Sunday, May 15, 2011

Old Wine

Guest post by Tom Concannon
It is always fun and enlightening to taste older vintage wines with a group of appreciative friends.  Part of the allure is the near adventure-like quality of tasting wine of sufficient age as to make it a once in a lifetime experience.  Like any adventure, the outcome that each bottle will produce is uncertain and for this reason I prefer to open a number of bottles with the idea that one or some of them might be an exceptional wine, (still.)

On May 23 we will gather with some good friends at our house in Livermore to open the last bottles of old California Cabernet that we have in the house.  The vintages span 24 years from the 1961 vintage to 1985.  We will have two wines representing each of the decades and we hope that each wine will teach us something.  Here are a few comments about the bottles to be opened.

1961 BV George de la Tour Private Reserve: The vintage 1961 was considered to be excellent in France but in California this vineyard experienced spring frost and then some rain at harvest.  This wine was made by Andre Tchelistcheff who was one of the most influential winemakers in California history.

1964 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Bottling: This wine was the last vintage made from the old Cabernet vineyard that produced the Concannon Clones 7 and 8.  These two clones that UC Davis took from this vineyard have become some of the most widely planted Cabernet Sauvignon varieties in California today.  This wine was produced in the manner proscribed by Katherine Vajda, the California wine industry’s original female professional winemaker.

1974 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Bottling: This vintage shows Concannon Vineyard adapting to a new decade with some new ideas.  Although the labeling style was short lived, this wine also demonstrates the talents of a new winemaker, Bob Broman, that joined the winery in 1973, (I think).  1974 was a very ripe vintage in Livermore and the reds from that year have generally held up well.  We have two bottles and one of them has a low fill point.

1978 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon: This vintage was the first one made after the death of my father in May 1978.  It was released in 1983 when the winery was purchased by its second owner after initially being sold in 1980.  Tthe “Celebrating 100 years” sticker acknowledges the first vintage at Concannon, the 1883 vintage.  1978 followed two severe drought years in 1976 and 1977 and so the vines were probably not producing a large crop.  This wine tasted good last year.

1985 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled: To my palate the 1985 vintage was the best vintage of my lifetime.  Every producer that I tasted made good red wine in 1985 and I went to several tastings in Los Angeles that showcased this vintage.  Concannon had winemaker Sergio Traverso in this year and, working in the prime of his career, and he made some absolutely exceptional wines that year.  At fifteen years of age this wine bested every other producer’s 1985 vintage that we were able to taste it against and it will be really special to find out if it still has the chops at the ripe old age of 26.

1985 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine will offer a Napa Valley example from the 1985 vintage.  While Cabernet styles and makers are a matter of personal taste and preference, there is no doubt that Silver Oak has a huge number of fans. This was particularly true back in the early 1990’s when this wine was released.  Again, it should be fun to tasted two wines from “Tom’s favorite vintage” to see which one we still like today, (hopefully a beauty contest and not the opposite)

I will post another entry after our tasting with some results from our evening.


JanetC said...

Looking forward to the tasting notes!

Cousin Janet

Teri Tith said...

Hi Janet, our storage is not the best at the house, so we'll see how these old bottle held up. All I can say is that we've had them sideways..., at least!