Friday, September 4, 2020

Big Bottle highlights celebration dinner

 Big Bottle highlights celebration dinner     

The festivities of the gala wedding of son Sean and Michelle kicked off with the traditional rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. We hosted the dinner at Angeli's Italian, our favorite neighborhood trattoria, featured so often in these pages. Tony Angeli and Linda crafted a special menu for our group and coordinated the wine service to incorporate a special birth-year large format bottle from our collection we've been holding for the occasion. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the dinner was held outside in a tent set up in front of Angelis storefront.


Back in the early nineties, Napa Valley winery owner Jeff Jaeger visited Naperville and conducted a wine tasting of Freemark Abbey wines. In addition to Freemark, his wine holdings included a stake in Rutherford Hill and Jaegar. I recall that from that tasting I acquired a case of then just-released Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Napa Cab. 

Jeff and I discussed my collection of large format bottles from birthyear vintages of our kids. From that discussion Jeff arranged sourcing a six liter imperial Rutherford Hill Napa Cab from son Sean's 1985 birth-year vintage. That bottle has been held in our cellar ever since in anticipation of tonight. He also sourced a six liter 1981 release of Rutherford Hill and Jaeger Vineyards Cabernet that we served at daughter Erin's wedding back in 2006.

Any time one opens a thirty-five year old bottle of wine, there is the chance the wine is not suitable for drinking, or serving to guests and a special gala dinner. Chances of disappointment or success are relative to the reputation and heritage of the producer and specific label, that years' vintage, the provenance of the wine (how it has been handled and stored), and the format of the bottle. 

The reason bottle size or format matters is that in larger format bottles, there is a greater critical mass of liquid to stabilize the wine and for the chemistry of the wine to take effect and age or evolve over time. The other reason is that in the larger vessel, there is less surface area of wine to air exposure, reducing the chance of contamination or unfavorable effects on the wine from the air wine interaction. 

Tonight, we opened the six-liter Imperial Rutherford Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 1985. In the event the bottle was not suitable for serving to a group, I had on hand back-up bottles to serve. 

Rutherford Hill has a 60-acre estate vineyard in the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley. It also leases 130 acres and sources grapes from the Napa Valley. Founded in 1972, the estate was purchased in 1996 by the Anthony Terlato group, an importer of European wines based here in Chicago. 

Today the Terlato family owns six California wineries including Alderbrook, Sanford and Chimney Rock. Even before the Terlatos' acquisition the estate focused on Merlot. Besides Merlot the estate produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and blends.  

Rutherford Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1985 Imperial

The bottle, label, foil and cork were in ideal condition, remarkable for a thirty-five year old. The oversize cork was starting to get slightly soft but extracted in-tact with a traditional screw. 

I suspect a normal size bottle would not have been so well preserved in all respects but the large format allowed for this be presentable after thirty-five years.

Initially funky with musty notes that eventually wore off to a delightful mix of black cherry, currant and black berry fruits emerging with medium full body, nice balance and integration of notes of earth, leather, hints of cassis and cigar box with soft smooth acidity with moderate tannins on the tangy finish. 

RM 89 points. 

Other Cellartracker's and a Snooth's reviews of this label from the 2012 era:

 Nose of currant, cranberry, pomegranate and cigar box/cedar. Dusty palate. Dusty red berry fruit. It's still surprisingly luscious and pretty with good balance and structure. 91 pts. 5/26/12

P&P. Cork was slightly depressed, but pulled out easily with about 1/3 soaked through, while still looking new. Funky nose of damp earth, worn leather, and slight hints of mint. Holy wow, this wine is alive on the palate, and it's dark. Still showing dark fruits and currants, lots of minerals, more leather, into a resolved tannin and slightly chalky finish. Delicious snd fresh. Glad I have 2 more bottles left, this was an excellent treat at the $18 tariff...surprise qpr of the year? (91 pts.)

2/26/2012 - NWA wrote: 92 Points

Still in good shape. The color has remained rich and inky when looking into the glass, though rusty around the rim. Nose shows age, but as it opened revealed stewed berries/compote and dried cherries. I am very surprised how well this bottle has aged.

11/30/2012 - Cellarhead wrote: 90 Points

This appears to have good provenance, still showing a noticeable amount of fruit. Best '85 bottle I've had in memory, aside from any Ports.

7/18/2015 - winchester-xi Likes this wine:

Quite the pleasant surprise. A melange of cherries and forest floor with a powerful medicinal note in the background. Plenty of acid. Moderate density and moderate length. Really no tannin left, so it comes down to how long the fruit will hold out. There's no reason to wait, but it has held out for quite a while so far....

12/23/2012 - ecola Likes this wine: 91 Points

Remarkably smooth with red berries and the acidity is hanging on. Dry finish with rounded tannins. Might make it until age 30.

Chateau St Michelle 50th Anniversary Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

We picked up all the available bottles of this special tribute bottling upon release as we knew we would serve them on special occasions such as this. 

This was the 50th Anniversary Special commemorative bottling of this wine. 

This is a Bordeaux Blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot 

Winemaker Notes: "We craft our Columbia Valley Cabernet to highlight concentrated Washington red fruit in an accessible style. This is an inviting Cab with plenty of complexity and structure with silky tannins. It’s also very versatile with food." 
Decanter gave this release a 93 rating. The Tasting Panel gave it 90 points.
Decanter - "A 50th anniversary special bottling, this has a touch of Napa Valley about it in the rich palate, balanced with Left Bank structure, tannins and restrained oak influence."
Tasting Panel - "Creamy and plummy with generous, tangy style; an exceptional bargain packaged with a retro label."
RM 90 points.