We meet up at the always dependable Cafe Loup last night for dinner and a vertical tasting of some Mondavi Reserve Cabs. These were great looking bottles, all with high fills that has enjoyed over 2 decades of loving storage in excellent conditions. Each of the bottles was double decnated in my office about an hour before dinner. None save the 1976 had thrown much sediment but keeping them clear and giving them a bit of air to breathe is always a good idea.
Everything was great last night, we were seated at a nice comfy table with plenty of space for our bottles and glasses and the food was some of the best I have had from them in quite awhile. Of course the food was a nice diversion but we had come not for the food but for the wine…
We began with the oldest bottle, the 1975. Even 33 years after the vintage this need some time to get it’s legs under it but it offered a wonderful core of red fruit that had just a touch of zesty astringency that helped keep everything bright and lively. It was marred by a bit of brett and that did come to dominate the nose over the course of the evening but it was a wonderful bottle of wine from a frequently over looked vintage.
In comparison the 1976, from the first of two famous back to back drought years, was richly aromatic with roasted, earthy fruit and the most intriguing mineral and floral tones. In the mouth it is a big, fat, round wine, you at the table know whom I am talking about, but is lovely in it’s own seductive, lusty way.
1977 was the second year of drought yet by then both the plants and those tending the vines were better able to cope with the difficult growing conditions. Long one of my favorite vintages in California, this wine was a typical example, still showing the remains of it’s once fierce structure yet with fruit that has no trace of the pruney fruit that mars many of the 1976′s. While this was my wine of the night, along with several other tasters, it also was voted as the least favorite by a few. Perhaps a bit controversial but for good reason since it retains such a distinct and assertive character.
Moving on to the 1978 I was struck by the elegance of this vintage. Decidedly dark fruited yet with a touch of dilution and lurking vegetal character it was a bit of a Bordelaise effort and for me the weakest of tonight’s line-up. Not to denigrate the Bordelaise, but this is napa Cab and should taste like Napa Cab!
Our final bottle in the vertical was the 1979. Another favorite of mine, the 79 was always a bit of a lean vintage but with good focus and structure that has relied as much on acid as on tannin for it’s ageability. This was a very fine bottle, with good complexity and nice acid driven flavors that worked splendidly with my Lamb. The nose was pretty minty, too minty for several tasters but over the course of the evening the mintiness subsided as the wine took on more typicity.
Well we were certainly having a good time and the wine was just not enough so I opened an additional bottle, the 2003 Pietra Santa Signature Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. This comes from the Cienega Valley east of Santa Cruz and straddles the rocky soils of the St. Andreas fault! This great soil is responsible for these fine wine that exhibit great depth and concentration without the over-extraction that frequently accompainies wines of this size. It had very little in common with the Mondavis, for even in their youth the Mondavis showed more restraint and elegance and exhbited less of the candied spice of toasted oak. It will be very interesting to look back in a decade or two and see if wines like this can age as well as the wines of the 1970′s have.
Well that was our evening. It was great to get together with you all. I look forward to our next dinner, be it the Caymus Vertical, the Barolo Vertical or a mish-mash of post blind tasting bliss. It’s getting a bit slow during the holiday season but keep you eyes on the events forum at Snooth Talk for our next line-up of great events!