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For drinking now, the 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage

February 19, 2017 Leave a comment

The 1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage is at a state where it drinks perfectly.  There are mature wine flavors, spices, and wood box delivered with a seductive round mouth feel.  The structure is fully resolved with enough acidity to leave a fresh impression.  In short, there is no reason to hold onto this Late Bottled Vintage any longer.  You may pull the cork and start drinking to satisfaction but if you give it a bit of air, it will improve a notch.

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1974 Warre’s, Late Bottled Vintage Port
Imported by Robert Hass Selections.  Alcohol 20%.  There is an ample volume of round, berry fruit with quite a lot of body present from the very beginning.  It is in a fully integrated state with vintage wine flavor, christmas spices, wood box, and some ripe brown sugar flavor.  Perhaps there is a softness to the round quality but the wine is still very fresh.  With air the sweet cream and Christmas spice is carried with a glycerin mouthfeel.  The rounded structure is fully resolved.  **** Now but will last.

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Tasted blind: 1991 Ridge Monte Bello, 1986 Phelps Backus, and 1984 Duckhorn

February 9, 2017 1 comment

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Last night Lou and I gathered to blindly taste through several bottles of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  For fun, we each unknowingly threw in an Australian blend of Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perhaps this is unfair given the stature of our main selections but it was for fun.  As we settled down to cheese, charcuterie, and cork removal we checked out a bottle of 2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray.  I do not have enough experience with Huet so I found the lifted, aromatically textured nose a delight.  It starts off in the fruit spectrum eventually to take on a honey character.  In the mouth this is a fresh, grippy wine with a nice balance of fruit supported by hints of yeast and oxidation.  Fine stuff!  I look forward to finishing my leftover glass tonight.

It was then on to the bagged red wines.  Guessing is fun when you are not pressured.  Wine #1 is firm at first though you can detect some maturity and herbaceousness.  It is the most structured wine out of all tasted and I, admittedly clueless, narrowed in to the 1979-1981 vintages.  For those who enjoy structured, rather than opulent wines the 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley will develop for years to come.  It eventually reveals a bit more of its bottle aged maturity.

Wine #2 showed signs of old seepage under the capsule but the fill was where the neck met the shoulder.  You could get a sense of this on the nose which leaned towards meat rather than fruit but in the mouth the flavor and delivery of the fruit flavor is gorgeous!  What luxury it is to drink glass after glass of 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains.  This is a sophisticated wine of ideal balance with youthful, complex fruit flavors that seek out every part of your mouth with wave after wave of flavor.  Also excellent is wine #4.  After some bottle stink blew off, this is highly aromatic of eucalyptus.  In the mouth an impressive amount of energy unfurls dark fruit, ripe structure, and wood box.  The 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley is perhaps more mature in flavor than the Ridge but the Phelps needs more time to open up.  It is fascinating pair to drink together.  No one spat these two wines!

Just a few final thoughts with regards to wines #3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia, avoid, and #5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia.  Wakefield River Estates was founded in 1972 by Dr. Douglas Hewitson who planted just over 2,100 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the wheatbelt area of Balaklava.  The wines were made by the highly regarded James Irvine who still produces wine today.  James Irvine got his start at a young age having developed the Siegersdorf brand in 1959 as winemaker at Hardy’s.  As the Wakefield winery had no buildings the wine was made at Saltram, an historic Barossa Valley winery founded in 1859.  Wakefield River Estates was short-lived and curious enough, the label on the bottle tells the history including the demise indicating this bottle was imported in the mid 1980s.  It was in 1982 that all of the fruit was eaten by starlings and in 1983, due to severe drought conditions, there was a sparse crop.  The fruit was sold off and the winery ceased.  As for the vintage Decanter states the wines are of “richness and longevity” with the wines around Adelaide being “robust”.  So perhaps it was a bit unfair to include this wine with the Ridge and Phelps but the potential is there.

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2002 Huet, Le Haut-Lieu, Sec, Vouvray
Imported by Robert Chadderdon.  Alcohol 12%. It is the color of a light apple cider.  On the nose are finely textured, lifted aromas of dried apricots and apple cider.  With air the nose reveals honey aromas.  In the mouth this is a mildly weight wine with a vein of acidity and hint of yeast towards the finish.  It wraps up with a fresh and grippy finish.  Additional complexity is gained from a hint of oxidation. ***(*) Now – 2027.

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#1 – 1984 Duckhorn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is less dark than #2 but of similar color.  The nose offers hints of maturity with the slightest hint of herbaceousness.  A lively start brings a little tang and firmness of flavor.  There is still structure in the end which contributes to the lasting sensation.  With air the wine begins to open up maturity becoming more evident.  It also develops a mineral note and a dusty, wood box flavor. ***(*) Now – 2022.

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#2 – 1991 Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.3%.  This garnet wine is still fairly opaque in the middle.  The nose is a bit meaty.  In the mouth this wine packs in the flavor with a plum hint at first, mineral middle, then a younger, fresh eucalyptus finish.  There is sophistication to the purple and black fruits There is still a very fine tannic structure and acidity throughout. Impeccably balanced and impressive. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#3 – 2004 Penfolds, Koonunga Hill, Shiraz-Cabernet, South Eastern Australia
Imported by FWE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The subtle nose is followed by candied and pruned flavors in the mouth.  The acidity stands separate from the core of simple fruit flavors.  Tastes like a cheap domestic port.  Poor.

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#4 – 1986 Joseph Phelps Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.3%.  Some bottle stink at first but that blows off to reveal a highly aromatic, eucalyptus nose.  In the mouth is dark flavor, more structure, and a touch of ruggedness in the finish.  But over the course of several hours this wine unfurls itself.  It adds both wood box and blood.  The energy is impressive as framed, ripe, inky fruit coats the mouth. ****(*) Now – 2027.

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#5 – 1978 Wakefield River Estates, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia
Imported by San Francisco Traders LTD.  This wine is a blend of mostly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak puncheons.  Alcohol 12%.  A mature garnet color.  There is a ripe fruit start but the wine quickly turns soft only to end at the short finish.  Simply too old at this point.  Fair.

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A balanced bottle of 1983 Gould Campbell

February 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Just a quick post for today.  The 1983 Gould Campbell, Vintage Port is in fine shape.  It has shed any aggressiveness of youth and is now in that middle age of smoothness.  The primary blue fruit is surrounded by bottle aged flavor which last through the respectably long finish.   The sweetness is in balance making this an easy Vintage Port to drink.

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1983 Gould Campbell, Vintage Port
Imported by Premium Port Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  This is an attractive wine which tastes best after several hours of air.  It has dense flavors of blue fruit, ripe spices, fine wood, and moderate sweetness.  It is smooth and balanced throughout with a sense of elegance.  ***(*) Now – 2037.

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Californian Pinot Noir and Barbera from 1977

January 30, 2017 Leave a comment

In the late 1970s, during the height of the American wine boom, Sebastiani was the volume leader in the wine production for Sonoma. Sebastiani was founded in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani but it was his son August Sebastiani who saw the winery through Prohibition and the rise of the California wine industry.  Much of the production was jug wine but premium wine was produced as well.  The general emphasis on varietals meant that the Barbera and Zinfandel offerings were regarded with popularity which is precisely why I opened the 1977 Sebastiani, Barbera, Proprietor’s Reserve, Northern California.  This was among the last vintages produced by August Sebastiani who passed away in 1980.  August Sebastiani did not fully adopt stainless steel nor French oak rather it was his two sons who began the transition to modernity in the 1970s.  You can imagine August Sebastiani’s hand in making this wine for there is nothing modern tasting about this bottle of Barbera.  It smells and tastes of sweaty leather, though is sweeter in the mouth.  It reminds me of the 1960s Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignons.  It is quite forward until it fades so drink rapidly once you pop the cork.

Buena Vista Winery is another historic winery in Sonoma but it predates Sebastiani by some 50 years.  When General Charles de Gaulle visited America in 1960 he was served both French and American wines with his meals. For his meal of roast fillet of beef with truffle sauce he was served Buena Vista, Pinot Noir.  This is quite amazing given that in the 1960s and 1970s Pinot Noir was considered “difficult and temperamental” to grow in California. Nathan Chroman, writing for the Los Angeles Times, concluded that in California this varietal  produced less “Pinot characteristics”.  Pinot Noir ripens early and given the widespread warmth and sun of California very few areas were regarded as suitably cool enough for proper ripening.  After tasting through several dozen Californian Pinot Noirs, he concluded that while the 1968 Buena Vista was a “very good glass of wine” it had less of the Pinot Noir characteristic he looked for.

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I pop and pour most old wine which I have not drunk before.  In retrospect I should have decanted the 1977 Buena Vista Winery, Haraszthy Cellars, Pinot Noir, Cask 22, Sonoma.  This is a robust wine that with air shows more blue fruit and substantial structure evocative of the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon.  This may not be surprising for John Winthrop Haeger writes in North American Pinot Noir (2004) that between 1969 and 1971 Buena Vista planted 84 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon near Pinot Noir.  I followed the wine over several hours and in the process, kicked up a fair amount of sediment which contributed to a loss of focus.  I have the suspicion that my mishandling did not allow this wine to show its best.  I will be sure to write about the next decanted bottle.

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1977 Sebastiani, Barbera, Proprietor’s Reserve, Northern California
Alcohol 12.6%.   There is an aromatic nose of sweaty leather.  In the mouth is a big wine of sweet flavors, leather, and supportive oak.  It is evocative of other Sebastiani wines from the 1960s and 1970s except that it faded within one hour.  ** Now.

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1977 Buena Vista Winery, Haraszthy Cellars, Pinot Noir, Cask 22, Sonoma
Alcohol 12.5%.  The color is a medium, cranberry garnet.  The nose is sweet and sweaty, evocative of sweet, old wood.  In the mouth is a soft start before menthol fresh flavors supported by a fine vein of acidity. The old-school flavor becomes bluer with air, taking on body with a good, ethereal finish.  It is a fairly substantial wine which still has supportive, dry structure that coats the gums.  It tastes like a blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  **(*) Now – 2022.

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A mix of vintages 82, 78, 69, and 62

January 28, 2017 Leave a comment

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Over this winter I tried a few odd bottles of old Bordeaux, this post reflecting the lesser of them. The 1982 Chateau d’Issan, Margaux bore good fill and color but the corrosion on the capsule indicated a problem. Old seepage was confirmed by cutting the capsule but the wine itself was good shape, though fresh with sweet fruit, it is a wine that should be drunk up.  I did not expect much of the 1978 Chateau Labegorce-Zede, Margaux.  I opened it because it is a wine I drunk with my mom in the mid 1990s.  We bought a bottle along with cheese, charcuterie, and bread to eat at a picnic in sight of the Clifton Suspension Bridge off of Sion Hill in Bristol.

Of great surprise are several bottles from the miserable Bordeaux vintage of 1969.  Michael Broadbent does not even award the vintage any stars.  Still, these bottles proved that well-stored bottles from the worst vintages can still be drunk with pleasure.  The 1969 Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux certainly has vegetable aromas on the nose but in the mouth are perfectly preserved flavors, most likely by the lively acidity, of cranberry red fruit.  There is even grip and a suggestion of weight.  I do not suggest you seek this wine out but the good storage conditions came through.  From the same vintage and cellar came three bottles of 1969 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien.  These showed some bottle variation.  Two were deep fruited on the nose with one brighter and more pungent.  There is less obvious acidity and more leather, wood, and bacon type of flavors.  Fun stuff!  Finally, the lowest fill of a group of 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac proved satisfying.  It did not have the depth of the bottle drunk with Darryl and Lou but was complete and enjoyable.  To have drunk two bottles of Lafite in one month.  Incredible! 😉

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1982 Chateau d’Issan, Margaux
Imported by Ginday Imports LTD. Alcohol 11%-13.5%.  A lively wine that combines freshness and some attractive sweet flavors.  The tannins are fully resolved and when combined with the hints of roast earth, suggests it should be drunk up.  *** Now.

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1978 Chateau Labegorce-Zede, Margaux
Fully mature, if not just past but it still manages to offer a mixture of blue and red fruit, wood box, and fully resolved tannins.  Pleasant enough for a few glasses.  *(*) Now.

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1969 Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
Shipped Mestrezat-Preller. Imported by John Gilbert Jr. Co. Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Across two bottles are clean red fruit flavors along with a distinct vegetal, as in celery, aromas as if from unripe fruit.  One bottle had some old funk which blew off.  In the mouth are surprisingly well preserved, clean and lively flavors of red fruit.  There is even some weight and fresh grip in the mouth.  Clearly well stored, this is surprisingly solid with good acidity and a fine, polished wood note.  ** Now.

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1969 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Saint-Julien
Shipped Mestrezat-Preller. Imported by John Gilbert Jr. Co. Alcohol 11% – 14%.  Of three bottles tasted, at best a nose of deep, earthy fruit then fresher aromas with cedar.  Leather notes develop becoming more prominent than the earth.  In the mouth this is a lively wine of bright red then blacker fruit.  The flavors shorten quickly but a bacon infused finish carries a wee bit of fruit.  The structure is still drying and present.** Now.

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1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Mestrezat-Prellar. Imported by Whitehall Company Ltd. Alcohol 11% – 14%. Mid-shoulder fill.  A fine nose of meat, graphite, and flowers.  In the mouth is a bright undeniably savory wine with a fresh, almost eucalyptus start.  The low fill has obviously taken a toll but this remains a savory, fine albeit smaller version of what this wine can achieve.  *** Now.

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A dinner with John Junguenet and Mannie Berk

January 10, 2017 Leave a comment

It was time for dinner following an afternoon spent on Madeira research with Mannie Berk, founder of The Rare Wine Co.  We made our way to the Common Lot in Millburn, New Jersey where we met up with John Junguenet.  If the Junguenet name sounds familiar that is because John is the son of Alain Junguenet who founded Wines of France in the 1980s.

Mannie first met Alain Junguenet in those early years when Alain started off by importing Beaujolais.  They traveled through France together and remain friends today.  With John’s rise in the family business, new friendships are made, thus I found myself drinking several incredible bottles with two men whose lives are steeped in wine.

A very quick check reveals I have never drunk Coche-Dury with more than a decade of age.  To move back nearly three decades is downright exciting!  Our bottle of 1988 Coche-Dury, Meursault Les Rougeots was in very fine shape.  Both the aromas and flavors bring forth green apples and stones with a particular tangy grip.  The acidity is bright but provides tension matched by the texture of the wine.  There is, perhaps, a sense of maturity on the nose but this wine should drink great for at least a decade.

The name Henri Jayer should need no introduction.  He made some of the most sought after Burgundy which also became the most expensive Burgundy in the market.  However, there is also coveted Burgundy from the other Jayer brothers, Georges and Lucien.  A bottle of 1989 Lucien Jayer, Echezeaux Grand Cru was our first red wine.  The three brothers each owned distinct parcels in Echezeaux with Lucien’s being Les Treux.  Vineyard work and winemaking were a bit of a family affair such that Lucien tended the vines and Henri made this particular wine. [I do see that John Gilman writes that Lucien made the wine.]  Regardless of winemaking, this is a young, pure, initially elegant wine.  It ever so slowly responds to air, building both aroma and depth to the tense red fruit.

We then moved back to the 1960s.  One sniff of the 1964 CVNE, Vina Real, Rioja Reserva Especial transports you to another era.  A quick inspection inspired Mannie to decant this bottle.  This is beautiful, traditional Rioja with no sense of fragility to the lifted, sweet flavors which fill the mouth and cling through the aftertaste.  I really enjoyed this bottle.

Something happened to the 1969 J. Pedroncelli Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Stock, Sonoma County at some point in its life.  Soft and limp, it was set aside.  The 1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley did not disappoint.  It opened up with air, becoming the sort of intensely pleasurable wine you want to drink all by yourself.  But then you would feel guilty for not sharing the experience with your closest friends.

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1988 Coche-Dury, Meursault Les Rougeots
Shipped by Radman & Co. Imported by Grand Cru Inc. Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a fine nose of stones, gunsmoke, and apples.  The aromas become even deeper with air.  In the mouth are finely textured flavors of green apple.  This wine has a tangy grip, plenty of stone like flavors, and bright acidity. There is great tension and attractive texture on the mouth.  Drinking brilliantly but will easily live on.  ****(*) Now – 2027.

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1989 Lucien Jayer, Echezeaux Grand Cru
An Alain Junguenet Selection imported by Wines of France.  The young nose is pure, full of beautiful aromas of red fruit and perfume.  In the mouth the red fruit oscillates between tang and tart, building flavor and citric grip with air.  There is a hint of smoke.  This bottle is in fantastic condition as this tense wine slowly builds, adding both flavor and persistence.  The structure and acidity are there, capable of supporting years of future development.  ****(*) Now – 2032.

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1964 CVNE, Vina Real, Rioja Reserva Especial
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Ahhh, that familiar old Rioja nose.  This is a grippy, mouth filling wine with sweet, lifted flavors that cling to the mouth.  It tastes of another era with its vintage perfume notes and ability to brighten up and build flavor with air.  The aftertaste is very persistent.  Drinks great now but will last.  ****(*) Now – 2023.

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1969 J. Pedroncelli Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon Private Stock, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12%.  It smells off on the nose and while better tasting in the mouth, it is limp.  Not Rated.

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1978 Diamond Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic Hill, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  The dark aromas make way to minty, dark fruit which fills the mouth with both menthol and animale flavors.  The wine improves markedly with air, revealing it as thicker, racy, and oily.  It has an almost grainy texture to the black fruit.  An excellent bottle with years of life ahead.  ****(*) Now – 2027.

A mystery bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port

There was a time when much of the Vintage Port sold at MacArthur Beverages was English bottled.  These wines were purchased by the case upon which the vintage and house were labeled.  But as Mark Wessels and Andy Creemer recently related, the bottles inside were unmarked.  Despite efforts to organize or tag the bottles, some bottles strayed losing any outwardly visible identification.  I purchased what must be the last two of these stray bottles.

Vintage Port corks are largely branded.  I cut the bottom of the lead capsule on the youngest of the two bottles.  Despite scrubbing the neck of the bottle and using various flashlights, I could not make out any brand on the cork.  The mystery was revealed when I extracted the cork using my Durand.  This English bottle of 1970 Warre Vintage Port was in fine condition.  It offered elegant flavors of fruit, wood, spice, and even a bit of grip on the tongue.  There is no sense of power, rather that of a wine which has crested peak drinking and should be drunk up.  Which is what we did, making me all the more happy to solve my mystery.

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1970 Warre, Vintage Port
The good, clear color reflected in the clean, elegant flavors of this wine.  It begins with fruity flavors, fig and hints of wood with a touch of warm spice in the finish.  The wine grips the tongue leaving an impression of white nuts in the aftertaste.  *** Now.

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