wine racks in my cellar.

They were affordable, but because of their shape, certain types rest more reliably than others. The high-shouldered, Bordeaux-styled bottles so common on Long Island sit well and securely, which is great for a region so rich in Bordeaux variety wines. The more tapered, Burgundy-style bottles that tend to house pinot noir and – well, Burgundy –tend to be less stable.

A week or so ago, I was working in my home office when I heard the unmistakable clank-ding-clank-ding of bottles – Burgundy shaped ones — slipping form their tenuous perches. Luckily, there weren’t any casualties. But the wax dip over the top of a delicious Heart & Hands Wine Company pinot noir did chip and the glass stopper (yes, glass rather than cork) looked like it may have lifted up just enough to let air in, and possibly wine out. So I brought it upstairs and we drank it with and after dinner.

My wife said,  “you know, you never would have opened that bottle if it hadn’t fallen.’” She’s right.

Sometimes I’m a bit of a wine hoarder. Make no mistake; we drink wine almost every night. But I tend to deem certain bottles “special” or say to myself “I’m going to save this bottle to have with that friend/winemaker/writer/co-worker/whomever.” And yet it doesn’t happen often enough.

Inspired by that Heart & Hands Wine Company 2007 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir – really an impressive Finger Lakes pinot – I pulled four older bottles from the cellar and enjoyed them with some friends who came over for dinner last weekend.

I had high hopes for some, but not all, of the wines. Many wine critics pretend they can accurately predict how a wine will age, but knowing how long a wine will improve in bottle before plateauing and falling off is an educated guess at best.

I wasn’t expecting much from our first bottle, the Castello di Borghese 2003 Reserve Cabernet Franc. 2003 wasn’t a great year for age-worthy red wines on the North Fork, but here was a wine with still-ripe fruit flavors and loads of spice and earth. The oak wasn’t overdone and while there wasn’t much structure left – 2003 wasn’t a year for big, brawny tannins – it was wonderful. A welcome surprise to start the evening.

Sticking with cabernet franc, we moved onto the Roanoke Vineyards 2006 Gabby’s Cabernet Franc. 2006 wasn’t a stellar year either, especially sandwiched between the warmer 2005 and 2007 vintages, but this was the first-ever bottling of a wine that now typically sells out to the rabid Roanoke wine club before it’s released to the rest of us. While much of the fruit character had fallen away — replaced by very earthy and savory aromas and flavors — there was still a certain freshness and some life ahead. I think I have one more. I’ll try it again in a year or two.

Every time that I’ve been lucky enough to taste a bunch of older Long Island wines at once, it’s invariably the cabernet sauvignons or cab-heavy blends that stand out. As such, it wasn’t a surprise that Bedell Cellars 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon was not only still alive, but it was absolutely singing and seemed like it could age for far longer.  Bright fruit flavors were nicely framed by notes of tobacco, spice and a minty finish – with still-grippy tannins and a tingle of fresh acidity. I wish I had more. This wine along with climate change, almost make me want to plant a cabernet sauvignon vineyard out here. Almost.

Continuing with another 2002 – which is such an underrated vintage – we opened a bottle of Osprey’s Dominion 2002 Flight Meritage. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc also showed nice structure and a balance between primary fruit character as well as secondary and tertiary notes of spice, dried herb and loamy earth.

I may have gotten lucky with these four wines, but that’s just it – we got lucky. Still, I think it’s time to drink more of the “to hold” section of my cellar.

Lenn Thompson