A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

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A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#1 Post by c fu » December 6th, 2018, 2:09 pm

We've been tossing around the idea of doing a dinner around older California cab for some time. We finally got off our asses and did it. We targeted the late 60s to 70s as there were some absolutely amazing wines made during that time, my personal favorite period.

Mr. Golden8wines.com set up an awesome space at Mastro's Ocean Club in Newport. They provided us plenty of stemware and space. The food was great too.

Some non-cab were blinded in as well. Sorry the notes are not in order of the tasting. Most wines were served blinds in flights that made sense :D. Grouped by vintages/grapes/location.

To me the WOTN was clearly the 78 Joseph Phelps Eisele vineyard (thanks kent!)- pinnacle level wine. Followed by the 73 Mt Eden (another awesome buy from Richard Albert's sources) - which was everything I would want from Bordeaux that Bordeaux doesn't give me ;D.

Great food, great wine, great friends = great time!


Pic from steve -


  • 1978 Château Haut-Brion - France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan (12/6/2018)
    weak bottle - ex domaine tho? clean beautiful cork, high fill. Just tasted of emptiness and earth.
  • 1978 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley (12/6/2018)
    wow wow wow!!! this wine is a pinnacle example of aged Napa Cab. It's to me drinking at peak, it's a dense wine but showing it's aging grace, filled with sweet earth, springy bright red fruit exploding out on the nose. The palate is concentrated and persistent. There's a richness of beautiful elegant red fruit and a bloom of spices and chilling acidity. F A mint streak intensified the cooling aspect of the wine. A wine of 40+ years it is still vibrant and alluring

    I repeat. wow
  • 1991 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot - USA, California, Napa Valley (12/6/2018)
    Whatttt - served blind, wouldn't have guessed any older than 2001. Still structured but with a sweet round red fruit that was lush and delicious. Lots of cherry and acid in the wine. It's definitely more hedonistic but not overwhelming, but it has the underbelly in its frame to go along for the wine. Really delicious bottle.
  • 1968 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/29/2018)
    This wine has incredible depth and concentration at its age. Similar to the 68 Martha's we had a month or so ago it's so dark and deep, filled with deep flavors of smokey dark fruit, leather, wood and a little tobacco. Really powerful wine. A testament to great storage
  • 1968 Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery Burgundy - USA, California, Sonoma County (11/29/2018)
    a bit of rot on the palate and nose, still drinkable with red fruit but its better days have passed
  • 1970 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/29/2018)
    Fully integrated and in a very pleasurable place. The fruit grew on the wine as the night went on. Seamless and cool on the palate, some cedar wood lingered with the light cool fruit. Quite the contrast from the dark concentrated 68 next to it
  • 1970 Charles Krug Winery (Peter Mondavi Family) Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/29/2018)
    Similar to the 70 BV in that it had cool light fruit, but it showed a bit more bricking and oxidation. Was still very drinkable but didn't really grow on the palate like the 70 BV did with time.
  • 1973 Davis Bynum Merlot - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (11/29/2018)
    sweet earthy fruit, getting tired though, showed its age.
  • 1973 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon First Bottling - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains (11/29/2018)
    The wine is at its absolute pinnacle, I can't imagine it being any better than it is. It's singing in full harmony with a sweet nose of spice and red berries after 20 minutes in the glass. The palate is filled with ample red fruit that exudes elegance. The secondary notes of earth and tobacco are truly secondary, they add fragments to the wine and don't take center stage as it lets that fruit take on the main role. The fine grain tannins help bring texture and fullness on the palate.

    One of the last wines poured, I think i went back for 3-4 glasses of it. I also brought it so it scored 100000 points out of 100. Purchased from the "Davis" cellar sale on WB a couple of years ago. Everything from that sale has been mind blowing good. Thanks Richard for offering it to us
  • 1975 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Martha's Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (11/29/2018)
    I've had this wine probably 6-7 times now from a case purchase, easily the best bottle we had. The classic martha's note of eucalyptus was so pure and fresh and the fruit was bright. The palate didn't have the roundness of the 75 Ridge York next to it but it had much more acidity propping up the wine that gave it a nice fresh bite to go along with the dried spices, red fruit and minty fresh earth.
  • 1975 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon York Creek - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (11/29/2018)
    Delicious wine. As it unfurls it has that classic Ridge round sweet fruit that I get on a lot of their older cabernet. It's so distinctive but it's hard for me to put in words. It almost has a lushness in its fruit but that makes it sound overly sweet which it's not at all. The tannins have given way as the wine just rolls down with ease. The fruit also has almost a savory note at the end that is very compelling.
  • 1978 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection - USA, California, Napa Valley (11/29/2018)
    Initially the wine was very subdued and boring. It was all sawdust and emptiness. Everyone was initially pretty disappointed. About a hour after pouring I went back to taste it again from bottle out of curiosity and the wine had picked up this huge intense black liquor like fruit. Big bold structured body appeared out of nowhere, completely mouth filling as it saturated everything.
  • 1978 William Hill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder - USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (11/29/2018)
    Similar to the 78 Caymus Special Selection this had just loads of that deep rich black fruited liquor on the palate. It was lush and deep. It was a bit primary in that sense as there wasn't much other complexity, but I was pretty wow'd by how generous and bold the fruit was.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#2 Post by Brandon R » December 6th, 2018, 2:24 pm

Awesome tasting, Charlie, thanks for posting. I'm doing a horizontal of 1978s from California over Christmas and hope to have some similar experiences!
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#3 Post by Todd F r e n c h » December 6th, 2018, 2:27 pm

Wow, too bad I couldn't make this.

Because I was invited (and didn't have a family holiday thing in the way - free calendar date, awesome)
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#4 Post by brigcampbell » December 6th, 2018, 2:29 pm

Richard and Ryan are pretty good sources for this stuff!!

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#5 Post by Eric Ifune » December 6th, 2018, 4:45 pm

Yeah, sorry I missed this as well.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#6 Post by Richard Albert » December 6th, 2018, 4:57 pm

I am so glad to hear the 1973 Mt Eden was still going strong. Parker did an overview of the 1973 vintage and raved about it, projecting it was a 50 year wine in the 80's.
The 1978 Eisele is not far behind the legendary 75.
I love those low alcohol Cab gems from the 1970's, tough as nails initially, but still offering fruit and balance 40+ years later. Yay!
That 1978 Dehlinger PN I opened in Sept was also from the Davis cellar and was exceptional as I posted-cherry, spice, sandalwood with a long slightly saline finish.

And thanks, your tasting just inspired me to open some 60's and 70's shortly with Nevin. Will post notes.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#7 Post by Jeremy Holmes » December 6th, 2018, 5:25 pm

Nice selection Fu.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#8 Post by Michael S. Monie » December 6th, 2018, 5:37 pm

Big mistake Phelps not buying Eisele!
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#9 Post by Mark Golodetz » December 6th, 2018, 5:50 pm

I have tasted the 1975 Eisele recently also a brilliant wine.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#10 Post by Mike Maguire » December 6th, 2018, 6:52 pm

Michael S. Monie wrote:
December 6th, 2018, 5:37 pm
Big mistake Phelps not buying Eisele!
True That ! Michael

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#11 Post by Alan Eden » December 6th, 2018, 7:01 pm

Had multiple cabs from late 70’s lately, BV, Mondavi etc and they are fabulous. Im the biggest fan of modern power wines but can really appreciate these older cabs
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#12 Post by Cris Whetstone » December 6th, 2018, 9:52 pm

Oh man. Wish I had known about this. Very nice.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#13 Post by Robert Dentice » December 7th, 2018, 3:42 am

Great tasting. It is amazing how well the wines from the 70s are still showing and not just the top wines.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#14 Post by Howard Cooper » December 7th, 2018, 4:33 am

Seems like a wonderful tasting. All California winemakers should go to tastings like this to see what they are, in many cases, not doing.

I have tasted a number of wines from this era and a lot clearly have passed the test of time. I have not, however, tasted any older Mount Eden and would love to do so someday. Great find.

The one wine that surprised me was the William Hill. I have not had the 1978, but have had a couple of others from that era and the ones I have had (stored properly from a young age) did not hold up over times. Happy that yours did.

For many years, the 1970 BV Reserve was my favorite California Cab (since eclipsed by a number of other California Cabs - with the 1991 Monte Bello now my favorite). Interesting that it was not among the tops in your tasting. Shows the quality of wines made in that era. Not at all surprised that a Phelps wine from that era showed so well - wish they would go back to making wines the way they did then.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#15 Post by Jim F » December 7th, 2018, 4:41 am

Amazing - what an opportunity to taste all of those together.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#16 Post by Neal.Mollen » December 7th, 2018, 4:50 am

Jim F wrote:
December 7th, 2018, 4:41 am
Amazing - what an opportunity to taste all of those together.
Agreed. Often when I read about these tastings, I think how much I would rather drink one or two of the wines over the course of an evening, rather than small pours of a dozen or more wines. But this is an exception; I'd really love to have tasted the collected wines together for context. Superb tasting; wish I had been present
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#17 Post by Jim Stewart » December 7th, 2018, 5:21 am

The '68 Georges de Latour was the first wine that I bought with the intention of ageing and not for immediate consumption. It was a single bottle purchased in the early 70's for maybe $6-$8. We took that single bottle with us from apartment to apartment where it was "closeted" in lieu of cellaring. Eventually we bought our own house and I built a wine storage rack in the corner of our basement and started putting more bottles away for future "special occasion" opening. I think we opened this bottle at 15-20 years of age for a birthday or anniversary. Thanks for the memory!
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#18 Post by Fred Bower » December 7th, 2018, 6:38 am

I've had great luck with the '72 BV PR. The first bottle of '72 Heitz Martha's I dipped into this year was not as good (and cost me much more). Alas. I buy California wines from this era with confidence.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#19 Post by ybarselah » December 7th, 2018, 6:56 am

super good notes. if i have a mag of the 75 heitz, when to drink?
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#20 Post by Richard Albert » December 7th, 2018, 7:18 am

So true about the Eisele Vineyard, Joe Phelps should have purchased it. Now it is in a great stable with Ch Latour which is so fitting.

I sold a couple of the 1971 Ridge Cabs, but never have the opportunity to taste it, mistake. The 74 Conn Creek was stunning, it was in a great line up at an SF eatery in the mid-80's and it shined brightly, WOTN. It was included innocently because it was selected strictly by the vineyard, the owner had no idea what he had. The empty bottle is in my wall of fame collection.

The horticulturalist who took the vineyard biodynamic in the late 90's for the Araujos, purchased some of the 2004 juice in barrel that did not did not fit into their blend, it was too pretty and accessible for an intended vin de guarde. I got some bottles which were put away, regardless of their selection criteria which were opened recently and were still in great shape. Even the Araujo Eisele rejects were amazing.

I conclude whoever was fortunate to access the grapes had out of the ballpark potential; it is all about vineyards.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#21 Post by Steve Nordhoff » December 7th, 2018, 9:07 am

This was a killer dinner. Fu's notes are spot on, but the quality across the board was really high, except the HB :(. The three 78s from Kent's cellar all showed very young and could easily go 10 more years. Both BV GDLs were great.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#22 Post by jon leifer » December 7th, 2018, 2:14 pm

Great notes on great wines, Charlie..brought back fond memories of the Duckhorn Merlot and the 2 BV Georges..
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#23 Post by Victor Hong » December 7th, 2018, 4:45 pm

The Golden Age lasted until around 1996.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#24 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » December 7th, 2018, 4:48 pm

Those old BV PRs are a treat.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#25 Post by Wes Barton » December 7th, 2018, 5:17 pm

Howard Cooper wrote:
December 7th, 2018, 4:33 am
Seems like a wonderful tasting. All California winemakers should go to tastings like this to see what they are, in many cases, not doing.

--------

Not at all surprised that a Phelps wine from that era showed so well - wish they would go back to making wines the way they did then.
On the plus side, now that the Eisele Vyd. is in the hands of Chateau Latour, the wines from there are highly informed by that previous Napa era. Unfortunately for me, that's a lot of money to pay for wines that may not peak til I'm in my 80s or 90s.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#26 Post by Brian King » December 8th, 2018, 8:36 pm

Nice notes! I had the 78 Phelps Eisile nealy 20 years ago and it was the best California wine I've ever had (and remains so today) - glad to see it's still going strong!!

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#27 Post by Howard Cooper » December 9th, 2018, 5:38 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
December 7th, 2018, 4:48 pm
Those old BV PRs are a treat.
Yes -absolutely.

One thing of interest to me. One often sees tasting notes of old BV Reserves (and I have tasted a bunch). But, one sees less often notes on the other great Cab of what I might call the pre-modern era - Inglenook Cask. I had a decent amount of Inglenook Cask from the early seventies (really past the prime of the making of those wines) but have not seen or read much about old Inglenook Cask in modern days. Was less of it made? Is it because quality went down earlier than for BV Reserve. Or, is it just because so many grew up seeing Inglenook as a jug wine and they cannot really believe that this was once a great wine.
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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#28 Post by Eric Ifune » December 9th, 2018, 3:09 pm

Inglenook got bought out long before BV and was made into a commercial brand. Without access to their vineyards, they made a lot of dreck in the 70's and 80's. I still have a couple of Cask bottles including a Pinot I believe.

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Re: A trip through the "Golden Age" of California Cab - tasting of 60-70s California Cabernet

#29 Post by Mark C Johnson » December 9th, 2018, 3:59 pm

I used to crawl on my hands and knees in the mom & pop shops out on the avenues of SF in search of the older Inglenook Cask wines in the early eighties. Those were some great wine experiences.
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