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A case of wine to last 21 years (at least)


One of the ways that my parents celebrated my 21st birthday was with a bottle of 1974 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. They acquired a case and kept a few bottles for when I came of age and for major milestones thereafter (wedding/graduation/etc). I like the idea of passing this family tradition down to my own child.

Knowing that many of today's wines are made to be enjoyed immediately or within a shorter period of time than what I'm looking for, I wonder if you have any recommendations as to wines to consider.

I live in the Seattle area and have primarily had the Washington and Oregon wines. One of these wines would be preferrable (as it is local and probable easier for me to find), but I'm not tied to it. I'm willing to splurge a little and maybe head towards $100 a bottle if I find the right stuff.

Thanks for the help.

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  1. What a delightful reason to buy a case of wine!

    Before your price qualification, the first label that came to mind was Opus One. However, I just checked and it's twice what you intend to spend.

    That being said, I have a favorite French red that I've had a lot of luck cellaring. Chateau Meyney, a luxuriously chewy, serious St. Estephe. It's only about $40 the bottle.

    Now that I've gone and touched on my own selections for the high-low ends of the spectrum, I'd love to see what other oenophile chowhounds suggest as the "middle of the road" with regard to price.

    1. There is (or was) an old upper-class English tradition of buying a cask of port in honor of a baby's birth, to be opened on his 21st birthday. I think a fine young vintage port would still be perfect for this, they age very well in the bottle.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BobB

        Still holding a 1970, 1975, 1977 for my three, all magnums

      2. I've done this for friend's kids and will do it for my own when the 09s roll around. First thing, what year are we talking about? That can have a huge impact on the decision.

        Just a couple general thoughts:

        1.) There are Washington wines which will last the 21 years. They are going to be fairly scarce and difficult to obtain, however. If having a local wine is important to you, don't let that deter you though. Difficult is definitely not impossible. Obviously Quilceda Creek and Leonetti come to mind, but there are a number of top Walla Walla producers whose wine should fit the bill. 05, 06, 07 were all good vintages.

        2.) I love Oregon Pinot and it currently makes up over 30% of my cellar. That said, it will be more of a crap shoot as to how the wine will age. 21 years is quite a while for Pinot. No doubt, there will be some, but tough to determine which. Again, vintage may matter. If 08 is really as good as the harvest and barrel tastings indicate, there may be more to choose from. I'd stay away from 07.

        Outside the NW.:
        In 05, BDX and Burgundy were easy choices (although nothing wrong with Cali Cab either)
        06 was more difficult but I took a shot at CdPs.
        07 was an easier decision: CdP and Sauternes. Top CdPs can easily be had in $60-80 range and you can get good sauternes if willing to spend the same money for 375mls. 07 Cali Cab would be another good bet.

        Still don't know about 08 yet. WA might be a good bet. Oregon Pinot is more of a long shot, but if you're going to take a shot on Oregon Pinot, this should be the vintage to do it. Obviously, plenty of French pinots age well past 21 years.

        1. I'd go with Bordeaux or Burgundy! -mJ

          1. Without even reading the other's replies...

            1) What year? 2009? The grapes aren't even all picked yet. Impossible to know.

            2) Forget Oregon. The ONLY WA wine that *might* be able to go the distance is Quilceda Creek, and that is out of your price range.

            3) 1974 Heitz Martha's?! You need to understand that wine is a legend. There are no comperable wines being made in CA today, and if there were they would not be anywhere close to $100/bottle.

            4) Your best bet with your money constraints would be desert wines, top shelf German Ausleses, Port, classic Brunelli, Baroli, Rhones or maybe the right (left bank) Bordeaux. And amongst those options, it really varies on what to get based upon vintage. Also, producer matters intensely. Without writing a novel, you'd have to come back and ask a few more pointed questions. Also, this whole thing is premature, as stated above, because we don't know what vintage you are talking about nor what '09 will bring.

            5 Replies
            1. re: whiner

              Why nothing in Washington? Seriously? I have had some hard core cab that would age that long. And what about Cayuse?

              1. re: Vetter

                Well, I've never had a WA wine thought could go 21+ years. QC I doubt could. Leonetti I kow for a fact cannot even make it to 12, normally. I've never been blown away by a Cayuse, but have only had it a couple of times. Never thought to myself "this would be better in 20 years," though.

                1. re: whiner

                  I think that certain vintages of Leonetti and Cayuse will last 20 years... -mJ

              2. re: whiner

                I second that recommendation on the ausleses...kabinett's just don't last. Had a few '83's and they were hit and miss. Delicious, but not top notch. Are you implying that you're going to be buying from this year or their birth years?

                1. re: whiner

                  '99 Leonetti merlot is drinking very well right now. His Reserves will go 20+ years although he is pricing them outrageously high @ $145. A '94 merlot was fine when opened a year ago. Delicious actually.

                  I'd buy K Vintners Old Bones Pinot which is $120 on a future for what should be a Parker 99 point wine. Cayuse Bionic Frog is another Washington cult wine to source-if you can find it.

                  There was a price break on '06 Groth Reserve from $160 to 89. Costco sells this in some stores along with K and L. A fantastic wine that approaches the 100 point '85 which is still wonderful. Caymus Special Selection has also had a price break and can similarly be found for $99 at Costco and on the internet.

                  I would consider an excellent amarone such as Sergio Zenato which is right around $100 a bottle. Dal Forno and Quintarelli are three to four times this but the Sergio Zenato is 90% as good. Elderton Command should see 20 years for this exemplery Aussie Shiraz which is right around $100 or a bit less. Perhaps a Super Tuscan like Giramonte is in your price range as well as the '03 Dal Forno Valpolicella which I've seen in the low 100's. This is a fantastic wine that is better than most others' amarones.

                  As noted elsewhere you have to store this properly. Also, I wouldn't have anything shipped to me for at least another six or more weeks because of heat.

                2. No one has asked about storage conditions. Are you going to put this in a humidity and climate controlled environment? Or under the stairs/in a closet?

                  For the former, there are so many discussions, of great cabs, clarets, Italians, German and Alsatian rieslings and stickies, Loire whites, etc etc. For the latter: If you don't have optimal storage conditions, I would definitely stick with Port. It's much, much more forgiving and you should be able to get a nice bottle for your price range.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: chefdilettante

                    Great point. I just automatically assumed that they would have it in some sort of climate controlled environment. -mJ

                    1. re: njfoodies

                      If your child was born in:

                      2005: Bordeaux (Pauillac, Margaux)
                      2006: You could still go with a Bordeaux, but you would have to do your research because this vintage was not as brilliant as 05.
                      2007: CdP. A landmark year for the Rhone. Also a great year for German Riesling.
                      2008: Not sure yet. Haven't read the vintage reports.

                      I like the idea of Bordeaux because it ages so well. Having said that, 2007 was a difficult year in Bordeaux that produced few cellar-worthy wines.

                      1. re: anewton

                        Have you tasted barrel samples of the '07 Bordeaux? How do you know "2007 was a difficult year in Bordeaux that produced few cellar-worthy wines?"

                        1. re: chefdilettante

                          No, but a wine consultant who i trust has participated in a 2007 barrel tasting and gave the vintage a big thumbs down (and he is a Bordeaux fan). Plus the articles I have read about 2007 note that it was a difficult, cool, rainy year that did not produce very good fruit on the whole.

                          Not to say that there won't be any cellar-worthy wines from 2007, but 2005 was such a spectacular vintage for Bordeaux that I would certainly steer somebody in that direction (finding a good, age-worthy 2005 Margaux or Pauillac is not a challenge).

                          1. re: anewton

                            I haven't tasted any 2007s. But my experience is that the Bordelais have been running a hype machine specializing in fleecing successive waves of buyers over the past two centuries (they invented en primeur) and the American wine press buys in to the hype. "Wine of the century!" seems to pop up twice a decade, with astonishing price premiums. Were '00 and '05 great vintages? Yes. But they were also ripe. Good winemakers are turning out good wines even in lackluster vintages (e.g. I was stunned by how good the '97 Decru Beaucaillou was) and, especially for fans of traditional and restrained claret, the cool weather years offer some great values. I stocked up on '02 at good prices, which is turning out to be a far better year than the US wine press anticipated.

                            That said, Jancis Robinson didn't find many wines she loved among the '07s, but there were quite a few that she rated highly--and these will be priced far less (I hope) than '05, for example.

                  2. Sorry all, I'd meant to include the year: 2007.

                    Thanks to all who have responded. I'll pour through them and attempt to figure this out.

                    This would initially go into a basement, but my parents do have a climate controlled cellar that I'd probably keep it in if the basement didn't work. I currently do not have anything that is too worthy of worrying about the nature of conditions around my wine rack.

                    And, yes, I do realize that the 74 Martha's was a legend. I'm under no illusions that I'd find something comparable, but it would be nice to approach it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: BallardFoodie

                      there are lots of tasting notes from a wide range of sources now available for the 2007 Rhones (the stuff has either recently arrived at u.s. retailers or will be coming soon). you will probably have a good selection of wines suitable for cellaring and not have to spend over the $40-60/btl. range unless you care to.

                    2. Ah, well... 2007 I would go with Chateauneuf du Pape. Ones that historically age well such as Beaucastel would be best.

                      My favorite CdP, and one that tends to age quite well, is the Chapoutier Barbe Rac. It should be at the upper end of your price range when it gets released pretty soon. (Not certain why wine-searcher isn't showing any results for pre-arrival, though). If you can ensure proper storage, that would be my first choice.

                      '07 was good for Germany. A relatively affordable and delicious option would be something like the JJ Prum Bernkastler Bastube Auslese or the JJ Prum Wehlner Sonnenhur Auslese. But my favorite Mosel producer is Willi Schaefer. All of his '07 Ausleses will be in your price range, if some at the very upper end. I think they are worth the money over the delicous JJ Prums in most vintages, but haven't had any '07s yet. I knownothing about how Muller-Catoir (Pfalz) performed in '07, but those are also gorgeous wines, generally.

                      RE: Storage. Exactly unwaivering 55 F is not necessary. BUT, keeping the wines under 68 and above 47 degrees and keeping the temperature not shifting suddenly between the two is important for long term cellaring. (And storing for 20 years at a constant 68 isn't a good idea, I'm just saying if the cellar stays around 60 but on the hottest summer days creeps up into the mid/upper 60's, you're just fine.)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: whiner

                        Re: Beaucastel, my father got me some for my birthday, and I heartily second that recommendation!

                      2. I have several cases of Opus 1 that are all over 25 year old and taste excellent, I also have Martha's Vineyard '86, totally awesome, it's 100% cab.

                        1. My kids were born in 1999 and 2000. I have lots of "birth year" wines for both of them. Including Port. For real tried and true aging potential, I would select Port and Sauternes. Both age really well and Sauternes in the great years (especially d"Yquem - although would probably blow your $100 budget) can be absolutely transcendental. I would get at least one or two bottles of d'Yquem for the child's birth year.

                          As others have noted, specific wines will be highly vintage dependant. What vintage are you talking about?

                          1. For 2007 reds, Chateauneuf-du-pape (Vieux Telegraphe takes a while to come around) or Bandol, another Provence wine that is always long lived. Tempier single-vineyard wines are the best bet there. Tempier Cabassou will be drinking well for your son's 40th birthday. Miguoua and LaTourtine will make it to 21 years easily.
                            For whites, German riesling, like a really good spatlese or a decent auslese. Also, Huet Vouvray from the Loire Valley.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: SteveTimko

                              A 21 year old Riesling? I've had some from '83 over the summer and I've found them to be hit or miss. Have you tried this? Donnhof would hold up well, I imagine, but which others would work as well? Granted these weren't special, just some older ausleses.

                              Also, yes on the Huet. Just bought some '85, and I am pumped to try it.

                              1. re: zammdogg

                                According to David Bueker, who is a rabid Donnhoff fan, Donnhoff are not long-term agers.
                                Perhaps the best riesling I have right now is a 1989 Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtröpfchen spatlese that will go another 10 years easily. It is exactly 21 years old. You can read all the other notes on it.
                                I've got other spatlese from the early 1990s that are still tight.
                                I have some 1976 Weingut Baumann Niersteiner Pettenthal Auslese that needs about four hours of air to open up, it's still so young. It's a blend of riesling and silvaner, but the rules apply.

                            2. I agree with most of the posters about the Port. It will probably age the best if you're looking at 20+ years and possibly non-ideal conditions.

                              I'm actually surprised there weren't too many mentions about California Cabs. My favorite California Cab, and probably one of the better values in high-end, with great aging potential is the Ridge Monte Bello (Santa Cruz Mountains). I think it's just as good as Opus One or other well-known Napa cabs/cab blends but cheaper (probably since you're not paying for the Napa name). Not to mention it won the Judgment of Paris 30th anniversary tasting, beating out some big-name French Bordeaux houses. Of course, the 2007 cabs are not released yet so it's hard to tell right now whether this will be a good vintage for long-term aging.

                              I don't have kids but the hubby and I are thinking about saving some 2003 bottles for future anniversaries. We'll probably look into California cabs for 10-20 and Vintage Port for later ones (hey, they'll work even for 50!).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: arlenemae

                                You should feel good about CA Cabs for the long term, I just drank an '85 Opus 1, fab!

                              2. If you are still looking, a case of Chateau Leoville Barton can still easily be found at below $100 per bottle if you avoid the "vintage-of-the-centuries" like 2000 and 2005. 2004 can still be found for $55-60 each. Leoville-Barton is made to be aged for a long time; they're not easy to enjoy young.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Cary

                                  i like to enjoy the wine too.my grandpa often put wine in cellar ,i dont know waht wine he has.

                                2. I second Arlenemae's vote for Ridge Monte Bello. We got two bottles of the 1970 and kept them...broke one out for our first child in 83 and one for our tenth anniversary in 85. Wish I had had a case...I'd love to taste them now...the mid 80s were too early for that wine. A relatively undiscussed aging idea is to lay down some of the really big Zins, again I am thinking Ridge. They really do transform with age, and you can find some amazing ones in the $40 price range. Also, I will bet that some of the high end blends, like BV Tapestry, would really age well and they are in that range pricewise.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tim irvine

                                    Remember, with the Ridge Geyservilles and Lyitton Springs. it's not the zin that lasts. It's the petite sirah and carignane. I've got some non-Ridge 1977 Lytton Springs that are doing fine, but iit's obviously no longer zin.

                                  2. Funny you should mention this, I got married in 2005 and we recently bought a mixed case for future anniversary celebrations:

                                    4xCali Cab: 2005 Chateau Montelena Napa Estate
                                    2xBordeaux: 2005 Chateau Clos de Sarpe (St. Emilion)
                                    2xCdP: 2005 Chateau La Nerthe Cuvee des Cadettes
                                    4xAussie: 2005 Elderton Command Shiraz
                                    and a litte extra treat...2xSauternes: 2005 Chateau De Suduiraut 375ml
                                    In particular, I would recommend the 2005 Elderton Command Shiraz, it's within your budget, got 97 Parker points and it will age for a LONG time.

                                    Also, you can never go wrong with a couple of bottles of Krug Grand Cuvee NV champagne!!!

                                    1. BallardFoodie, I could not disagree more with Whiner's October 21 dismissive comment, "Forget Oregon." A pinot noir from any of the estates in the AVAs Dundee Hills or Yamhill-Carlton or Ribbon Ridge will almost certainly drink better 21 years from its vintage than it will five years from its vintage. Were we in your position, with a preference for Washington or Oregon wines, we would (1) join the Cellar Club at Winter's Hill -- you may have to do it by telephone -- which commits you to three four-bottle shipments at a 20 percent discount over the next year, http://www.wintershillwine.com/winecl... -- and (2) buy a case -- at a 15 percent discount because you are a Cellar Club member -- of the 2005 Reserve pinot noir, which would cost you $42.50/bottle net after discount.

                                      The reason I mention Winter's Hill is not because that estate's wines are necessarily better than those from the neighboring Dundee Hills estates -- the wines are very good however -- but because it is difficult not to fall head over heels in love with the Gladhart family's intimate approach to hand-making their wines. Unlike some other wine estates in Oregon, there is no sniff of a Goldman Sachs bonus payee looking for a place to stash his or her obscene bonus and deciding to dump some of it into a hobby horse in the distant West. (Winter's Hill is also a super place to take your child for a picnic. http://www.flickr.com/photos/26540731...)

                                      Another alternative is to seek out a wine that will just be beginning to come into its own in 21 years. The "black wines" of Cahors come to mind; no worthy Cahors should be opened before its 15th birthday, and even at 15 years you would be practically cradle-robbing. A Cahors bought today should be rounding out nicely around about 21 years from now. Less drastically, a Sagrantino di Montefalco, which typically carries nearly double the polyphenol concentration of a strong Cabernet Sauvignon, purchased today will be really good 21 years from now. Look for Antonelli San Marco among the Sagrantino di Montefalos.

                                      1. Since you are talking '07, why not go the Napa cab route? '07 was a great year for California, and I know that I stocked up on several '07 Cali cabs that I plan on holding for 20 years plus. A few that I stocked up include Corra, Herb Lamb, Larkmead, Maybach, Rivers-Marie, Scarecrow, and Quilceda Creek.... -mJ

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: njfoodies

                                          I forgot to add Insignia to that list as well... -mJ

                                          1. re: njfoodies

                                            I don't think the CA cabernets of today really hold up for long periods of time anymore. I'm finding my '94 and '97s to be at their prime now, and doubt they have much left in them. In general, they seem to be more 8-12 year wines than 20+.

                                          2. Add me to the list for German Riesling. I'd go for Ausleses with the budget you mentioned, though it'd be worth seeing whether you could stretch to a couple halves of a beerenauslese or trockenbeerenauslese.

                                            Another advantage of these wines is that younger palates often prefer sweeter wines, and your 21-year-old might prefer one of these to a drier red wine. You'll love it too, though, as the best balance the sweetness with lively acidity.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: kelewis

                                              Maybe this guy already made his decision (October, '09). You think?