By Kerry Winslow
Wine is a celebration of a moment in time as much as it is a celebration of place and tasting old vintages is like a flashback in time, it reminds and stirs old thoughts, people and emotions, it an essential joy in experiencing wine. I am better suited to tasting young wines, but I am also thrilled to taste very old bottles and see what history has to say. Sometimes there is nothing left, maybe a hint or a sad whisper of life left, but other times there is magic, something truly special to rejoice in, and it is always best to have these times with people, a shared experience, with wonder, laughter and child like fascination, that is when wine is at it’s most glorious. Here are a few of my latest flashbacks, they include a very much alive and kicking California Cab from 1970, a fading 1983 Chateauneuf and a couple of other interesting characters that popped up in this last week.
1970 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
For sure at full mature status, but still alive with secondary flavors and refinement, this is classy stuff with autumn leaves, forest floor, mild stewing of red fruits along with loam, currant, black cherry, mint/anise, sandalwood and tea notes adding to a core of plum, blackberry and cedar. I was getting this bottle late, maybe after a few hours of being opened, but things were very together and while not a mind-blowing wine, this was a great drinking old California wine, holding on respectably well, and certainly if you were to find a bottle of this wine out and about it would be a super evening spent enjoying a more than pleasant Napa Cabernet at 44 years of age! As with the next wine, a big thank you goes out to Josiah and Stevie of Bay Grape in Oakland California for sharing this beauty with me, their kindness is something for which I’m most grateful, they have a very cool wine shop and tasting bar, be sure to support them if you live near by.
1983 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
I have had a few old Beaucastels, and have even had direct from the Chateau bottles with Francois Perrin, a once in a lifetime experience to taste about 10 vintages of Jacques Perrin, plus I have twice in the distant past had this 1983, so it was wonderful to see what it was like now, even if only a flitting glimpse. Well, this bottle was fading fast and while I enjoyed it, it must be said I think she’s toast at this point, but I highly suggest drinking it up, as I have found lots of bottle variation and there will be some real gems, even though it won’t get any better from this point on. Again, I got some of this bottle late on and while I personally found some fruit and pleasing character, many of those that tried it didn’t have the same joys. I know these wines show high levels of brett and can be very animal/horsey in flavor, this bottle was more about soy sauce, bouillon cube, decaying flowers and strawberry reduction. Each sip was differing and while very beefy in profile there was hints of past glory with kirsch, raspberry, leather, dusty stones and lavender oil. The final sip turned to wild boar, blood and jerky with a total final death throw, sad, but still worth the time and experience. Again thanks to Bay Grape for allowing me to revisit an old friend, if you have this or any eighties Beaucastel, best to get on with popping them corks.
2000 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Wow, the nose on this magnum bottle of Telegraphe was stunning with delicate strawberry, floral notes and thyme, it was at it’s best in the bouquet, and while the follow on the palate wasn’t up to those expectations, given the nose, it was still a reliable and purposeful wine if not all that great, I suspect there are better bottles out there, but you never really know with these middle aged Vieux Telegraphes. I certainly think the 1999 is one of the best ever, but I have often been left a bit flat by the 2000 and lately by the 1998, both highly regarded vintages, leaving me to believe it’s best to buy VT in the off vintages! While not great, the 2000 from magnum still showed near perfect color, no off notes and drank well, without much change at all throughout the night, solid, but not all that memorable with lots of chalky, chunky tannins, red peppers and medium depth of fruit with raspberry, minty notes, cherry pie and poached plum. I feel it best that 2000 better be consumed sooner vs later, and again I am sure some bottles will show much better of this Rhone classic.
2007 Miura, Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. (bottle-label above with VT)
I have always been a fan of Miura and of course of this great vineyard, but the 2007 Miura was a huge surprise, this wine is really showing great with less over the top fruitiness than it had while young, but still very dark in profile with violets, black plum and dark cherry leading the way, also the oak has subdued and melded in perfectly making for a wonderful Pinot Noir and while not shy, this vintage has plenty of balance and life. Starting with a rich hue, ruby/garnet in the glass the 2007 Miura Garys’ boasts dense black and red fruits, spice/briar notes and creamy texture with plum, rose petals, blackberry/boysenberry, mocha and subtle earthy charm. The acidity which felt low in the first year of release has come back and adds a vigor and lift which has gifted this wine with class and elegance, while still being a rather big and powerful example of modern Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. I’ve tried many a young and old bottle of Miura Pinot over the years and have always maintained they age exceptionally well, and this wine especially looks set to live another 10 years easy and be very pleasing along the way, great showing, this wine really is lovely.
1976 Chateau de Fargues Lur Saluces, Sauternes, Sweet Bordeaux White, France.
This sister wine to the fabled Chateau D’Yquem, by the Lur Sulaces family and from their own estate is spectacular, maybe one of my favorite vintage wines of the year so far, this 1976 Chateau de Fargues is totally sublime. A huge thank you to my friend and Sauternes expert Fred Daniels (my palate thanks you again for another great sticky) for sharing this amazing sweet wine with me, this was truly a monumental wine. In recent years I’ve been able to try a lot more old, and young Sauternes, and as I get more experience with them, the more I crave them, these are unbelievable values in the wine world, except maybe D’ Yquem, but you can find these great wines at reasonable prices, houses like Coutet, Fargues and lesser known Sauternes can be had pretty easily at prices way under the price you’d pay for a very average Cabernet or a vintage Port. The 1976 Chateau de Fargues is sweet, haunting and mouth filling, but impeccably balanced and refined, slightly amber hues now show, mature orange edges and honey gold in color leads to a joyous palate of nectarine, honeyed yellow peach, ripe melon, lemon curd, creme brulee/vanilla and candied orange rind, pineapple, bees wax and brioche. This mature Sauternes has some earthy ones, with supple thickness and a long linger of honeycomb on the finish, this is very sexy stuff, mostly Semillon, drink now and for another 15 to 20 years. On a personal (purely my own opinion) note, I really like where this wine is right now and I’m sure many people would argue to let it sit in the cellar, I honestly think now is a good time to explore this glorious Sauternes.