Sunday, September 13, 2020

Aged Birthyear Vintage Bottle Tasting Continues

 Aged Birthyear Vintage Bottle Tasting Continues

As we wind down the celebrations from son Sean's wedding, we still hold a significant number of bottles from his birthyear vintage. So it was, as we traveled to Florida with friends and family to pay tribute to a dear friend lost in a tragic accident this week, we took a couple special bottles in tribute and remembrance with gathered family and friends.

Gathering in the hotel on the eve of somber events, we opened another 1985 vintage bottle for the wedding celebrants. With fellow wine buddy Pour Boy Bill C, and Beth we opened a Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Napa Cabernet. This is a producer that Bill has collected for decades and knows exceedingly well. Together we have shared and compared these labels over the years - my collection centering on the Bosche single vineyard designated label, while Bill tended to collect the Sycamore vineyard designated label from the same producer. 

The Sycamore Vineyard is located about 1.5 miles south of Bosché, also nestled up to the western Mayacamas hills. The soil is quite different in that it is more of a gravelly clay loam. The wines from Sycamore vineyard tend to be very dark in color with rich briary blackcurrant and blackberry flavors, a profile and style that Bill favors.

Bosche Vineyard-Rutherford is a small 22-acre vineyard located west of Hwy. 29, on the famed Rutherford Bench, the Bosche Vineyard. It is actually owned by the Bosche family and sourced grapes to Freemark Abbey under a cooperation agreement dating back to 1970. 

Bosche is known to consistently produce rich concentrated fruit. It is composed of very deep, gravelly loam soil. Early on in the growing season the water table is high (about 5 feet below the surface) and provides the water and nutrients for new shoot growth. As the growing season progresses, the water table drops below the root zone, causing a natural stress cycle for the vine to change its course of growth and focus resources into ripening the fruit, intensifying the dark, concentrated flavors.

Bill and Beth and Linda and I have visited the winery together and acquired bottles from the library collection there for special occasions. In 2009 we toured the library and acquired 1974 and 1978 vintage labels for a an anniversary celebration dinner that night across the road at the CIA.

Freemark Abbey's winemaker is the legendary Ted Edwards, who earned an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Food, Science and Engineering from University of California-Davis. Edwards began his wine career when he was hired by Freemark Abbey to work on the bottling line in 1980. After two harvests, he left to become the Associate Winemaker at Rutherford Hill, a position he held for three years. He returned to Freemark Abbey in 1985 when he assumed the position of Director of Winemaking.

Edwards crafted Freemark Abbey Cabernets in a style not as blockbuster, over-the-top wines designed to “wow” you, but rather, elegantly styled, sometimes even subdued offerings that are emphasize varietal purity over power. Freemark Abbey, which dates back to 1886. It was purchased in 1967 by seven business partners who renovated the property and accumulated nearly 300 acres of vineyards They also sourceed grapes from some of the areas most acclaimed districts including the Rutherford Bench, Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain and of course the famed Sycamore and Bosche vineyards.

Freemark Abbey was purchased in 2006 by Jackson Family Vineyards (owners of several Calfornia properties including Lakoya and La Jota in Napa, and Hartford Family Winery and Matanzas Creek in Sonoma). 

In April, 2020, Ted Edwards, winemaker since 1985 and the face of Freemark Abbey in the modern era, become Winemaker Emeritus, and turned attention to work more in the vineyards, while passing the winemaking torch to his former assistant, Kristy Melton.

Another connection of this label is that at the time, back in the early nineties, it was a meeting with proprietor and partner/owner vineyardist William Jaeger, whom I met at a Freemark Abbey tasting that I tasted and acquired the Bosche label. During that meeting. William and I discussed our collection of large format birthyear bottles and from that meeting, William arranged to provide me a couple large format bottles from our kids' birthyears. It was one of those bottles, Rutherford Hill Napa Cabernet that we served last weekend at the wedding rehearsal dinner

The connection to Bill's cellar also exists as I believe we traded this vintage release Bosche for a non-birthyear vintage bottle in obtaining this bottle. In any event, I also hold at least one more bottle from this vintage release. So, it was with interest we opened this to determine the drinkability of not only this bottle, but others still in our collection. 

In preparation for this tasting, Linda and I visited the Gourmet Market in Boca Raton and acquired some authentic French artisan cheese and french bread to accompany the wine. 

Freemark Abbey Bosche' Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1985

Amazing life left in this thirty-five year old. The fill level was as to be expected, the label was near perfect, the capsule aged and slightly soiled. The cork was in amazing shape, near perfect, still intact with full integrity. 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant fruits of ripe plum, black currant and black cherry with bright pronounced acids, subtle notes of cassis, ash and hints of wood on a tangy lingering finish. While obviously passed its prime, it was still drinkable and enjoyable and while I don't feel rushed to consume the remaining bottle, it should be consumed in the near term, within the next year.

RM 87 points.