1977 and 1988: Through The Eyes Of A Double-Barrel Bello …

Let me just give you a little context for this particular Monte Bello tasting.

In 1977, women dressed like this:


Men dressed like this:


We listened to this:


or this:



This man was president:


And this man:


who would go on to practically single-handedly reinvent the rules for modern wine tasting, released the first issue of The Wine Advocate.

Fast forward to 1988:

250px-Plymouth_Reliant_Station_Wagon_lateSonny_Bonokidnplaydukakis-tank-717905cocktailAnd it was clear we were in a different era. For those of you to whom these images might be unfamiliar, by the way, that’s a Plymouth Reliant, which debuted in 1988, that’s Sonny Bono, who assumed the mayorship of Palm Springs in 1988, that’s Kid n’ Play, who hit the charts with “2Hype” in 1988, that’s Michael Dukakis, who ruined his bid for the presidency in 1988 by having himself photographed in this helmet, in this tank, and that’s  Tom Cruise, showing us how cool bartenders could be in “Cocktail,” which opened in 1988.

And just as different as these two eras were, that’s just how different these two vintages of Monte Bello taste today! The 1977 Monte Bello, as expected, will play to the palates of those who prefer austere, serious, mature wines; the sort of serious, mature wines that should be drunk by serious, mature individuals, in austere, serious settings, to the sounds of mature classical tones. Something like this perhaps:


Just add wine. 1977 Monte Bello perhaps. With its appearance of orange-tinted garnet, its aromas of chocolate-covered raisins, fennel, dried embers (as in smoky, but not savory per se), dried fruit, and the unmistakable whiff of autumn leaves raked after a rain; with its fine, chalky, baby-powder-esque tannins and its terse acidity, its hints of Worcester sauce and apricot, and its warm, almost cognac-like chest-filling finish, this is a wine to be savored over canonical literature, by a fire, in a library full of leather-bound books that is heavy with the somberness of deep, dark rugs and low candle-light.

The 1988 Monte Bello, on the other hand, is a young person’s game, a spring person, a green-thumbed person; this is a wine for gardens and gazebos; picnics and rowboats; blankets in the grass and the twinkling eyes of couples contemplating love.  Don’t let the deep, dark plum appearance fool you, nor the firm legs and viscous glaze. Skip to the dried herb bouquet, the notes of quince and persimmon, the dried sweet cherries. And take a sip, then bask in the elegant and palate-coating mouthfeel, the subtle warmth, the supple tannins, the long and graceful length of the finish. Then lie back in your field, gaze up at the clouds, and find in them the lost shapes of childhood.


1977 and 1988. Those were the days, my friends.

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, History, Monte Bello, Tasting Notes, Viticultural Salmagundi

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