Chateau Montelena Napa Valley 1986

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley 1986

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"Good medium red with an amber edge. Much more evolved on the nose than the '85, offering scents of plum, berries, prune, tobacco, leather and earth. Sweet on entry, then a bit simple in the middle, conveying a slightly jammy quality but good breadth and a touch of sweetness to its flavors of red fruits, warm rocks and ginger. Fully evolved but still shows a surprising spine of dusty tannins. Turned a bit drier and more angular in the glass with air, suggesting that this wine should be drunk soon. Barrett told me that he was feeling more confident by the time he made the '86, as the '82 had garnered favorable reviews and had sold well. A second, better bottle, tasted chez moi: Bright ruby-red to the rim. Very dark nose leads with primary cassis, black cherry and violet. Not particularly fleshy but boasts terrific flavor intensity and energy, not to mention a distinct high pitch to its black fruit and floral flavors. This looks and tastes like a 15-year-old wine, giving the impression that it's in a state of suspended animation. Finishes with substantial building tannins and excellent length and grip. This would be a perfect ringer in a blind flight of 1986 Médoc wines--a vintage in which the Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly favored. Really cruising along at age 32. Barrett has maintained from the start that he preferred his '86 to his '85 and '87, but clearly there is bottle variation with this vintage. (In fact, Barrett says 1986 was his worst year for corks, which he attributes to "the socialist Portuguese.") At the winery, I preferred the '87 to the '86 but on the last day at March, in my own dining room, I gave this wine the edge, and its fruit maintained verve for days in the recorked bottle. Clearly, my projected peak drinking plane is for the better bottle of the '86. (13.5% alcohol)"

Stephen Tanzer, Vinous, Tasting date: March 2019

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