The Beaulieu Vineyards Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet tasting was a special, once-in-a-lifetime chance to sample some of the great Napa Cabernets from some great years: 1968-1976. Over the years, noted collector, George Kautzman, painstakingly acquired the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets for the sole purpose of one day hosting vertical tastings of the wines.
The Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets were all 750 ml with generally high shoulder fills, and were pre-decanted between 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. prior to the 7:45 p.m. tasting. The wines were then blind tasted by the 11-person group, after they'd been bagged and offered to the tasters in flights of three, beginning with the youngest three wines, to the oldest three wines.
All of the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets were purchased around the release date (generally five years after the vintage year) and original purchase price is provided as available (some bottles actually had the price tags still on them).
With regard to the (famous) 1968 vintage, the wine we tasted came from the last bottle of the second case of wine that George Kautzman had ever bought (his first case being a case of the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet 1967 vintage). I think most of us expected this wine to knock us out of our seats and/or blow all the other vintages out of the water. The truth is, as you can read below, it didn't stand out as the highest-rated Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet of the evening.
In all, however, the majority of the wines from this era were still packed with Napa Cabernet clout; they opened up, and in some cases were remarkably edgy — but never flabby. This was simply a tremendous tasting, offered by a stellar host and collector, Mr. Kautzman.
First flight: Great start; the 1976 vintage clearly stood out. These wines were an example of the fine Napa Cabernets that were produced by famed winemaker, Tom Selfridge.
Second flight: Only after we'd sampled the second flight, did George Kautzman read from the "White Book of California Wines", the bible on wine during that era. The 1972 Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet received a score of 11 out of 20. "The harvest was in rain and mud, with people gathering grape clusters in ankle-deep water ..." The 1972 Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet received a score of 16 out of 20.
Third flight: the best of the evening The surprise was that the 1968 Cab didn't stand out as the knock-down favorite. Feedback was varied. However, the 1969 vintage was vivid and solid; an unrecognized year with a tremendous output (from Beaulieu). Apparently, according to George Kautzman, his is not the first time that this Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet vintage has shown so well. It's been consistently great in tastings over the years.
|Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine NV||Clean, dry, refreshing — with a perky finish on the palate. Azalea blossoms and rice nose. Opened up a bit — with more flowers and a finer finish.|
|Grgich Hills 1978 Napa Valley Chardonnay||Nice, with residual fruit and pear blossom nose. Good color, with a polished finish.|
|Kenwood 1979 Deltane Ranch Sonoma Valley Chardonnay||Very apple cider nose with a light, caramel finish. Color had changed to a cream soda look; nutty and Sauternes-like flavors on the palate.|
|Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets||(in order of flight tasting)|
|1974 Vintage||Full nose; completed; Man, this is polished; pushing to perfection; "medicinal nose." 4 votes for best. ($16.99 original price)|
|1975 Vintage||Latent palate finish; "edgy and unbalanced," a little barnyard with some chocolate, less finished or polished. A second (delayed) tasting of this brought this reaction from me: "A lot of character." ($12.95 original price)|
|1976 Vintage||This really sings; younger, with more bounce; Ummmm!; nice, nice finish. "Fresh fruit, nice and balanced." ($16.99 original price)|
|1971 Vintage||Wow, Surprising finish; "Only 1/3 the menthol as the 1973."|
|1972 Vintage||Polished; full; driven. Berry, with a bouncy finish and a smooth nose. Some choco-berry hanging in the palate.|
|1973 Vintage||Rich; classic; slight menthol nose.|
|1968 Vintage||Chocolate and Napa soil; tobacco and spice. "Trunk of the car wine!" Very firm and diverse; food friendly. Leftover "muscle memory" from a great year. But it's the right time to consume this wine — it's not going to get any better.|
|1969 Vintage||Plush. Awesome. Complete. Holding steady & expanding into berry land. Surprisingly excellent.|
|1970 Vintage||Very, very good; this is an epitome of the Cabernet; cigar box nose; fruit intact; a lot of open-field room to move. The favorite of the tasters for the evening|
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