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Hey Mabel, Wine Labels from the Good Ol’ Days!

I was underage when I bought my first bottle of vintage dated wine back in 1971.  I had actually been able to buy alcohol legally for a short period before that, when the state of Michigan lowered the drinking age to 18, but the voters, in their infinite wisdom, rescinded that privilege through referendum, leaving me and my peers in alcohol limbo for several months.  Nonplussed, when I needed a dry red wine to go with grilled steaks I was serving to a hot date one evening , I paid a visit to Lemanski’s Food Emporium, a delightful little gourmet food and wine shop in Bay City, Michigan that is sadly no longer in existence.  I stood in front of a wall of fine wine, all with mostly incomprehensible labels , and I eventually, and quite randomly, settled on a bottle of 1966 Chateau des Templiers Bordeaux Superieur, reasoning that two of the few things I knew about wine was that Bordeaux was a dry red and dry reds went well with steak.

The clerk didn’t flinch when I took the bottle to the counter to pay for it.  In retrospect, I assume that he figured that if I was buying Bordeaux instead of Boone’s Farm or Ripple, I MUST have been old enough to legally purchase it.  I seem to recall that it cost me around $7 or so, and as it turned out, the wine was quite good.  I got my first lesson in food and wine pairing, as it complemented the steaks very nicely.  My date was also impressed.

I bring this up because, while rummaging through the cellar a few weeks ago, I came upon our all-but-forgotten scrap books of wine labels that Kim and I collected in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and there was that particular label, along with dozens of others.  It’s a proverbial “trip down memory lane” to look through those books again and remember what we were drinking back in those formative years. (Yes, we used to like “buttery” Chardonnay.  Oh, the horror…)

We went to great pains to remove labels from bottles, either buy steaming them off, or more often, soaking the bottles in boiling hot water, and if necessary, carefully scraping them off with a razor blade.  Sometimes, they simply wouldn’t come off at all or would end up being destroyed in the attempt, but we amassed a nice little collection.  I’ve selected a representative group to display in the following four galleries for your viewing pleasure.  There were no labels with cute little animals on them back then; for the most part, what you see are clean, classic designs that, for me, represent the best of that era.



More California


Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

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  4. Hey Mabel, Wine Labels from Bordeaux!
  5. Good stuff

11 Responses to “Hey Mabel, Wine Labels from the Good Ol’ Days!”

  • Baby Somm no more! RT @winegenie: Some of these were on bottles I served as a baby Somm! RT @GangofPour – – #Wine

  • Some of these were on bottles I served as a baby Somm! RT @GangofPour – – #Wine Labels from the Good Ol' Days!

  • I do remember some of these… RT @GangofPour – -Hey Mabel, Wine Labels from the Good Ol' Days!

  • George Heritier:

    Thanks for the feedback and the kind words, Richard! It’s especially cool to get “the rest of the story” re: the Burgess labes. It is indeed a small world of wine sometimes…

  • Fun stuff, Geo, thanks! These brought back a bunch of memories, especially the stuff from Burgess since I’m the guy who talked Tom Burgess into changing his label. The work was done by my graphic artist friend Channing Rudd. Channing was also a home winemaker and if memory serves he took grapes rather than cash from Tom for his work.

    The Havlock Gordon label also rings faint bells. I seem to recall that it was a short-lived project by two wine enthusiasts who sold printing for a living. One was a guy named Gordon Jones and the other guy was Don (?) something or other. They were also part of the group that opened The London Wine Bar on Sansome Street in San Francisco back in the 70′s.

    Richard Leland

  • George Heritier:

    Thanks Tom. I thought that you, of all people, might get a kick out of looking at some of these! :)

  • TomHill:

    Nice trip down memory lane here, Geo. Some familiar old friends there.
    I’d forgotten that SutterHome also took Zin from JohnFerrero’s vnyd.

  • George Heritier:

    Bennett, that Burgess Cab might still be alive. If you follow my link on that page, the Burgess Petite Sirahs from the mid-70s were still drinking well as recently as 2002. Also, the Cabs have a good track record for aging, so who knows?

    We didn’t really have a buying plan for Bordeaux back then; it was more a matter of picking up what was available and what we had enjoyed previously. Some of those labels may have been from bottles opened for us by friends as well; pretty sure the Ducru falls into that camp. It’s rather hazy, since it’s been quite a while and I didn’t take detailed notes then like I do now… ;)

  • George Heritier:

    Jason, I honestly don’t remember the Thivin; it made no lasting impression whatsoever. I’ve had the wine a number of times in the last 5-8 years, however; we like it just fine at our house.

    I don’t remember a whole lot more than already stated about the Zins. The Burgess models were downright pretty, in some ways reminding me of the gorgeous ’93 Ridge Zins. The Fetzers and Kenwoods were also in that style, although not quite a voluptuous. Clos du Val made a more intense, structured Zin back then; it had loads of pretty fruit, along with the backbone to age for several years. The Carneros Creeks were brawny and chewy; I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find a ’76 Late Harvest Zin label that we went through several of back then, MUCH too early, I might add. It was a monster! The Sutter Homes were rough-hewn, old school Zins. I believe they were the first Zins I ever tried, and if they weren’t the prettiest, they WERE from those great old vineyards like Deaver and Ferrero. That’s really about all I can tell you about those; thanks for the feedback!

  • jason carey:

    Fantastic.. Would love to So you don;t remember anything about the Chateau Thivin? I drink that wine to this day…
    What do you remember more specifically about those different Zins? Also look at those old alcohol levels.. wow I wish they were still like that.

  • Bennett Traub:


    Whoo, boy, do those labels bring back some memories! I’ve got a bunch, too, that I need to unearth some day. I see you were a Burgess fan, as was I. I still have a bottle of the Burgess 1976 Vintage Select cab–wonder how it’s doing? Also remember well those great Fetzer single vineyard zins from the mid-
    70′s, some of the best around back then.

    As for the Bordeaux, looks like you were doing the same thing I was in those relatively inpecunious days–buying “off” vintages of classified growths, years like ’69, ’73, ’74, etc. I have especially fond memories of the’73′s, many of which were sold dirt cheap when I was first really getting into wine geekdom back around 1977-1978. I bought a bunch of them, including the first wine I ever “cellared”–the 1973 Grand Puy Ducasse, purchased for the grand sum of $2.29 in around 1977. I still kept a bottle, strictly for the memories, as the wine has been DOA at least 25 now.

    Ah, the “good old days”. :)

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