So a couple weeks ago, I had purchased a bottle of 1977 Spring Mountain Cabernet from Winebid for $70. This was the best bottle of aged cali-cab I’ve ever had with so much age. It was very much alive, dense, and complex, with all the hallmark flavors (molasses, cedar, and tobacco). Note, I’ve only ever tried Mondavi Reserve and Krug Reserve cabs from the 1970s which were slightly lighter in color and less complex. For SM being mountain fruit, I was surprised how rich this wine was tasting. Has anyone else had any experience lately with SM wines this old? I love SM’s 2001 Estate and Elivette, which are currently drinking fantastic, however I don’t think they have the guts to make it another 25 years. Was there a different winemaking technique used back then? Was 77’ a killer vintage on that mountainside? I went to RP’s site and he didn’t even report on the vintage that year. I also noticed on the label that the alcohol was listed at 13%. I’ve heard the stories of older wines being solicited at lower alcohol levels, and can’t imagine this wine was ever 13%. It seems more like it was 15+%.
Not recently, but back in the eighties I picked up a case less one bottle of the 1974 Spring Mountain at auction (I think Butterfield’s, when auctions were brick & mortar) and each one was great.
1974 was considered the great year of the seventies with 1978 probably the second best year. 1977 was a lower tier vintage wise (as I recall).
Still have a magnum of the 1978 Spring Mountain.
Glad to hear you enjoyed your bottle! Yes, winemaking was different back then.
I wonder where the fruit came from? The winery is near the bottom of Spring Mountain but has acquired a lot of neighboring vineyards over the years. The Spring Mountain AVA wasn’t established until 1993 so I assume the label says Napa Valley. As Mark wrote 1974 and 1978 were generally more highly regarded, but I have read plenty of tasting notes here indicating that 1977 produced some beautiful wines.
Great overview of the Spring Mountain Vineyards history here: Spring Mountain Vineyard: Winery History
1977 was considered a bit of a second tier vintage back in the day, but it really wasn’t.
It got lumped in with 76s as drought year vintages, and while both years were drought years, and arguably 77 worse than 76, 76 was a hot vintage while 77 was more typical. 76 produced pruny, out of balance wines, while 77 produced dark, inky, chewy wines.
The wines were also made differently then, though right around 77/78 California began a bit of a winemaking renaissance, and just a few years later wines were more elegant and less clumsy, making the 77s seem relatively primitive in comparison.
They were just still dense, tannic, and powerful wines that needed time, 15 years in most cases to get them to where they revealed themselves and have continued to impress, particularly when you find a wine made from hillside/mountain fruit. It has always been my favorite vintage of the 70s in California.
Thanks for the insight. The wine was very thick/chewy, and still seemed in balance. From the few other wines I’ve tried from the 70s, I’ve really enjoyed the 79 Mondavi Reserve. I try to pick up this wine every time I see a good deal (under $100) on online auctions.
If you guys don’t shut up, then this topic is gonna reappear in the current “What wines should you buy now before their prices explode” thread adjacent to this one.
It’s getting to the point were it’s not safe to talk about anything anymore.
The 1970 Spring Mountain Cab. was one of the best wines that great year. Just a tad behind the Heitz MV and BCPR.
I have (unfortunately) never tried a Spring Mountain Cab that old, but a 2002 I had this summer was awesome!
Have to keep my eyes peeled for one from the 70’s
Spring Mountain made some good wines in the 70’s. Surprisingly, the 1978 might be one of the lesser wines of the decade. Kinda thin and weedy. The 1977 was much better. I think I may still have a magnum lying around somewhere. I even might have an old bottle of Chateau Chevalier as well.
I have a friend who has bought a lot of Spring Mountain Cabs over the years, especially “older” vintages. Every once in a while, he shares a bottle and all have been fantastic, those from the 70s especially. Somehow, I missed this producer in those days and am fortunate to have an occasional exposure of their profoundness.
I still have the 1994 vintage. Great old-styled stuff.
As far as I know, Philip Togni is still producing old world style cabs on Spring Mtn. He will even tell you not to approach his wine for 20 years lol. IF you can get in to see him or join his wine club he still has older vintages in his warehouse. When I met him in 2008 he had cases of early 80’s stuff still and then he opened one of his 97’s for us. OMG was that outstanding! Ruined me for the rest of the day.
He also makes a limited (like 6 small barrels worth) of a dessert wine called Ca’Togni.
!975 was another great vintage from Spring Mountain.
By far the best Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon I ever tried was the non-vintage Lot H 68-69 LN. This was a wine that early (before RMP) wine writers talked about in the same breath as 1968, 1969 and 1970 Martha’s Vineyard, 1970 Freemark Bosché and some of the BV PRs of that era. A restaurant in Pasadena closed about 20 years ago and had several cases of the Lot H in their cellar. The cellar was liquidated through a local wine shop, and I was lucky enough to grab a few bottles while it was available.
I retract my previous comments. I was mistaken. I thought we were talking about 1997. All wines produced prior to 1997 were terrible and should be avoided. If you have any send them to winebid before the market for that swill crashes.
We can start our own thread. Which wines should you sell now before they become worthless, or worse?
AND - they were greatly overshadowed by the 1978 vintage - and so many young whipper snappers making names for themselves. I was in retail at the time, and you couldn’t give the wines away - everybody wanted the '78s - and the '77s were just incredible bargains for years to come -
Some of those 78’s are still kicking butt…we had the Freemark Abbey base bottling this summer and it was superb.
Was fortunate to stumble up on a Ca’Togni. '94 in 375 on winebid a few years ago. Quite surprised on opening - a truly memorable desert wine. Wish I had purchased more but had no idea what it was.
I’m kind of pissed and wonder if Todd’s mountain fruit post ruined Winebid recently for me. There was a 1976 Mount Veeder Bernstein Cab listed last week for $20, I planned to poach it for a birthyear treat, but the bidding pushed it into the mid $50s. Next week, a 1978 MV Bernstein Cab was listed with a start price of $75. Is there a mountain renaissance happening?
Why mad at others and publicly available information?
If you want something, buy it. If you fail to buy it, why should others be criticized, for not knowing what you wanted or reserving availability for you?
Maybe, I should start looking on Winebid too, for this stuff. Thank you.