TNs: 40th Anniversary CA Cab Tasting

The stars aligned for a killer 40th anniversary tasting of the legendary 1974 Cabernets. The staff at the pacific Club did an amazing job, not only with pouring 15 wines into perfect stemware and plenty of room, but the food was interesting and really excellent. Huge thanks to Tony P., who seems to have an endless cellar of classic CA Cab.

I am a bit late, but this will suffice for another 15 tasting notes and another $150 to Laura’s House.

Overall, the quality of the wines was extremely high. There were really no weak sisters in the bunch (save the corked dmag of Clos du Val and the Krug) and several wines improved in the glass even after being open 3-4 hours. I was shocked how well the Sonoma side did, as I expected those to be the weakest in the bunch. The wines were single blind and my notes were written before knowing what any of the wines were.

  1. Mayacamas (magnum) - A bit of funk initially, quite earthy, then later the cherry is prominent and a bit of balsam. Lots of tannin, definitely a mountain wine. Mayacamas?

  2. Heitz Marthas - very nice balance, very typical for older CA cab. Filled out with time, somewhat minty, valley floor? Martha’s?

  3. Phelps Insignia (1st vintage) - quite minty on opening, maybe this is Martha’s? taste more like a blend than pure Cab, lots of cherry. Very good, but not the best this night

  4. Ridge Montebello - balanced, but somewhat less fruit. Soft at first, but with time the tannin started to appear. Mountain wine?

  5. Mondavi Private Reserve (magnum) - younger tasting, bit of sauvage, great acid with some underripe cherry notes (or is that just the acid?). very nice, really liked this and has some time still.

  6. BV Private Reserve - smooth, balanced, perfumey, lighter styled but quite nice. Valley floor, Rutherford dust? BV?

  7. Stags Leap Cask 23 (1st vintage) - similar to #6, very smooth, lighter, ready to drink. Valley floor.

  8. Charles Krug Special Select - burnt rubber, some science experiment, not so good.

  9. Chappellet - quite dense, cherry, menthol, nice structure, good fruit with nice acid

  10. Caymus - starts just ok, bit closed, earthy and lighter styled, later, this really opened up with more fruit, acid and tannin, might go a while still.

  11. Freemark Abbey Bosche - quite young, this just got better and better. At the end, dense fruit, great acid Rutherford Dust, lots of life, excellent.

  12. Montelena (Sonoma) - Nice acid and depth, kept improving in the glass, deep fruit, kept expanding, really dense, beautiful, lots of life. WOTN?

  13. Clos du Val (double magnum) - corked! so only Tony could have a back up magnum handy. Quite light to start, needs more fruit to compete with the best here. Improved with time and filled out some.

  14. Silver Oak North Coast - Maybe this is the Martha’s? Damn, this is tasty. Has an extra gear, then started to fade a bit, minty, still quite good.

  15. Simi Reserve - The best is last. Youngest tasting wine of the night. This has an extra gear and unlike 14, added one more later in the night. Killer fruit, great balance, lots of structure. WOTN.

We finished with some 74 Heitz Angelica, which was super dens, ful of fruit and prunes and might last forever. Very tasty.

I hope I get invited to the 40 year retaste of Riverrain in 2051.

Great notes. I had a 1978 Montelena Estate and 1978 Stag’s Leap Cask 23 a month or two ago. The Stag’s Leap was the funky cerebral one, with herbs, eucalyptus, iodine and black fruit. The Montelena was a smooth red fruited one, totally integrated, baking spices, brown sugar. Both great wines in completely different sorts of ways.

It’s a delight getting to taste these California gems with this much age. It’s possibly the most underrated / undervalued category in wine. And as Steve’s notes show, it’s not only the trophy bottles that do well, and wines like Freemark Abbey and Simi often rock with enough age.

um… sick! great notes sir.