Aged California Dinner in Santa Rosa

A group of local friends and winemakers got together at Starks Steakhouse in Santa Rosa recently to enjoy an evening of aged California wine. Have been looking forward to this dinner for some time. There is something very special about 30 to 40 year old wines that continue to evolve nicely, and in the case of this dinner, taste surprisingly youthful!

Pictured at top was a really nice 1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir. Found the Pinot Noirs as a whole showed bigger, brighter, and more youthful fruit than the more toned down style of Cabernets. Brief notes follow of all wines opened, and are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter – A lovely start to the evening, the Vilmart Champagne served from Magnum was exceptional. Honey, crisp, and mildly sweet tropical fruits, thought it a compelling wine that kept improving over the span of the evening. It was a young wine that will continue to improve with age.

1997 Vilmart Champagne Couer de Cuvee Magnum

White Wine Starters – Before moving onto Pinot Noir, opened a few white starter wines. The Marcassin was outstanding and youthful. Noted oyster shell, some sweetness and smoke, butterscotch, but in no way oxidized, as well as flint that reminded me of a younger white burgundy. The wine was young, and will continue to age well for some time. In contrast, the Pinot Blanc was creamy with a fat mid palate and short finish. Thought it was slightly advanced.
1997 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay
1992 Chalone Estate Pinot Blanc
California Pinot Noir Flight 1 – The two 1969 Pinot Noirs had youthful colors and were both high quality wines. The Hanzell was more raspberry fruit, cleaner, deep and lightly candied, while the Chalone was more grassy and cherry. With some nice menthol and spice, it put on considerable weight in time. Both wines were beautiful!
1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir
1969 Chalone Pinot Noir magnum
California Pinot Noir Flight 2– The 1979 La Crema was the cleaner wine, elegant, spice, good acidity, well rounded. In contrast, the 1977 Chalone was more dark cherry and blue fruits becoming leathery in time. The 1979 Chalone was youthful, raspberry, and jammy. Sadly, one bottle of 1977 Chalone was corked and replaced with a backup bottle.

1979 La Crema Vinera Pinot Noir Ventana Vineyard
1977 Chalone Estate Young Vines Pinot Noir
1979 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir

California Pinot Noir Flight 3– The 1994 Chalone was bright cherry, cola, and surprisingly fruit forward, yet had plenty of structure. Stylistically different, the 1982 Chalone was mineral, earthy, good balance, a pleasurable wine. Thought the 1986 Chalone was more barrel sample like, young, notable acidity, though slightly out of balance. The 1984 Chalone never quite came around, very firm acidity for some time.
1994 Chalone Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
1982 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1986 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1984 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1980 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir Magnum

California Cabernet Flight 1 – After some amazing Pinot Noir, moved on to Cabernet. The 1973 Martini Cabernet was meaty, medium bodied, youthful and had a perfect balance, a lovely classic California Cabernet. Similarly, the 1975 Martini was intense, darker red fruit, and a long finish. The 1974 Martini was surprising light and grassy, not to expectations from a great vintage. After so many bright, youthful Pinots, the wines came across as more toned down and took some time to adjust.

1973 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1975 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection

California Cabernet Flight 2 – The 1974 Charles Krug was a beautiful wine. From the Fay Vineyard, thought it was mushroom, meaty and earthy. The 1974 Ridge Monte Bello was nice, far more vanilla. A youthful wine, it showed well in the flight. The 1984 Caymus was surprising tannic, but still enjoyable. Sadly the 1984 Ridge Monte Bello was corked.

1974 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Lot F1 Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Post California Cabernet Flight – The 1970 Joseph Swam Gamay was beautiful. Inky thick, dark black licorice, a very long finish, almost had the consistency of a fortified wine. The Joseph Swan Zinfandel was plumy and in tough company next to the Gamay.

1970 Joseph Swan Gamay
1969-1971 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Lot Z

Late Harvest Finish– As if we did not taste enough already, opened a sweet end of meal wine! Thought the late harvest Beringer was very well made, balanced, paraffin, rich, and sweet. Plenty of age left in this wine.1986 Beringer Late Harvest Special Select Johannisberg Riesling

Cheers to the age worthiness of California wines and a highly enjoyable evening!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

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