I always relish the rare opportunity to taste a California wine from the 1970s, the era before rising temperatures and fruit bombs. But I recently had something even more rare: tasting the BV, Georges de Latour, Private Reserve, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1958.
The wine was made by the venerable Andre Tchelistcheff, the “dean” of California winemakers of his day. Georges de Latour, a Frenchman, bought Beaulieu in 1899 and apparently made a fortune selling sacramental wine during Prohibition (people were so devout during Prohibition!). With the end of the Prohibition profits, de Latour decided to embark on the quality route and went to France to find the best Frenchman for the job. But in 1938, he returned with Andre Tchelistcheff, a Russian refugee as winemaker. The Private Reserve slightly preceded Tchelistcheff’s arrival (the first vintage was 1936), but it as the flagship for the estate, it was his signature wine for much of his career. In 1969, Beaulieu sold to Heublein; now it is owned by Diageo.
The 1958, a legendary wine, was showing gloriously at a recent tasting at a collector’s house. Easily one of the best California wines I have ever tasted, the gorgeous mature cabernet from start to finish was spectacular: the wine was still structured and very much alive. Some dark fruit remained but there was also a a dose savory, earthy notes. More than anything, it was the texture of the wine and the finish that just wouldn’t quit that really set it apart and made it so downright drinkable, enjoyable, and worth savoring every drop. It was so outrageously good that even showed better than the 1971 JJ Prum that was at the same tasting–and this was according to one of Riesling’s most ardent fans was was also at the tasting.
Incidentally, I checked out the back label and was amused to see Cabernet Sauvignon described as a “premier claret grape of the world…responsible for the renowned chateau-bottled red wines of Bordeaux, such as those from the médoc and Saint-Emilion.” Ah yes, the renowned St-Emilion cabernet sauvignon!