Mature wines from California and Bordeaux


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Lou and I gathered last night to taste through five different bottles of mature Bordeaux and California wine.  Three of the wines turned out to be of interest.  The 1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon falls into that category of mature, yet very stable, classic California profile.  It still has fruit, body, and some supporting structure.  It will not knock you over but it is a good drink from a great vintage.  The 1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley moves into the modern spectrum.  This is also from a strong vintage which is reflected in the dark color and youthful robustness.  If the Martini is mature, old-style Cali then the Beaulieu is clean, robust, and modern.  Well-stored bottles will drink well for many years.  The final bottle we opened turned out, as I hoped, to be the best.  The first indicator of the potential for our bottle of 1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol was the long, legibly branded, clean cork.  After tasting the wine I soon became fixated on the texture and the flavor.  This round and weighty wine is infused with fat yet balanced by lively acidity.  The mouthfeel is gorgeous.  If you move beyond texture there is ripe fruit to be relished too.  Lou likened this wine to old Burgundy which Robert Parker echoed years ago with a specific Chambolle-Musigny descriptor.  It is a beautiful wine of which I made sure none of my share was left over by the time I went to bed.

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1974 Louis Martini, California Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 12.2%.  Very top-shoulder, bottom neck fill.  There is a sweet cedar/old wood nose that still retains that vintage Cali signature.  The slightly round, red fruit has some body and modest grip.  The middle is almost minty fresh followed by a slightly short finish.  This gentle wine mixed old-style flavor with vintage perfume and modest aftertaste.  The nose fades a bit with air but remains surprisingly stable in the mouth.  *** Now but will last.

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1980 Beaulieu Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%. Bottom-neck fill.  This has a relatively deep garnet color.  In the mouth are clean fruit, spices, and weighty citrus.  The fruit becomes sweeter in the finish.  This is a youthful, robust wine with good acidity, and ripe structure.  A good, clean wine.  *** Now – 2021.

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1970 Chateau La Gay, Pomerol
Mid-shoulder fill.  This is a simpler wine with tangy red fruit, livey acidity, and citric tannins on the gum.  The finish is dry and mineral, leaving tannins on the gums.  Definitely mature but still sports an ethereal sweet red and citric fruit in the aftertaste.  Unfortunately, this is marred by a musky, dirty note.  The cork smells musky too.  Robert Parker writes that until 1982, the ancient barrels used to store the wine shared space with chickens and ducks.  Hmmm.  * Now.

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1978 Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien
Imported by Chateau & Estates Wine Company. Top-shoulder fill. It turns out the cork was floating in the wine.  Lou took one sip, spit it out then dumped the bottle.  Not Rated.

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1979 Chateau l’Evangile, Pomerol
Shipped by Beylot & Co.  Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits Inc.  Alcohol 12%.  Very top shoulder fill.  This is a round and weighty wine with subtle, dense hints of glycerin.  The sweet and coating flavors quickly show good mineral structure.  What is glycerin turns to be seductive fat which does not slow the wine down for there is lively acidity.  It is quite lifted in the end.  **** Now.

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  1. September 22, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Another fantastic post! This seems like a really cool tasting – wish I was there. One thing that was interesting is the relatively low alcohol in the older Napa Valley wines. Today, you see Cabs with alcohol around 13.9/14.5% on the low end and some in the 15.5% or even 16%.

    • September 22, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      I’m sure you would have enjoyed tasting the wines. Yes, I believe levels were lower across the board in general. However, there are late 1970s Phelps Zinfandels in the 14.8% range. Must have been a monster back then!

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