1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

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Joe Abruzzo
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1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#1 Post by Joe Abruzzo » September 9th, 2019, 8:44 am

Wow, this was sensational! The bottle was pristine. Low shoulder fill, the cork was stained but held a perfect seal where the wine did not escape. It was moist and came out easily. I was worried this was going to be way over the hill and dead, but one quick sniff and I knew this was going to be fantastic. The wine was ruby red, surely not 50 years old. Notes of kirsch liquor, intoxicating aromas. On the palate, great texture, velvet. While the finish wasn't endless, it was more than one can expect from a 50 YO zinfindel. Unbelievable experience!

Purchased about 5 years ago from BP wine for $30! Whoever purchased this bottle did a great job preserving it.

20190907_203503.jpg

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Anton D
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#2 Post by Anton D » September 9th, 2019, 8:45 am

Great note, and very encouraging!

So happy you got a winner.

Thanks for the great report.
Anton Dotson

What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the fine red wine of Shiraz into urine?

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Mark Golodetz
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#3 Post by Mark Golodetz » September 9th, 2019, 9:19 am

We had a 1974 recently. Also brilliant, but sounds quite different from your bottle. Very bright, reddish fruit (no kirsch) with lots of tertiary elements of cedar, leather and leaf meal.
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Rich Brown
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#4 Post by Rich Brown » September 9th, 2019, 9:24 am

Awesome!! Absolutley love it when an old zin shows so well!! Always a crap shoot for sure....but those nice wins make the gamble worth the minimal cost of admission.

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Mark Golodetz
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#5 Post by Mark Golodetz » September 9th, 2019, 11:56 am

Swan and Ridge are he blue chip ones, I too have had horrors. I need to taste a few more Souverains before I put it on the same pedestal.
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Josh Grossman
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#6 Post by Josh Grossman » September 9th, 2019, 12:44 pm


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Andrew Demaree
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#7 Post by Andrew Demaree » September 9th, 2019, 4:18 pm

I had the 1970 version at Bern’s two years ago and it was fantastic. I have a ‘72 in the cellar but, given the reputation of the vintage, I been thinking of it as more of a sentimental bottle (it’s my birth year) than something I’d ever open.

John Gilman
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#8 Post by John Gilman » September 11th, 2019, 5:34 am

Just a quick note that it was not "Chateau Souverain", which was a lower level, mass-marketed label created in the early 1980s (if memory serves me correctly) by one of the bigger wineries (Beringer maybe?) for their brand to compete with Glen Ellen, but Souverain, which was started in the 1950s by Lee Stewart. Stewart was one of the early pioneers of serious winemaking in Napa, with his winery and vineyards up on Howell Mountain. Among others, Warren Winiarski of Stag's Leap Cellars fame first started his winemaking journey working for Lee at Souverain. Stewart made some stellar wines during his career, but eventually sold Souverain to Tom Burgess in 1973 and the vineyards have been homebase to Burgess Cellars since that time. The Souverain wines had a very high reputation during the '50s and '60s, and Stewart kept the brand alive by making wines from purchased fruit after selling his original vineyards and cellars to Burgess. The latter wines were not quite in the same league in quality or longevity as the original, estate bottlings of cabernet, but the few estate wines I have tasted from the old outpost on Howell Mountain have been very good. Not sure if the '68 Zinfandel was made from estate grown fruit or purchased grapes, but it is still from the era where Stewart was at the top of his game and I am not surprised that it was still very tasty. I think I have a bottle of this still in my cellar somewhere that I will have to go look for... Well-stored bottles of Souverain cabernet from both '68 and '70 have been excellent on the rare occasions when I have been able to share them. Souverain has fallen through the cracks of history as the decades have flown past, but Stewart was once considered one of the top handful of winemakers in Napa.

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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#9 Post by Joe Abruzzo » September 11th, 2019, 8:16 am

John, thanks for clarifying that this was not Chateau Souverain. I had just assumed it was the same winery. In any case this bottle was fantastic and I'm pleasantly surprised that this bottle was so good and not dead. For $30 a few years ago this is my steal of a lifetime, I'd probably pay 10x that price if I could purchase it again in the same condition.

Josh, I did see that cabernet on Winebid!

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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#10 Post by Richard Albert » September 11th, 2019, 8:26 am

How cool that their Zin is showing so well too. Yay! Those are very special moments enjoying 12% ABV, 40+ year old Napa gems.

A couple of us jumped on the 68 and 70 Cabs at BP as I was blown away by a previous 70. I believe the source was the Barney Rhodes cellar. We paid about $100 per.

The 70's have been our favs with cedar, herbs, earth and surprising fruit level. The 68's showed more maturity.
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Joe Abruzzo
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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#11 Post by Joe Abruzzo » September 11th, 2019, 11:13 am

Interesting findings googling Barney Rhodes cellar. There was a tread here showing a lot of the wines in that BP sale. After the showing on this zinfindel, I'd go back and buy a lot of those wines now. These treasures don't come along often, especially with this provenance. Makes it an even better experience knowing this bottling came from such a legend in CA wine!

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Re: 1968 Chateau Souverain Zinfindel

#12 Post by Mel Knox » September 11th, 2019, 1:15 pm

I thought Bud Mueller and his investors bought Souverain, sold the original winery to Tom Burgess, then built a new Souverain, which is now Rutherford Hill, next door to Auberge du Soleil. Then Bud got Pillsbury to buy the whole shebang and they decided they needed to build a larger winery in the Alexander Valley, called variously Ch Souverain and Souverain of the Alexander valley. This is now Francois Ford Coppola Presents. Bud also bought Frank Schoonmaker. The Pillsbury discovered that there were legal issues relating to owning restaurants--Burger King--and wineries. So then they sold Schoonmaker to Seagrams and it became part of Chateau and Estates. Napa Souverain got sold to the Jaeger family and Ch Souverain became a co op as I recall until what we called Beringer Wine Estates, now Treasury, bought it.

The business history of many wineries is so convoluted it's hard to remember everything correctly.

In any event Lee Stewart would have made the '68; Phil Baxter Senior, the '74. All I remember is that both the '68 and '70 Souverain Cabs were sensational and oftentimes available at very low prices.
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