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"VINTAGE PORT"

January 11, 2001 • Massachussets Mutual Conference Room

Port, with its high levels of complexity, sugar, and alcohol can be a very contemplative and relaxing wine, usually enjoyed following a meal or as night cap. Blind tasting nine different examples is certainly challenging. (How DO those port makers do it, day after day?) Our panel included Michael Blaylock, winemaker at Quady since 1985, as our guest. The members provided a varied assortment of Portuguese and port-style wines. The evening was quite enjoyable and the surprising results certainly validated both our local dessert-wine-growing neighborhood and our guest's abilities. (Although the Portuguese, upon seeing this, might declare our palates completely Californicated!)

Brand
Vintage & Varietal/Type
Appellation -$ price
Consensus Tasting Notes
Notes in bold type indicate three
or more comments in agreement.
(enclosed ?) = comment on a possible flaw
#Rank
Buying Advice

Quady
1992 Starboard "Lot B"
California - $20. (winery only)
20% alcohol

Dark garnet-coffee, brick edge; mild, pleasant complex scent mixes raspberries, dried fruit, figs, prunes, toasted sesame, cocoa, pot-still brandy, alcohol, slight oxidation; big, complex and mellow flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, licorice; full-bodied, rich, soft, forward and very well balanced, with good acidity and tannic "grip", yet very easy to drink.

#1
Very Highly
Recommended
BEST BUY

Ficklin
1983 Special Bottling #6
Madera - ($25. at release)
19.6% alcohol

Very dark (cloudy) tawny with a mature amber-brown edge; deep stewed fruit aroma, slightly vegetal, complex with hints of coffee, caramel, and cocoa powder; burnt sugar, soy sauce and somewhat sweet, chocolatey flavors; full body, very rich; good balance, slightly low acid; nearly no heat in short, smooth finish.

(bottled in 1987)

#2
Very Highly
Recommended

Guenoc
1992 "Vintage Port"
California - ($18. rel.)
19.5% alcohol

Dark ruby, slightly tawny-garnet edge; berries, cherries, raisins, vanilla, brambles, dill, rosemary, oak (fusel / bourbon barrel?) in complex, youthful aroma; sweet, smooth, young and fruity, cassis, raspberry, slight alcohol in easy-to-drink flavors; smooth, integrated, well-balanced; full-bodied, rich; long, youthfully astringent finish.
(Old Vines Zinfandel - Petite Sirah blend)

#3
Very Highly
Recommended

Quady
1982 Port "Frank's Vineyard"
Amador County - ($24. rel.)
20% alcohol

Dark plum with a brickish edge; low-fruit aroma mixes brown sugar, maple, spice, violets, alcohol, rubber, oak, faint perfume; sweet chocolate, cherry, tobacco in the dry flavors, slightly medicinal; very well balanced; full body, fleshy; fairly tannic, long finish with some heat. Seems young.
(made from true "Port" varieties)

#4
Highly
Recommended

Dow
1997 Vintage Port
Oporto - $38. to $90. (current)
20% alcohol

Very dark ruby-plum purple, young and bright; nose mixes young, very ripe fruit, fruitcake, mince meat, flowers, chocolate, butter and a hint of yeast; clean, sweet, young, smooth, grapey, blueberry, raspberry, chocolate, cassis and orange rind flavors; full bodied, rich, round with good integration and excellent balance; long, smooth aftertaste shows neither too much tannin nor heat, nor sticky sweetness. Not quite the fruit intensity and "grip" of some others here, but probably a good cellar candidate.

#5 (tie)
Highly
Recommended

Croft
1975 Vintage Port
Oporto - $38. to $50. (cur.)
20.5% alcohol

Light tawny, amber-brick, slight haze (should be decanted); raisins, orange rind, butterscotch, bacon, celery, alcohol, oak, hint of oxidation in nose; complex, pleasant, burnt sugar, coffee, dried fruit, spicy, slightly musty, somewhat Angelica-like, smooth flavors; good balance, slightly acidic; some heat in long, slightly harsh finish.

#6
Highly
Recommended

Graham
1963 Vintage Port
Oporto - $130. to $395. (cur.)
20% alcohol

Light to medium amber-garnet color, slight sediment; clean, complex, aged, faintly tarry aromas, with hints of dried fruit, grass and cinnamon, noticable alcohol, terpenes; hot entry, sweet, tawny-woody, mature and pleasing flavors; well-balanced, somewhat thin; a little heat and faintly acidic or bitter in the finish.

#7
Highly
Recommended

Niepoort
1987 Vintage Port
Oporto - $35. to $40. (cur.)
20.7% alcohol

Deep, dark ruby red-purple; tight fruit, spice, cinnamon, floral, old wood, musty (possibly corked?); fruity, tastes slightly of currants, pepper, mustiness, earth, overall impression is simply sweet and hot, somewhat disjointed; long, slightly tannic, hot finish.

#8
Recommended

St. Amant
1983 "Port"
Amador County - ($16. rel.)
19% alcohol

Light ruby red to garnet edge; attractive light, fruity, spicy, clean, candied, cassis, raisiny aroma with noticeable alcohol and hints of terpine or chocolate and filter pad; clean, woody, slightly raisiny flavors are a little low on fruit; light body; balanced with good acidity, not too sweet; low tannins; finish fades rapidly.

#9
Recommended

This Panel included Regulars Kevin, Glenn, Deanna, Jon, Ray, Jim, Ron, James, and Guests Tammy, Peter, and Mike
About Port
OportoWines.com is a specialty e-merchant of Port, albeit with very good and thorough information about the Douro region, history, vineyards, varietals, wine making techniques, types, storing and drinking recommendations, etc., including many photos and charts.

The Port Wine Institute site also has very informative and detailed articles on history, geography, viticulture, enology, commerce, classifications, tourism, statistics, and legalities of Port.

Bar do Binho, a brick-and-click port merchant in the Portuguese town of Sintra also has much information on their web site, which has a clever user interface and very good descriptions of individual Port "houses" and vintages, but is slightly hampered by navigational glitches and less-than-thorough text editing.


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