Tuesday, December 19, 2017

That Sixties Feeling

Old wines are like old rock stars -- lined, leathery, mysterious and sometimes lacking in taste (Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart) or silky-smooth, mellifluous, harmonious and classy (Paul McCartney, Everley Brothers, Beach Boys). 

    Think of California Cabernets from the Sixties, brooding, tannic and potent then. Where are they now? 

    To find out, I joined some old friends to confront/enjoy a cohort of the best wines of the '68s. 

    Like the great rockers, many of whom were highly experimental in their musical journeys, many of the very early winemakers were pushing the outer limits of enology/viticulture, too. 

    Tannins up the wazoo, toasty new oak barrel-aging to a tongue-splintering fare-thee-well, alcohol levels to the max. Here's what we found: Much more Keef than Macca, for the most part. Good vinous vibrations but fading fast. 

    The Louis Martini Mountain Cab '68, for example, packed a tannic bass note to shake your socks off, grace notes of dried berry fruit and a short heroic gig on the palate.

    Charles Krug Special Selection Cab, a little creaky but hanging in there on the finale. 

    Robert Mondavi Napa Cab '68, in a similar vein, recalling the splendor of its twenties, aren't we all?

    Mondavi Unfined Cab '68, later known as the "Reserve" bottling, living on its past glories with some forest floor, saddle leather accents. 

    And the once proud Inglenook Estate Cab Sauvignon '68, possibly the finest wine in California 1933-64 before changing hands, holding up slightly better than its siblings with an elder statesmanlike elegance, some subtle fruitiness and good length.

   They all did their level best to woo a menu of mustard-braised rabbit and venison pie.

   What's 50 years among friends? It was a blast and now it's back to the future!

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