Besides being my birth year, this is my favorite - maybe of any California wine I’ve ever had! It reminds me of Bordeaux, Pomerol in particular, with its dusty, meaty, savory mouthfuls and earth. The texture is luxurious and the notes sing pure on every level. This is a once in a lifetime bottle, and a dang fine year to boot!
1984 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Couldn’t be truer to what it is - this is Cab that’s pristine, preserved, and totally resolved. The fruit is balanced and lush, blacker berry tones peak out from behind a menthol-eucalyptus curtain that is enchanting and intact as the rural California hills. Also a not to miss vintage and an unparalleled experience - liquid history.
1978 Zinfandel, Mead Ranch - Atlas Peak
Stylistically, Zinfandel has too often become a highly alcoholic, big wine. This is Zin of days past, nuanced, bright, and with an insane amount of lush fruit for its age! There are spices, herbs, and bursting red berries, but that is only the first phase. This wine is truly California Zinfandel, from a beautifully harmonious vintage at a single site hallmark vineyard. Mead Ranch was planted in the 1880s and sits 1600 on Atlas Peak, the eastern side of Napa. This is the biggest of the three if we’re measuring, but it’s elegant as heck and pristinely preserved. *Some sediment is lodged at the top of some bottles, but don’t be alarmed. Simply decant and enjoy with good people. Thirty eight year olds love this one!
These wines speak of the California that’s full of live oaks, two lane roads, cows munching on grass, and a barn - one that presumably contains people who grow things - not only to earn a living but also to feed their families and neighbors, perhaps among gnarled old vines and olive trees. Winemakers of this era were farmers. They didn’t sit in a high tower making remote decisions on how to bend what nature delivered into something marketable. These wines are profound and alive evidence of the bounty and staying power that is California.
Old wines require patience when opening. A tool called an ah-so is ideal, but a corkscrew will work, just go slow and steady!
The cork may still crumble (although these are some of the best old corks I've ever pulled), and in the case of a cork you can't get out, well just push that bad larry down into the bottle and strain the wine by pouring it over a cheesecloth into a decanter.
Expect sediment - especially in the 1978 Zin - which doesn't at all affect the wine's taste or impeccable state, - it’s kind of like tasting the dirt that the wine is from!
The color: I love this singular, connoting color in wine. It’s dignified and earned, like the patina of a leather chair or copper saucepan. They are faded and tawny, a burnt reddish rust color and they are not clear like young wines, from sediment that naturally occurs. These are all signs of distinguished age and their general greatness.