Unlike most of you forumites, I don't have much experience with older Cali reds, since they are notoriously hard to source this side of the pond. Nevertheless, I've had some every now and then, and from both personal experience and word-to-mouth I know that for the most part they are nothing alike those super-ripe, heavily oaked and over-alcoholic fruit bombs that all too many California red wines are today.
It's no big surprise I was thrilled at the prospect to taste so many +30 yo Napa red wines at one single go - a rare opportunity in Europe and even more so in Finland. While the emphasis of the evening was on Napa Cab, we also had two Champagnes to start the evening and to cleanse our palates, one Zin for comparative purposes and finally a sticky surprise to close the night.
- NV Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée Brut - France, Champagne (19.2.2020)
Since this is an NV bottle with no indication on the base vintage or disgorgement date, it's impossible to tell the exact age of the wine. However, judged from its appearance, in all likelihood it is from a period between the mid-70's to early 80's. 12,5% alcohol.
Medium-deep burnished golden color with a bronze core. Developed, complex and very toasty nose with aromas of caramel, some bruised apple, light smoky tones, a little bit of oxidative rancio nuttiness, a hint of walnuts and a salty touch of sea breeze. The wine feels bright, structured and harmonious on the palate with medium-to-moderately full body and complex, mature flavors of tart green apples, some roasted walnuts, a little bit of steely minerality, light sweeter notes of golden apples, a hint of tangy salinity and an oxidative touch of rancio. The high acidity keeps the wine wonderfully structured and fresh, although the dosage shows through a little bit - most likely it has been higher here than in a contemporary Brut Champagne. The mousse feels very soft and subtle, almost nonexistent, with only the slightest of prickle on the tongue. The finish is developed, complex and quite persistent with intense tertiary flavors of tangy salinity, ripe citrus fruits, some sharp green apple tones, a little bit of oxidative nuttiness and rancio, light honeyed tones, a hint of caramel and an autolytic touch of brioche.
A wonderfully complex, beautifully evolved and obviously very aged Bolly that is still surprisingly alive, although getting into the twilight of its life. Despite its advanced age and rather tertiary overall character, the wine still retains quite a bit of fruit and the oxidative qualities are still pretty subtle, so there is still quite a bit of life and pleasure left in the bottle. As long as the wine has a bit of fizz left to it, it's obvious that the cork has kept its integrity. While not as extraordinary as some of the best aged Champagnes I've had, this was still a very impressive and delicious experience - and a true testament to the aging capabilities of the Bollinger wines.
- NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée - France, Champagne (19.2.2020)
This is an older bottling from the mid 80's. No idea about the base vintage or the vintages used in the blend. 12% alcohol.
Deep bronze to pale coppery reddish-yellow color with a hint of haze. Dry, restrained and very tertiary nose with aromas of nutty rancio, some browned butter, a little bit of smoke, light lemony tones, a hint of candied orange zest and a sharp, aldehydic touch of Fino Sherry. The wine is dry, quite oxidative and completely flat on the palate. Flavors of roasted chestnuts, some salted lemon wedges, a little bit of toasted bread, light aldehydic notes of green apple, a hint of browned butter and a tangy touch of rancio. High in acidity, no mousse. The finish is long, dry and tangy with crisp yet oxidative flavors of aldehydic salinity, some sharp green apple tones, a little bit of roasted nuts, light toasty tones, a hint of browned butter and a touch of lemony citrus fruits.
Very tertiary and moderately oxidized bottle. Long past its peak. The wine still retains enjoyable freshness and the high acidity keeps the structure pretty intact, but flavor-wise this is just anonymous old sparkling wine gone flat. Aromatically there's no krugiosity left here.
- 1988 Nalle Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (19.2.2020)
Quite translucent some moderately developed cherry-red color with a brick-orange hue and a pale golden rim. Sweet, rich and moderately developed nose with juicy, fruit-forward aromas of stewed strawberries, some ripe boysenberries, a little bit of raspberry jam, light dried-fruit tones of figs and raisins and a savory hint of roasted meat. The wine is full-bodied, juicy and supple on the palate with a silky texture and developed flavors of ripe boysenberries, some peppery spice, a little bit of ripe plummy fruit, light raspberry jam tones, a hint of dried cherries and a tertiary touch of beef jerky. The wine is surprisingly high in acidity but there are no tannins to speak of. The finish is dry, slightly warm and quite fruit-forward with long flavors of ripe boysenberries, some wizened black cherries, light brambly notes of black raspberries, a hint of peppery spice and a touch of strawberry jam.
A ripe, fruity and sweet-toned wine - exactly what you'd expect from a Zin - but also one in a remarkably good shape for a wine clocking at +30 years. Although the wine feels a tad soft and flabby without the tannic frame a wine of this size really calls for, the wine is still surprisingly fresh and wonderfully in balance thanks to the bright acidity. Although the wine might continue to develop for some years more, I really don't see much point in aging the wine, since it is drinking so well right now. A very nice effort for an aged Zin. Although my preference lies in wines with more tannins and less sweetness in the fruit, I found this one highly enjoyable.
- 1988 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Moderately deep, somewhat translucent cherry red color of a middle-aged Cab. Big, fruity and vibrant nose with aromas of sweet blackcurrant jam and ripe dark berries, some herbaceous notes of bell pepper, light smoky notes of chipotle, a little bit of rowanberry juice, a hint of black cherry and a woody touch of savory oak spice. The wine is dense and moderately full-bodied with ripe yet not particularly sweet-toned flavors of blackcurrants, some cooked bell pepper, a little bit of wizened dark plummy fruit, light spicy notes of toasty oak, a hint of blood and a sweeter touch of dried figs. The structure relies more on the rather high acidity than on the friendly and almost fully resolved tannins. The finish is ripe, juicy and quite long with flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some sweet dark plums, a little bit of developed pruney fruit, light notes of earthy spice, a woody hint of pencil shavings and a herbaceous touch of bell pepper.
A very balanced, tasty and enjoyable Napa Cab showing some age, yet still coming across as surprisingly youthful for its age. The tannins are pretty much fully resolved, making the wine come across as very soft and velvety on the palate while the acidity keeps on taking care of the balance. The palate might be lagging a bit behind the nose, but that is not to say the wine feels restrained on the palate - no, the nose feels just exceptionally big and ripe. As a very enjoyable and well-made effort where nothing seems to be out of place and nothing is in excess, this a very harmonious and rewarding old-school Cab.
- 1988 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Quite subtly translucent and still relatively youthful pomegranate red color with a colorless rim. Dry, meaty and somewhat oxidative nose with aromas of dried blackcurrants, some raisiny tones, a little bit of sweet cherry marmalade, light vegetal notes of bell pepper, oxidative hints of soy sauce and hoi-sin and a touch of woody oak spice. The wine is full-bodied, rather tertiary and getting already somewhat thin on the palate with very evolved flavors of wizened blackcurrants, some gamey meat, a little bit of beef jerky, light oxidative notes of soy sauce, a hint of toasty oak spice and a touch of tar. The wine is still quite structured with its moderately high acidity and firm medium tannins. The finish is dry, long and quite tertiary with rather old flavors of gamey meat, wizened blackcurrants, some sour cherries, a little bit of savory wood spice, light smoky tones and a hint of hoi-sin.
A stylish and savory Napa Cab that is a bit too old for its own good. Structurally the wine feels wonderfully balanced, but the fruit has already started to give in, making the taste come across somewhat thin and somewhat oxidative. The wine progressed only to its inevitable decline over the evening, so decanting didn't seem to help; this was at its best quite soon after opening the bottle. Still drinkable, but not showing its best anymore and won't benefit from further aging. Drink sooner rather than later.
- 1987 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Developed, somewhat translucent cherry red color with mahogany overtones. Rich, vibrant and wonderfully evolved nose with intense aromas of ripe blackcurrants, some herbaceous notes of chopped bell pepper, a little bit of tobacco, light gamey tones, a woody hint of savory oak spice and a touch of sweet black cherry. The wine is dense, textural and full-bodied on the palate with dry and quite concentrated flavors of blackcurrants, some plummy fruit with sweeter nuanced of prunes, a little bit of tobacco and leathery tones, light umami notes of gamey meat, a herbaceous hint of bell pepper and a touch of cocoa nibs. The overall feel is wonderfully balanced and quite structured with the moderately high acidity and tannins that feel very soft and fully resolved at first, but slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is long, dry and somewhat grippy with intense flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some brambly notes of blackcurrants, light notes of tobacco, a little bit of sanguine iron, a hint of old, cracking leather and a sweeter, vegetal touch of cooked bell pepper.
A beautiful, complex and thoroughly impressive Napa Cab which seems to be sitting steadily at its plateau of maturity. Terrific now and probably will keep good for some time more. Very harmonious old-school stuff; pretty much exactly what one would ask for an aged Cabernet. Ridiculous value at ~50€.
- 1987 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Moderately translucent, somewhat developed and luminous pomegranate red color. Vibrant and still quite youthful nose with aromas of ripe blackcurrants, some red cherries, light cooling, herbal notes of menthol or minty greenness, a little bit of tobacco, a herbaceous hint of chopped red chili and a touch of savory oak spice. The wine is full-bodied, dry and quite sinewy on the palate with intense, savory flavors of ripe blackcurrants and black raspberries, some sour cherries, a little bit of minty herbal character, light developed notes of wizened red plums and leather, a vegetal hint of cooked bell pepper and a woody touch of pencil shavings. Despite its +30 years of age, the wine is still impressively structured with its high acidity and firm, moderately grippy tannins. The finish is dry, long and complex with some tannic grip and intense, crunchy flavors of ripe blackcurrants, brambly raspberries, some leathery tones, a little bit of tobacco, light umami notes of raw bloody meat and a cooling hint of menthol.
A wonderfully structured, rather muscular and beautifully developed yet still relatively youthful Napa Cab. Performed even slightly better than the similarly impressive Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet 1987. Among the 9 Cali reds we had, this was my wine of the night. Offers tons of pleasure right now, but has enough stuffing to develop even further from here. A classically built, harmonious and very complex wine; very highly recommended. Do the modern Napa Cabs possess this kind of capability to age anymore?
- 1987 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (19.2.2020)
Deep, somewhat translucent and very dark ruby to black cherry color; surprisingly youthful for its age. Powerful, savory and rather straightforward nose with intense aromas of fresh blackcurrants, some meaty tones, a little bit of bouillon, light sweet notes of cherry marmalade and a hint of graphite. The nose doesn't feel young anymore, but it isn't fully tertiary either. The wine is full-bodied, muscular and quite robust on the palate with intense, dry flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some tertiary notes of beef jerky and leather, light bloody tones, a little bit of meaty umami, a sweet hint of juicy dark plum and a woody touch of pencil shavings. The overall feel is very structured with the high acidity and quite assertive, grippy tannins. The finish is ripe, robust and rather tannic with intense flavors of juicy blackcurrants, meaty umami, some peppery tones, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, light sweet notes of dried red fruits, a hint of savory oak spice and a touch of meat stew.
A very powerful, impressively structured and enjoyably old school Napa Cabernet with lots of muscle to keep all that intense fruit in check. Overall the wine is quite evolved and getting rather tertiary, although there's still lots of fruit still left to the wine. Most likely the wine is peaking now; even though the structure could use some further aging, I doubt the fruit will benefit from any further cellaring. Compared to the regular 1987 Dunn Napa Cabernet that was tasted alongside, this feels somewhat bigger and more structured with more concentrated fruit - but surprisingly more developed as well. While the regular Napa Cab was surprisingly youthful for its age, showing capability to age even further, this Howell Mountain Cab is pretty much at its peak. Although I preferred the slightly more delicate and harmonious style of the regular Dunn Napa Cab, this is quite stunning a wine as well. Highly recommended.
- 1986 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Developed, quite translucent and somewhat smutty cherry red color with a pale rim. Dry, savory and honestly somewhat bretty nose with an understated funky streak that lends a somewhat traditionalist Italian, Rioja or Bandol feel to it. Aromas of phenolic smoke, some juicy blackcurrants, a little bit of toasty, cedary oak spice, light minty herbal tones, a hint of leathery funk and a touch of Band-Aid brett. The wine is dry, dense and quite savory on the palate with a quite full-body, very textural overall feel and intense flavors of fresh blackcurrants and ripe redcurrants, some juicy black cherries, a little bit of bretty Band-Aid and sweet leathery funk, light gamey tones, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of barnyard. The wine is impressively structured with high acidity and firm medium-plus tannins. The finish is dry, long and somewhat grippy with layered, savory flavors of bretty leather, some ripe blackcurrants, a little bit of Band-Aid, light sweeter notes of wild strawberries, a crunchy hint of fresh red plums and a herbal touch of minty lift.
A wonderful, classic and enjoyably funky Cabernet with an obvious streak of brett that lends a sort of Italian air to this old-school Napa Cab. Contrasting with the weightier (and cleaner) 1987 Dunn Cabernets, this wine felt slightly lighter and more restrained in style, coming across slightly less big and impressive, but at the same time perhaps a bit more structured. For its age the wine is remarkably youthful, showing good potential to develop further, both structurally and flavor-wise. This might be a bit too funky for people who want their wine squeaky-clean, but for my taste this was a perfect match. Stylistically this did not reach the heights of the 1987 Dunn Cabs, but perhaps if given more time, the wine might catch up. Obviously built for the very long haul. Highly recommended.
- 1986 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
Deep, developed and quite concentrated dark ruby red color that permits some light through. A pale dried blood-red rim. The nose feels juicy, sweet and somewhat tertiary with aromas of juicy strawberries, some dusty earth, a little bit of ripe dark plums, a little bit of London licorice, light oxidative notes of soy sauce, a hint of blood and a mushroomy touch of sous-bois and earth. The wine is juicy, full-bodied and somewhat sweet-toned on the palate with a textural mouthfeel and quite ripe flavors of strawberries, some wizened dark plums, a little bit of tobacco and cigar box, light oxidative notes of hoi-sin, umami hints of beef jerky and mushrooms and a salty touch of soy sauce. The wine is medium to moderately high in acidity with ample yet quite resolved medium-plus tannins that slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is dry, textural and quite tertiary with savory flavors of fried porcini mushrooms, gamey meat, some developed notes of leather and salty soy sauce, light smoky notes, a hint of prunes and a touch of strawberry jam.
A rich and very evolved Napa Cab. It has aged quite gracefully, but is getting quite tertiary at this point and the overall consensus was that the wine is now going slowly downhill. Most likely this would've been better 5-8 years ago. Still pretty enjoyable, but not in top shape anymore. The wine still retains quite balanced structure, but stylistically, with its obviously ripe fruit, it is a bit sweeter than what I'd like. Good but not great.
- 1986 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Bella Oaks - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (19.2.2020)
Bottled in August 1990. Bottle #35518 of total 59688 bottles. 13,5% alcohol.
Deep, somewhat translucent and quite concentrated dark ruby red color with a developed rusty hue and a pale brick-orange rim. Savory and very tertiary nose with aromas of sweet plummy fruit, some raisiny tones, a little bit of savory oak spice, light developed notes of dried figs, an oxidative hint of soy sauce and a sweet, lifted touch of balsamic VA. The wine is dry, dense and full-bodied on the palate with a rather chewy texture and quite tertiary flavors of sour cherries, crunchy redcurrants and sweeter forest fruits, some amaro bitterness and minty green tones, a little bit of licorice, light oxidative notes of soy sauce, a gamey hint of meat and a lifted touch of balsamic VA. The wine is enjoyably high in acidity, but the tannins have resolved fully and become almost nonexistent. The finish is dry, long and very subtly grippy with complex, tertiary flavors of soy sauce and hoi-sin, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of gamey meat, light earthy tones, a hint of tobacco and a touch of wizened blackcurrants.
A very developed and rather tertiary Napa Cab that has started to go downhill. There is some fruit left here and the wine is still quite enjoyable with some nice sense of complexity, but the tannic structure has softened to the point that the wine is coming across as a bit too soft, and the fruit department has dried up for the most part, turning rather pruney. Most likely the wine was just opened 10 years too late. Still relatively good stuff, but obviously isn't showing its best anymore. If you have any bottles, this is better drunk sooner rather than later.
- 1985 Dolce Winery Late Harvest - USA, California, Napa Valley (19.2.2020)
The first ever vintage of this wine, labeled "Far Niente White Table Wine Dolce" - Dolce Far Niente meaning "sweet idleness" in Italian. Made from botrytized Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon; a total six of oak barrels were made. Never released commercially. 13,5% alcohol.
Deep and wonderfully developed reddish copper color. Sweet and somewhat oxidative nose with complex, evolved aromas of maple syrup, pungent nutty tones of rancio and chopped almonds, caramel, some apple sauce, a little bit of rowanberry marmalade, light cloudberry jam tones, a hint of leather and a touch of cooked rose hips. The wine is sweet, silky and somewhat oily on the palate with a full body and slightly oxidative flavors of bruised apples, some ripe golden damsons, a little bit of cooked rose hips, light and gently bitter rowanberry tones, a hint of cloudberry jam and a touch of maple syrup. The wine is medium-to-moderately high in acidity; not enough to lend the wine freshness, but high enough to keep in balance. The finish is sweet, sticky and slightly warm with long, rich and complex flavors of maple syrup, bruised apple, some rowanberry tones, a little bit of cooked rose hips, light burnt sugar bitterness and a hint of caramel.
A very nice, wonderfully evolved and quite complex dessert wine. The wine is obviously peaking now and won't develop anywhere from here, but most likely the wine isn't going to fall apart anytime soon either. Not a spectacular sweet wine in any way, but a remarkable effort considering this was the very first vintage they ever made - it is quite a feat to create a wine capable of keeping good for more than 35 years right from the first vintage! A serious and well-made new world sticky.