Birth Year Wine Recommendation - 1985

Instead of scrambling at the last minute, I’d like to start searching for a birth year wine for my birthday in July. I’d like to hear some recommendations for what is still alive and drinking well from that year.

My obvious answer to myself is the 1985 Dom P. since it looks like a solid vintage for champagne, so that might be locked in, but I want something to go with dinner. It will be just my wife and I, so two bottles will be more than enough.

Rules of engagement

  1. Bottle under $400
  2. No Port

Thanks in advance for the ideas.

I would be thinking about an '85 Dunn HM. Can be found for imminently reasonable pricing and drinking incredibly well right now. Plus you could take the money saved and buy a few other bottles…like an '85 Martha’s Vineyard or if you still want some champagne (though non birth year), a '96 DP.

Leoville Las Cases, Lynch Bages, Palmer

A second vote for Lynch Bages. The wine that hooked me into Bordeaux.

Tim, I agree with you about the '85 Dom Perignon, if you can find a bottle is good condition. Other '85s that I’ve had and enjoyed immensely were La Conseillante and Beaucastel, and either should be well under your $400 limit.

Agree with the above suggestions. I’d add '85 Pichon Lalande as well (way below $400). Oh, and La Conseillante.

Have ways liked the Lynch,but not sure where it is these days. Cheval Blanc is a good choice if you can find it for that price. Lots of Burgundy and Baroli/Barbarescos from then too.(btw the Dom Rose from 85 is fabulous, but outside your budget )

I would also agree, but don’t go for the “cheapest bottle you can find”. Try to find one that is as well stored as possible.

No votes for 85 Groth Reserve? I’d also throw out 85 Heitz Bella Oaks. Last bottle I had was amazing.

I would probably avoid 1985 Lynch Bages 1985. Two very different bottlings, one superb, one so green it is undrinkable, and I don’t mind a bit of green. The other one that is problematic is the 1985 Heitz Martha’s which has a good deal of bottle variation.

We did a 1985 California versus Bordeaux tasting. Here are the notes:

Chateau Lynch Bages

A Jekyll and Hyde wine, when it is good, it is very, very good…This one, luckily, was very, very good.

A really old fashioned claret, just ripe, offering a mélange of dark and red fruits, with an underlay of green herb. Gorgeous wine; it suffered a little from being the first wine, and as I kept going back to the glass, I kept raising the score. At its apogee, but no hurry to drink it. 95 points

Shafer Hillside Select
Very ripe bordering on overripeness. Texture was heavy, soft and quite rich, it was a little dull on the palate. Lacked definition, but a pleasant enough wine. 87

Chateau Cheval Blanc
Cheval 1985 has always slipped under the radar, and yet ultimately has proven to be the best wine made by the estate in the 1980s. And on the night, it was for me, also the best wine there. The aromatic complexity bordered on overload, harness leather, cigar and cedar alongside the cool black fruit. On the palate, it was profound, easy layers of flavor and extraordinary length. A magnificent wine. 98

Chateau Mouton Rothschild
This vied with the Lynch as my second favorite Bordeaux of the night. A really superb wine with great complex flavors, of dark fruit, licorice, lavender and the slight earthy mushroom flavors of a wine approaching full maturity. Great finish-beautiful 95 points

Groth Reserve
An interesting pairing, served with the Mouton. This wine, when it was first released proved to be another landmark for California, garnering Parker’s first ever 100 point score for the region It showed well, still young and heavy with lush, dark fruit. Not much complexity to the wine, and while it has softened, it has not changed much as it has matured. 92

Phelps Eisele
From one of the finest vineyards in Napa; this is an extraordinary wine. Rich, full bodied yet still retaining a lightness and an energy. Showed beautifully, along with Ridge the most complex of the California wines. 95

Ridge Monte Bello
Ridges of this era are very distinctive, and a wine that is quite easy to guess blind. It has a particularity of iodine and oyster shell, backed by fruit and wood smoke. My favorite California wine of the night, and so good, I was on the net the following day to secure a few more bottles. 96

Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
From magnum. This was not quite fully mature, but still showed the sexy character which one associates with top flight Graves: tobacco, cedar and brick dust. Also, the only the wine that could have used another few years. 94

Chateau Montrose
A tale of two bottles; the first lovely, the second (from the same case) far more evolved and showing signs of being a little tired. The better bottle was rich, with plenty of spicy dark fruit, a creamy seamless wine on the palate with a lovely finish 94

Stags Leap Cask 23
Almost certainly the best wine made at Stag’s Leap. A very impressive showing, plenty of chocolaty fruit, cedar, an overlay of oak, the tannins still plentiful but beginning to integrate beautifully into the wine. 95

Chateau Trotanoy
Also served from magnum, and the first time I have tasted this vintage of Trotanoy. I have to say, I had hoped for more, It was a perfectly pleasant wine, would have graced most dinner tables, but it lacked concentration and seemed to be missing its final gear. What it did show was some nice cherry fruit, some earth and a floral underlay. 87

You have a lot of options. It’s a lovely Bordeaux vintage: I can only second the suggestions of Lynch Bages and LLC, which I’ve had in the last few months with immense pleasure. Mouton-Rothschild is fantastic and you might just be able to find a bottle for <$400. Pichon Lalande is lovely from well-stored bottles, one of the last old-school renditions of PLL. Montrose is very fine and somewhat under-the-radar, ditto Sociando-Mallet. Magdaleine on the right bank would be a great choice too, a stunning wine at the peak of its powers.

It’s a great Burgundy vintage too, for both red and white. Many of the whites are still cruising along in great condition. The 1985 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne would be a terrific choice. So would Robert Ampeau’s whites which, since they’re late-released, are still kicking around in the marketplace. Reds from any of the usual suspects would be more than worthy of consideration, and don’t disdain Jadot’s '85s. The Corton-Pougets for example is wonderful.

Lots of solid options in the Northern Rhone too, probably the easiest to source being Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chapelle.

In Champagne I’d look closely at Charles Heidsieck’s Blanc de Millenaires which is less likely to have traveled the world’s auction markets than DP or Krug.

I’ll throw my vote in for '85 Lynch Bages as well. It’s in an awesome place right now.

We had a 1985 Ridge Monte Bello a few years ago and it was outstanding. The Pichon Lalande would be my other choice. Good luck with the search!


Any of the Diamond Creek bottles. If you’d spend $500 you might be able to source all three bottles for an epic meal.

If you can find it, the 1985 Grace Family is off the charts good. Had it around Thanksgiving.

By far the best 1985 Bordeaux I have had recently was the Leoville las Cases. It was from magnum, but it was truly outstanding.

If you want a California Cab instead, you cannot go wrong with Ridge Montebello or Chateau Montelena.

There are tons of really good 1985 Burgundies out there. Storage and producer are key.

This is the type of dangerous thread that I love but my wallet hates. Terrific recs here.

Nothing to add other than to add +1 to all of the above.

A really fun year for California and France.

Some good nebbiolo from Piedmont made that year. At the top end of your range, 1985 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo can be killer. 1985 Gaja Barbaresco is very good.

1985 PJ Belle Epoque Champagne. In good storage conditions, this one should not be fading anywhere soon. You can still find it (both US continental and EU) and even if you need to ship it from overseas it could be below the limit you set.

I’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable 85 than la mission Haut brion… few wines have hit the spot from this vintage like la miss does for me.