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
A few weeks ago I joined Lou for a game meat (moose, rabbit, etc) dinner party at his house. I took few pictures and even fewer notes but I did stop when I tasted the 2008 Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal Steinmassel Riesling. Lou purchased this bottle a few years back when he was in Vienna. Lucky me that he opened it. Bründlmayer produces this wine from a 4 hectare parcel in Steinmassel. This area was originally a quarry and that stone nature clearly comes through in the wine. This is really good stuff!
2008 Weingut Bründlmayer, Kamptal Steinmassel Riesling
This wine is 100% Riesling that was fermented in both stainless steel and large oak casks. Alcohol 12%. The nose is aromatic with fresh floral notes and a petrol hint. In the mouth this vibrant wine begins with white fruit that morphs into petrol followed by a decidedly stoney finish. There is richness to the wine but the flavors are dry with a citric, grippy finish. This is on the upslope of maturity and will only get better. **** Now – 2026.
There were other wines too. A 2002 Robert Hunter, Brut Blanc de Noir, Sonoma Valley really hit the spot. It is mature with the right amount of bubbles and brioche. Others liked it as well for the bottle was rapidly drained. The 2010 Palazzone, Orvieto Classico Superiore Campo del Guardiano is far more mature than the Bründlmayer. The acidity is more piercing with flavors of orchard fruit, dried herbs, and lychees. A solid wine in comparison. We finally had a solid bottle of 1970 La Mission Haut Brion, Graves. It was completely drinkable, not too far over the hill, but not worth writing any more about.
I really liked the 2009 Pascal Aufranc, Vieilles Vignes de 1939, Chenas. It was four years ago that I last drank this and I now believe it is fully mature. There is less strawberry and Kirsch flavor now. It leans towards an autumnal spectrum with the tannins fully integrated. We soon swung towards the modern spectrum with the 2011 Clos St Jean, Chateauneuf du Pape (16% ABV!) and 2008 Cayuse, God Only Knows, Walla Walla Valley. Both wines were double-decanted for several hours. The Clos St Jean showed rather well with plenty of grip and some complexity. But it was the Cayuse which wowed me. My best description is as if Chateau des Tours made wine in Walla Walla. Ethereal yet backed by substance, complex with no assertive structure. Great stuff. There was a bottle of 2013 El Nido, Clio, Jumilla which I did not like at all. Too modern, clean, and massive. We wrapped the evening up with a bottle of 1986 Fetzer, Port, Mendocino County. This actually bore a resemblance to a traditional Port. It was a bit simple, short, and spirituous but the flavor profile was right.
The wines features in today’s post feature a wide variety of styles. My favorites include the 2012 Klinker Brick, Old Vine Zinfandel, Marisa Vineyard, Lodi with its attractive cherry and Manhattan cocktail flavors, for lack of a better description. It simply tastes different. The wine is still young so hold off on opening a bottle for a bit. The 2012 Lioco, Indica Red Wine, Mendocino County returns with very clean red berry flavors and low alcohol. The 2012 Mount Veeder Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley is well done at a fair price. It offers a good combination of greenhouse infused black fruit, ripeness, minerals, and structure. I rather enjoyed it. Finally, the 2011 SAMsARA, Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez offers a different take on Grenache, that being a uniquely aromatic nose followed by more tart fruit. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Donkey & Goat, Five Thirteen, El Dorado – $34
This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 14% Cinsault, and 10% Counoise that was fermented with indigenous yeast in neutral oak vats. Alcohol 14.2%. With only a hint of natural wine aromas, the nose bore higher-toned, citric red fruit aromas. The mouth followed with red grapefruit flavors at the start. There was a ripe, citric pith structure and tart flavors in the back of the mouth. There were ripe, ethereal flavors that puffed up in the finish. This is a wine for the short-term. ** Now-2017.
2012 Klinker Brick, Old Vine Zinfandel, Marisa Vineyard, Lodi – $32
This wine is 100% Zinfandel sourced from vines averaging 85 years of age that was aged for 15 months in 60% new American oak. Alcohol 15.8%. There was enjoyable fruit from the start that had an incense character with both a little fat and weight. There was a light structure that brought subtle spices and wet tobacco. After a few hours of air the fruit developed an attractive core of cherry and Manhattan cocktail flavors. It had some glycerin to the mouth feel. Thought it started to unwind with air it should develop in the cellar. *** 2016-2022.
2012 Lioco, Indica Red Wine, Mendocino County – $22
This wine is 100% old-vine Carignan that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 11 months in neutral oak. Alcohol 12%. The red fruit on the nose made way to flavors of tart cherries and eventually strawberry. The tart red berries persisted with ethereal black fruit underneath and a slightly powdery texture. Attractive clean flavors. *** Now-2017.
2012 Mount Veeder Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $27
This wine is a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose preceded the mouth with ripe, greenhouse infused flavors of black fruit. There were powdery tannins, minerals, and a black fruited finish. The acidity supported the wine which filled the mouth. It left flavors of tart black and red fruit in the finish along with a little chocolate. **(*) 2016-2021.
2011 SAMsARA, Grenache, Larner Vineyard, Santa Ynez – $37
This wine is 100% Grenache which was whole cluster pressed, fermented with indigenous yeast then aged 24 months in 100% neutral French oak. Alcohol 14%. The nose was fragrant with notes of creamsicle! In the mouth were clean fruit and almond flavors around a powdery core. There was some weight to the body and a finish that brought both drier flavors and more structure. With air the wine developed more minerality that went with the firm acidity. It took an interesting tart orange, citrus, natural wine bit at the aftertaste. *** Now-2020.
We found ourselves in Baltimore the other weekend and thanks to Darryl’s recommendation, I soon found myself inside of The Wine Source in Hambden. In scanning the shelves I saw bottles of Californian wine from Arnot-Roberts, Calder, and several from Folk Machine. I had never heard of Folk Machine but a quick search revealed many positive comments from Jon Bonné. Folk Machine is a label under Kenny Likitprakong’s Hobo Wine Company. In particular Jon Bonné wrote, “Folk Machine is his [Kenny Likitprakong’s] effort to provide value-priced wines from the state — ones that often contend dollar for dollar with their imported counterparts.” In Christina Waters’ 2012 interview of Kenny Likitprakong, he described the Folk Machine label as “an outlet for more ‘experimental’ type of wines.” As you know I drink mostly imported wine priced under $20 so I grabbed two bottles.
We tasted both wines over two nights. My favorite of the pair was the 2013 Folk Machine, Parts & Labor. It meets the descriptions of being “light on it’s feet” and “fun and easy to drink” but I found it offered plenty of depth. Perhaps this is due to the fruit from the 100-year old Carignane vines. I strongly recommend you try this wine. At $15, this Californian “bistro wine” is an outright steal! The 2011 Folk Machine, Three Ceremonies, Mendocino County comes across as structured for age. Even after two days the dry flavors were locked down. I recommend you stash a bottle or two away to see how the interesting components develop. These wines were purchased at the Wine Source in Baltimore
2013 Folk Machine, Parts & Labor – $15
This wine is a blend of 45% Syrah, 35% Carignane, and 20% Grenache. Alcohol 13.4%. The nose was deep with aromas of fresh black berries and generally high quality fruit. In the mouth were slightly racy and creamy flavors of dense black fruit and ripe, pink grapefruit. There seemed to be a hint of wood or stems in the finish. In the end this had good fruit and flavor making it a very satisfying drink! *** Now-2015.
2011 Folk Machine, Three Ceremonies, Mendocino County – $18
This wine is a blend of Carignane, Syrah, and Petit Sirah. Alcohol 13.2%. The aromas of cardamom made way to higher-toned fruit. The dry flavors of red and black fruit leaned towards brighter black fruit in the finish. The wine picked up notes of old polished wood and cardamom before leaving dry tannins on the gums and spicy flavors in the back of the throat. **(*) 2015-2020.
It was tradition to celebrate Independence Day with thirteen toasts. The series of toasts generally started with one to the United States of America, followed by several to our allies, one to General George Washington, and perhaps one’s home state. I suggest you help revive this tradition by making your own series of toasts. To help you out I have included four toasts from the 1779 celebration in Philadelphia. For those of you with fireworks it would be appropriate to light thirteen after each toast.
- The friends and patriots of liberty throughout the world.
- The memories of those heroes who have nobly died in defending the rights of their country.
- May American never forget that virtue, valour and science are the bulwarks of her independence.
- Peace, liberty, and happiness to all mankind.
While it would be very patriotic to toast with American beer or cider, this blog focuses in on wine so here is a Californian suggestion from The Withers Winery. This winery is the project of Andrew Tow with David Low of Anthill Farms Winery as the winemaker. Together they make wine with minimal intervention using fruit from cooler areas in the Sierra Foothills. This particular bottling uses fruit from the Eaglepoint Ranch located at 1700 feet on decomposed sandstone with veins of red loam. This translates to a wine lighter in body with clean fruit and moderate structure. In other words, your palate will not be fatigued after thirteen toasts! Definitely worth checking out.
2012 The Withers Winery, Cody, Mendocino County – $35
This wine is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. Alcohol 14.1%. There was a delicate nose that was attractive with ripe strawberry aromas. In the mouth were moderately ripe, cooler tasting, clean flavors of fruit. The wine was lifted with both strawberry and black fruit flavors, minerals, and with air, a little structure. The moderate amount of ripe tannins were followed by a rather persistent aftertaste. Needs two to three hours to open up. *** Now-2018.
Between the end of summer vacation and the start of the school year, Lou and I managed to squeeze in a quick gathering to taste some wine. We both opened several recent purchases from Weygandt Wines, Premier Cru, and Chambers Street Wines. I was thoroughly pleased with what we tasted. The NV Salinia Wine Company, Twenty Five Reasons bore the expected skin contact notes but otherwise was completely surprising in profile. I preferred it after half an hour of air from the top of the bottle, before it took on a strong citrus profile. If you want a different wine that is drinkable, complex, and affordable then pick up a bottle. The 2011 Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Blanc slowly opened up with air to become an engaging wine. I thought it drank best the first night yet it also seems young, so try a bottle next year. Lou had opened up the 2009 Pascal Lahcuax, Pinot Fin the night before so my first glass was fully open. Pascal Lachaux is the son-in-law of Robert Arnoux. The quality of his fruit and wine making was clearly evident in this bottle. Very enjoyable and one I recommend you try. The 2010 Farmers Jane Wine Co., Field Red took some air before the balance of complexity and freshness made it one of my favorite wines of the evening. This wine is the joint venture of Angela Osbone of A Tribute to Grace Wine Company and Faith Armstrong of Onward Wines. I recommend you try a bottle or two. The 2011 Birichino Amici, Grenache Vieilles Vignes remained drier, tighter, and firmer over two nights. It might just need some time so try it again at the new year.
NV Salinia Wine Company, Twenty Five Reasons, Petillant White Wine, Mendocino – $22
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from 42-43 year old parcel of organic vines in Redwood Valley. They were was skin fermented with indigenous yeasts. It is a blend of 10% 2012 vintage, 85% 2011 vintage, and 5% from reserve barrels of 2010 and 2009 vintages. Alcohol 12%. The wine is cloudy. The nose begins with complex, ripe, floral, skin contact aromas. On the second day it bore stronger grapefruit aromas. In the mouth the wine is bubbly at first then quickly becomes petillant as it warms up and breaths. It almost becomes a still wine. It was quite good after half an hour with lemon and citrus flavors then with warmth complex orange peel and wet baking spices. It becomes tart with air and towards the bottom of the bottle. *** Now.
2011 Domaine Gauby, Les Calcinaires Blanc, VdP des Cotes Catalanes –
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of 50% Muscat, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Macabeu sourced from 15-50 year old vines. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts then aged on the fine lees for eight months. Alcohol 12%. The nose bore floral, white tropical undertones, stones, and with warmth, melon and bitters. In the mouth there was a little yellow and white fruit mixed with acidity. Then the wine fleshes out a little with a tropical bit coming out. It has some weight, orange peel, and a spine of flavors. **(*) 2014-2017.
2009 Pascal Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne – $27
Imported by Premier Cru. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from 60+ year old vines on old Pinot Fin rootstock sourced from blocks in several villages, Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanee, and Nuit-Saint-Georges. The wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and aging in French oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. The nose was very finely textured with herbs, cardamom like spices, with a hint of fruit underneath. The flavors were similar in the mouth but with more red fruit. The wine was gentle but firm with focused ripeness, black cherry, and a modest structure in the finish. A nice wine. *** Now-2019.
2010 Farmers Jane Wine Co., Field Red, Santa Barbara County – $26
This wine is a blend of 93% Grenache from 60-80 year old vines sourced from the Watch Hill Vineyard and 7% Carignan from 60-80 year old vines from the Hawkeye Ranch which were aged in neutral oak. Alcohol 14.3%. The nose was fresh, almost crisp, with baking spices. In the mouth were ripe strawberry and red fruit flavors that mixed complexity with freshness. It was a light wine with a little weight and moderate, salivating acidity. It took on a floral complexity until the finish where good bitters-like flavors came out followed by a woodsy note in the aftertaste. Perhaps some minerals. *** Now -2014.
2011 Birichino Amici, Grenache Vieilles Vignes, Besson Vineyard, Central Coast – $26
This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 101 year old vines. Alcohol 13.5%. In the mouth there was redder fruit with a slightly, powdery ripeness. The acidity and dryness builds into a fine, pebbly textured finish. The wine remained tighter in flavor and firmer in the finish. ** 2014-2019.
It all started one fall morning when Lou texted me a picture of a pristine bottle of 1966 Parducci, Zinfandel. I love to drink old wines and apparently to look at them as well. There is that sense of curiosity and potential surprise from a good glass of old wine. It certainly is a gamble but at an attractive price it is worth it. Since I received Lou’s text we picked up a few various bottles but these were mostly Bordeaux and nothing prior to 1970. Joe at MacArthur Beverages had recently bought a few wine cellars. A number of these bottles ended up in the dump bin. Through fortuitous timing I happened to be at the store when both the California and French bins were filled. I knew a tasting was coming together when Andy pointed out the two bottles of 1960s Beaulieu Vineyards with their bottom neck fills. To this I added other mature wines from California, Bordeaux, vintage Port, and Bordeaux. The wines from California and the red Bordeaux did not come from the best storage conditions but they were priced right. The Sauternes came from a different cellar with good storage condition. With enough wines in hand for a tasting Jenn and I were recently joined by Lou and Frank (DrinkWhatYouLike) for a tasting of some of these old bottles.
Traffic was horrendous that evening so we got off to a bit of a late start. The weather was turning a bit sketchy but we managed to have a glass of Ca’del Bosco on the deck along with some cheese. Frank has a particular affinity for this estate since he has actually visited it and disgorged some wine. I was not taking notes at this point for I was, quite frankly, thirsty. I found the wine refreshing and with my glass finished I was ready to taste the old red wines.
NV Ca’del Bosco, Cuvee Prestige, Franciacorta –
Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants. This wine is a blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Nero, and 10% Pinot Bianco blended with at least 20% reserve wine then aged for 28 months. Disgorged Summer 2012. Alcohol 12.5%. From memory, fresh, approachable yellow fruit with citrus and some yeast. Fine bubbles. Very easy to drink.
I had stored both of the bottles laying down in the Euro Cave. The sediment in both bottles had settled down but knowing these weren’t the strongest vintages I was worried about decanting them. I briefly conferred with Lou and having decided to ignore the sediment, I stood the bottles on end and begin to cut the tops of the capsules. The top of both corks were in great shape. The 1962 cork looked a bit more like old wood with just a little cellar mold. The top of the 1967 cork looked pristine. I extracted both corks with an Ah-So. The 1962 cork smelled like very old wood with hints of tobacco. It was marked “Portugal 196[2?]”. The 1967 cork was marked “Beaulieu Rutherford, Calif” and its business end was much darker, almost black. It smelled of old cork and vintage perfume. A sniff of each bottle revealed them sound. I had expected the 1962 to have already cracked up but instead it had promise! It managed to drink well for some 10-15 minutes before it cracked up for the worst. The 1967 had more fruit and was more robust, lasting almost one hour. The nose remained interesting for quite some time longer.
1962 Beaulieu Vineyard, Georges de Latour, Private Reserve, Napa Valley –
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged for 2 years in American oak. Bottom neck fill. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light to medium amber tawny. The light nose immediately revealed cedar, roast earth, and dried leather. Then a few minutes later it was scented with coffee and caramel. In the mouth there was firm red fruit, acidity, and a fresh aftertaste. It faded fast and after 10 minutes it begin to crack up and fall apart. Past.
1967 Beaulieu Vineyard, Georges de Latour, Private Reserve, Napa Valley –
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged for 2 years in American oak. Bottom neck fill. Alcohol 12%. The color was closer to medium tawny with a bit more red. The nose did open up to reveal deeper aromas as if there were more fruit. In the mouth this rustic, old-school wine had more fruit but it faded and softened with air. There was an interesting note. It was more robust than the 1962 but its slow decline begin by hours end. * Past.
Lou managed to remove the Parducci cork with a cork-screw. The top of the cork was black and white with mold having protruded half a centimeter down the sides. The cork itself was red and wrinkly looking. It was faintly branded “Parducci” and was about the same length as the Beaulieu Vineyard corks. It smelled of leather and the sea but fortunately the wine did not. The 1966 vintage was stronger than 1962 and 1967 as evidenced by this bottle. This wine was in great shape and even drank well the following night. After getting over my initial surprise I knocked back a glass or two of this old quaffer.
1966 Parducci Wine Cellars, Zinfandel, Mendocino County –
Fill half-centimeter above vintage label. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light to medium tawny, the darkest yet. The nose revealed deep, red fruit with some scent and old perfume. In the mouth the fruit was firm with acidity. It was spiced and again a note about the acidity. It was not overly complex nor too engaging but it was completely drinkable. There were still a bit of ripe tannins. With air it took on dried leather in the mouth and firmed up. ** Now.
With the 1962 Beaulieu having expired we needed something else to drink. Lou thought the 1983 Chateau Gruaud Larose to be a good choice. I extracted the cork with an Ah-So without any issues. It was a good centimeter longer than the previous three corks. The cork and bottle smelled proper so I carefully double-decanted the wine to remove the sediment. As I did so it gave off dark, earthy aromas. The nose remained interesting but in the mouth the impression was of robustness and solidity. I think it safe to write that this bottle suffered from its storage conditions but it must have been made of such stuffing to evolve to this point and probably could have continued as well.
1983 Chateau Gruaud Larose, Saint-Julien –
Imported by Chateau & Estate Wine Company. This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot sourced from vines averaging 35 years of age. It was fermented in cement tanks then aged 16-18 months in new and used oak. Top should fill. Alcohol 12%. The color was a medium garnet ruby. The light to medium nose was robust and good with dark fruit and a little fresh menthol. The mouth followed the nose but was not as expressive. There was black and red fruit with tartness and acidity which was integrated throughout. The flavors faded and thinned with air. It had some textured ripe tannins. A solid experience which left the impression that it was not the best bottle. ** Now-2018.
Lastly it came time to open the Sauternes. Lou brought the 1988 Raymond-Lafon from a parcel of 1988 Sauternes half-bottle he picked up for both of us. He thought it a bit clunky upon first taste so I opened the 1990 Chateau Haut-Bergeron. These were very different types of wine. The Raymond-Lafon was young with less residual sugar to the flavors of apples and berries. The Haut-Bergeron was rich in flavor and feel with caramel and tobacco flavors. I drank the remnants over a few nights. The Raymond-Lafon remained a decent, enjoyable wine but never showed good depth. At one point I forgot to recork the Haut-Bergeron. I discovered the bottle with its remains several days later. It still smelled fine so I tried it and it was fine! It had taken on a little roughness from oxidation but otherwise it was still enjoyable. I imagine well-corked examples will live for several decades.
1988 Chateau Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes – (375 mL)
Imported by Calvert Woodley. This wine is a blend of 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from vines averaging 40 years of age. The fruit was pressed in a hydraulic press then barrel fermented for 3-5 weeks. No sulphur was added to stop fermentation thus relying on antibiotic botryticine. It was racked every three months and aged three years in 60% new oak. Top shoulder fill. Alcohol 13.5%. The color was a vibrant, medium amber. The nose was fine but not too complex. In the mouth there were drier, firmer flavors of apple and then mixed apple and berries. It was very much alive and tasting young. It was not too sweet from residual sugar and still had plenty of acidity. While not that complex it had an expansive finish. ** Now-2033.
1990 Chateau Haut-Bergeron, Sauternes – (375 mL)
Bottom neck fill. Alcohol 14.5%. The color was a medium tawny. The nose revealed more botrytis and cider aromas. In the mouth the flavors were tawny with botrytis, good feel and texture, along with caramel and tobacco notes. I think this richer wine has the residual sugar, acidity, and alcohol to last for many decades to come. ** Now-2043.
I opened the leftover 1966 Parducci and 1983 Chateau Gruaud Larose three nights later for our schedule had conspired against me revisiting them earlier. We sat on the couch watching the television where Jenn was enjoying the 2010 Kermit Lynch, Cotes du Rhone. I drank the 1966 and 1983 that night tickled that they were my table wine for one evening.