Tasting Wine Older than Me: 1974 Stag’s Leap, 1977 Grgich Hills, 1976 Chateau Montelena

1974 Stag’s Leap

Lifting our glasses for a toast, my heart pounded as the rich, red liquid – 14 years my elder – awaited its fateful tasting high in the air. Cameras flashed to catch the 1974 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon’s historic opening both for its age and story, while I fidgeted with excitement and salivated for a sip.

A surreal journey, I could hardly believe I was even there and this was only one ounce of the adventure.

The trip began with a tweet.

@SeattleWineGal: Hey @KelseyIvey, what’s your email address? I have an awesome proposal for you!

And continued with a Tweet House – a Buick Tweet House road trip to Napa to be exact. Within three hours of the initial invitation I had all my work shifts covered, both jobs, and had spastically ran around my apartment calling family to tell them the news – all the while my roommate laughed to herself at my giddiness.

With the Stag’s Leap Cab, a kind donation of @HerbyGuy at the Herb Farm Restaurant, the road trip hit the pavement – but very smoothly of course to not disturb the wine. In a Buick Enclave, the wheels turned south to Napa and to the inaugural year of the Napa Film Festival.

Day 1: King Estate

Day 2: Eugene to Eureka

Day 3: Eureka to Napa

Combining what Napa does best – wine – and the hottest in independent film and cinema, the three-day Napa Film Festival attracted film gurus and winos. A mixture of flavors, the festival showcased a variety of film types including shorts, documentary, student and world cinema while the wineries featured tasting specials and events for the visitors. Hosting the VIP lounge for the event, the Tweet House at the AVIA Hotel additionally offered technology and social media driven panels.

After traveling over 800 miles over three days, fast forward to the wine’s arrival and final resting place at the kick-off grand tasting event for Tweet House.

Carefully twisting the wine key into the cork, SeattleWineGal – Barbara Evans (also one of the road trippers), painstakingly released the Stag’s Leap from its stagnate time capsule as the crowd waited in anticipation. Using a tall, swan neck decanter to meticulously pour the Cabernet out of its glass bottle and reduce the sediment movement into the wine, Barbara with the help of AVIA’s sommelier prepared the wine for tasting.

Me with my glass of Stag’s Leap 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon

Lowering our glasses from the celebratory cin cin, I slowly brought the thin wine glass to my lips and let the velvety wine flow over my palate and down the hatch. With an elegant, muskiness from its age and deep earthy notes, the Stag’s Leap climaxed with just the slight hint of dark, dark fruit on the finish.

As the winery to beat the French in a blind tasting at the 1976 Judgment of Paris with their 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap forever Sharpy marked their place in California’s wine history and the story of hundreds of American wineries as they landmarked the Napa Valley with their accolades – and after the once in a lifetime tasting, a cursor in my own wine journey.

The last thick taste of the 74’ Stag Leap though didn’t end the insane tasting day. To our surprise, one of our VIP attendees – the real Gustavo from the movie Bottle Shock (a film about the Judgment of Paris- if you haven’t seen it, it’s a must!) – brought to the event two more bottles that had gray years over me.

Crafted by Mike Grgich, the wine marker for Chateau Montelena when the winery won in the Judgment of Paris for their 1973 Chardonnay, a bottle of 1977 Grgich Hills Chardonnay also popped its cork at the Tweet House kick-off event. Bottled under his own label shortly after leaving Chateau Montelena, the Chardonnay poured with an off-yellow tint and smooth, light butter flavor.

1977 Grgich Hill Chardonnay & 1976 Chateau Montelena Riesling

Another surprise after the Grgich Hills, we had the pleasure of tasting the world-renown, Chateau Montelena’s 1976 Riesling Late Harvest. Presenting with a dark almost caramel, cognac color, the Riesling was resilient with a sweetness like honey syrup yet a rounded flavor from the grace of time. The sweetness danced on my tongue and slid through my mouth like a summer water slide, coating my throat with its delicate floral notes and creamy texture.

As the bottom of the three bottles surfaced, the room buzzed for a sip and conversations flooded the space. Standing off to the side, I briefly soaked in the stead-fast flavors in a disbelief-daze as the last drops of the three old bottles of wine quickly disappeared.

More wine would be opened throughout the evening and weekend, but my palate will not forget anytime soon the memory of those three wines and epic tasting event.

More photos:


Published by Kelsey Ivey

An avid traveler and hiker, Kelsey is a freelance writer and professional explorer.

4 thoughts on “Tasting Wine Older than Me: 1974 Stag’s Leap, 1977 Grgich Hills, 1976 Chateau Montelena

  1. Hey Kelsey:
    I have a bottle of Dom Perignon, Vintage 1985. Is it any good and is there a website to find it’s value.
    M J

    1. If the bottle has been stored properly – away from light & heat – and the cork has held, the 1985 Dom Perignon should still be good. The only way to know for sure though is to pop that cork and take a sip! Likely to be less bubbly than young Champagne, but the flavors will have aged & changed.

      For more information check out their website at http://www.domperignon.com.
      They have a Facebook page too, if you want more information about your specific vintage.

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