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Holiday Time Wine: 1977 Dessert Wines from California


I have become swamped with work and despite a lack of posting, I have still managed to drink some interesting wines this fall.  The 1977 Monterey Peninsula Winery, Late Harvest Zinfandel, Amador County is a fine find.  Founded in 1974, Monterey Peninsula Winery soon developed award winning Zinfandel from a county which became synonymous for the variety.  Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Nathan Chroman found the group of Zinfandels submitted at the 1976 Los Angeles Fair the finest in its history.  This included the 1974 vintage of the wine we tried.  Chroman found this “high-alcohol” or “late-harvest” style of wine a great success due to their balance with the alcohol.  Indeed, that is a quality which persists with the 1977 vintage to this day.

A lack of balance with alcohol is the affliction of the 1977 JW Morris Port Works, California Vintage Port.  Founded in 1975, JW  Morris Port Works soon ran into problems with capital and was sold off to the Toth family in 1983.  Morris bought Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel from 70 year old vines in Black Mountain as the basis for his ports.  In 1986, the Toth’s still had a stock of the 1977 Port which had been aged in wood for 6 1/2 years.  They planned on releasing it as the first of the Late Bottled Ports.  The goal was to produce a smoother drinking port without “the ‘hot’ alcoholic qualities” of the younger ports.  Perhaps the wine we tried had issues from the very beginning.

1977 Monterey Peninsula Winery, Late Harvest Zinfandel, Amador County
Alcohol 17.8%.  The nose is a dead-ringer for a classic, less-sweet tawny port.  Ample, fruity flavors with baking spices, and still with fine rugged texture.  A certain robustness yet balanced all around, fine wood flavors…simply a treat.  ***(*)  Now but will last.

1977 JW Morris Port Works, California Vintage Port – half-bottle
Alcohol 20%.  A lovely nose, quite fruity and deep, revealing plentiful leather aromas with air.  In the mouth a fruity start, still youthful and well preserved but out of balance with the spirit.  Becomes hot by the end which I find distracting and a shame given the nose. *(*) Now but will last a long time.

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  1. December 30, 2019 at 9:03 am

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