Wine Talk

Snooth User: dddunn

1974 Vintage: Sonoma and Napa Cabernets

Posted by dddunn, Oct 9, 2009.

Hello all,

I recently got a very sweet present from my father. He informed me that he has been saving 8 cases of Sonoma and Napa Cabs from the year of my birth, 1974:

Sterling Vineyards Napa Cab. Sauv. (Calistoga) bottled 2/28/77
Sterling Vineyards Napa Merlot, 1974 bottled Jan 13, 1977
Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) George de la Tour, Cab Sauv. Private Reserve (2 cases)
Inglenook Cab. Napa Cab Sauv 1974
Haraszthy Cellars Buena Vista Sonoma 1974 Cab Sauv Cask 101
Sonoma Vineyards Cab. Sauv. 1974
Souverain Sonoma Cab. Sauv. 1974 Vintage Selection

They haven't been moved and have been in relatively consistent conditions for their life, around 60 degrees, plus or minus, do to seasonal temp swings. I've opened a few to test and have gotten very mixed results. A couple were seriously compromised by the cork, and a few had incredible roundness and subtlety. Velvet on the tongue and strong dark fruits and flowers on the nose. I know how unreliable any predictions of how they might drink might be, however, I can guess some of you out there in Snoothland might have some experiences with this particular vintage.

I'm guessing they are probably all peaking or past their peak, and don't need any more time in the bottle. I wish he had let me on this 10 years ago. Some might have been in better shape, but only opening the bottles will tell.

I've done some online research and most sources have praised this vintage form it's longevity and development. Souverain and BV have been the best bottles opened so far. The Inglenook was less that stellar. No vinegar so far though. :)

I'll keep posting the tasting results as I continue the test. Anyone else have some of this vintage in their cellar?


Reply by dmcker, Oct 9, 2009.

A *very* nice gift from your dad! If nothing else you'll get to learn more about aged California cabs from the mid-70s than many can at this late date.

The de la Tour being a standout is hardly a surprise. I no longer have any '74s left, with my oldest now being '79s. Inglenook being a disappointment is also not too surprising, by that point in time, though I've had earlier bottles that were quite surprisingly good.

You mention an 'average' of 60 degrees, which seems to connote a bit of a temperature swing for the storage area. That might well contribute to the fact that many of the bottles are past their prime. Was this a cellar, or...?

Am curious about the Sterling merlots and the Souverain and Buena Vista cabs. How have you found them? My guess is the merlots haven't aged that well, and the Souverain was never as good as some of the others, while the Haraszathy Buena Vista is a bit of a wild card. How have you found them? It would be good to hear tasting notes and other specifics about the good and bad bottles when you feel like sharing.

Enjoy your gift, but as you say you should be drinking them up before too long. Cheers!

Now it would be interesting to hear some recommendations from GregDP on food matches for these grizzled bottles... ;-)

Reply by dddunn, Oct 10, 2009.

Thanks for the feedback dmcker. They were stored a cellar, but it isn't very well temp controlled. He's monitored the temp ever since I can remember, and it never gets above 63 and never below 55. Bottles do very well for about 10-15 yrs, but beyond that, it;s iffy, obviously. I didn't know that he had these, or I would have made sure we were opening them regulary to monitor the progress. I haven't tried the Sterling Merlots, since I guessed that they probably haven;t fared the decades as well; nor the Buena Vista cabs, but will make an effort to open them within the week or so. The Souverain Cab was decent. It really fell off a cliff at the 40 minute mark though.

This will really be a learning experience if nothing else, and I'm sure to get at least a few great bottles, hopefully.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 10, 2009.

All the more reason to drink up the Sterling merlots now. If you're having them with food, be gentle on the sauces/preparations. I'd be tempted to have several of them with some milder Sonoma cheeses, Santa Barbara olives and SanFran sourdough French, just to stay in the regional theme.

Guess I'm getting a little homesick over here in Tokyo... ;-)

Reply by dmcker, Oct 10, 2009.

Forgot to also mention that it'd be nice to see any tasting notes you'd care to make for the bottles you open. Perhaps here in this thread, as well as in the Snooth listing of each bottle?

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 11, 2009.

It's a very nice selection of wnes.

A little surprised with the performance of the Souverain, that was a spectacular bottle even a decade ago.

The BV's were spotty even relatively early on as were the Inglenooks, but the Iglenooks seem to have ended up the better bottle after all this time.

The Sterling Cab should be excellent. Not sure about the Merlot though.

You have a wonderful momento though in any event.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 11, 2009.

I agree with Greg that the Sterling cabs are likely to be the stars of the lineup, but would be very interested in hearing your actual experiences with the bottles. Keep us posted, if you can...

Reply by dddunn, Nov 18, 2009.

Just wanted to update you all on some interesting things to report about the 74 vintage wines. I will be posting my reviews on several in the coming days. The Sterling Cab was fantastic. All that I could have ever hoped for. Classic, classic, classic.

I found some 1977 Veedercrest, Cabernet, among the cases which were a delight. This was the oldest Rutherford wine I've had, and it was nice to see the "Rutherford Dust" was right up front. Fruit was a little ripe, but still a very nice glass.

I was really surprised when i found some 1975 Cuvaison Zinfandel among the bottles. I never would have thought that the wine would have lasted, and thought I have had some nicely aged vinegar on my hands, but the wine was spectacular. It might be the best bottle of 2009 for me. I posted a full review. I have 4 more which i will try and hold on to, and see if it lasts a few more years. Maybe not though. It's so good, I don;t know if I'll have the will power to hold back. Has anyone else had experience with older Zin's?

Reply by dmcker, Nov 18, 2009.

Congrats on the Cuvaison find. Good tasting note, too. Will be interested to hear any more you can share about the other bottles from the batch.

Zin can mature well over the years. I've had Ridge and Mayacamas Late Harvest Zin bottles from the '70s this decade, all that were a special experience, even though a couple were over the hill. Late Harvest bottles are a different animal, but I'm looking for more to try. Am always open to old Zins and Cabs from California. I'm also curious about how some Duckhorn merlots from the '80s will be when I open them before too long...

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