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Loose, solid, and crumbling corks from a trio of red wines from the 1970s


This holiday weekend I found myself in Lou’s tasting room.  The cellar itself might seem like the place to be with the crunch of the pea gravel and the smell of maturing bottles but the tasting room is the practical choice.  It has the leather chairs and side board.  Out of necessity the first bottle opened was the 1979 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle.  Unfortunately, when I grabbed the bottle earlier, my thumb broke through the top of the capsule revealing some space below.  The cork had shifted, which is never a good sign, and despite the combined efforts of my Durand and worm of the Screwpull it was of no surprise that the cork dropped down into the bottle.

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The 1979 Jaobulet Aine initially smelled of roast and dirtiness but the mouth brought a surprising burst of sweet, ripe fruit.  The nose eventually cleaned up but never hid its weak-cork origins.  The mouth oscillated in quality and at best was lively, bright, and sported good grip.  Proper bottles, no doubt, will please much but this still gave impressions of underlying quality. The 1979 Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley was sealed by a firm yet easy to extract cork.  The wine was still dark which was matched by a mouthful of flavorful dark fruit.  This was the best of the trio of wines, developing savory hints of thyme and cedar before leaving a pleasing amount of tannins and extract.  For a great explanation about the eucalyptus notes in this wine please read Richard Jennings’ post Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Retrospective: 1978-1987.  I had higher hopes for the 1985 William Hill Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley which is from a strong vintage.  The cork crumbled away, which is not a good thing for a relatively young wine.  This was a brighter wine with a short finish followed by astringent flavors and fine grained tannins.  Lou found it a bit hollow but still with personality.

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In the end it was a solid experience with some old wine.  The 1979 Jaboulet Aine was quite interesting to track its change but the 1979 Robert Mondavi gave plenty of satisfaction.  There was no need to open the backup bottles.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1979 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed roast earth and a bit of dirtiness.  While it cleaned up to show red fruit, the roast never fully disappeared.  In the mouth was a ripe burst of sweet fruit right at the start.  The wine had redder fruit all around that became redder and tart with air.  The acidity driven flavors were clean in the mouth, with good grip, and a fresh aftertaste.  The quality oscillated and at best there was a slightly earthy hint towards the finish, some animale with a lively, textured, and bright nature.  In the mouth *** but overall ** Now -2020.

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1979 Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  The wine conjured up darkness with eucalyptus like accents to the core of black and dark fruits.  For some time there was quite a mouthful of flavor when first drunk with obvious ripe fruit followed by a pleasing coating of tannins and extract on the gums.  The fruit turned tart with extended air but the wine took on savory flavors of thyme and a creamy edge.  *** Now – 2020.

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1985 William Hill Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  The acidity was prominent on the front of the tongue which matched the bright red fruit and menthol flavors.  The short finish brought an astringent flavors and fine-grained tannins.  Interesting enough but not the best drink.  * Now.

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