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An Afternoon with Mature Wine – Part 2 Old Cali

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

After four largely good bottles of old Nebbiolo, the three of us needed more wine to taste so out came several bottles of old Californian wine.  The 1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, by way of Reid Wines of Bristol, was a mess of herbaceous, evergreen notes.  The pair of 1975 Harbor Winery bottles proved more interesting with the 1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley a clear favorite of this grouping.

Harbor Winery was founded in 1972 by Charles Myers of Sacramento with a goal “of bottling wine from a particular terrain”.  Myers was an amateur winemaker and English instructor at Sacramento City College.  His first 1,000 gallons of commercial wines were released in 1973 and by 1980, output hit 3,000 gallons.

Myers first produced a “terrible” zinfandel in 1954 but two years later, when he had moved to Sacramento, he was making 200 gallons of drinkable wine on an annual basis.  The Corti Brothers encouraged Myers to go commercial and they even advertised the sale of his first wine in 1974.  Harbor Winery, being the only small commercial winery in Sacramento, attracted frequent coverage in the Sacramento Bee from which this brief history stems. The Harbor Winery selections were soon sold not just locally, but in Los Angeles and San Francisco with a rare appearance at The Ritz London.

Darrell Corti felt the local Sacramento grapes were no good, a sentiment shared by Myers.  Myers first turned to Amador County in 1964 when he was looking for Muscat and in the process was introduced to the Zinfandels.  It was one decade later, in 1974, that Myers first purchased Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from the Deaver Ranch in Amador County. The 1975 we drank would then be Myers’ second commercial vintage of this wine.  He felt the future of the 1974 looked “very good” at the time and this must have extended to the 1975.  I found it deep fruited with tension from acidity.  There is still the coarseness or absence of “subtlety and elegance” Myers attributed to Amador County.

The 1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley is not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I have described in other posts, Amador County Zinfandel was “discovered” during the wine boom. Myers utilized carbonic maceration to make a Zinfandel for immediate drinking which is the opposite of what Sutter Home and Montevina were releasing at the time.  I found our bottle hollow.

We finished up with a soft, simple 1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  It is a little wine where the volume is fading.

1977 Franciscan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Imported by Peter Eckes. Alcohol 12%.  Tons of herbaceous, evergreen aromas and flavors.  Ugh.  Not Rated.

1975 Harbor Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Scented on the nose.  In the mouth, deep fruited, fresh, with a soda-like tension.  The nice acidity keeps the edges sharp to the sweet, lifted, fruit.  There is even a note of cedar.  There is a sense of coarseness but the settles down and lies low.  *** Now.

1975 Harbor Winery, Zinfandel, Deaver Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley
Alcohol 13.5%.  Red berries on the nose.  Wood notes with black fruit greet but the middle is hollow followed by a cola-like finish.  There is grip and a lipsticky finish.  too bad.  Drinkable but only of minor interest.  *(*) Now.

1974 Charles Krug, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12%.  A soft, gentle wine in need of more acidity.  Flavors of leather, gentle red fruit, and cedar fade towards the finish.  Simple but not flawed.  The nearly full bottle tasted exactly the same on the second day.  ** Now drink up.

Virginia versus Other Regions

March 12, 2013 3 comments

Frank Morgan is in town and having organized a Virginia Versus Other Regions tasting with David White, I found myself taking the Metro across the Potomac River to Crystal City to join them.  While I have driven through Crystal City over the years the last time I walked around was over two decades ago.  Of course I was hopelessly turned around.  Fortunately Frank texted my way to an intersection where we met up to begin the evening.  A small group of us gathered at the Washington Wine Academy to taste the seven white and seven red wines blind.  The goal had been to taste wines of matching vintages and to open them all up at the start of the tasting so as to even things up as much as possible.  Not that there was an expectation that a particular vintage in Virginia was similar in California or Burgundy.  While we managed to have all white wines from the 2010 vintage, the red wines were another story so we ended up with 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.  Present for the tasting were six people all with websites: Frank Morgan (Drink What You Like), David White (Terroirist), Christian Schiller (Schiller-Wine), Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours), Isaac James Baker (Reading, Writing & Wine), and myself (Hogshead Wine).  Many thanks to Jim Barker, President of the Washington Wine Academy for graciously letting us taking over his facility.

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All of the wines were served blind in brown paper bags.  The white wines were simply popped and poured.  The red wines were popped and poured save for the two Bordeaux which had been double-decanted an hour or two ahead of time.  Being at the Academy we each had our own table and two glasses to taste from.  After completing a flight we individually revisited any wine of interest.  We were asked to rank the wines from 1 being our favorite to 7 being our least favorite using our own criteria.  Once everyone had completed their rankings we read them off to Frank who tabulated the results.  You may read about Frank’s view on ranking in Results from the Oregon vs. Virginia Viognier and Cab Franc Tasting.  For Frank’

You may read about Isaac’s experience at Virginia vs. The World – A Blind Taste-Off.  For Frank’s post about this tasting please check out The Virginia Wine Trials, Con’t – Virginia Chardonnay and Red Blends Take On France and California.  You may read Christian Schiller’s post Virginia versus The World – A Blind Taste-Off.

White Wines

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The overall rankings were:

  • 1st – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru
  • 2nd – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble Chardonnay and 2010 Ankida Ridge, Chardonnay
  • 4th – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse
  • 5th – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Karia, Chardonnay
  • 6th – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay

My personal top three wines and those of the group were the same.  I was pleased to see the Domaine des Moirots come out on top as they produce accessible and affordable wines.  While Linden and Ankida Ridge were tied in the group results, I preferred the Linden.  This vintage of Linden reflects the heat of the year but also flavors which come from the specific parcels planted in 1985 and 1988.  While it is drinkable now I imagine it should develop over the short-term.  On a much younger front, the Ankida Ridge is produced from 25% estate from a vineyard which was only two years old at the time.  I thought it a good inaugural wine.  Below you will find my white wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.

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1 – 2010 Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, Chardonnay, Carneros – $20 – (Not Ranked)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the estate vineyard.  The fruit was whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with 29% undergoing malolactic fermentation.  It was aged for nine months in 27% medium-toast French oak barrels.  Batonnage occurred every three weeks for six months.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a similar light yellow gold as #2.  Off bottle.  Not Rated.

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2 – 2010 Ankida Ridge Vineyards, Chardonnay, Virginia – $32 – (My #3, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay of which 25% is estate fruit from the Tablas Creek clone La Vineuse and 75% fruit from Bedford County. It was whole-cluster pressed and fermented in oak barrels with inoculated yeasts of which 50% underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was aged for nine months in barrel where it underwent regular batonnage.  The color was a light yellow gold.  The subdued nose had a hint of toast.  There was good weight to the start with a bit of acidity then some creamy and a touch ripe fruit and toast.  This was driven by the mouthfeel with white fruit and ripeness in the finish.  ** Now.

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3 – 2010 Linden, Hardscrabble, Chardonnay – $33 – (My #2, Group #2)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was lightly pressed then fermented in new and used barrels with cultured and indigenous yeasts.  Some barrels underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was aged for 10 months on the lees with batonnage.  Alcohol 14.2%.  The color was a light to medium gold yellow.  The nose bore subdued heavier aromas.  The flavors were more expansive from the start showing some barrel toast which was well-integrated.  The wine was weighty but crisp with chewy acidity.  There were sweet spices, interesting flavors, and a richer style which was done well.  *** Now-2018.

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4 – 2010 Domaine des Moirots, Le Vieux Chateau, Montagny 1er Cru – $25 – (My #1, Group #1)
Imported by Weygandt- Metzler. This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from half of the 9 ha Le Vieux Chateau vineyard.  Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light straw yellow.  The subdued nose was a touch flora with a hint of the sea.  The flavors were the brightest yet with apples, a tart finish, and salivating acidity. This tastes a bit young.  Eventually some clove came out in the long aftertaste.  *** 2014-2019.

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5 – 2010 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Chardonnay, Karia, Napa Valley – $30 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from vineyards in and near the Oak Knoll District.  The fruit was fermented in 83% barrels and 17?% stainless steel tanks of which 55% underwent malolactic fermentation.  It was aged for 8 months on the lees in 29% new French oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light yellow.  There were barrel toast aromas at first.  In the mouth the flavors were a bit flabby then turned hollow towards the finish.  The yellow fruit lacked verve.  * Now.

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6 – 2010 Domaine Luquet Roger, Vieilles Vignes, Pouilly-Fuisse – $30 – (My #5, Group #4)
An Alfio Moriconi Selection imported by Saranty Imports.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines 40-65 years of age.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light yellow gold.  There was not much on the nose.  In the mouth there was a crisp, focused start with tangy grapefruit and yellow flavors.  The aftertaste bore some texture.  Young.  *(*) 2014-2018.

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7 – 2010 Ox-Eye Vineyards, Chardonnay, Shenandoah Valley – $18 – (My #4, Group #6)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vines at 1,830 feet.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged in barrels.  Alcohol 13.2%.  The color was a light straw yellow.  There was a light but decent fruit nose.  There was some lively acidity followed by white nuts, juicy fruits, some toast, and spice.  ** Now.

Red Wines

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The overall rankings were:

  • 1st – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous
  • 2nd – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon
  • 3rd – 2008 Dry Creek, Meritage
  • 4th – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux
  • 5th – 2008 Barboursville, Octagon
  • 6th – 2007 Boxwood Winery, Topiary
  • 7th – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red

My personal top four selections were the same as the group but there was generally strong consensus amongst them all.  I did clearly prefer the top two wines and had convinced myself that wine #1 was RdV Vineyards and wine #3 was a Bordeaux.  What fun to be wrong and prefer the inaugural vintage of RdV!  I would recommend cellaring it a few more years.  Below you will find my red wine tasting notes presented in tasting order.

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1 – 2009 Chateau d’Aiguilhe, Cotes de Castillon – $35 – (My #2, Group #2)
Imported by Pearson’s Wine & Spirits.  This wine is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 28-year-old vines.  The fruit was destemmed and fermented in temperature controlled wooden vats for 25-30 days. It underwent malolactic fermentation then was aged on the lees in up to 80% new oak barrels for 15-20 months.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a medium cherry.  The nose revealed berries then a ripe blackness with air.  The mouth was similar with some racy, ripe fruit and minerals.  A decent wine with good expansion, chewy tannins, and a fresh finish.  It tightened up some in the finish.  I guessed RdV Vineyards.  **(*) Now-2018.

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2 – 2007 The Boxwood Winery, Topiary, Virginia – $25 – (My #5, Group #6)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The color was a medium garnet, looking of age.  On the mouth there was red fruit and a greenhouse, menthol aspect.  The flavors were similar in the mouth with focus and quite a nice mouth feel.  There was tart acidity on the tip of the tongue.  I guessed Boxwood Winery.  ** Now-2016.

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3 – 2008 RdV Vineyards, Rendezvous – $55 – (My #1, Group #1)
This wine is a blend of 62% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.  The color was  a medium to dark cherry garnet.  The nose was light and tight with brine aromas.  In the mouth the fruit was wrapped in structure with plenty of acidity, and some good mouthfeel.  There were fine, spicy tannins in this decent but young wine.  I guessed Bordeaux.  **(*) Now-2023.

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4 – 2008 Barboursville Vineyards, Octagon – $48 – (My #6, Group #5)
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.  It was fermented in stainless steel tank, macerated for 10-20 days, then aged 12-14 months in new Gamba barriques.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light to medium cherry.  The light nose bore some fruits along with old perfume, and greenhouse notes.  There was ripe fruit in the mouth then focused black and red fruit.  It tasted like a Virginian wine.  The acidity was there followed by a short finish with black and red fruit.  The dry tannins were present on the lips.  *(*) Now-2015.

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5 – 2008 Chateau O’Brien, Padlock Red, Virginia – $24 – (My #7, Group #7)
This wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13.9%.  The color was a light to medium garnet showing age.  There was mixed fruit on the nose and just a hint of greenhouse.  In the mouth there was a mature aspect with soft, expansive overripe fruit.  The finish was soft with some tannins.  * Now.

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6 – 2008 Dry Creek Vineyards, Meritage, Sonoma County – $25 – (My #3, Group #3)
This wine is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in French and American oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a medium cherry.  The nose was subdued.  In the mouth there was sweet fruit with a touch of ripeness as it softened up with black cherry that filled the mouth.  There was a core of fruit in the finish along with vanilla, and drying, coating citric tannins.  ** Now-2018.

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7 – 2006 Baron de Brane, Margaux – $36 – (My #4, Group #4)
Imported by Saranty Imports.  This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot which was aged for 12 months in 20% new barriques.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a medium garnet with some age.  There was red and black cherry flavors in the mouth, some maturity, and a lighter aspect which hinted at being hollow.  There was a cool, gentle finish with some ripe tannins.  ** Now-2015.

Christian, Isaac, Annette, the author, David, Frank

Christian, Isaac, Annette, the author, David, Frank