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CELEBRATIONS WITH OLD WINES & GOOD FRIENDS

John Tilson • 4/14/18        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

 

We were recently evacuated from our home in Montecito for nearly a month. During this time we stayed in many places including the homes of friends. Once we were back in our home we decided it was celebration time.

AN ANNUAL BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

The first was the occasion of our long term great friend, and contributing editor to the Underground from the earliest days, Ed Lazarus’s birthday celebration. We have been celebrating his birthday here at our home for many years. His birthday is in January, but we were evacuated from our house at that time and postponed the celebration to February. My wife, Laurie, and I always provide the meal and along with other mutual friends we provide many old wines – usually Champagne and White and Red Burgundy.

Old Bordeaux Magnums

Ed always brings a magnum of old Bordeaux from his cellar. Since Ed’s birthday is 1937, he started with a magnum of 1937 La Mission Haut Brion. And, from then on there have been many magnums of great old Bordeaux dating back to 1929. A few years ago it was a magnum of 1929 Rausan Segla which was absolutely stunning. And, one year there was a great magnum of 1947 Mouton Rothschild.  Last year it was a magnum of 1947 La Mission Haut Brion which was amazing. In fact, all of the old Bordeaux magnums from Ed’s cellar have been really great.

 

A Magnum of Old Calfornia Cabernet Sauvignon & A Bit of California Wine History

This year we took a break from old Bordeaux and Ed brought a magnum of 1968 Gemello’s Cabernet Sauvignon Nevers Oak Santa Clara. Once again, this wine was just amazing – rich, full, and complex with great balance and a lasting finish. This wine was the youngest of any of the magnums we have enjoyed over the years for Ed’s birthday, but by California standards it is very old. From the end of prohibition into the 1970s there were very few producers of wine in Napa and Sonoma and even fewer in other areas. Gemello’s, which ceased to exist many years ago, made Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards located in Santa Clara County south of San Francisco. It was one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon producers in California. And, the old Gemello’s Cabernet Sauvignons (and particularly the 1968s) have been great since the very beginning.

Also, while not very well known, from the same general area south of San Francisco, great Cabernet Sauvignons were produced beginning in the 1930s from producers such as Hallcrest and La Questa which had vineyards in Woodside, CA. Wines such as the 1947 Hallcrest Cabernet Sauvignon and 1938 La Questa Cabernet Sauvignon (bottled  only half-bottles) have always been great and the few remaining (if properly stored) are certainly great today. I still have a bottle or two of both in my cellar and I am sure that today they will live up to their reputation.


‘And, we should not forget one on the rarest and greatest of all California Cabernet Sauvignons. It was a magnum of 1941 House of Howe Gopher Gulch Cabernet Sauvignon from the La Questa vineyard in Woodside, California.

We had this wine at Ed’s home many years ago. It stands out in my memory as one of the greatest California Cabernet Sauvignons that I have ever tasted. And, Ed still has the empty bottle on the mantle in his house! That’s a good thing since none of us have ever heard of the existence of another bottle!! And all these great old Cabernet Sauvignons had one thing in common – they all came from areas which today are affluent residential communities with virtually no vineyards.

But, speaking of great old California wines, we cannot forget the old Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley during the period of the early 30s to the very early 60s. However, I do not believe Inglenook bottled magnums then. At least I have never seen or heard of one. But, today the bottles of these old Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignons are simply remarkable. I still have a lot of different ones dating back to 1934 and have yet to have one that is over the hill!

ANOTHER WINE & FOOD CELEBRATION BROUGHT ABOUT BY AN UNUSUAL AND UNEXPECTED EVENT  & FEATURING A GREAT MAGNUM OF 1993 RIDGE VINEYARDS MONTE BELLO

 

The second celebration was one that my wife Laurie and I conceived to get all our friends together who live near us and with whom we stayed during different times in our evacuation. We chose a favorite restaurant, Sly’s in Carpinteria. James Sly is a great chef and his food is amazing with a wide variety of dishes on the menu. I am particularly fond of the Abalone, Oysters Rockefeller, and Peter Luger Prime Porterhouse Steak with Skinny Onion Rings. This is what I ordered and others ordered these dishes as well as many others. The restaurant is also very wine friendly and we always bring great old bottles from our cellar.  For this occasion I brought an aged magnum of Ariston  Fils Aspasie Brut Prestige Champagne to get started. It was really delicious.

And, for the featured wine I chose a magnum of 1993 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello.

The year 1993 was the year that we purchased a plot of land in Montecito, CA. Here we would later build our current home which has been our primary residence since 2000. So there was the connection of the 1993 vintage with the purchase of our property. There are so many great Monte Bellos (the first vintage was 1962 and I first visited Ridge a few years later)  that it is hard to pick a favorite (click here to read an article on the history of Ridge and click here to read a very recent article on Ridge with links at the end to 12 previous Ridge articles). And, because the quality is at a consistently high level year after year it is not unusual that Monte Bellos from often unheralded vintages turn out to be some of the best. (And, by the way, like I have always said, if you find a wine that you really like, and it is consistent, buy it every year. That, folks, is exactly what I have done with Ridge Monte Bello. You see, I have bought Ridge Monte Bello every year for over 50 years!) So it is no surprise that this 1993 has blossomed into something very special. I had not had this wine in a long time. And, I  did not really remember the wine when I chose it. Like I said, I chose it because of the connection of the vintage 1993 with the purchase of our property in 1993. But, I also chose it because it was Monte Bello!  That is reason enough to know that it would be really good. But, talk about exceeding expectations! OMG!! What a wine!!! Dark to the rim, the perfume was stunning and redolent with cassis fruit. On the palate, the wine had great complex flavors and a silky smooth texture with an after taste that went on and on. This is a memorable wine that is right up there with the very best vintages of Monte Bello. And that is saying a lot!

So begins 2018 with an annual birthday celebration and another celebration brought by quite unusual, and hopefully never to be repeated, circumstances. But, both celebrations were with the joy of old wines and good food accompanied by dear friends. So be sure to celebrate whenever you can. Life is too short to not seize every opportunity to do things that you really enjoy! 

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson

 

 

 

 

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