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Where Were YOU in 1980?

Drinking a great old vintage of wine can be a lot of fun, and can also take us back in time. I love thinking of the grapes growing and the people who picked them. I also think of the winemaker and his or her challenges during that vintage. It’s also enjoyable to think about what I was doing that year. How old was I? Where was I living? What was I doing?

Last night my husband and I invited some friends over to share a bottle of 1980 Opus One. Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used. They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa. The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux. This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines, and is known as being America’s first ultra-premium wine.

Interestingly, the 1979 and 1980 vintages were unveiled together in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. The co-winemakers were Lucien Sionneau from Château Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi’s son Tim, who founded Continuum Estate (also an ultra-premium wine) with his sister Marcia Mondavi Borger in 2005.

I was very excited to experience one of the first vintages of such an iconic winery!

I feared that the 1980 might have TOO much age on it, but my fears were unfounded. There is still some of the fruit, but it has developed into a lovely and well evolved complex pleasure! On the nose are leather, cocoa and some green pepper. On the palate are dried plum, cherry and earth, and the finish is long.

What was I thinking about while drinking this wine? I was thinking about the fact that I was just beginning my senior year of high school when the grapes were being harvested and that I was almost done with college when it was released. While sipping we searched some facts about 1980 and found that it was a leap year, the number one song was “Call Me” by Blondie, “Dallas” was the top show on TV and “Kramer vs. Kramer” won the Oscar for best picture.

We also learned last night that the 1980 Opus One is drinking beautifully and we are all going to search for more!

Some of the Lovely Wines & People of Bordeaux!

Oh how I love France.  I’ve been a Francophile since I can remember, and it only increased after catching the wine bug.  I’m blessed to have traveled to France many times exploring many of their wine regions, but I have yet to go to Bordeaux.  Well this past week, Bordeaux came to me!

More than 30 chateaux from Bordeaux stopped in Orlando during their “North American Tour”.  This night’s tasting was sponsored by ABC Fine Wine and Spirits.  Representing these chateaux were owners, winemakers, marketing reps and some distributors.  None of the First Growths were there for tasting, but many of the other Growths, as well as some lovely Cru Bourgeois and fabulous wines from the Right Bank!

Almost all of the wines being poured were from the 2012 vintage.  Here are some of my favorites of the evening:

 2012 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron (2nd Growth from Pauillac) – Winemaker Jean-René Matignon was pouring his lovely 2012, which is comprised of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  On the nose are tobacco, forest floor, blackberry and black cherry.  The palate has the dark fruit, cassis and vanilla.  The finish seems to go on and on and on.

2012 Château Lynch-Bages (5th Growth from Pauillac) – This needs time, but oh it will be worth the wait.  Made from 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, some earth and licorice come through on the nose.  The palate is rich and yet fresh, with dark fruit and a touch of baking spices. 

2012 Château Clinet – From Pomerol on the Right Bank, this wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc.  With aromas of cherry, wet earth and licorice, the palate explodes with black cherry and blackberry.  There is a hint of chocolate on the finish as well.

2012 Château Gazin– Again from Pomerol and considered one of the great wines of Bordeaux.  Christophe de Bailliencourt, the delightful Co-Owner and Co-Manager of Château Gazin, was pouring their lovely wine.  Gazin is located in the eastern part of the Pomerol plateau.  The 26-hectare vineyard adjoins the vineyards of L’Evangile and Petrus.  On the nose are cassis, blackberry and smoke.  Chocolate covered black cherry and the cassis and blackberry come through on the palate, leaving a long and lush finish.

Truthfully, there wasn’t a dud at this tasting.  I wish I had room to write about them all.  Perhaps I’ll do that as they have more time in the bottle.

Meanwhile if this tasting comes anywhere near you and you’re a lover of the wines of Bordeaux, don’t miss it.  For me it was a night that won’t be forgotten.  I have a feeling that my next adventure in France will include a visit to Bordeaux!

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