Château Gruaud Larose – 1986

GL 1986This is at its peak, or just coming off of its peak. Dark ruby color with some lightening of the edges. A mature, earthy nose with cassis, leather, old library book, mint, and forest floor. Full-bodied with great concentration. Some sweetness on the attack. A finish of great length and complexity. Firm tannins. The fruit/acid balance is perhaps favoring the acidity a bit. I would drink these over the next few years, as I think this may start to slowly decline. It’s certainly drinking in a great spot right now. A deep, intense, and powerfully aromatic Gruaud Larose. -94pts Dec 2015

GL 1986Questionable storage with this 1986  from Saint Julien. Started out a bit awkward, but after 15 minutes, noted leather, old library book, bacon, red fruit, and hint of eucalyptus. Still a bit tannic with notable acidity. After 30 minutes or so, the nose took on a bit of an off-putting swampy character. A very strange bottle indeed. Will try this again soon! Oct. 2015

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A Visit with François Mitjavile of Château Tertre Rôteboeuf: Wine, Literature, and Everything in Between

When it comes down to it, wine is the product of passion. It may be ultimately created by the terroir, the soil, and the climate, but in the end, someone who loves the wine as well as the land must bring everything together to create one of the world’s ultimate expressions. Enter François Mitjavile, the proprietor of Tertre Rôteboeuf, who speaks about wine as if it runs in his bloodstream, fueling his heart. On the morning that we spent with him, we learned that he is not just a winemaker, but also a poet, a philosopher, and a scientist. To him, wine is life, and it would seem the converse might be true to him as well.
L1020585When we arrived at Tertre Rôteboeuf, Monsieur Mitjavile was quietly working at his desk. When told of our arrival, he stood up, put on his suspenders, and donned the same cardigan sweater and scarf that has become his signature. Stepping into the foyer, he greeted us warmly and immediately starting speaking about wine, literature, and everything in between. This was one of the most passionate soliloquies about wine that I have ever heard, and it was very insightful and thought provoking. It is clear that M. Mitjavile has a unique perspective on wine and winemaking, based on his many years of experience.

L1020595b IGWe then headed outside to an area overlooking the vineyards. On this day, it was overcast, cool, and a bit damp. It was here that we discussed terroir and its influence on his wines. As winemaker, he does not want to produce huge, powerful wines; rather, he describes his aim as classic, aromatic, refined, and emotional wines. He also prefers not to discuss tannins. To him, a ‘rude tannin’ is poor in flavor, and when you feel the tannins, you have not obtained the adequate flavors. He also wants to express the flavors of where the grapes are grown, and to accurately express the character of the vintage. To him, terroir is a pragmatic concept which can overcome the difficult conditions of the climate. One example at the Tertre Rôteboeuf is the humidity of its limestone plateau, which can help feed the roots if there is not enough rain.

L1020623Mitjavile likes to talk about the longevity of wine. He isn’t interested in discussing the role of tannins in the aging of Bordeaux wines; he would much rather talk about aromatic expression which creates ‘aromatic music.’ During the grape maturation, he thinks of the creation of jam and flavor. He strives for voluptuousness with lower acidity. But he notes that this is a dangerous balance; push this too far, and the wine will not age properly. He prefers producing a clearer wine, rather than one that is dark and opaque. During the aging of wine, there should be a ‘sumptuous degradation of flavors.’ He relays that his ideas are not new, but are simply classic ways of winemaking. He notes that there is no reason to reinvent history; instead, follow in the footsteps of our forefathers and add subtleties.

L1020601He loves to discuss literature, and at one point, he even guided us into his library. Something in our conversation made him think of Jim Harrison, an American author who had recently died. Jim’s stories were about family and the land, and as a wine lover, his stories bore similarities to M. Mitjavile’s. We thumbed through some books before M. Mitjavile relayed a quote from Jim Harrision: “The simple act of opening a bottle of wine has brought more happiness to the human race than all the collective governments in the history of earth.” What a fitting and beautiful message, indeed.
L1020630But our discussion for most of the visit focused on wine, much on the different vintages of Tertre Rôteboeuf. To him, a pure character vintage is one in which the terroir and climate leave their expression in the wine. A wine has a life, like a person. As the wine ages and the ‘skeleton’ becomes more prominent, the fruit in the wine takes one last ‘fire walk.’ But before then, the density of the fruit creates an ‘aromatic bomb.’ He noted being most proud of the 1985 vintage. This was before the modern winemaking techniques were instituted.

L1020619b IGHe described the 1989 vintage, with its sunny weather and later harvest, and noted that it is still opening up flavors 27 years later. The 1990 vintage, on the other hand, has lost some opulence. We discussed the 1999 vintage that still has generous flavors, despite this not being a blockbuster vintage. It was interesting hearing his thoughts on the 2006 vintage, which he described as 60 different violins playing.

L1020605b IGHe described the 2009 wine as ‘American cake,’ noting that this was a traditional vintage. And to him, the 2010 vintage can be compared to 1989, but certainly different due to more modern winemaking techniques. In the end, he finds each vintage has something fascinating and there is always something to discover. But as he says, “One person’s palate can not and should not define them all. Each person discovers wine through their own journey.” And upon leaving Tertre Rôteboeuf, our journey continued…

Château La Vieille Cure – 2004

2004 fronsac2004 Château La Vieille Cure from #Fronsac. Fronsac is an appellation just west of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol that produces a number of wines that offer great value. Very dark ruby color. A bit shy on the nose, with dark fruits, sous bois, violets, tobacco, and some pepper. Did seem to shut down a bit after some aeration. Nothing really stands out on the palate, but it does have some charm. Good concentration. Tannins still a bit drying. Low/medium acidity. Overall a good value wine ($25), as many from Fronsac are. With a bit more age, this should improve a bit as the tannins soften and the aromatics evolve. This wine is fairly easy to find right now from a number of merchants. – 90pts Mar 2016

1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux Tasting

1989/1990 Right Bank Bordeaux tasting 3-25-2016

Vienna Cafe and Wine Bar – Davie, FL

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1989 and 1990 produced some of the best wines out of Bordeaux in the past 25 years, and both have already become legendary vintages. This is certainly true in the Right Bank appellations of Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. It is often debated which vintage produced the better wines overall, as well as at many of the top châteaux. Neither professional critics nor wine amateurs can agree on which is the preferred vintage at châteaux such as La Conseillante and Angélus. With this in mind, we arranged a tasting of some of the top Right Bank wines from 1989 and 1990. What we found on this night should not be surprising at all; all of the wines in the tasting were superb, and there was little variation in the strength and appeal of these wines. It was very difficult to rank the ‘best’ wines on this night, and the subjectivity of this exercise has never been more apparent than on this night. Any of these wines could have been ‘wine of the night,’ and it almost seemed unfair to rank and score them. But in the end, the top three wines (chosen by the ten participants) were the 1989 Château Angélus, 1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse),  and 1989 Château Clinet.IMG_8316

1989 Château La Conseillante: Elegant. A beautifully perfumed and fragrant nose. Very ripe red fruits, blueberry, truffle, very floral, with some Asian spices. Such purity of fruit in this wine. Not as concentrated and dense and the 1990 La Conseillante. Finesse and elegance on the palate. Excellent balance, with tannins nicely integrated. High acidity and a lengthy finish. This never ran out of steam, and just seemed to open and up and improve with passing time. 96/100

1990 Château La Conseillante: Layered and elegant. The nose started out a bit shy, but it really blossomed after two hours of air. Plum, cherry, floral, mint, sous bois, and sweet tobacco. Less floral and more earthy than the 1989 La Conseillante. This also exuded elegance, with silky tannins and a soft mouthfeel. Great complexity on the nose and palate. Beautifully balanced. Tannins nicely integrated. Medium-high acidity. A long finish with lots of lingering fruit and freshness. 95/100IMG_8285

1989 Château Clinet: Powerful. A beautiful core of plum and ripe cherries, with spices, mushroom, and damp earth. Dense and enormously concentrated. A rich wine. Full mouthfeel, with a fantastic balance. Nicely structured with soft but fairly prominent tannins. Well-balanced acidity on the finish. While perhaps not a 100 point wine, this is a powerhouse wine that is definitely at its peak and impressed most at the tasting. 97/100

1990 Château Clinet: Focused. One of the surprises of the night, in that it rivaled the 1989 Clinet (and surpassed it for some at the tasting). Really ripe and pure red fruits, with earthiness, mocha, and lots of floral notes. A beautiful ruby color. A really great weight to the wine. Very clean and linear. Less power and structure than the 1989 Clinet, but perhaps a bit more charm. Very soft tannins. This wine is in a good place right now, and was much better than the last bottle that I had several months ago. Probably won’t have the longevity of the 1989, when it’s all said and done. 95/100
IMG_8320.JPG1989 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Rustic and exotic. I was expecting big things from this wine, after the incredible bottle of this I recently had (from the same case). This started out with a really exotic nose of red fruits, bacon, pepper, flowers, and dark chocolate. Surprisingly, the nose seemed to close down over time. Good weight and concentration, but didn’t seem to have the same finesse and elegant mouthfeel of the last bottle. Standing on its own, this wine could still hold its own; tonight, however, it just didn’t stand out. Will have to try this again, as there is just so much potential with this wine. The complexity is obviously there, and there is ample fruit and structure for this wine to shine. 93/100

1990 Château Tertre Rôtebouef: Dark and spicy. For most at the tasting, this was preferred to the 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf. Dark fruits, black cherry, sous bois, spice, flowers, and anise rounded out some really nice aromatics. It did start out a bit shy, but opened up very nicely over time. Exotic like the 1989, but with more power and concentration. Firm tannins and medium acidity. A really nice finish with medium length. While not one of the top wines of the evening, this was still an excellent wine that held its own. I would consider giving this wine more time, as it seems that a bit more synthesis needs to occur. There is a serious core of fruit here, so there should no worry with holding this wine for a bit longer. 94/100

IMG_83211989 Château Angélus: Powerful and earthy. Probably my favorite wine of the tasting (though this was a difficult choice, given that all of the wines were impressive and so evenly matched). This was easily the most intoxicating nose of the evening, and it was hard to keep my nose out of the glass. Ripe plum, cassis, blackberry, sweet barnyard, soy, chocolate. After about an hour, there was a serious burst of violets on the nose. Very ripe and pure fruits. Powerful and dense on the palate. Full-bodied mouthfeel. The complexity of the nose was matched on the palate. Good freshness on the finish. Tannins still need more integration. This was truly a complete wine, and one that stood out due to its uniqueness of its aromatics and its power on the palate. 97/100

IMG_8336.JPG1990 Château Beauséjour (Duffau-Lagarrosse): Complex and complete. Struck by its very dark color, showing little signs of aging. Plum, dark fruits, mint, damp earth, and tobacco round out the aromatics. Complex, concentrated, and balanced, this wine seemed to have all of the necessary elements. Lots of structure; the tannins are round but still fairly prominent. High bright acidity contributing to lots of freshness on the finish. This wine has so much time left, and is just getting started. The immense amount of fruit, coupled with its solid structural makeup, bodes well for anyone who has this wine in their cellar. A standout on this evening. 97/100

1990 Château l’Evangile: Charming. This continues to be a really unique wine from l’Evangile. This was quite different from the other wines at the tasting. Red fruits, chocolate and sous bois. A bit lighter on the palate, almost seeming Burgundian at times. Still has noticeable tannic structure, with its ultra-soft tannins. High acidity creating a nice brightness on the finish. This is a very charming wine, especially if you like the light, elegant style. While some have reported bottle variation with this wine, this wine was spot-on with the last bottle tasted several months ago. 95/100

1990 Château Troplong Mondot: Dark and brooding. A bit closed down initially, but opened up nicely after an hour. Black cherry, raisin, earth, menthol, and coffee. Impressive concentration and complexity. A full-bodied mouthfeel. A really powerful wine. Lots of structure with firm tannins. A finish with impressive length. I get the sense that this is not yet at its peak and is going to improve. With the fruit concentration and structure here, this wine has a long life ahead of it. It just seemed like it was holding back a bit on this evening. 93/100