Sometimes things happen in a very unusual way. Such was the case with a magnum of 1970 Latour which had been in my cellar since the original release. In moving wines around last fall the magnum was removed from the rack and stood up. However, while standing only just a short time, the cork fell into the bottle. Hmm. What to do? Well, there was only one thing to do – drink it! So I called some friends and asked if they would like to be involved in a dinner featuring this wine and other Bordeaux and California Cabernet Sauvignons. This was quickly resolved and we had 5 people. But, before we could get everything arranged there were not one, but two catastrophic events in our area. First was a fire in December and then a flood/mudslide in January. As a result, it took until April before we could have our dinner. During this entire time the magnum of 1970 Latour with the cork in the bottle remained untouched standing up in my cellar. The evening of the event I removed it and carefully kept it standing up on the way to the dinner. I thought the chances were good that the wine would be good. (After all, with only the small air space in the neck and very top shoulder of the bottle, how much air could get into the bottle?) But, the question was how good? The other four people brought several other wines – two Champagnes to start and then an assortment of red wines including Bordeaux and a California Cabernet Sauvignon – in addition to the 1970 Latour magnum. The event was held at the La Cumbre Country Club. The organizer, David Ackert, brought some Chinese caviar which he had just brought back from China. The caviar was surprisingly good and went well with Champagne that he brought from his cellar. The red wines were served with grilled steak and numerous side dishes. The food was very good and we had excellent service in a private room. Brief notes on the wines are listed below:
Tarlant Cuvée Louis
A lovely mature Champagne with the complexities of bottle age. Gorgeous perfume with brioche and crème brulee nuances. Balanced with nice underlying fruit accented by tinges of crème brulee and a nice crispness on the finish.
1985 Rene Collard Rosé
Made from Pinot Meunier this Champagne is still amazingly fresh after over 30 years. This Champagne house ceased to exist in the 1990s with the death of René Collard. But, the iconic Pinot Meunier based Champagnes of René Collard live on and are a pleasure to drink today. The 1985 rosé is a prime example. Lovely color with a nice perfume of red fruits showing floral tinges and a hint of citrus. On the palate, creamy and beautifully balanced with subtle fruit nuances accented by citrus and floral spice. Amazing and delicious!
1970 Latour (Magnum)
The 1970 Latour was always one of the best wines of the vintage and much better than Lafite or Mouton. As is typical for Latour, it has aged magnificently. But, we have to remember that this is the magnum with the cork in the bottle that was left standing up for 6 months. Decanted into 2 decanters no one would have ever guessed. Dark in color with a faint amber edge. Lovely perfume cedary nuances accented by hints of cassis. Quite rich and full. Rounded. Great balance with a nice underlying structure. A truly outstanding example of 1970 Latour.
Dark in color with amber at the edge. Lovely cedar tinged perfume. Still with lots of fruit and a firm structure this wine has depth and richness with a faint crispness on the finish. This 1975 Latour has evolved nicely without the dry tinge that some 1975 Bordeaux’s have developed over time. And, it shows every indication of lasting well into the future.
Dark in color with a faint amber tone. Nice perfume with faint hints of cedar. Full and quite rich with nice cedar tinged flavors. In it’s youth the 1970 Montrose was quite a big wine with structure and a good amount of underlying tannin. Today the wine is flavorful with very good fruit and still shows a trace of underlying tannin. It is probably at a peak and time to drink it before it begins to lose fruit.
Nice color with a faint amber tinge this Saint Julien has a lovely perfume with faint cedar nuances. Elegant and very refined it is balanced and rounded with a lot of charm. A bit overwhelmed by the more powerful wines in the group, but the wine is beautifully mature and a pleasure to drink.
1971 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Mountain
Wow. What a surprise. I cannot remember ever tasting this 1971, although I am sure I did way back when. What I remember is the 1970 Mayacamas. It is one of the all-time great Napa Cabernets that was loaded with fruit and tannin at the outset and took many years to come around. Today it has rounded out and is balanced and very flavorful with lots of intensity – a real tour-de-force that is more than a match for any 1970 Bordeaux. And, thankfully I still have a good supply of bottles and magnums in my cellar which are drinking beautifully. This 1971 Mayacamas Cabernet showed very well in the company of the Bordeauxs. In fact, it seems to be a lighter version of the 1970 with the Maycamas stamp of fruit and flavor showing balance and depth. And, it has aged beautifully with many years of life ahead.
After this wine dinner was over everyone was very pleased and amazed at the results. All of the wines were really good. And, additional “back up” wines (in case the 1970 Latour magnum was not good) were not even opened. The 1970 Latour magnum was served throughout the meal. The wine was really delicious and at a peak of its evolution with not one indication that the cork had been in the bottle for nearly 6 months! And the last tastes of the wine were just as good as the first. Bravo! The moral of the story: Never underestimate an old wine that has been kept in great storage conditions (to read an article on storage click here  and to read an article on a case of really old Bordeaux from great provenance where some of the bottles were only half full click here). 
In Vino Veritas,