by Phil Anderson
In the year, ’84, ’84…….’84….
Well, that’s not exactly how the song goes but it certainly is how the wine flows, at least for this particular night of wine tasting with our friends, Laureen and Katie. Part one was all about the oldest vintage we tasted, the 1979 BV Cabernet Sauvignon. Today I’m concentrating on three other wines we tried, all from the same vintage, one from Sonoma and the other two from Napa.
As in George Orwell’s novel, 1984, where the individual is always subordinated to the state, we, as a group, were subordinated to the wine. We tasted three Cabernet Sauvignon’s, a proverbial hat trick, from the 1984 vintage from three different producers:
The William Wheeler Cabernet Sauvignon was the first one we tasted and was our least favorite, as a group (though their was a stinky one in the future that would push this thought). I noticed a little licorice on the nose but all in all, it was aromatically challenged. After tasting it I noticed it tasted more like a Merlot than a California Cab. After the initial light pour to taste it right after it was opened I decanted it. After 55 minutes (we realized we should not decant as long after we messed up with the ’79) we gave it another go and I felt it recovered and opened up nicely. Finally it had a nose! Adding to the licorice note was a bit of black pepper, which I am always fond of. The others didn’t see this as I did, however, as they were still unimpressed.
The second wine we tasted from this vintage was from Robert Keenan. This was interesting because Shelley and I had opened a 2001 Robert Keenan Merlot to go with pork chops two weeks prior. Now we had a chance to go back even further with this producer. After the first pour it was much smoother than the William Wheeler. This wine also still had some tannins which suggested it could go a little longer before being awaken from it’s slumber, which is probably why I had such a hard time getting the cork to come out. It was a battle for, what seemed like forever, but was more like about five minutes. In the end, I won as I got all of the cork out without any staying behind in the bottle. Needless to say, THIS cork didn’t make it to the cork catcher! I didn’t notice much of a difference when we went back to it after about 45 minutes.
The last of the 1984 trifecta was one the entire group highly anticiapted, the Far Niente. Before I go any further, I must confess, I didn’t know the pedigree of this producer. I would go as far as saying I MAY have heard of the winery. I didn’t let on to this fact on this night, however. Immediately upon opening and the first pour there was an air of disappointment. VERY stinky! Stinky stink stink. I wasn’t sure if this was because it had gone bad or if it was a European style but it certainly was barnyard. Fortunately, it tasted better than it smelled, but not a lot better, to be sure. After 40 minutes of decanting it became even more of a pronounced barnyard smell with about the same taste. Not much to it, sadly, and I would say this particular ’84 was, in the collected minds of the group, a flop.
All in all, I liked the Robert Keenan the best, even better than the ’79 BV Cabernet Sauvignon. The group, however, all seemed to have a fondness for the ’79. With that said, nothing was blowing our socks off, other than the fact the ’79 had help up all these years very well. Before I give you a preview of Part Three, and last part, of our epic night of tasting, I must confess that I went into this tasting with a very open mind, pretty much convinced I wasn’t going to “hate” any of them. When a wine is as old as these wines were, I think back to the people who were involved in producing that wine: The people who tended the vineyards, who were involved in the harvest, the crush, sampling and bottleing. How many of those people are no longer with us on earth? How could I judge these wines with an arrogance?
I told the group before we started I inteded on liking all of the wines we tasted, especially the older ones, whether they were spectacular or not. We were lucky; I don’t think any of these wines had gone bad. Were some of them over the hill? Probably. The William Wheeler and the Far Niente for sure. But it was SUCH a pleasure to carefully, and respectfully, taste through each bottle with these special people.
<pause for a moment for dramatic effect>
When I write next I will tell you about some of the younger vintages we tried and what we thought of those. I will even add a bonus so be sure to keep an eye out for that! Until then, thank you so much for reading and bottoms up!