Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews, VeryGood > Two Amazing Bottles: Charvin and Inglenook

Two Amazing Bottles: Charvin and Inglenook


I remembered the Wild Ginger Cellar Wine List one night after I had opened the 2011 Millbrandt, Evergreen Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes. I had meant to purchase the Viognier but the bottle I grabbed turned out to be Chardonnay. I only noticed the discrepancy after I had drunk a glass while perusing the Seattle Cellar wine list.  I had forgotten how interesting it was.  I almost got up to go straight to Wild Ginger but I was tired and the wine was actually good. I did ask Clark and Julia to join me for dinner and forwarded the list to Phil.

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Wild Ginger is located downtown near Benaroya Hall and up a few blocks from the Seattle Art Museum.  As if the regular wine list isn’t exciting enough, the Cellar List details over 60 pages of wine from all of the world with many older vintages. This not surprising since the Wild Ginger cellar is comprised of 40,000 bottles spread over the different restaurants. The prices are stunning as well.  For our dinner I formulated a plan to drink an older German wine and a mature Chateauneuf du Pape. The two bottles would work perfectly for the three of us.  Unfortunately, Julia got tied up with work so Clark and I ventured over on our own. We opted for a single bottle of 2001 Charvin, Chateauneuf du Pape. In looking through the list I caught sight of a Inglenook, California Cabinet Port, Special Reserve Limited Bottling, NV for $27. It did not sound like a recent release and I could not recall any quality Inglenook wines since an effort in the 1980s. I asked our Sommelier Dave if he could bring the bottle over along with the Charvin. He said it was a single old bottle which had been there for some time.

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I expected a tattered half bottle for some reason. What Dave brought out was a beautiful bottle, the fill was very high, red lead capsule, and the label in outstanding condition. The label itself looked like something from the 1960s or earlier. I immediately said I wanted the bottle. Dave cautioned us but I was excited. It was port so the fortification should greatly help and it appeared to be from a Golden Age.  Inglenook is a historic winery.  Gustave Niebaum acquired land in 1879 then had his first vintage in 1881.  His winery was quite large and built in to a hill for temperature control. It featured steamed-powered machines, concrete floors, and oak barrels.  He wanted to compete with the best wines of Europe so sparing no expense, he insisted on sanitation and high grape quality.  Starting in 1887 Niebaum only shipped his wine in bottles and succeeded in maintaining a reputation for his wines until Prohibition.

As we neared the end of the Charvin Dave returned with a Sommelier’s battery to address the Inglenook. He carefully cut the foil, cleaned the top, thought about using a corkscrew then opted for the Ah-So. He carefully extracted the cork most of the way, revealing the sides of an old mature cork. With his hand he removed it from the bottle. The business end was covered with shimmering wein-stein and the whole smelled proper. He poured me a small taste.

There was youthful ripe fruit on the nose which I quickly confirmed in the mouth where there were also some wood box notes. It was in great shape which Clark confirmed. I told Dave he should have a glass and not just a taste.

We spent the rest of the evening drinking the majority of the bottle, investigating it for clues, taking pictures, and searching online for information. We both agreed it was not like a Tawny Port for the fruit was too primary. To Clark it was more a Ruby and to me a Late Bottled Vintage. The fruit was still primary with plenty of residual sugar. The spirits it was fortified with must have been top-notch, no spirituous edges, perfectly integrated. We imagined the wood box notes from old, large oak casks and not redwood. Certainly not new wood. There was good color and a moderate amount of very fine tannins. The combination of residual sugar, acidity, and alcohol would allow this to last past the middle of the century.

What were we drinking? The only reference we could find was a listing on cellar tracker but without any tasting notes. What is a Cabinet Port? It was designated a Private Reserve Limited Bottling which made us wonder if only a barrel was produced. Were we drinking the last remaining bottle? The label indicated 750mL with the glass showing volume in both metric and English units. Could it have been produced in the 1960s then bottled after 1974 when the metric system was adopted?  In a Tweet from Inglenook they said port was made at the estate but it was many years ago.  Dave could not find any records on how Wild Ginger had acquired the bottle.  The punt had little white dots and was engraved with WP-3 28 OK-1.  Julie found reference to Inglenook’s Cabinet wines in James T. Lapsley’s Bottled Poetry which provided our first clue.  Carl Bundschu begin working with Inglenook at Repeal.  In August 1933 Bundschu outlined a three-year plan to restore Inglenook so that it could one again compete with the best.  In 1934 Bundschu revealed the “I.V.Y.” brand of standard quality wines followed a year later by the “Cabinet” label “for special lots of reserve varietal wine.”  From 1933 to 1964 Inglenook produced highly regarded wines under John Daniel, Jr.

With the tough financial times of the 1960s John Daniel, Jr. sold the winery to Louis Petri, founder of Allied Grape Growers and United Vintners.  Production shifted to jug wines, the reputation plummeted, and in 1969 it was sold again to Heublein.  The reputation spiraled even lower.  In 1972 the Daniel family sold the original mansion and surrounding vineyards to Francis Ford Coppola who begin to produce wine under the Niebaum-Coppola label with the 1978 vintage.  The Inglenook name and trademark continued to be traded around until Coppola was able to purchase it in the spring of 2012.  This spring the Inglenook label will return with the release of the 2009 Cask Cabernet Sauvignon.

References to Inglenook “Cabinet” wines are rare and so are references to Inglenook “Port”.  Bonhams has auctioned off various bottles of Inglenook wines dating back to 1890.  In a recent auction from June 2011 two bottles of “Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon 1933” were auctioned off with the description “Showing remarkable condition for their age, these wines include the 1933 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, the first wine produced by Inglenook following Prohibition”.  The label of our bottle is remarkably similar to these bottles.  In fact these bottles have a diagonal neck label stating “Cabinet Vintage 1933.”  Our label is clearly an updated version of the original “Cabinet” label.  Our label noticeably differs in the inclusion of “Private Reserve, Limited Bottling”, the addition of “Cabinet”, and volume specified as “750mL” instead of “1 Pint 8 Fluid Ounces.”

Images from Bonhams, June, 2011 Auction.

Image from Bonhams, June, 2011 Auction.

In the 1980s Heublein briefly tried to restore the Inglenook name and indeed I recall a few bottles of 1985 Inglenook Cask Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which my uncle had purchased.  In The 11th Heublein Premiere National Auction of Rare Wines there are lots of “1970-1980 Cabernet, Charbono & Cabinet Port, Inglenook Winemaker’s Auction Selection”.  There are many references to 1979 Centennial wines with labels that state as such.  With the 1980 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon release Inglenook brought back the Inglenook Diamond but in a completely new graphic design.  My best guess?  This is a bottle from 1974-1978.  Perhaps more clues are to be found in Christie’s auction of Inglenoook wines from Coppola’s cellar back in September 2011.  Or in Tom Parker’s “Inglenook Vineyards” published in 1979.  I will update this post with any additional information.

It was a great evening. The food and wines were excellent. To be able to drink the renowned 2001 Charvin then follow on with an outstanding, unknown Inglenook port took us to another level of happiness. It is an evening that shall never be repeated at Wild Ginger. We drank the last bottle of Charvin and the only bottle of Inglenook.

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2001 Domaine Charvin, Chateuneuf du Pape
Imported by Weygandt/Metzler.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre and Vaccarese sourced from 50 year old vines.  Alcohol 14.5%.   A mature color. It took 15 minutes for it to first open up. A lovely mature nose of earth and spices. The mouth was similar, eventually fleshing out with a bit of fruit and good acidity. It slowly put on weight and depth. I must agree with Clark that when drunk with the pork potstickers the fat from the meat reacted with the wine to provide a rich, expansive, racy, and complex taste. I image this is drinking at its peak right now but should last for some time. Give it at least an hour of air. **** Now-2023.

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[No Vintage] Inglenook Vineyards, Private Reserve Limited Bottling, California Cabinet Port
Alcohol 20%. The rim was tawny with the middle opaque. The fruit was amazingly youthful. There were very good flavors of purple, red, and ruby fruit, spirits well-integrated, and wood notes. There were no hints of tobacco no caramel. It was in incredible condition and very lively from the acidity. The residual sugar was noticeable in the finish and somewhat tactile on the fingers. Berries returned in the aftertaste. An empty glass was aromatic with wet tobacco and leather. **** Now-2053.

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  1. Jeri
    May 27, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Today I was researching the Inglenook Cabinet Port and found your blog. I have 2 of these bottles. Have you found out any additional information since you tasted the port and wrote this article in 2013? Thank you.

  1. January 30, 2013 at 11:31 am

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