All tasting notes courtesy MikeP
Last night. 9 thirsty souls converged on Zoë in SoHo for the ritual of consuming red wine, eating great fare, and hanging with a few buds. Not just any red wine mind you but some old Cali Cabs. This group was relaxed and fun loving. Enough wit for a group thrice its size I might add. It’s always good to see old friends and make new. The food was top notch and the service impeccable as always.
Thanks to Steve G for bringing that wonderful 2000 Kistler McCrea Chardonnay. It was pure and elegant. A perfectly matured example of a varietal I don’t know much of.
Thanks to Greg DP for acquiring those 3 big bottles and offering up graciously the Martinis from his own cellar.
Thank you Steve E for the Cask 23 and Blankiet. Your generosity overflows…both figuratively & literally.
And now…the wines:
1974 Louis Martini Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon; nose of maderized red wine, or port. Musty dried sour dark cherries. This had most definitely seen its better days. N/R
1975 Louis Martini Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon, not very dissimilar to the 1974. The maderization was in full swing. This slowly turned to wet cardboard. Hmmm? N/R
1976 Louis Martini Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon, this has a subdued nose of dried red fruits. Some soy, tobacco, spice and tar were evident on the palate. Although slightly oxidized, this was actually quite nice. Very elegant. This must have been a stunner 10 years back. 88/100
1973 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon (from magnum), now we’re talking. This had a great lush dark resolved fruit profile that belied its age. The color was dark. There was great dark currant, blackberry, tar, cocoa, and so much more going on. I kept this glass alive until the end of the night. It changed and evolved getting lusher and deeper. The finish was long. If tasted blind I would place this at about 6 or 7 years of age. This 35 year old was amazing. (Comforting & the night's first warm blanket) 94/100
1975 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon (from magnum). Something interesting when a great wine is followed by an even greater wine. This wine in itself was worth the price of admission for the night. Dark brooding color. Silky dark fruited and jam packed full of character. This had a wonderful fully resolved tannin level acted like a conveyor for all else. Some soy, cedar box, tobacco, & cassis. This wine needed a night to watch. A long finish that was like hitting a birdie on 18 that gets you smiling and planning your next outing even before you get back to the cart., here, your next taste. (If the Martinis were grandparents of the night, this was the mistress you must throw your wallet at). 96/100
1977 Heitz Bella Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. This was pure 1970s California…. fast-forwarded. Slightly edgy and rustic. A nice dark fruit profile that seemed masked by a matured high oak level? Not quite sure. Some currant and spice, and some other nice secondaries. Kevin to my right loved it so, I emptied my glass and got myself more of that '75 Mayacamas. 89/100
1991 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23. This was dark and brooding. Much more in today’s style of Napa Cabernet. Deep vanilla and cassis on the nose. A wonderful purity. The palate a very elegant currant, tar, cocoa, cedar, & vanilla, this was a hedonistic wine. Structured, classy elegant and brawny all at once. Just a balanced beauty. A long smooth finish that went on for 45 seconds. 17 and acting like 7. 94/100
2002 Blankiet Merlot. Merlot? Yes, Merlot. My friend Steve was gracious enough to open this at the end of the evening. I wish I had 3 hours to appreciate and watch this sexy beast. Plush dark cherry pie and ripe tomato leaf on the nose. The palate had the cherries, black and red plums, cocoa, and anise. The mouth feel was incredible: round and soft, but firm and structured. It harkened memory of a wonderful Ch. Figeac I had many years ago, (when I drank that sought of thing that is…). I would have rated this higher if it did not remind me initially of Chianti on the nose. 91/100
Who ever said that California Cabs can’t age? These Mayacamas behaved like children more than middle agers.
All tasting notes courtesy MikeP
All notes courtesy Ben Sherwin
2000 Kistler Chardonnay McCrea Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma MountainI'm not a huge Kistler fan, but this wine was quite good. I'd suspect that this wine once smelled of buttered popcorn, but the buttery oak has certainly integrated leaving a pleasing Chardonnay popcorn along with some intense citrus. It was quite interesting in the mouth with very good intensity and complexity to the smoky fruit with a slight herbal spiciness. While the wine had an admirable minerality to it, I couldn't help to nitpick that I'd have liked a bit more acidity to match the ripeness. Nevertheless, it was wonderfully persistent and matched nicely with scallops.
Greg brought these museum pieces that he had acquired off the sweat of his brow and the change in his pocket. With crumbly corks and just decent fills, it appeared we were in store for a real crap shoot. That's pretty much what we got to with a pretty decent range of quality. The general consensus was in favor of the '76, although both Greg and Greg T. preferred the '75. I didn't get that at all, but different strokes, especially when it comes to older wines.
1974 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection - USA, California, Napa ValleySadly, this tasted a bit past its prime. It started out a bit reductive and rubbery, but that cleared leaving an interesting savory nose of cassis and dried leaves. It seemed slightly madierized on the palate, with the one distinctive characteristic being a persistently long finish of amaretto. Blind, I would have said this was an extremely old Nebbiolo, as it didn't have much Cabernet character left. The ripe rabbit that has been passed by the tortoises of the less famous vintages.
1975 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection - USA, California, Napa ValleyI know Greg liked this one, but I found it rather disappointing. I never got passed the grassiness and rubber ball smell and the palate was a touch sour with really tired fruit. If there was more fruit, perhaps the dill wouldn't have bothered me as much as it did. Ultimately, whatever balance this wine once had has been lost to the ether.
1976 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection - USA, California, Napa ValleyHere is a wine I can get behind, although it was more pleasant than earth-shattering (which is fine). The funky, reductiveness that it had at first receded and gave way to dusty blackcurrants and earthy mushrooms. It had a gentle body and decent palate presence, although it lacked a certain amount of intensity that would elevate it to oustanding. As it is, it was very good, but I'd certainly drink these up if you have any.
4.5 Liters of Outstanding Cabernet
Well, at least 3.0 liters. These wines were all out of magnums that were in absolutely pristine condition. These wines really speak to the storage element to the tasting of wine, with the Martinis as a counterpoint. The corks were fantastic, the fills unbelievable and the wines were...
1973 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa ValleyWhat a wine, what a wine. Dark and lovely, it was magic from the second it was in the glass. The nose was a gentle dusty cassis intermingled with dill (I'd expect this saw a fair bit of American oak in its day). It continued to evolve in the glass and gained complexity with cigar ash and earth. It had a certain tranquility in the mouth, not that it lacked vivacity, but in a way that showed great self-assurance and restraint. It was an effortless wine in the mouth, with smoky dark fruit that was reminiscent of mature Graves, but with a sweetness to the fruit that was quite California. Here was a wine truly in balance with each element clean and precise. A truly classic Claret and a revelation.
1975 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa ValleyThis wine started slowly and built to an amazing crescendo. Unmistakably California Cabernet, it displayed brawny and brambly mountain fruit with a youthful vibrancy that belied its age. It evolved beautifully in the glass, picking up charcoal, mint and earth, without fading one iota. The dark profile of the fruit carries through to the palate where it showed great breadth and power. There is still a fair amount of tannin to resolve, but it surrounds and elevates the sweet California fruit rather than obscuring it. Impeccable balance and precision carry through to a long and tasty finish. A remarkable wine that should continue to evolve.
1977 Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Bella Oaks - USA, California, Napa Valley, OakvilleI thought this was going to continue the streak of great mature CA Cabs, but after a brief promise it faded. The nose initially showed dark plum mixed with cocoa powder and leather, but dipped a bit picking up some soy notes and generally becoming more reticent on the fruit side. It didn't have much intensity or weight in the mouth, although it was not at all unpleasant. It just seemed to struggle a bit to keep up with the 2 wines next to it. Still, it was clearly well crafted, even if a bit tired.
Clearly we didn't have enough wine......so we opened these gifts of Steve E., whose generosity is only matched by his foolishness for agreeing to open them. The '91 Cask 23 seemed remarkably young compared to the two earlier flights, but it was a precocious teen with lots of upside. The Blankiet was too out of place for proper evaluation in my opinion.
1991 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23 - USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap DistrictThis wine tasted remarkably youthful next to the '70s Cabs, but it did not lack for hints of maturity. The fruit was deep, dark and intense with some secondary elements of mocha, charcoal and anise. It was quite full in the mouth with excellent concentration. With very good structural elements, the best is yet to come for this wine.
2002 Blankiet Estate Merlot Paradise Hills Vineyard - USA, California, Napa ValleyCompletely out of place, this came across as a bit disjointed next to the mature wines at the table. I found it someone flat and reedy on the nose and had a hard time picking up the fruit profile. It was extremely tannic in the mouth and was pretty much close for business. That said, since it was only showing structure, let me say that those elements were well constructed. I'm not sure that I'd give up on this wine, but I would leave it alone for a good long time.