Tasting the Symington 2015 Port Lineup (And Retrospectives) – Graham’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, and Cockburn’s

For the most part, the hot, dry, and low-yielding 2015 will not be a declared vintage from the major vintage Port houses. Even though the year wasn’t perfect, it hasn’t stopped Symington, which owns Graham’s, Dow’s, Quinta do Vesuvio, and (since 2010) Cockburn’s from releasing 2015 vintage-dated Ports in some fashion.

Recently the Symington family visited San Francisco to show off its 2015 bottlings, each paired alongside an older vintage release from the same estate. This was a really fun and informative tasting — rarely does one get the chance to taste wines like these both horizontally and vertically, with the guys that made them leading you every step of the way.

Thoughts on all eight wines tasted follow.

2015 Graham’s The Stone Terraces Vintage Port – This very limited release wine is farmed from a tiny seven acre plot of actual stone terraces within Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos vineyard. This is the second time it has been produced. A bright and fruity wine, it is a stellar vintage Port even at this young age, with exotic and clear tropical notes of pineapple and some coconut making surprise appearances. While fresh and silky on the tongue today, it should last for years. 35 cases available in the U.S. A / $200

1970 Graham’s Vintage Port – The 1970 release is showing healthy oxidation at this point, but it’s still fresh and lovely to sip on, offering surprisingly lively strawberry, raspberry, and lots of floral notes. Worth seeking out. A / $155

2015 Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port – Another small release of a single vineyard owned by Dow. This one is nuttier and woodier in profile, with ample youth. Big notes of almonds, dense raisins, and candied flowers give way to chocolate notes as the finish builds. A long, slow burner that is solid today but will need some time. A- / $60

1980 Dow’s Vintage Port – Also quite oxidized, and probably past its prime, with green notes hitting the scattered palate. Dark chocolate and spicy, bittersweet amaro notes linger on the finish. B+ / $129

2015 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – The smallest vineyard and brand in the Symington family, Quinta do Vesuvio is unique because a vintage port is made every year, regardless of weather conditions, to serve as a benchmark for what that year’s best wines were like. This wine, the only 100% foot-trodden wine in the Symington portfolio, is almost candylike in its sweetness, bursting with ripe blueberries and offering notes of orange peel and chocolate on top of that. Structured with ample tannins, it’s a solid wine, though not the standout here today. B+ / $65

1995 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port – Meaty and minty, this is a bit “wild” tasting, a somewhat mixed bag of sweet and savory notes. B / $80

2015 Cockburn’s Vintage Port – Very dense fruit, with some orange notes, thick chocolate and caramel sauce character, and some vanilla sprinkled on top. A hefty “cellar” wine, it’s loaded with fruit that will emerge in decades to come. A- / $80

2011 Cockburn’s Vintage Port – Just barely softening, revealing some coconut notes, plus banana, mint, and lots of chocolate, all atop a gorgeous fruit core that is integrating all of these flavors well. One to keep watching — and a bargain if you can find a bottle. A / $65

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