A Brace of Mature Californian Wine
This weekend I opened up two bottles of mature Californian wine for several friends and family. The 1970 Charles Krug Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage Selection, Napa Valley has a track record so outside of any unknown storage issues, I knew it would be a safe bet. On the other hand the 1975 Ernies Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley was a complete gamble.
Ernie Van Asperen operated a negocient business in California. He purchased wine from other wineries which he sold under his own label at his liquor stores. Accordingly to Charles L. Sullivan in A Companion to California Wine (1998) he looked for “excellent bargains both for price and quality.” Apparently he was successful for his 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon “developed an almost legendary reputation” in the 1980s. You might recognize the Van Asperen name for in 1977, Ernie and his wife went on to help found Round Hill Winery. My hope was that my bottle of 1975 Ernies would ride on the success of the 1974.
I started everyone off with the 1970 Charles Krug. This is a classic version of a Californian wine evocative of old Bordeaux. The aromas and flavors are all there in a pleasing manner. The wine never faded nor did it open up. Instead it is a gentle wine which will simply fade away over the years, muting itself, rather than developing off flavors. The 1975 Ernies Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley solicited the most comments and was the first bottle finished. I found it had just the right amount of sweaty pungency and is certainly more animale in flavor than the Krug. It also had good fruit, mixed with eucalyptus flavors, which is weighty. Everyone kept remarking how it improves with air. As I had never opened one before I did not decant it. While I should have, it was no matter for it was drained to the dregs. My lasting impression is of its youthfulness. The April-May 1980 issue of Underground Wine Letter reports that the 1974 Ernies Wine Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, “Special Selection” was reportedly a special bottling from the Souverain of Rutherford in Napa which was acquired when inventory was liquidated. Whether our wine came from Souverain remains unknown. Whatever it is, Ernie Van Asperen certainly labeled a wine of quality.
1970 Charles Krug Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage Selection, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%. There is a fine, classic, old-California nose closer to mature Bordeaux than funk. This is a gentle wine with tart and grippy red fruit, watery acidity, and moderate texture. It remained consistent in delivery with gentle, ethereal earthy flavors and an ethereal, sweet red fruited aftertaste. There is a nice binding of fruit and citric acidity. I would drink this up. *** Now.
1975 Ernies Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%. There were some funky, berry aromas at first before the nose became compellingly sweaty and pungent. Eucalyptus is the first thing on mind before bright and fruity, animale red fruit flavors come out. The wine continued to improve over the hour it was still around. The fruit becomes rounder and fleshes out, with good persistence of flavor in the aftertaste. It is quite lively with the pungency returning in the end. ***(*) Now – 2021.