TN: 1977 California Cabernets at MP Taverna in Irvington

I seldom take lunch, much less long lunch with wine, but Mark & John offered me an irresistible chance to taste a lineup of 1977 CalCabs. I jumped the train 2 stops to Irvington, and crossed the tracks to MP Taverna. While we were gathering we had the 2002 Piper-Heidsieck ?Rare? Champagne. Full, toasty, smoky, with pit fruit and pear, good acid spine, elegant mousse, excellent length. A-
We had openers of tzatziki , eggplant puree, & chickpea puree. Then they brought out Herbert the suckling pig, and the chef Michael Psilakis described the various ways he would send the pig out. While we awaited the pork we were also offered Greek salad, sausage, octopus with chickpea salad, calamari, green beans.Then came the series of pig courses- Skin, crispy bits & foreshank, pork ribs, chipotle spiced pork with lettuce to wrap, risotto, Gyro spices and tortillas, and roast pork. Yum
And the wines were tasty too:
1977 Jordan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma) Tart yet with some richness, dried cherry, tastes like a good aged Chianti. B/B+
1977 Kenwood ?Jack London Vineyard? Cabernet Sauvignon Plummy red fruit, a little green, tart. Pretty acidic, quite young. Table liked more than I did B/B_
1977 Martin Ray Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (assumed going in Santa Cruz, but this was Napa from Howell and Steltzner) Pretty oxidized, some green underneath, not a fan. C+/C
1977 Mount Eden ?Estate? Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz) Richer, mature but not tired, black fruit and floral notes. A-
1977 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain) (in a PN/Chardonnay bottle, John theorized they just ran out of Bdx bottles) Some liked but I thought pruney with clear VA. I usually like Burgess of this era (for the price). C+
1977 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) Lean and a little green (eucalyptus) but with long complex finish. B+
1977 Ridge ?York Creek? Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain) Fully mature but quite complex, black fruit and cigarbox, spice, and coffee. Good length,. A-
1977 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) Table favorite. Delicious sweet red fruits, good acids, good finish, I just thought a little more straightforward fruit-driven than some others. A-/B+
1977 Heitz Cellar ?Bella Oaks Vineyard? Cabernet Sauvignon Delicious, red cherry fruit with a distinct red appleskin note, citrus zest, smoke. Earthy, rich, long. A-/A
1977 Robert Mondavi ?Reserve? Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) Cassis and black cherry, leather, earth- great flavors but not as long as some others this day. B+/B
1977 Ch. Montelena ?Estate? Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) I think I liked better than table. Blackcurrant and plum, leather, some tannin still. A-
1977 Mayacamas Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder) Nose great, but pretty tight & structured on the palate. To me this is still about potential- B for now, A potential.
1977 Diamond Creek Red Rock Cabernet Sauvignon Good nose of coffee and dark fruits, interesting palate with earth and cassis, but just a touch dried out. B
1977 Heitz Cellar ?Martha?s Vineyard? Cabernet Sauvignon Good looking bottle but clearly compromised, some maderization. NR
1977 Joseph Phelps ?Eisele Vineyard? Cabernet Sauvignon I didn?t really give this enough time, nice mocha and black fruit nose, some tannins , a bit hard at moment but I heard opened up. For me B
Great showing overall, nice group, fun way to spend afternoon.
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C drinkable. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice.Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.
Reply to
I've had less than stellar results from 1977. Montebello is still drinking OK A- and I have recently had the York Creek and we had a good bottle of the Clos du Val.
Reply to
Lawrence Leichtman
Were the less than stellar results recently? The reason John and Mark put together tasting was that '77 as the second in a string of drought years was poorly regarded for decades, but finally was out of shell.
Reply to
Wow! What a lunch, Dale. I'm impressed that you were able to stay conscious (and possibly even functional) after such a bacchanal. I'm sure that you got plenty of background on this vintage, so I won't go into much detail. As you say, it was year 2 of a drought that had engulfed Northern CA. We in the Bay Area were being encouraged to "shower with a friend" and watering your yard or washing your car would incur the wrath of your neighbors. It was also the first vintage that I bought, so it has lots of sentimental value. Your comments about the bad reputation interest me as the boys at CGCW were fairly positive IIRC. I'll see if I can dig that issue out of the archives in our attic tonight.
Of the wines you tried, I recall having the Mondavi, Montelena, Kenwood and Clos du Val. Maybe the Burgess, too. All were classically proportioned but I doubt that few at the time foresaw 40+ years of life in them.
Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane, Mark Lipton
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Reply to
Mark Lipton
OK to be exact John said when he got into the trade in early 80s the vintage was not very well-regarded, not at release. Several more luscious vintage such as '73, '74 preceded. I just looked up current charts, WS has 1977 83 Past peak Small crop of balance wines, early maturing
Robert Parker website skips from '76 to '78 (world wide!)
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But if you are still a VFTC subscriber I believe John will have the feature in next issue, and will better describe evolution (of wines and reputation)
Actually I went straight back to work (by train, as D was in town and had borrowed my car, 8 minute ride). But I would have been ok to drive- I was mostly spitting (and it was over 3 hours).
Reply to
Yes, we had 5 1977's weekend before last because we have a friend with a deep cellar. The Montebello was mine as I have been on their list since 1978. York Creek Ridge B+, and Clos du Val B were all still good and the Montebello was outstanding A-. Freemark Abbey was dead and gone. Ingelnook was borderline but still some fruit left give it a B-.
Reply to
Lawrence Leichtman

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