WCC California Cabernet 1968-1978 BLIND
at the Fort Orange Club, Albany, NY (3/3/2005)

The WCC met at the Fort Orange Club to taste an assortment of California Cabs from 1968 to 1978. Almost all the wines were from the cellars of two members and had been bought on release. Some wines still had the original prices on them. (You don't want to know!)

The wines were all decanted at home about 1.5 hours before the tasting began. The wines were served double blind in random order except that the two members who brought the wines pushed a few to the beginning or end of the tasting based on their sense of how well they might do.

Below are my TNs and scores with group rankings as well. For some wines I was able to take home the leftovers. Many of these were gone the next day. The others are noted below.

Flight 1

1974 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley
Very light, mature color. Light, tired nose. Turpentine and cherries on the palate. Very old, but pleasant. 84 points
Open 1/2 hour: Gone

1973 Louis Martini "Private Reserve" "California Mountain"
[From "Napa and Sonoma Counties"] Characterful nose of mint and cherries. Sweet and sour cherry middle. Still there, but short. 86 points.

NV Heitz Lot MZ-1
[Not a wine I had heard of before. The label says "A non-vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% from Martha's Vineyard. Bottled July, 1975". Anybody know anything about this wine?] Chocolate and red berry nose. Tasty, with appealing sour red fruits. 89 points
Better the second day: Thick and silky smooth with sweet red and back berries. Penetrating, good length, no mint. 93 points

1976 Jordan Alexander Valley
[First vintage from this winery. Not EB.] Muted nose of chocolate, but tasty in the mouth. Fruitiest wine of the 1st four. Very nice, long balanced chocolatey finish. 91 points

1978 William Hill Mt. Veeder
Wet cardboard, slightly dirty nose, but not unpleasant. Still has firm body and tannin! Good but not fully balanced. 86 points
Better the second day. Now fully resolved, this is a lovely, full-bodied, mature cab with lots of chocolate and dark red fruit. 92 points

Flight 2

1976 Mount Eden
Chocolate and sweet red fruit nose. Still young and tannic! Biting on the tongue. Could use a few more years. 88 points
Day 2: Red fruit, tannin, vinegar. I don't think it will ever be very good.

1978 Jordan Alexander Valley
[First EB vintage.] Smoky nose. Lovely cherries. Straightforward, pleasant. Shows better with great roasted quail. 87 points [Group 2nd place. 2 people's WOTN.]

1969 Inglenook Limited Cask EB Cask G-20 Napa Valley
Semisweet chocolate nose. Thick fruit. Youthful, but I don't like the flavor. 82 points

1975 Spring Mountain Napa Valley
Woody nose. Thick, rich, youthful, balanced. Gorgeous fruit! Great length. Best so far. Should hold well for 5 more years. 92 points [Tied for Group 6th place. 1 person's WOTN]
Day 2: Still quite good!

Flight 3

1975 Mondavi Napa Valley
Mulchy, slightly sour nose. Thick, tart, youthful. Long tart finish. Too tart and tannic for me. 83 points [Group 3rd place. 2 people's WOTN.]

1968 Heitz Napa Valley
Lots of cherries and chocolate. A touch tart, but lovely. A real sense of harmony! 90 points [Group 5th place.]

1968 Charles Krug Napa Valley
Muted cherry nose. Sweet and tart fully integrated. Balanced, elegant and tasty! 91 points

1970 Souverain Napa Valley
Really nice Bordeaux-like nose of minerals and mulch. Complex and tasty with great length. The best wine of the tasting so far! 95 points

Flight 4

1970 Mayacamas Napa Valley
This is the real deal! Incredible nose! Youthful, complex, great length. Superb. Great with venison. May improve for 5 more years! Wow! 96 points [Group 4th place.]

1974 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Valley
Eucalyptus nose. Thick fruit, mint, spice, youthful and FABULOUS!!! Goes on forever! One of the all-time great wines! I would bet it's the 74 Martha's. 98 points [Hands down Group WOTN. 7 of 12 attendees picked it as WOTN. 10 of 12 picked it in their top 2!]
Day 2: Nearly unchanged. Wow, what a wine!

1969 Mayacamas Napa Valley
More muted. Nice but not special like the two above. Lovely though. 91 points

1968 Mayacamas Napa Valley
Mint in the nose turns medicinal in an appealing sense. Gorgeous in the mouth. 94 points [Tied for Group 6th place.]

Wow, what a flight to finish with!


IMO this tasting didn't have as many great wines as some of our other tastings, but there was something special about it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until I read George Finch's comments in a thread on the Squires board called TN's: Heitz Martha's Vineyard Vertical 1974-1986. He said "With those vintages you can't always be saying that there will be a 'next time'." That's it. Many of these wines, and some of these producers are a thing of the past. It's like looking at an ancient manuscript that is crumbling as you read it. A special experience.

Dessert (not blind)

1979 Ch. d'Yquem
Medium amber color. Wonderful, mature, honey, beautifully balanced. A nice level of botrytis. Not one of the great Yquems, but superb and ready! 95 points

1996 Ch. d'Yquem
Buttery sweet nose. Tasty, delicious, but not as much botrytis as the 79. More straightforward, but still delicious. 93 points




All original content © Ken Vastola