Cockburns Vintage Port 1967

When my father and my mother married in 1967, they had their reception at the Islander, a classic Tiki-themed restaurant in my home town of Stockton, California. Mai Tais were served in tiki-shaped glasses; the wedding pictures are a hoot. I wasn’t around then, but while I was growing up, I knew they were about to celebrate an anniversary when my Dad fetched a bottle of this wine from his cellar the week before, careful to give it plenty of time in an upright position, hoping to reduce the thick sludgy sediment that would wind up in their glasses.There were originally four cases of this wine, I think; my parents aimed to drink one on every one of their anniversaries until their fiftieth. In the meantime, they’re still happily married, but the bottles are a bit scattered: they joined the Peace Corps when they retired, I took over maintenance of the remaining cases, and it’s always been a small hassle getting the bottles to them in time for their anniversaries (they live in London, a short twelve-hour plane ride away from San Diego).When last I checked, I still had seven bottles in my cellar – just enough to make it to their 50th anniversary in 2017 as they’ve still got one in their flat. I reported this to my Dad last weekend and he said, you know what? You and Dan are celebrating your first anniversary this weekend, so I think you should share one of those bottles yourselves – and this is why I’ve got a glass of this wine in front of me right now.Amazingly, opening the bottle wasn’t the disaster I was fearing. The remaining bottles have started to weep a bit over the past few years, climate-controlled storage notwithstanding; the capsules are sticky and they smell, well, porty. I chose the one with a huge dried stain of escaped liquid on its side, washed it as best I could, and hacked away at the capsule with a knife. Thankfully, it came off fairly easy. I tried to wash the gunk off of the neck, but didn’t get too far. Removing the cork was surprisingly easy; although it was soft and not particularly tightly sealed, I managed to get it out all in one piece. Yes, it looked like a Stilton cheese you’d forgotten in the back of the fridge for a year, but at least it didn’t fall apart.Similarly, there wasn’t a lot of sediment still suspended in the wine; it all flowed smoothly into the decanter and left a huge block of crud behind, which promptly fell off the bottle walls shortly after I set the bottle back upright.The wine’s a very thin, pale liquid at this point, and yet it looks like watered-down pomegranate juice in the right light, still dappled with some brighter reds mixed in with the weary browns. It’s starting to look a bit like sangria at this point, but it’s also over-still, seemingly devoid of life.The smell is a shock: this wine does not smell forty-two years old. If I didn’t know anything about it, I’d have mistaken it for a run-of-the-mill decent quality Port at first, something like a LBV. However, a bit more time thinking about it and it smells of finely ground, lightly roasted coffee, with hazelnuts and milk chocolate, neon red strawberries, rancio notes, pistachios and rosewater… there’s a lot going on here. Overall, the effect is of imaginary Turkish coffee served next door to a bazaar specializing in oudh.Rich, unctuous, and plush in the mouth, an initial sip is briefly overwhelmed by very fine, sharp acidity before fanning out into a slightly hot, calming whirl of semi-dried sultanas, Nutella, and Turkish delight – but the overarching flavor is ironically that of simple, direct, rich red fruits, a strong echo of a good harvest nearly half a century later.If, as Randall Grahm recently tweeted, the mysterious, zen-like point of all wines is to bring us back, then this wine certainly brings me back. It brings me back to an imagined 1967 Portugal, where I’m standing in the Douro Valley wondering where all of this work will lead. It brings me back to the Islander in Stockton, California, drinking a mai tai out of a Tiki-shaped mug. It brings me back to childhood memories of my parents celebrating their marriage with a shared ritual year in, year out. It brings me back to standing in a port lodge with good friends just a few years ago, drenched from winter rains. It brings me back to bad truck stop bacalao, to the first time I ever tasted port at my uncle and aunt’s house in Oakland, to the first time I fell in love, to the first time I ever met my partner.Finally, I get the sense that this wine has someone returned full circle as well. I remember it when it was younger, deeper colored, stronger. I remember my Dad expressing disappointment that it had started to fade several years ago. And yet here it is, quite possibly no longer what it once was, and yet it brings me right back to the beginning.Thanks, Dad.Cockburns
Price: $NA
Closure: Cork

1 thought on “Cockburns Vintage Port 1967

  1. Hi Chris, what a fun read! I’ve been in the wine business for about 5 years, this was really neat.

    My parents were both born in Stockton, CA as was I. My mom went to her prom at the Islander and remembers it well.

    I’m a member of and have my own collection of tiki mugs from this particular restaurant. Several folks on the message board are locals like me who live in the San Joaquin/Sacramento area. You have pictures of your parents with the tiki mugs?! Would you consider selling copies of the photographs you have? Or e-mail me any you and your parents would be willing to share? I’m not interested in any personal information if you would like it to remain anonymous I understand completely!

    I know our entire tiki group would DIE to see photographs of the Islander restaurant and your parents enjoying it! There aren’t many photos of the interior of the restaurant out there to begin with; but a wedding reception would be out of this world!! Please e-mail me and maybe we can work something out.

    – Karen

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