I had a birthday recently and as a wine collector and lover, I always find it fun to try a wine from the same vintage as myself. Unfortunately for me, 1981 was not a great vintage wine wise, but Napa it seems can produce good wines in nearly every vintage and I really enjoy tasting wines that are throwbacks to when Napa was a farm community and not a billionaire investment center. I acquired a 1981 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Private Reserve several months ago from Benchmark Wine Group and decided to pop it open in celebration. I was gifted a beautiful, mega ribeye from my father-in-law and while this was maybe not a perfect pairing for a fully mature cabernet sauvignon, I went with it and it turned out delicious!
The wine was better than expected. Mature, but still quite dark red in color, the nose was an absolute treat. Initially notes of menthol and eucalyptus, hints of bell pepper, and forest floor emerge. With air dried, sweet, dark fruit emerged alongside tanned leather, dried tobacco, and damp leaf litter. The palate was still quite delicious with no significant tannins to speak of, but a seamless, elegant, and still relatively rich mouthfeel that finished with a lingering dark fruit and mint note. The cork from this bottle had a very good seal with only about 1/3 of it being saturated. I don’t drink much wine from Beaulieu normally, but given this showing and the reasonable price that you can acquire some lesser vintages, I would certainly roll the dice on an older wine like this again. My experience with California wines from the early ’80s has overall been quite good. A 1981 Ridge Monte Bello drank a few years ago was spellbinding. A 1980 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard drank a few months ago was the best cabernet I’ve had since a 1982 second growth Bordeaux 2 years ago. While this particular wine was not quite as good as those others, it was still a treat to taste (and much cheaper!). So I’d encourage people, especially those who may be anti-Napa (which I am to a degree) to see if they can find some of these wines from the early to mid-80s before Napa became what it is currently (which in my opinion is generally overpriced, over extracted, and excessively oaked/alcoholic wines; this is of course a vast generalization as there are still absolutely phenomenal wines being produced). It can be really fun to try these older wines and if you can find them with good provenance, it is a treat to taste some vinous history! I hope otherwise everyone is having a great summer and getting the occasional chance to try some fine wines!