Saturday, September 5, 2020

Big Bottle Birthyear mania for Wedding Celebration

Our Cellar Collection and Gala Wedding Celebration includes Large Format Birthyear Vintage Wines

The large format big bottle mania continues for Sean and Michelle's wedding celebration weekend, we opened several birthyear vintage wines we have collected and were saving in our cellar for just such an occasion. We opened a six liter Imperial Napa Cabernet the night before. 

Fortunately, the 1985 vintage produced age-worthy wines suitable for long-term cellaring for thirty-five years. 

People often ask me about the practice of obtaining wines from a particular vintage year. Check vintage charts for your chosen region for your favored wine (s). If that region had a difficult vintage, check the other regions of the world. Chances are you'll find at least one that had favorable age-worthy harvests suitable for collecting.

My fixation on collecting birthyear wines for our children, and now grandchildren is evident in the cellar statistics - for just the 1985 vintage year, we hold 95 bottles in different 39 wines. I believe that is overstated somewhat by the lack of removing bottles consumed over the years. Never-the-less, it reflects the challenge to consume those bottles before they waste away, and offers an opportunity for an extensive, intensive vintage study. 

For the celebration weekend, I pulled the following bottles for a horizontal comparison tasting:

From St Julien Bordeaux,

  • Leoville Las Cases 
  • Ducru Beaucaillou 
  • Gruaud Larose, 

Other Bordeaux: 

  • Cos d' Estournel St Estephe
  • Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac
  • Sociando-Mallette Haut Medoc


  • Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Bosche Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dunn Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Dow Vintage Port
  • Warre's Vintage Port

For the reasons noted, we will hold the following bottles for future tastings:

We hold vertical collections of these labels hence an opportunity for a broader tasting: Chateau Palmer and Silver Oak. this includes a collection of magnums for each of our four kids' vintage birthyears. 

Amazingly, several labels have projected tasting windows for further aging and consumption several years into the future, hence hold these bottles for an anniversary or baby or other notable celebration tasting. These include, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Dominus Estate Napa, Dunn Vineyards Howell Mtn, Diamond Creek Napa, and Chateaux Lynch Bages,  Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande. 

We opened these bottles, in large format magnums for tasting at the reception dinner:

  • Sociando-Mallette Haut Medoc
  • Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien
  • Château Gruaud Larose, St Julien
  • Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac 
  • Dow Vintage Port

Château Sociando-Mallette Haut Medoc 1985

Château Sociando-Mallet is a 225-acre estate in St.-Seurin-de-Cadourne, which is part of the Haut-Medoc appellation just north of the St Estephe appellation, north of the city of Pauillac, Bordeaux. 

The estate is today considered by some reviewers, including Robert M. Parker Jr., to be the jewel of the Haut-Medoc.  Though the estate is unclassified, Parker says the château makes “uncompromising wines of extremely high quality….Sociando-Mallet is easily the equal of many of the classified growths….” 

The vineyards are planted to 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc.

This release got 92 points from Vinous and 91 points from Wine Spectator.

The label and foil were in good condition, the cork was soft and partially saturated but extracted almost intact using a two pronged cork puller. 

I wrote about this label back in 2010 when we also tasted it from a magnum. At that time I wrote, "Medium bodied - bright lively forward red fruit flavors highlight with hints of raspberry, black cherry, anise and leather on a moderate tannin flavorful finish.Tasted from magnum - lots of life left - no signs of age in this 25 year old. RM 90 points."

Tonight this was dark garnet color, medium bodied, black berry and black cherry fruits with notes of black truffle, smoke, black tea with subtle notes of vanilla and tangy spice on a lingering modest tannin finish. 

RM 89 points.


Château Gruaud Larose St Julien Bordeaux 1985

Our visit, tour and tasting at the Gruaud Larose estate was one of the highlights of our tour of St Julien Bordeaux a year ago last month. We hold a horizontal collection of more than a dozen vintages of Gruaud Larose dating back to 1981, daughter Erin's birthyear, and the other kids' birthyears, several including this, Sean's 1985, in large format bottles.

We shared a virtual tour of our visit to Château Gruaud-Larose estate grounds, cellar, chai, library and hospitality center in St Julien from our unwindwine blogpost in these pages. 

This release got 93 points from Wine Spectator,  91 points from  Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 90 points from  Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. Neal Martin from K&L Wine Merchants in the SF Bay Area gave it 92 points. 

Having a reputation for long lived wines, this 1985 Gruaud Larose showed few signs of diminution from aging and seemed to have a few years of life left although it was more closed and less expressive than the other labels. Earlier in the year I wrote it was showing its age - no doubt the difference in aging effects of a small versus large format bottle. At that time I gave it 89 points.

Like the other bottles served tonight, this was also acquired upon release and has been held in our cellar since. The label, foil and fill level were all pristine, in ideal condition. The cork, like the others was a bit soft and partially saturated, but extracted intact with a two pronged cork puller.

Dark garnet colored, medium to full-bodied, a bit closed and slightly subdued complex, ripe earthy blackberry and black current fruits with tones of tobacco leaf, truffle, hints of cassis and spice box, turning to slightly tart black cherry on the long floral full tannin laced finish.

RM 89 points.


Château Ducru Beaucaillou St Julien Bordeaux 1985

Our visit to Château Ducru Beaucaillou in Beychevelle St Julien was one of the highlights of our trip to the Medoc last year. It has long been one of the signature wines that we collected for a horizontal of vintages that includes the birthyears of our four kids including large format bottles of this label and this magnum for the 1985 vintage. 

This release got 92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 95 Points from the Zachy's Buying Team from the wine merchant in Scarsdale, NY.

As we have held this bottle in our cellar since release back in the eighties, the bottle label, capsule and fill level were all in near perfect condition. The cork was a bit soft and slightly saturated from the bottom but extracted intact using a Ahso two pronged cork puller. The photo shown here shows the cork after having been reinserted and removed for a tasting of the remains the following day. 

This was dark garnet-colored, medium-full bodied, concentrated, pure, red and black currant fruits with a layer of cedar and notes of  truffle, damp earth, tobacco and cinnamon; a hint of mint with with super firm tannins on a long, silky finish.

RM 91 points.  

The Zachys Buying Team Notes from their trip for the 2014 releases: 

"95 Points, Zachys Buying Team: "We had this wine over dinner while in Bordeaux tasting the 2014s - easily one of the highlights of the entire trip. Perfectly mature and is currently drinking the way Bordeaux was intended to be consumed - with age and enough sweet fruit to complement the tertiary development. This wine is all about elegance, no hard edges, classic St Julien cedar, truffle, and damp earth are joined by tobacco and cinnamon. Tongue-staining, long finish. It is a wine that transports you back to old world style claret, where the wine doesn't clobb er at 12.5% alcohol. It is truly a special treat to have this wine with this provenance and condition."
Marilee Bostic, Certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and most recently, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma in Wines and Spirits (DipWSET), works at The Grape D’Vine, a boutique wine store in Sparkill, New York, writes in her notes of this wine:

"The 1985 Ducru-Beaucaillou still packed a punch with primary aromas and flavors, including cassis, black raspberry, and soft rose petals.  Secondary notes included a layer of vanilla and chocolate mint.  Tertiary notes dominated as this wine was fully mature, with a patina of cherry pipe smoke, damp forest floor, and black truffles.  This wine was dry, with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, pronounced aroma and flavor intensity, medium body, and medium tannins that were velvety-soft.  The finish was no doubt long."  
I wrote about this wine earlier this year and gave it 93 points, when I wrote; "Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, muted aromas on the nose but elegant, balanced and full flavored, bright and expressive on the palate with black currant fruits accented by sensuous floral, cedar, tobacco leaf, hints of damp earth with super firm tannins and a long, silky finish."

Last year, in anticipation of our visit to the Chateau, we opened this label when I wrote; "Dark garnet-colored, medium- to full-bodied, Parker describes it as "a wine of extraordinary charm and elegance", a floral, cedary nose with red and black currants, plum, notes of spice and cassis, firm tannins on a long, smooth silky finish. Still has some years left but assuredly not likely to improve with further aging."

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Pauillac Bordeaux 1985
We visited the estate and walked the vineyards and grounds during our visit to the Medoc last year.  This was the BOTN - best-of-the-night, showing the greatest balance, elegance and complexity with nicely integrated fruits and flavors.

This label has been my favorite of many tastings occasions and continues to be one of my perennial favorites and has more often than not surprised us with its longevity and aging potential. 
This release got 93 points from John Gilman and 92 points from Wine Spectator.
John Gilman writes, "The 1985 has aged quite beautifully and is now drinking with great style and grace. The bouquet is a superb blend of cassis, dark berries, coffee, cigar wrapper, a dollop of fresh herbs, gravel, black tea and toasty oak. On the palate the wine is pure, fullish and beautifully complex, with a good core of fruit, lovely soil signature, melted tannins and fine length and grip on the very classy finish. This is not a powerful vintage of Pichon, but it is an utterly complete one!"
This was also served from a magnum. 
While this bottle was also acquired upon release and has laid in our cellar magnum rack adjacent the other bottles, the label was soiled and had completely detached from the bottle. The capsule was rather deteriorated but the cork, while slightly soft and partially saturated, extracted intact using a two pronged cork puller. 

This was dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex, elegant and polished with nicely integrated black berry and black currant fruits accented by notes of cassis, black tea, coffee hints of spice and earth with a long smooth tannin laced polished finish. 

RM 93 points.


Dow's Vintage Port 1985 

For after dinner sipping and to close out our vertical tasting of 1985 wines for the evening, we opened this 1985 Vintage Port. 

We hold in our cellar several cases of Vintage Port wines but only from a few select vintages, mostly birthyears of our children, and classic Vintage Port vintage years. Note that only in years with an acceptable harvest that they declare it a Vintage year and release vintage designated release wines. 

Son Sean's birthyear 1985 was such a year, hence there are 1985 vintage release ports available. Such wines are notably ageworthy for long term cellaring, hence popular collectables for cellaring and holding for special occasions - classic 'special occasion' wine! 

Note that one should ensure they have an appropriate place with temperature and humidity consistency to cellar and store wine before investing in buying bottles to cellar for an extended period of time.

This wine got 93 points from James Suckling and Vinous and 92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. 

This is classic Vintage Port, what one is supposed to taste like. Naturally, in its 35th year, we see the ageability of such a wine and the art of the possible, or what is to be expected when properly cellared. Too often, if consumed too early, they will present a medicinal or 'hot' alcohol tones until they have integrated, smoothed and settled. 

Dark black garnet colored, medium bodied, aromas of walnuts, dried fruit and fig/raisins, rich concentrated black and red-berry and ripe plum fruits nicely integrated with layers of clove spice, anise liquorice, notes of raisin, creosote and leather with a smooth long lingering clean silky smooth tongue coating finish. 

RM 92 points.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece of information. Thanks for sharing it! Want your marriage in Newcastle? Choose the NSW Marriage Office - our Newcastle CBD rooms are in a historic heritage-listed building with water views and right on the harbour foreshore.