1979 Hanzell Cabernet Sauvignon
85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot, 2% Malbec
If you couldn’t tell by the vintage, this bottle is a special one as it was harvested in my birth year and if your math is up to speed that makes the wine (and the drinker) 37 years old!
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase this directly from the winery last year. As a member of their wine club, Hanzell allows you to purchase specifically selected library vintages of Pinot, Chardonnay and Cabernet. They offer these library wines (dating back to the 60’s) once per year and usually offer 3-4 vintages that have been chosen by the winemaker after a thorough tasting and judging of current drinkability. They are able to offer these amazing library wines because they hold back about 80 cases of every vintage. Their library room is something to behold.
Hanzell is known for their Burgundian varietals and have not made a Cabernet for nearly 30 years (there is rumor they may start up on production again) so when they offered up the ’79 Cabernet and swore by its longevity and current drinkability I jumped on it.
Of course, once I had the juice in hand there were several questions that came to mind. How do you decide when to drink something like this? Will it taste like piss? If it tastes like piss do I drink every drop anyway(yes!)? Anyway, I knew it should be consumed fairly soon so I settled on cracking it open to celebrate my birthday this year which just happens to be today.
Yesterday I pulled it out of the wine fridge about 4pm to let it lose a bit of its chill. I then opened (the cork crumbled immediately so I had to push it through and strain) and decanted about 5pm. My wife and I tasted it right out of the bottle and the first thing I noticed was the color. It wasn’t brown. It still held this amazing red brick tone to it. I was shocked. The taste was tart and tight, but you could tell there was fruit there. We then let it settle for another 20-30 minutes before tasting again. It was already evolving and becoming more well-rounded.
As I put my little guy to bed, my wife prepared a “cheese plate” comprised of all my favorites. See my previous post on this. The plate was awesome and went very well with the Hanzell. By the time we were 1/4 of the bottle in; about 3 and a half hours had passed. The wine was totally different. It was bigger, bolder, fuller and more complex. Think freshly dried fruits like cherries and raisins. I couldn’t believe how it had evolved in such a short period of time and further, I couldn’t believe it had evolved at all based on its age.
As we finished off our snacks and polished off the last sips of this fantastic wine, I couldn’t help but wish I had more of the stuff. What an amazing treat to be able to drink something with so much age yet so much structure and balance.
I can now say first hand that ’79 was an awesome year for the Hanzell vineyard folks and I don’t think it was too bad on the Peterson crew either (if I do say so myself). Cheers!