Bern’s Steak House is not just a local Tampa institution, but a national one. Although it’s one of the finest steak houses in the country, the primary reason to go is exploring the world’s largest operating wine cellar.
While there are certainly trophy bottles to be had, the best way to explore Bern’s cellar is to find the kinds of bottles which are simply unavailable elsewhere. When our friend Seamus, a fellow wine nerd, came to town, we had a mission: to repeat what we’ve termed the California Walk, in which we find great wines from the 1970s at reasonable prices.
After a brief consultation with one of the somms, Seamus picked and went with a choice from his year wine, the 1978 Chateau Souverain.
The bottle held up remarkably. The cork was relatively clean and expanded a fair bit after it came out. The nose wasn’t as expressive as we had hoped. A little dusty dark fruit, leather, and hints of tobacco notes came off, but needed to be pulled out. The palate, on the other hand, showed extremely well. The first sip was a bit austere, but the bottle then developed quite nicely. It showed well more fruit than we expected from a nearly 40 year old wine, and the fruit stayed through the life of the bottle, which took us about an hour to consume from beginning to end. The mouthfeel continued to get richer as the bottle developed. Towards the end of the bottle, the fruit and acidity integration was remarkable—Seamus pointed out that it reminded him of the 2000 Lynch-Bages we had the night before. All in all, it exceeded expectations. It was certainly a fitting accompaniment to our dry-aged beef and marked another successful California Walk.