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Posts Tagged ‘California’

Italian Barbera from 1964 to 2013

The gray weather parted allowing a small group of us to taste through a range of Barbera on my back deck. Unspoken etiquette ensured we had bottles of Champagne and white wine to occupy ourselves as the bottles of Barbera were opened and I fussed with the grill. Both starter bottles were excellent. Having now tasted NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs I can state that I want to drink it again. This is surprisingly complex Champagne with frothy bubbles and balance such that it should be drunk up right now. If you like mature Champagne go buy several bottles. The 2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes is comparatively younger in profile with its dense flavors of nuts and tropical fruit. It is a lot of wine.

We began the Barbera tasting with a trio of four old wines, one of which was bagged. My favorite is the 1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco. Some did not like it which meant I was left with the lion’s share of old-school sweaty aromas and sweet, concentrated, silky fruit. From the same vintage I also liked the 1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva which with one “b” is one of Italy’s smallest DOCs from Monferrato and not to be confused with the estate from the south of Florence. The brighter fruit and blood are gently delivered making for a different expression of Barbera. This brightness could be attributed to the wine containing up to 10% Freisa and Grignolino.  Our oldest bottle of 1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera is a survivor for I drank a glass of leftovers the next night with only slightly diminished pleasure. It is bright, tart, and bit acidic making it more of a curiosity. The brown-bagged 1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera is a wine that is simply too old.

Our next two bottles were flawed. It is a shame because the 1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba has the potential to be very good. There is not telling what the 1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba should be like.

In young territory the 2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti is young primary and attractively floral. In contrast the 2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti sports heft, brawn, and good flavor. It is one to age for many more years. Also promising is the elegant and impeccably balanced 2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba. The last bottle of 2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti proved to be the youngest and most modern wine. It is a good, articulated wine but not of my preferred style.  Based on these wines I would like to repeat the tasting but focus in on 1990s and older.

NV Demiere Ansiot, Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
Becky Wasserman selection imported by USA Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Alcohol 12%. The nose begins with a yeast hint then toast and apple orchard aromas which together make for a very satisfying nose. In the mouth are racy flavors of delicate berries, definitely fruity, and frothy bubbles. The fizz is not hard rather it is subtle. This is an excellent wine for drinking now, it is complex with baking spices and a clean finish.  **** Now.

2007 Red Newt, Gewurztraminer, Curry Creek Vineyard, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 14.7%. The color is bright and golden with a green hint. The flavors mix nuts with tropical fruit with a tilt towards sweet flavors. This fine, dense wine has a minerally middle.  Good stuff! **** Now – 2020.

1964 Poderi di Luigi Einaudi, Barbera
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose is musky at first morphing to old leather as it cleans up and with air adds in cinnamon. The wine itself is earthy with bright acidity and a clean flavor profile of tart cherry and cranberry red fruit. It is a little tired towards the finish but the tart fruit persists in the aftertaste. ** Now.

1974 Angelo Papagni, Barbera (brown bagged mystery wine)
Alcohol 12.5%. A garnet color but one sniff and taste tell that this wine is way past prime. Not Rated.

 

1967 Cattaneo Adorno Giustiniani, Castello di Gabiano Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. This wine is probably a blend of 90%-95% Barbera with the rest Freisa and Grignolino.  Alcohol 11%-14%. The nose smells of blood. In the mouth this is a bright, forward wine with nice bright acidity and up-front grip. It sports an old-school gentleness and softness. Notes of polished wood eventually come out. The blood returns in the aftertaste. *** Now but will last.

1967 Casa Vinicola Antonio Vallana, Barbera del Cantina di Bacco, Colline Novaresi
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose is old-school, sweaty and sweet. In the mouth the ripe fruit is sweet with concentration. This silky, smooth wine gains focus and length with air. There is fine texture and weight to the core of fruit which is surrounded by sweaty notes and wood. **** Now but will last.

1990 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Conca Tre Pile, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%. Sadly cooked on the nose. In the mouth though are gobs of mouth filling fruit with a fine, ripe texture from the tannins. There are tart red fruit flavors in the finish. Correct bottles should be quite good. Not Rated.

1999 Elio Grasso, Vigna Martina, Barbera D’Alba
Alcohol 14.5%. Bad bottle! Not Rated.

2005 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The nose is still young and clean with finely scented aromas of violets. Still youthful in the most this primary wine is fresh with watering acidity. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2006 Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, La Bogliona, Barbera D’Asti
Alcohol 14%. The color is darker with a purple tinge. The nose sports more heft to the aromas. In the mouth the flavors are brawnie and matched by additional tannins. There is dark red fruit, rounded feel, and a good personality. This will age for a long time. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2007 G. D. Vajra, Barbera D’Alba Superiore
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 14.5%. It is hard to get past the over-ripe, full-bore fruit. The wine becomes tangy with serious weight.  ** Now.

 

2008 Bartolo Mascarello, Barbera D’Alba
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. An elegant nose moves on to bright red fruit over a black fruit foundation. This wine is balanced with grippy personality, texture and some ink. The structure is finely integrated with the fruit. ***(*) Now – 2027.

2013 Coppo, Pomorosso, Barbera d’Asti
Imported by Folio Wine Partners. Alcohol 14.5%. This is an articulated, young, modern wine that is not without attraction. Not really my style but I can appreciate it.  *** Now – 2025.

Grenache Blanc from California

This past week we tried three bottles of California Grenache Blanc from three different regions.  The 2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley  is a good value.  You first notice salinity and stone dust which is soon followed by fruit and  a mouth-coating aftertaste.  This wine responds well to air and some warmth which will make you pleased with the wine and $20 price.

Two of the wines have an interesting connection in that the vineyard which sources the Three Clicks fruit is planted with cuttings that came from Tablas Creek.  The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles is locked down.  I kept an open bottle in my refrigerator for a week and the wine barely changed.  Right now it is evocative of lemons but it needs to shake off its firmness before it should be drunk.  On the other hand the 2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County is expressive.  I have enjoyed tasting the last several vintages of this wine at the annual MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting and the current released vintages is just as good.  You taste the white fruit and the stones but it is crispness that captures my attention.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab the Three Clicks.  Add in the Priest Ranch if you want to compare wines.

 

2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley – $20
Alcohol 14.8%.  This saline and stone dust infused wine has a dense start followed by ripe, white fruit flavors in the middle, and a pervasive, mouth-coating aftertaste.  It is well structured and balanced for further life.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – $30
Alcohol 14.4%. Tasted over several nights this wine remained largely unevolved.  The flavors of white fruit, lemon, and baking spices are supported by lemon-like acidity, fine texture, and some density.  It adds a lifted, floral note in the finish.  This will last! **(*) Now – 2032.

2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County – $28
Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a slightly weighty yet crisp start with good white fruit that overlays chalk.  The liveliness makes you return for another glass. *** Now – 2020.

A pair of 1977 wines from the historic Winery Lake Vineyard

I brought backup wines just in case my selections for our latest dinner with Sudip and Melanie were not drinkable.  Though my two old bottles had high fills, I had no idea what to expect of the 1977 Merlot and 1977 Pinot Noir from the Winery Lake Vineyard.

Founded around 1960 by Rene di Rosa, Winery Lake Vineyard is important in the history of Carneros.  The site dates back to the 1880s when it was known as the Talcoa Vineyard.  Like much of California, the vinous ties were broken as a result of Prohibition.  Replanting in Carneros only began in the late 1950s and Rene di Rosa’s efforts helped re-launch the region.  He planted primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with a few other varieties,  selling the fruit off to other wineries in Napa and Sonoma.  Some of these wines were highly regarded, causing new interest in the area.  Carneros Creek arrived in 1971, Buena Vista moved here in 1974, Ravenswood was soon to arrive in 1976, and Acacia was founded in 1979 just to name a few.

By the 1980s, such was the fame of Di Rosa’s fruit that Charles L. Sullivan writes they were the most expensive grapes in the state.  The two bottles I opened were made using Di Rosa’s fruit but the two wineries could not be more different.  Martin Ray needs no introduction. However, this vintage was not made by him as he had passed away the previous year.  Wine and the People was founded by Peter Brehm in an old warehouse in Berkeley in 1970.  This was a home winemaking and homebrew store.  He not only sold equipment but apparently scouted out fruit and even made wine at his warehouse.

The 1977 Martin Ray, Merlot, Winery Lake Vineyard has a lead capsule.  Our bottle had a perfect cork with very dark staining and weinstein only at the business end.  The 1977 Wine and the People, Pinot Noir, Winery Lake Vineyard cork was a touch softer, dark throughout, and smelled appropriately of old wood.  The Martin Ray is a bit stinky at first and while it does clean up, the nose remains the most mature aspect of the wine.  In the mouth it is flavorful, luxurious feeling, and full of life.  There is a certain sweetness to the flavors which I felt was initially distinct.  With air the parts come together and this 40 year old wine is nothing but fun to drink.  If tasted blind, I would guess The Wine and the People is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  There is darker fruit, balanced acidity, and a classic wood box aspect to the aromas and flavors.  It does not have the staying power of the Martin Ray but for an hour or two you will have trouble faulting this bottle of Pinot Noir.  I should add that both of these wines have fair amount of body.  Whether that is due to the vintage and/or the vineyard I do not know.

1977 Martin Ray, Merlot, Winery Lake Vineyard
Alcohol 13%.  The initial bottle stink eventually blows off revealing mature flavors, coffee, and some old notes.  Despite the mature nose the wine is flavorful and full of life in the mouth.  There are sweet, baking spiced fruit flavors, glycerin, and cinnamon towards the finish.  The sweetness of the fruit is a bit separate at first but with air this wine really shapes up to become balanced.  In the end this is a fuller bodied, berrylicious wine with a luscious mouthfeel.  **** Now – 2027.

1977 Wine and the People, Pinot Noir, Winery Lake Vineyard
Alcohol 12.5%.  Smoke and leather aromas develop into a good nose made more complex by wood and spice scents.  In the mouth is a rounded start of blue and black fruit.  The wine is weighty and a little soft in the middle but with air it becomes correct with the acidity supporting throughout.  It only last for one to two hours before turning sour. **(*) Now.

High-alcohol Verdelho, old Freisa, and older Napa Valley reds

The latest round of wines that Lou and I tasted presented a challenging start.  Perhaps only the Scholium Project would offer a high-alcohol Verdelho white wine and the 2010 Scholium Project, The Wisdom of Theuth, Lost Slough Vineyards certainly exists outside of my conventional experience.  I found an attractive blend of yeast, nuts, and lemon such that I am reminded a bit of a mature, flat Champagne.  Lovers of mature white wine will find it engaging on the first night.  Tasted blind, I would have guess the 1999 Pio Cesare, Freisa to be a late 1970s Italian Nebbiolo from a lesser region.  It threw a tremendous amount of sediment.  On the face of things, it is a decrepit wine for being from 1999.  However, if you like very old Italian wine then you’ll enjoy it after it breaths for several hours.  It becomes round and sweet with some delicate berries.

We soon moved on to a trio of Napa Valley red wines.  The 1983 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is from a very wet year which shows in a lack of quality fruit flavor and staying power.  In comparison, the 1977 vintage is still rocking.  The 1983 improves with air to be a modest wine which set us up for our next pair of wines from Burgess Cellars.

Burgess Cellars was founded in 1972 when Tom Burgess bought a 19th century winery that had been resurrected by Lee Stewart and known at the time as Souverain.  Burgess Cellars was one of only two dozen wineries in Napa and Sonoma at the time of founding.  The 1970s was a period when the house wine style was under development with the winemaker Bill Sorenson.  At the same time the vineyards were expanded and replanted.  In 1978 and 1979 the winery itself was significantly expanded.  Long-term contracts were secured to provide an increased volume of fruit.

Perhaps this transitory period explains why the 1979 Burgess Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley is way past prime.  It looks and smells old but there is still an attractive mouthfeel.  Souverain and Burgess Cellars did have a legacy when it came to Cabernet Sauvignon which could explain the quality of the 1979 Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  The bottle stink quickly blew off to reveal deep fruit on the nose which is confirmed on the palate.  This is a clean fruited wine with a bit of herbal greenhouse flavor wrapped in a seductive, textured mouth feel.  My one grip is that it could stand a bit more acidity.  Even Jenn enjoyed it and I enjoyed my last glass as I read my mystery book before bed.

 

2010 Scholium Project, The Wisdom of Theuth, Lost Slough Vineyards
This wine is 100% Verdelho that was fermented in both tank and barrel.  Alcohol 15.88%.  There is a bit of an apple orchard aroma but then it becomes primarily of yeast and white fruit.  In the mouth this is a weighty, nutty white fruited wine with a cutting vein of acidity in the finish.  There is an attractive yeast note, lemon peel, and tropical floral flavors delivered with a very fine, ripe grip.  **(*) Now.

1999 Pio Cesare, Freisa
Imported by T. Elenteny. 12%.  Between the brick color, nose, and initial flavors I would have guessed this wine to be decades older.  After several hours of air it improved markedly.  A bacon aroma moves on to very mature flavors in a wine that rounds out and becomes sweeter with air.  While the nose remains past prime the mouth shows delicate berries, a little spice, good acidity, and an almost chewy nature.  ** Now.

1983 Villa Mt. Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%.  This is a drier wine which improved with air.  It is fully mature with not the best fruit at this stage though there are attractive notes of wood box and a hint of tobacco. It sports powdery density and a fresh finish.  ** Drink Up.

1979 Burgess Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.1%.  The bottle stink quickly blows off to reveal deep blue aromas.  In the mouth is clean fruit which is ripe and weighty before transitioning to dry flavors underpinned by black fruit.  There is a seductive mouthful but truth be told this could use a bit more zip from acidity.  It is very enjoyable though with fine wood notes, some fresh greenhouse, and a textured finish.  *** Now but will last.

1979 Burgess Cellars, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.4%.  A light to medium-brown color spells doom which is confirmed on the nose.  Surprisingly round and weighty in the mouth with a sweet core.  Not Rated Past.

A Blind Tasting of 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux with bottles of Dunn and Chave too

A few weeks back I was lucky to be a guest when Sotiris hosted his tasting group. We tasted seven wines blind of which one was a ringer.  Now I could not peg that we were tasting 2000 and 1996 Bordeaux but the 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley did stick out for it is certainly different.  Though the flavor is good, the structure is rather intense at this point so I suggest cellaring it for years to come.

The 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien is a particularly fine wine which you may drink now and over the coming years.  From the nose to the flavor and mouth feel I could not help but to enjoy it. I thought the 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe showed well too.  The nose demonstrates how it is entering a mature phase but the power and acidity will see this through for some time.  As for the other bottles, the 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion is a wine to drink now whereas the 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien needs time to come into its own. Our bottle of 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves was sadly musty but the  2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage was spot on.  This group loves Rhone wines so what a treat to finish up with Chave.  This is a fine, impeccably balanced wine that is still very young in flavor but the saline and fat notes hint at future complexity.

1) 2000 Chateau Quinault, L’Enclos, St-Emilion
Imported by Wine Markets Intl.  Alcohol 13%.  A garnet hint in the glass.  There are hints of maturity on the nose, ripe fruit, minerals, and Kirsch.  The mature ripe start soon brings minerals but is not as expansive as I expected.  There is a prominent vein of acidity, some herbaceous flavors, floral middle then less apparent acidity and spices in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2022.

2) 2000 Chateau Magdelaine, St-Emilion
Imported by Maison Marques et Domaines. Alcohol 13%.  The nose is more subtle.  This is a redder wine with fuzzy cranberry and red berry flavors.  It has a core of sweet fruit in the middle then takes on more body, grip, and an herbaceous bit. *** Now – 2022.

3) 2000 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
Imported by Bordeaux Wine Locators. Alcohol 13%.  This is a dark violet garnet color with an elegant nose.  There is power in the mouth which builds until the very finely textured flavors fill the mouth.  It also coats the mouth with structure.  Despite the strength this is an elegant wine with red fruit, minerals, and quite the aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.

4) 2001 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%.  There is a eucalyptus start followed by a red fruit burst with acidity.  The flavor is interesting and different than the others.  This is a powerful wine with very, finely coating flavor.  With air flavors of blue fruit develop, warmth, and fresh grip.  The very fine structure is intense and there is a bit of a rough patch with heat right before the finish. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

5) 1996 Chateau Calon Segur, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is fine and mature with a eucalyptus component.  The wine is bright with focused flavors of red fruit that takes on a citric hint in the middle.  With good power, the vein of acidity will see this wine develop for some time.  A lovely wine. **** Now – 2027.

6) 1996 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien
Imported by Calvert-Woodley. Alcohol 13%.  There is a tough of cream to the nose.  The tangy and ripe, powdery blue fruit builds grip as it leaves flavor on the gums.  Powerful structure.  With air the wine develops attractiveness as the components balance out. ***(*) 2020 – 2030.

7) 1996 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  The musty nose makes with to a mature, mouth filling wine.  The flavor is lighter, the structure is there, as is mineral and cedar box but no denying this is flawed.  Too bad.  Not Rated.

2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
Imported by Langdon Shiverick.  This is a tense wine with a saline note that adds complexity to the red fruit.  The structure is perfectly integrated, the balanced impeccable.  With air a very fine perfumed finish makes way to an aftertaste of gently coating fat. **** 2022-2032.

Three Californian Wines from the 1970s

It took nearly one century for the wines of Mendocino County to become recognized for their quality. Grapes have grown in Mendocino County since at least 1880. The vineyards survived and perhaps even expanded during Prohibition as demand for home wine-making spread beyond San Francisco to the east coast. After Repeal grapes made their way to Napa and Sonoma Counties to be used in blends. It was not until the 1970s that the wines became recognized. This was first due to the efforts of Parducci and soon by those of the Fetzer family.

At our most recent dinner with Sudip and his wife Melanie, I brought up two bottles of Fetzer wine from the 1978 and 1979 vintages. We would first spend the afternoon tasting the wines in the living room where a fire burned for hours and a Mercury Living Presence reissue of Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 spun on the turntable. The 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from purchased fruit coming from Lake County. The 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from the Home Vineyard originally planted by the Fetzer family in 1958.

It was a year prior, in 1957, that the lumberman Bernie Fetzer and his wife, moved their family of 11 children from Oregon to the sawmill region in Mendocino County some 120 miles north of San Francisco. Here the family purchased an abandoned 720 acre ranch where they found an old 70 acre vineyard. The family worked the land and in planting vines chose to include Cabernet Sauvignon, the first in the county.

As demand for varietal grapes reduced in the mid 1960s, the Fetzers began to sell grapes to amateur winemakers throughout the country. In 1968 the winery was bonded. The timing was impeccable. It is from this legendary 1968 vintage that Fetzer’s first Zinfandel earned a reputation which lasted for many years.

Nearly the entire family worked for the business. They constantly reinvested in the latest winemaking equipment, developed their own sales force, and sought expansion by purchasing fruit instead of land to develop vineyards on. They earned a reputation for producing pleasing, yet inexpensive premium wine. Even Robert Parker found the entire range “above average to very good” and priced below the “absurd” levels of other wineries. Eight years of nearly 20 percent annual growth in sales allowed them to avoid the cycles of the American wine boom which saw preferences oscillate between American and French wines. Fetzer went from being considered a small  winery to the 25th largest Californian winery in 1983. Volume rose from 2,500 cases in 1968 to half a million cases in 1983.

Fetzer built their reputation on red wines including Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon in part through winning medals at the Los Angeles County Fair. Bernie Fetzer planted Cabernet Sauvignon on the Home Vineyard against the recommendation of UC Davis. He did so because he valued soil and sun exposure before science.

Both bottles had fills where the neck meets the shoulder. The short corks were sound. The 1978 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County is mature and herbaceous. Despite rallying after half an hour by taking on some firmness it largely did not hold interest. The 1979 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Vineyard proved different. There is both more fruit and body with integrated acidity that gave it a bit of zip in the end.

Several LPs and burning logs later we sat down to dinner. I brought out a third bottle of wine this time from the southern half of California. Like Mendocino, San Luis Obispo County has been home to the grape vine since the 1880s. It is the York Mountain Winery that was responsible for the wines of the region until the early 1970s. Zinfandel was their specialty but new money and the wine boom meant several enormous new vineyards were being planted by 1973.

These new vineyards were planted with Zinfandel but the focus appears to be on Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. Estrella River Vineyards was one of these new ventures.  It was founded in 1973 by Gary Eberle who went on to found Eberle Winery in 1979, co-found the Paso Robles Appellation, and recently return to Estrella.

Little is written about the early years of this winery but they were one of the new wineries to catch attention at the 1978 Los Angeles County Fair. Their 1977 Chardonnay won a gold medal. When one journalist visited the winery during the winter of 1979 he found the winery but no tasting room. It had not yet been built so with no wine for sale he had to purchase his bottles in town. The Estrella River Vineyard name soon made the pages of the New York Times when Frank J. Prial listed it as one of many award-winning wineries few people had heard of.

It is one of these passing references which caused me to originally pick up the 1978 Estrella River Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon. In perfect condition and again with a solid, short cork the wine first greeted me with an annoying amount of bottle stink. I moved on to find a surprising amount and quality of ripe fruit with fresh acidity. After half an hour the stink was still around, perhaps muted but unwilling to fully clean up. It is a shame as it is quite lively, sporting robust fruit in the mouth. It was ultimately Sudip’s favorite wine. I preferred the 1979 Fetzer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Vineyard for it is clean, balanced all around, elegant, and easy to drink.

1978 Fetzer Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County
The herbaceous flavors mix with vintage perfume in this finely textured wine.  It is acidity driven, crsip and bright.  Though surviving the flavors are ultimately uninteresting before it falls apart.  Past.

1979 Fetzer Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Vineyard, Mendocino County
This wine was aged for 13 months in American oak barrels. Alcohol 12.3%.  There is good fruit and body with better integration of acidity.  It remains lively in the middle as polished wood notes come through in the finish.  It even has a little zip in the end.   It is more in the vein of elegant, clean fruit with good overall balance.  It did not fade over two hours.  *** Now.

1978 Estrella River Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 13.5%.  The bottle stink is strong at first but does lessen with air.  Some of that stink follows through in the mouth but there is also a surprising amount of mature, ripe fruit with quite the youthful grip.  The acidity keeps it lively throughout when it finishes with coffee and sweet cocoa flavors.  ** Now – 2020.


1) WINE: STATUS QUO 20 YEARS LATER, THE FETZER FAMILY Balzer, Robert Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 30, 1988;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. N38

2) Santa Barbara? It’s Part of Wine Country Now: Even Actors Get Into Grape Binge on Central Coast Cannon, Carl Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Jul 10, 1977; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. E1

3) SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY: STATE HAS NEW GRAPE-GROWING REGION GRAPES CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Oct 18, 1973; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. F18

4) VINTAGE YEARS TO COME: THE PURPLING OF MENDOCINO CHROMAN, NATHAN Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Nov 8, 1973;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. F18

5) Coast Winery Bucks Trends: A Rapid Ascent For Fetzer Winery By THOMAS C. HAYESSpecial to The New York Times New York Times (1923-Current file); Dec 23, 1983; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. D1

6) The Fetzer Line By Robert M. Parker Jr. The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Sep 20, 1981; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. L1

7) Wine Talk: Little-known California wineries winners of many top awards. Prial, Frank J New York Times (1923-Current file); Aug 22, 1979; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times pg. C14

8) Bernie Fetzer: ‘Nonconformist’ With an Award- Winning Vineyard: Wine Notes By William Rice The Washington Post (1974-Current file); Sep 30, 1976; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post pg. E19

9) A Watch on the Wine Smith, Jack Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Feb 13, 1979; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times pg. E1

Hanging on: 1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment

The history of Mount Eden Vineyards reaches back to the final years of World War II when Martin Ray purchased several hundred acres of mountaintop land for a vineyard.  Here he planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  Martin Ray eventually took on investors creating the Mount Eden Vineyard Corporation in 1960.  The next two decades were a turbulent time until operations steadied  in 1983 when Jeffrey Patterson became head winemaker.  According to the winery website the 1980s was a period of replanting in the vineyard and experimenting in the winery.

From this early modern period hails my bottle of 1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Despite the bin soiled label the fill was in the neck and cork perfectly firm.  As usual when I encounter a new mature wine, I do not decant it.  The nose cleans up to reveal aromas of sweet wood and berries.  At first the wine is billowy, loose and marked by some bell pepper in the mouth, making me think it remained in bottle too long.  With air, blue fruit develops and the whole becomes framed by structure which balances everything out.  Despite this improvement the finish remains quite short.  If you have any bottles lying about I suggest you drink them up.

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1985 Mount Eden Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 13%.  After breathing there is a pleasing nose of some sweet wood and berries.  In the mouth is a billowy start accented by a touch of bell pepper.  The billowy red fruited flavors remain but wine does gain better focus with underlying blue fruit flavors and more noticeable acidity and structure towards the finish.  It definitely balances out but the finish ultimately remains short.  ** Now.

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