Posts Tagged ‘OldWineWeekApril2013’

A Trio of 1990s Californian Wines

I usually avoid reading about a wine before I taste it but I could not resist looking up the three bottles of 1991 Mayacamas, Cabernet Sauvignon I picked up from the dump bin.  I had recently perused the article Mayacamas Vineyards – tasting notes and more, from John Gilman so I figured it was acceptable to read it again.  Mayacamas wines are traditionally made and purposefully capable of aging for decades.  The tasting note from John Gilman reads more interesting than the bottle I opened but what I particularly found similar was his age recommendation.  He recommends 2017-2050.  I double-decanted this bottle after which it took four to five hours to open up.  It was not particularly interesting at first but those hours of air revealed a wine which could develop like those old 1960s Louis Martini, Special Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fortunately there are two bottles left so hopefully Lou and I can get a few other vintages together to drink in five years.  The 1991 Jordan, Cabernet Sauvignon was surprisingly robust while we drunk it.  It revealed more roast along with still obvious structure but it is the plentiful acidity that kept it going on.  The 1993 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon was interesting while it lasted and probably best in large format.  Drink up and drink fast!  These wines all came from the same cellar with not-the-best storage.  I do not know the history of this cellar but the bottles from the 1990s have great labels and appear to be in good shape.  The earlier bottles have more stained and tattered labels along with more variability in quality.  I wonder if something happened in the late 1980s.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1991 Mayacamas Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley –
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Mt. Veeder/Mayacamas mountains.  It was aged for two and a half years in American oak casks and French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was of tart red fruit, cedar, and fresh greenhouse aromas.  In the mouth the tart red fruit continued with lots of acidity and very fine notes of wood box.  There was a gentle structure along with tart red flavors in the earthy aftertaste.  It does not possess huge depth at this point but comes across as young.  It tastes like it will last forever.   *** 2018-2033.


1991 Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley –
This wine is a blend of 81.2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, and 2.8% Cabernet Franc which was aged 12 months in 65% French oak and 35% American oak.  Alcohol 12.8%.  The strong nose was of roast and dark red fruit.  In the mouth the red fruit continued along with a little licorice.  There was a lot of acidity on the tongue tip and sides.  The flavors were still compact becoming tart red with a wood note in the finish followed by ripe tannins which coated the mouth.  Still strong for its age.  ** Now-2018.


1993 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley –
Alcohol 13.8%.  The nose was older with mature aromas, roasted earth, and wet tobacco.  In the mouth the roasted notes followed the nose with some red fruit, wood box, good acidity, and resolved tannins.  Reasonably enjoyable while it lasted but it begun to fall apart before the bottle was complete.  ** while it lasted but overall: * Now.


Juniper and Good End: 1983 Dow’s Vintage Port

Dow’s Vintage Port is produced  using fruit primarily sourced from Quinta do Bomfim, Quinta da Senhora de Ribeira (prior to 1952 and after 1988), and finally Quinta do Zimbro.  Quinta do Bomfim might sound familiar because in non-declared years the best parcels are used to produce a single-vineyard vintage port.  In focusing in on the 1983 vintage the fruit for this bottle I turn my attention to Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta do Zimbro.  These two quintas are located within Cima Corgo which is the central region located around Pinhao.

Quinta do Bomfim (Good End) is located just east of Pinaho along the Douro with Quinta do Zimbro further east pats Tua.  Quinta do Bomfim was purchased by George Warre in 1890, making it his third estate.  Bomfim was regarded with less importance until after WWII.  Both the winery and vineyards were renovated and expanded throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  The ~35 hectares of vineyards are located on more gentle slopes at an altitude of 80-130 meters.  At the time they were planted with 28% Touriga Francesa, 12% Tinta Roriz, 11% Tinta Barroca, 10% Tinta Nacional, and 39% old mixed vines.  Through a combination of replanting old terraces and creating new terraces there were a fair portion of young wines.  Whereas not much is known about Bomfim, Quinta do Zimbro (Juniper) dates back to the 17th century.  This was George Warre’s first purchasing occuring around 1888.  At the time there were 12 hectrares of vines located at an altitude of 110-190 meters.  It was planted with 50% Touriga Francesa and 50% Tinta Roriz, Periquita, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Carvalha, Rufete, and other varietals.  The majority of the vines were even younger than at Bomfim.  Interestingly enough, the four lagares were used for the 1983 vintage.


In the end, this proved to be a solid and enjoyable wine but it did not evoke any particular emotions.  This could be due to the half-bottle size and some variation.  At less than the cost of a single half I might be inclined to purchase the 10-year-old tawny or for less than two halves, the 20-year-old tawny.   This bottle was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1983 Dow’s Vintage Port, Douro – (375 mL)
Imported by Wines Unlimited.  Bottom neck fill.  Alcohol 20%.  The nose was tight and remained a bit uninspired.  In the mouth there was ripe fruit, round delivery, and some cedar wood box notes.  It was not the most dynamic of wines but it was certainly mouthfilling with its racy black and red fruit.  It was ripe and sweet with a hint of acidity.  Though it took on ripe spices it never showed great complexity.  A solid wine with seamlessly integrated spirits and tannins, probably best from full bottles.  ** Now-2030.


Whatever Happened To Old Wine Week and the Very Mature 1982 Labégorce Zédé

My postings over the last week have been somewhat erratic.  I had intended to write about the variety of older red Bordeaux, Sauternes, and Vintage Port we have recently tasted for an Old Wine Week series.  Early in the week while conducting research for a historical post I came across Sir Ferdinando Gorges’ comment about the Popham colonist’s wine.  I redirected all of my efforts because I felt this was an important discovery.  In a way I still kept with my theme because the 1607 vintage does quality as old wine.  Unfortunately this meant I had to suspend working on posts about wines which I have actually drunk.


I had it in mind that I had drunk a bottle of Chateau Labégorce Zédé during the summer of 1997.  My mother and I were in England for one month during which we spent one day in Bristol.  We had purchased a bottle of wine from Harveys then grabbed some luncheon ingredients in Clifton so that we could have a picnic by the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  My memory failed me.  In reviewing the Harveys Wine List it appears we bought the 1994 Chateau Labégorce which sold for £124.95 per case.  The description reads, “Preferred in this vintage to its neighbour Zédé.  Nicely full and rounded but balanced and with non-agressive tannins.”  From the same year, The Fine Wines of Justerini & Brooks in London lists many vintages of Chateau Labégorce Zédé: 1995 at £132 per dozen, 1994 at £13.50, 1992 at £11.50, and 1988 at £16.50.


The original estate dates back to the La Bégorce family in 1332.  The estate was split in 1795 with this portion being named Labégorce Zédé after owner Pierre Zede who purchased the estate in the mid 19th century.  Luc Thienpont took over the estate in 1979 and applied much advice from Emile Peynaud.  The estate consisted of 36 hectares, 27 in Margaux, and 22 next to the chateau.  The vineyards are on deep gravel soils with increasing clay content.  There were old vines in existence with the Cabernet Franc dating back to the 1940s and some Petit Verdot several decades older.  Luc Thienport set about improving drainage and canopy management.  In 2009 Labégorce Zédé merged with Labégorce Margaux so it no longer exists.  I knew this bottle would be fully mature or on its downslope when I bought it.  But as I had memories of Bristol I decided it was worth the purchase.  It was.  This bottle was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1982 Chateau Labégorce Zédé, Margaux –
Imported by Calvert Woodley.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot sourced from vines averaging 25 years of age.  It was aged 14-18 months in approximately one-third new French oak.  Alcohol 11.5%.  The color was a light to medium brick garnet which looked quite old.  After one hour the nose revealed fresh, minty red fruit with lots of wood box aromas.  In the mouth the flavors were very mature with hard cherry fruit, albeit short, greenhouse notes, acidity, and fully resolved tannins.  ** Now.


The Savory 1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur

Chateau Phélan Ségur  was founded in the 19th century by Monsieur Bernard Phélan incorporating some land owned by Marquis Ségur.  Bernard Phélan begin assembling property in the early 19th century and by the middle of the century he had the largest wine estate in St-Estèphe.  William Franck lists production in 1845 as 200-250 tonneaux compared to Chateau Meyney at 150-200 tonneaux.  In 1850 Charles Cocks tabulates Ségur et Garamey (Phélan) as the largest producing estate in St Estèphe with 220 tonneaux.  This is followed by Meyney (Luetkins) at 160 tonneaux, Calon (Lestapis) at 140 tonneaux, Le Bosq (De Camiran) 130 tonneaux, and Cos-Destournel (Destournel) at 120 tonneaux.  Bernard’s son Frank built the chateau which is located in the northern portion of  St Estèphe just south of the town of St Estèphe near the Gironde River.  Having no heirs the estate was sold to the Delon family in 1883.  In the October 13, 1884 issue of the Ridley & Co.’s Monthly Wine & Spirit Trade Circular the 1883 vintage of Phélan Ségur was sold at £8 10s compared to Chateau Lynch-Bages at £9, and Chateau Palmer at £13 in the United Kingdom.  In Bordeaux the 1882 vintage sold for 950 Fr per tonneau, the 1893 at 575 Fr per tonneau, and the 1899 at 600 Fr per tonneau.  This may be compared to Chateau Kirwan at 1,800 Fr, 1,800 Fr, and 1,025 Fr per tonneau.

In the 20th century the estate was run by Roger Delon and his son Guy.  Roger was the uncle of Michel Delon at Leoville-Lascases.  After the death of Roger Delon in 1984 the estate was put up for sale by Guy in 1986.  Xavier Gardinier, who was then head of Champagne Lanson, put in an offer within three days.  The first years of ownership were wrought with problems.  Customers complained about the 1983 vintage which turned out to be tainted by an insecticide.  This vintage was recalled in 1987 but the 1984 and 1985  vintages were tainted as well thus never released.  The Gardinier’s set about improving the estate.   They introduced the second wine Frank Ségur in 1986.  Yields were lowered by green-harvesting and a sorting table was introduced in 1987.  Though a new cuvier had been installed in 1977 the winery was rebuilt in 1988.  For the 1990 vintage the fruit was sourced from three parcels: eight hectares located near the chateau, a majority from some 40 hectares near Chateau Montrose, and 25 hectares near Chateau Calon-Ségur.  This puts the parcels on small gravelly hills with subsoils of clay.  The average age of the vines was just over 20 years with the maximum age just over 60.  In my mind this was a lovely example of a maturing Bordeaux which I wish my basement was full of.  The efforts of the Gardinier family clearly paid off with this vintage.  It actually took over three hours to open up, at which point it smelled and drank beautifully.  I suspect this will reach peak drinking over the next several years.  There were no signs of bad storage nor defects.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur, Saint-Estèphe –
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc.  It was aged 13-15 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a light to medium garnet with bricking towards the edge.  The light to medium strength nose was of red fruit and a little bit of dark, coffee roast.  In the mouth there was minerally red fruit supported by acidity at first.  The flavors then became blacker and dry with determined fruit.  It was a touch salty, not quite hard in aspect, maturing with riper, black acidity and spice.  There were sweet spices in the aftertaste and some earth and wood smoke as well.  With air this wine became savory, put on a little weight, and had drier flavors.  The structure is still there with cinnamon spiced tannins coming out.  ***(*) Now-2023+.


Kicking Off Old Wine Week with Jenn, Lou, and Frank

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.