Château Lagrange Tasting

Château Lagrange tasting at Wine Watch (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) – March 15, 2016

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With so many unique and impressive classified growths in Bordeaux, sometimes it is hard to stand out. But in Château Lagrange’s case, it is actually quite easy, as it lays claim to being the largest classified growth in the Médoc (Left Bank). At 113 hectares, Lagrange sits perched on a hill that is the highest elevation in the Saint-Julien appellation. Like many of the classified growth estates, Lagrange has had its ups and downs, with some degradation in the quality of its wines. Their course changed when the Japanese drinks conglomerate Suntory purchased Château Lagrange in 1983. Under the direction of Marcel Ducasse, Lagrange was revitalized with replanting of the vineyards and the building of a new winery. Due to these improvements, there has been a substantial increase in the quality of the wines produced.

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Due to its massive vineyard, Lagrange has a very large annual production. Typically, over 700,000 are produced each year! Less than half of this is the Château Lagrange grand vin, as there is a much higher production of the second wine, Les Fiefs de Lagrange. Interestingly, a white wine is also produced, Les Arums de Lagrange, which represents less than 3% of the estate’s production. The wines of Château Lagrange are classically Saint-Julien, with a solid tannic structure and a nice balance of power and finesse.

During a recent trip to South Florida, Charlotte Denjean presented a sampling of the estate’s wines at Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale. The 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintages of Château Lagrange were presented, in addition to the 2009 and 2011 Les Fiefs de Lagrange. Surprisingly, the majority of the wines were quite accessible at this youthful stage. Perhaps most surprising was the excellent showing of the 2009 Les Fiefs de Lagrange, which showed nice complexity and quite a bit of charm. As expected, the 2005 Château Lagrange was showing the best, with some developing tertiary aromatics and softening structure. Of the youngest wines, the 2012 Château Lagrange was the standout, exhibiting nice balance and ripe fruits; it has certainly evolved to a nice stage since tasting it a year ago. While the 2012 vintage was not lauded in Bordeaux, it may turn out to be a nice early drinking vintage, that hopefully provides some longevity to the wines as well. A big thank-you to Charlotte Denjean for sharing her wines with us on this very nice evening at Wine Watch.

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First Growth Tasting – 1982 to 1996

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Tasting a first growth wine is always a special experience, regardless of the vintage. Even in weaker vintages, you are tasting the height of winemaking and the best the terroir was capable of that year. So of course we were extremely excited to participate in a first growth tasting to compare many of these exceptional wines. When you are tasting many high-end wines simultaneously, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they are all great wines that could all impress on their own. But when you taste these first growth wines together, you really learn to find subtle nuances that make some stand out more than others. At this tasting, there was also a ‘mini-vertical’ of Château Margaux, that included four of the strongest vintages from 1982 to 1996; the stylistic differences among the vintages was evident, but the variability in vintage also allowed us to see the continuum of wine maturation. But as is often said, “There are no great wines, only great bottles,” we found on this night that there were many great bottles indeed.


 

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1982 Château Margaux: For much of the evening, it was difficult to decide whether or not this was better than the 1983. It seemed to have an intensity that built in the glass over time, gaining more aromatics and overall balance. There was beautiful black currant, violets, green pepper, and tobacco. Tannins are nicely integrated but are still present. A silky mouthfeel, with more elegance than power. A medium length finish that isn’t memorable but harmonizes well with the overall experience. There are still some years left here, and the fruit is robust.

1983 Château Margaux: Initially, this nose was much more perfumed and open than the 1982. With time, this shifted as the nose became a bit shy. More spiciness and earthiness than the 82. Both dark and red fruits, mushroom, green pepper, violets, and menthol round out the aromatics. A similar style to the 82, with more elegance than raw power. An appealing mouthfeel with good weight, some of which was lost with more time in the glass. Still fairly tannic, certainly more so than the 82. A medium length finish. Will be interesting to see if the the fruit fades before the tannins resolve. I would drink this fairly soon if you have it, though the fruit should last for the near future.

1986 Château Margaux: The consensus least favorite wine of the evening. The vintage really showed through, with harsh tannins and fading fruit. Interestingly, the color is still good, showing dark ruby. Perhaps the tannins were masking the fruit, which is the best-case scenario. A bit acidic on the finish. Disappointing on this night, certainly compared to its peers.

1996 Château Margaux: My #2 wine of the night. A really big wine with huge potential. A beautifully perfumed nose of black currant, blackberry, sous bois, violets, chocolate, leather, and tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible complexity and concentration. Certainly well-structured, but the tannins are so soft and marry beautifully with the fruit. Very fresh acidity on the finish. Incredible length. Easily the best Margaux of the evening.


 

IMG_41961990 Château Haut-Brion: My #1 wine of the night. With the first sniff, I predicted this would be wine of the night. As good as the 1996 Margaux was, this was easily better due to its advanced level of maturity. A sexy wine that is a true stunner. An intoxicating nose of cassis, matchstick, wet gravel, barnyard, sweet tobacco, tar, and leather. Just incredible complexity. The balance is all there, with the tannins creating an exquisite mouthfeel. Acidity is in its right place. An incredibly long finish. I don’t particularly love scoring wines, but do so for my own relative reference; this is as close to 100 points as you get, in my opinion.

1995 Château Haut-Brion: It’s amazing how much younger this seems than the 1990. A shy nose that shut down in the glass. Still, there’s great fruit, chocolate, and developing tobacco and leather. Some floral notes as well. A bold wine on the palate, with firm tannins and lots of great structure. A very nice finish with high acidity. This is far from maturity, and I would give this wine at least three more years of aging.


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1995 Château Mouton Rothschild: The chameleon wine of the evening. At first, there was an enchanting nose with loads of fruit and complexity. With time, this also shut down in the glass. Lighter on the palate than the 95 Haut-Brion, but with a nice silky mouthfeel. The tannins aren’t overbearing, but there is need of more integration. Excellent concentration. Good acidity on the finish. This wine appears to be in an awkward phase, and I would probably hold off for a few years. I still feel there is great potential for this to turn into an impressive wine. Perhaps it’s showing a bit of the character of the 1995 vintage.

1982 Château Cheval Blanc: From a magnum. My #3 wine of the night. This really didn’t impress much from the get-go, but really blossomed after time in the glass. The aromatics showed nice complexity, with black currant, cherry, spice, toast, tobacco, and mocha. Medium ruby color. I really enjoyed the weight of this wine; after a few hours, at times it seemed almost Burgundian. While there are tannins left to resolve, they are ultra-soft and well-balanced. An outstanding finish with great length. While this vintage has suffered a bit in the critical scores department, this is yet another great example that there are no great wines, only great bottles.

Château Talbot – 1981

1981 Talbot1981 Château Talbot from #StJulien. You would never know this is from such a weak vintage. This is still very enjoyable and has put on age nicely. Light ruby color, with amber brown at the edges. Black currant, cedar, old library book, tobacco, and a hint of leather – a beautifully musty nose. There is still some vitality on the palate, but there is average complexity and depth. Surprisingly the tannins are still a bit drying, but nothing overbearing. Bright acidity, bordering on the high side. This is certainly past its peak but is drinking quite well. It also seemed to get better after 2 hours of air. This could go south fairly quickly, so I would drink these in the next year or two – 92pts Mar 2016

Cheval Blanc Vertical – 12 Vintages

February 2016  Château Cheval Blanc tasting at Vienna Wine Bar & Cafe, Davie, FloridaIMG_4036.JPGIMG_4058

There are few more iconic wines in Bordeaux than Château Cheval Blanc. There is a storied history here that is perhaps only rivaled by those of the Médoc first growths, from its inception in 1832 to its sale to Bernard Arnault of LVMH in 1998. But the true history of Cheval Blanc can be found in its wines. Many believe that perhaps the greatest Bordeaux ever produced was the 1947 Cheval Blanc; every Bordeaux wine aficionado dreams of just one taste of this legendary wine. Since 1947, there have still been countless noteworthy, and even iconic, vintages produced by Cheval Blanc. And as a ‘first growth’ of Saint-Emilion, this château rarely disappoints, even in the lesser ‘off-vintages.’ To celebrate the history of Cheval Blanc, we arranged two special vertical tastings and dinners at the Vienna Cafe and Wine Bar. We were able to include a variety of vintages spanning almost four decades. There were some surprises, like the 1971, which proved once again that, “There are no great wines, only great bottles.” And as expected, the vintages of 1990 and 2000 truly rose to the occasion. But at the end of the day, these nights confirmed once again that it is always special to have the opportunity to taste any vintage of Château Cheval Blanc.


1970 light ruby. Fantastic nose, much better than the last bottle. Not as rustic and the old library book smell was lacking with this bottle. Light in weight but has a graceful mouthfeel. Red fruits, Brett, menthol, mushroom, and roses. The Brett was fairly strong, but something I tend to like when it has a sweetness to it, as with this wine. A finish that tails off. Lost steam after a couple of hours, so this is a wine to be consumed now.  92/100

IMG_3984 2.JPG1971. Did not seem like a wine from Saint- Emilion. A really nice, layered nose. More balanced and even than the 1970. Lacks the Brett of the 1970. Minty. Floral. Herbal. Great fruit. Loved this. Medium plus finish. Never lost any life even after a few hours. Based on this bottle, it appears that this wine should still drink well for awhile. Picked WOTN by 7 of the 8 in attendance. 97/100

1981 started out with a very off-putting nose; almost seemed to have some volatile acidity going on. This definitely improved after a couple of hours of air. Black currant, juniper berries, fresh herbs, musk, and Indian spices dominated the nose. It certainly had the most unique nose of the night. Stronger on the palate, with good depth. Velvety tannins that are nicely integrated. Fell short on the finish. Not a showstopper by any means, but a good showing considering the vintage. Would drink this relatively soon. 89/100

1986. Started out with a powerhouse nose of plum, lots of brown spices, tobacco, espresso, and mushrooms. Medium weight. Seems to have great balance. Easy to note the freshness and acidity. Exceeded expectations. 95/100IMG_7781

1988. The most reserved of the bunch. Red fruits, juniper, caramel, brown spices, and tobacco. Never really came alive. My sense is that this will lie dormant for awhile. Lacks some life on the palate. A medium length finish 90/100

1989. Moved in and out all night. When it was on, it was really on. Red fruits, some damp earth, cedar, herbs, and espresso. Moderate tannins. Some spiciness noted on the finish. Didn’t put on much weight throughout the night. One of the most enchanting noses of the night. Still has some years left in the tank, but the inconsistency throughout the night leads me to wonder how long. 92/100

1990. Simply a fantastic wine. Exudes elegance. Really ripe fruits at the forefront, but with a lovely earthiness and spiciness. Complex and beautifully balanced. Another wine that put on weight in the glass. While this is likely near its peak, there is still some room for growth and development. Love the mouthfeel and weight. Long finish. Superb. 96/100

1994. Blueberry, black cherry, tobacco, espresso, sous bois, and vanilla. Impressive. Velvety mouthfeel, still with tannins to resolve. Medium length finish. A great 1994.   94/100

IMG_77831995. Dark ruby color. Needed over 3 hours of air to open up, but seemed to come in and out. Blackberry, blueberry, dark chocolate, spice, and tobacco. Really nice concentration. Just seems like it’s holding back. You have to look really hard to see its potential, because this is still shy overall. Tannins are in good balance right now. Good acidity as well. No concerns about the fruit outlasting the tannins. Save this baby for at least 5 more years; the structure is solid. 93/100

1999. On opening, this seemed a little over-worked, but this was not the case as it mellowed. Really dense and layered. Menthol, cassis, Indian spices, black cherry, espresso, and cigar. The most full-bodied of the night, but the balance was still in check. Tannins are round but still in the foreground. With time, this could turn into an excellent wine. Hold this for a few years.  94/100

IMG_4041.JPG2000 From a magnum. A little closed on the nose initially, but really opened up nicely. Beautifully spiced. Ripe plum, black cherry, violets, smoke, and espresso. Incredibly soft in the mouth with silky tannins. Hard to believe how soft and plush this wine is at this stage. Pure elegance. An amazingly long finish. Will be a powerhouse wine. There is serious potential here. 97/100

2004. Very impressive. Just kept gaining weight all night. At first, was unexpressive but seemed to continually add new aromas. Blackberry, blueberry, chocolate, baking spice, and tobacco. Very smooth on the palate, with soft tannins. While it lacks the amazing perfume and complexity of the 2000, this wine has lots of charm and is definitely accessible now. 93/100

Win Tickets to the Union des Grands Crus

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We are so excited to attend the Weekend des Grands Crus tasting June 4th in Bordeaux! This event, sponsored by the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, is an all-day wine tasting set in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, France.
Who else wants to win free tickets and join us in Bordeaux??
Here’s how to enter:
  • 2. Repost the image below (or post your own photo of a bottle of Bordeaux wine that is represented in the UGC)
  • 3. Add the hashtag #WGCBordeaux to your post
  • We will randomly choose a winner from the #WGCBordeaux hashtags on March 28th!
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This tasting event is an opportunity to taste over 100 Bordeaux Grands Crus. You will also meet châteaux owners and winemakers who will present the 2013 vintage for you to taste plus one other vintage of their choice. This is a must-attend event for all wine enthusiasts, and is one of our favorite wine events of the year. Contest photos can be posted on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. For more information about the UGC, please visit ugcb.net.