I had this last Thursday, and had been looking forward to it for a long time. This was the last bottle (of this vintage) from my father's original stash. The last time I tasted it was, I believe, in 1997 or thereabouts.
As I am sure all of you know, '68, '70 and '74 were all awesome Napa vintages and the first two of these three wines at BV were the last ones made by Andre Tchelistcheff, the dean of Napa winemakers and mentor to almost everyone who mattered in the valley for like 40 years. Of the three, the '74 is really the weakest. All of ours dried out years ago. I haven't tasted one in close to 20 years and recall them being quite dead. This is sad because other Napa '74s (Heitz above all) are still awesome. The '70 I have had at least a dozen times and while I believe it is now fading it is a really spectacular bottle. I last had it in 2006.
The '68 I have had maybe half as many times. For some reason it has always been more prized, I think because production was lower and because a lot more of it got drunk up young. To this day, it's easier to find the '70 than the '68. Consensus among the BV groupies is that, in their respective primes, the '68 was better than the '70. Consensus now is that the '70 is still hanging by a thread but the '68 is gone.
(As an aside, I have had the '58 three times. This is in the running for best wine I have ever had. I would hurt someone for the chance to have it again. It is supposedly still going strong.)
This bottle of '68 had real promise. The fill was unbelievable. So, so high. Like new, really, halfway up the neck. Once the foil was cut, the top of the cork was pristine. No mold or any signs of rot or seepage. The cork nonetheless broke and had to be pushed down. Still and all, the cork showed no signs of rot. It was clean all the way down the sides, it just was weak in the middle and cracked. Whatever was wrong with this wine, it was not a bad bottle.
The bottle was decanted. Tons of sediment. The wine looked cloudy and brown. Make that sludgy and brown. Not a good sign.
The smell was ... funky. As in icky funky, not "Interesting forest floor" funky. Ah well, this is what happens when you wait too long.
But then it started to change. The nose was still quite bad but the taste was ... good! This is unusual for me. I have had many a bedraggled Bordeaux with a lovely nose that tasted like rot. This smelled like rot but tasted like wine.
It changed many times in the glass over a very short period. The nose even started showing mushroom and a hint of fruit and losing some of the funk. I never got any vinegar notes, which in a red is the sure sign of death.
My personal judgment was that, yes, it was certainly over the hill, 10 years too old at least, but far from dead and quite "interesting." In the end, more interesting and more enjoyable than a nice young wine. If I had a cellar full of stuff like this I would be unhappy but a bottle now and then, intended for heroic aging that can't quite muster the strength for long life, is worth the risk.
Anyone else had this recently, good or bad?
Also, any idea how the '58s and '70s are holding up?