Saturday, February 6, 2010

1984 Cabernet Retrospective

Photo by Richard Jennings

Local wine collector Ross Bott organises a wine tasting group that meets twice a week. Last Thursday's theme was a retrospective of Cabernet Sauvignons from 1984. Now my experience of older wines is limited, and that's putting it mildly, so I was very interested to try them; particularly when I saw the wines in the line-up.

Each taster brings 8 glasses. The wines are opened then bagged, and are poured using a measuring cup and minimal agitation. You are asked to rank them in order of preference, 1-8. This turned out to be much more difficult than I imagined.

The first thing that struck me was that the colours were all very consistent; wine #7 was slightly darker (although I got some sediment in that glass), but the others seemed identical; lovely warm brick red colours.

Another thing that became apparent was the way the wines continually evolved in the glass. One that appeared tight at first opened up after 30 minutes in the glass. The nose changed on each pass, and new flavours emerged. All the wines were very good and sound, without flaws or oxidation. I'd be pleased to have any of them in my cellar.

1984 Ridge "York Creek Vineyard", Napa Valley (12.9%)
Nose had a hint of volatile acidity, but that blew off. I decided to taste it last just in case. When I came back to it the VA seemed less obvious and was showing vanilla and rose petals.
The palate was surprising smooth, with light acid. The VA wasn't as evident as I feared, and was showing rose hips and currant. 90

1984 Rodney Strong "Alexander's Crown", Alexander Valley (13.8%)
The initial nose showed cedar and leather, with some brambly fruit. A later pass showed more of a meaty character.
This showed the most fruit of all the wines, there was a rich, concentrated blackcurrant note, backed by meaty (I wrote "oxo cube") and mushroom notes. 92

1984 Chateau Pichon Lalande, Pauillac (12.3%)
Nose showed a distinct bretty, underbrush character, with red cherry, smoke and caramel.
Seemed lightweight by comparison to the others. Some black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, with leather on the finish. I guessed this as the Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains. 88

1984 Joseph Swan "Estate", Northern Sonoma (12.5%)
This had a earthy yet perfumed nose with some brambly fruit.
It had good balance and bright acidity, with plenty of blackcurrant fruit. Cranberry showed later. A nice herbal, medium length finish. Really opened up during the tasting. 93

1984 Girard "Reserve", Napa Valley (12.5%)
Tart cranberry nose with musty notes.
Lots of acidity. Raspberry, brambly notes with some mushroom and a nice finish. 92

1984 Ridge, Santa Cruz Mountains (12.0%)
Funky nose (brett?) with dried herbs and leaves.
Palate showed lots of leather and cedar, but no fruit to speak of. I later tried it again after eating some bread and cheese and noticed some black fruit in the background. Earthy, herbal finish. I guessed that this was the Bordeaux. 87

1984 Mount Eden "Estate", Santa Cruz Mountains (12.8%)
This had the darkest colour of all the wines.
The nose had lively fruit with notes of pencil shavings.
Good acidity, nice tart blackcurrant and graphite, and an interesting finish. 89

1984 Ridge "Montebello", Santa Cruz Mountains (12.9%)
An earthy, smoky nose. This was the first wine I tasted; it seemed rather closed. The palate was tart and savoury but there wasn't much in the way of fruit. With time the raspberry, brambly fruit started to come out. Had the most tannin of all the wines. I marked it down because it wasn't as open as the rest; perhaps that should have been my clue. Several of the more experienced tasters quickly recognised this as the Monte Bello. Clearly still has plenty of life. 91

Wes Barton's notes are>here.
Richard Jennings' notes are here.