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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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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 Californian quartet

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Between work, family, wine research, and the new turntable I am short on free time.  Thus over the past month I have generally drunk inexpensive French and Italian wine for I need not take down any notes.  I have peppered these same weeks with a handful of younger bottles from California.  One recent release is the 2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley.  This bottle showed very well after a few hours of air as well as on the second night.  It is a style of wine that has not swung too far in either direction, providing balanced white fruit flavors with both lovely mouthfeel and tautness.

I have never tasted the 2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County since release.  I was surprised by the amount of flavor packed in and the lack of evolution.  It is quite tasty but should be cellared further to open up.  I suppose, in retrospect, I can understand why Lou and I enjoy decades old bottles of Ridge.  The 2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is a solid wine full of black fruit and graphite.  It is supple and tasty, just not as exciting as I hoped at this stage.  Finally, there is the gigantic 1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley which caught me off guard.  Ripe, dark, and alcoholic it is simply not my type of wine.

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2013 Coquerel Family Wines, Le Terroir, Chardonnay, Oakville Block A, Napa Valley – $30
This was fermented in 25% oak barrels with the remaining in stainless steel after which is was aged 7 months sue lie.  Alcohol 14%. With a bit of warmth and air this is an attractive wine of white fruit with a pleasing body of glycerin and nut flavors.  The tautness of the wine builds as the acidity becomes more noticeable, simultaneously evolving a finely textured, ripe grip.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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2009 Ridge, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
This wine is a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, and 6% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is both surprisingly unevolved and packing a tremendous level of flavor.  It is a richly textured, dense wine of dark fruit that may not have any hard edges but does have structure for significant aging.  Given the level of stuffing I would wait another five years to try again.  **** Now – 2027.

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2005 Karl Lawrence, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%.  The nose remained subtle and the flavors of graphite-infused black fruit remained gentle.  This is a low-lying, almost laid back wine.  It remains very black in terms of flavor with inky hints and eventually develops some additional complexity from a wood box flavor.  There is some texture but it is generally supple with low-acidity.  Solid.  *** Now.

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1997 Williams Selyem, Pinot Noir, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Alcohol 14.9%.  This is a thick, dark flavored, very ripe wine of body and scope which seems to defy the varietal.  It was heady with noticeable heat in the finish that I found too distracting. Not my style.  Not Rated.

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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Three good wines from California

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

This past week saw Jenn and I drink three different wines from California.  Lou gave us the bottle of 2014 World’s End, Rebel Rebel, Chardonnay Reserve, Napa Valley.  This wine is produced by Jonathan Maltus of Chateau Teyssier and Le Dome background using fruit sourced from a Beckstoffer vineyard.  It is flavorful and generous in mouthfeel yet does not push the richness too far.  I found it drank great over two nights.  Andy, over at MacArthur Beverages, pointed out a pair of Californian wines with a wee bit of age.  I have already drunk two bottles of the NV Sean H. Thackery, Pleiades XVIII Old Vines.  This is a hard to describe wine that blends red fruit, orange, tea, and floral components.  The first bottle had a marked earthy component which I adored whereas the second bottle was more fruity and suggestive of its individual components.  I suspect it is a good time to drink these up.  Finally, the 1997 Judd’s Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley opens after a short double-decanting.  This is a tasty, dry and still somewhat structured wine with a flavorful balance of black fruit, wood box, and leather.  You may drink it now or over the next several years.  Fun stuff all around!

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2014 World’s End, Rebel Rebel, Chardonnay Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.5%. The nose sets you up for a Californian experience with rich white fruit and white nut aromas.  In the mouth is an almost focused start of founded, somewhat dense, ripe white fruit followed by a subtle toast note.  The generous mouthfeel is enlivened by some salivating acidity which goes all the way to the back of the throat.  Drinking generously right now.  ***(*) Now.

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NV Sean H. Thackery, Pleiades XVIII Old Vines
Bottled December 2010.  This is a blend of Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and more! Alcohol 14.8%.  The has an earthy hint at first.  The flavors are mouth filling and supported by acidity from the very start.  There is a sweet concentration of fruit with flavors of orange, wet tea, floral notes, and an underlying menthol freshness. ***(*) Now – 2020.

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1997 Judd’s Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose is deep fruited with a slight menthol note.  In the mouth are bright flavors of black fruit with watering acidity then a building volume of black fruit, stone, leather, and wood box.  There is a long aftertaste.  With air the black fruit continues to fill the mouth but the flavors become dry with a drying vein of structure developing throughout.  Happily the wood box note becomes amplified.  Tasty.  ***(*) Now – 2023.