TN: 1985 and 1989 Ch. Lynch Bages, and 77 Dow

So over the weekend, we have our final, final, final Saturday wine lunch at 2117 on Sawtelle. It was the end of an era; my wine lunch group has been doing its lunches here for the better part of
20 years! So sad to see this place go.

The main theme was Cabernet based wines NOT from California (e.g., Bordeaux, Super Tuscans, etc.). I brought my last bottle of the 1985 Lynch Bages, and by chance one of the other group members brought the 1989 Lynch Bages so it was fun to taste them side-by-side. I double decanted my bottle shortly before going to the restaurant; the 89 LB was pop and pour there.

Although there certainly were stylistic similarities, the two bottles was substantially different. The 1989 LB was still a fairly dark purplish red color, whereas the 1985 had lightened just a bit with a little bit of bricking on the edges. As has been my past experience with the 89’s, this bottle still was a bit closed up aromatically, and the palate was somewhat dense yet linear. There’s a lot of potential with the 89, but I think it still needs 5-10 years to reach early maturity.

The 1985 LB, by contrast, was open for business both aromatically and flavor-wise. Lots of lead pencil, cedar, forest floor/mushroom (porcini-like), and a bit of caramel throughout. The flavor echoes the nose, and the wine just spreads out beautifully on the palate. Depending on how you feel about fruit vs. acid in mature Bordeaux, this bottle was either right at peak or perhaps just a little past peak. The tannins are mostly, but not completely, resolved. Perhaps it was because it was my last bottle, but the best showing of the 85 LB to date–a Bruce L. “wow plus.” I don’t think the wine is heading downhill fast, but if this bottle was representative then I don’t think additional cellaring is “necessary.”

Since this was the last wine lunch there, an additional theme was Port. I brought my last bottle of 1977 Dow. Andy V. advised me to double decant just before going to lunch, as he said that many of the 77 Dow’s have been corked so best not to decant them too far in advance. Well, no worry with this bottle–just a lovely 40-year-old Port, with notes of toffee, caramel, and dark chocolate throughout. In this bottle, the tannins were all but resolved, leaving a sweet dessert wine with an excellent acid/fruit balance in the midpalate. Not the most complex older Port I’ve had by any means, but just scrumptious and a conservative Bruce L. “wow.”

A bittersweet lunch with some non-sucky wines.

lbs 2.jpg

A friend of mine with extensive and intensive tasting experience told me that his recent impression of the '89 Lynch-Bages was that it was distinctly more closed than the last time he had drunk it. This is a rather odd evolution for a wine that old, I would think, and I hope does not mean trouble ahead for one of my all time favorite wines.

David Kubiak

I don’t have a lot of data points on the 1989 Lynch Bages, but I haven’t had one yet that I thought was even close to maturity.


Have been drinking less and less of the 85 LB. What a really great wine in its youth.probably started around 88 or 89 until it closed up a few years later.Started again about 15 yrs ago.Not sure it was ever better than in its youth.
Dave-I think it just had to do with cork porosity vs it closed up more.