A La Mission Haut-Brion Vertical Tasting (1961-2004)

Recently we attended a fantastic Château La Mission Haut-Brion vertical tasting (at the Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale), which was another ‘can’t miss’ event. Many Bordeaux wine enthusiasts consider Château La Mission Haut-Brion to be equal to the first growths. It is certainly difficult to argue with this, considering their long track record of consistently high scores awarded by critics. But despite producing incredible wines year after year, La Mission still seems to stand in the shadow of its next-door neighbor, Château Haut-Brion (which is a first growth that actually shares the same owners as La Mission). But anyone who drinks both Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion knows that both produce great wines every year that are equivalent in quality. La Mission has produced a number of 100-point wines in the past fifty years, which includes the 1961, 1975, 1982, 1989, 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2010. On this evening, we tasted a broad range of vintages from several decades. While everything showed well, there were some standouts as well as surprises. And we were reminded yet again, “there are no great wines, only great bottles.”

IMG_32742004 Dark opaque color. A nice nose of blackberry, blueberry, cigar tobacco, oak, and vanilla. Dense and layered on the palate. Lots of structure to go along with the fruit. Give this 5-10 years. – 92/100

1998 Quite approachable for such a young wine. It’s still showing very young, and is far from maturity. There is rich, ripe fruit. The tannins are serious and firm. Give this time or a lot of aeration. – 94/100

IMG_3273

1990 This continues to be one of my favorite vintages from LMHB. The nose is just so fresh and exotic. There are all of the typical elements, with dark fruits, smoke, tobacco, spice, espresso, and fresh violets. Vibrant and fresh on the palate. Almost stunning balance, yet this wine still shows so young. A long finish that highlights its impressive complexity. – 96/100

1989 Easily the most disappointing wine of the night, especially considering how great this wine can be. This was clearly an off-bottle, as it was completely closed down for most of the evening. Initially, there was good fruit on the nose, but it quickly became shy and reticent. Also fell flat on the palate. This wine can be so much better than what this showed on this evening. – 92/100

1982 One of the strongest wines of the evening. The complexity on the nose was stunning, with cassis, iodine, balsamic, olive tapenade, smoke, thyme, leather, and fresh flowers. A gorgeous, pretty nose. Wrapped in layers of flavor on the palate. Excellent balance, with soft tannins. The fruit and acidity balanced very well. A long, seamless finish. – 96/100

IMG_32721981 A nose dominated by orange peel, black currant, herbs, and brown spices. There was a lack of ripeness in the fruit. Fruit was dominated by the drying effect of the tannins. This wine clearly lacked balance. – 88/100

1971 Had a very spicy nose, along with black currant, cigar tobacco, smoke, asparagus, and Provencal herbs. Hints of soy and somewhat medicinal on the palate. Still there was some charm and intrigue on the palate. Quite fresh on the palate, but with a bit of biting acidity on the finish. Very enjoyable overall. Hanging on, but likely near its end of life. -91/100

1970 The most disappointing wine of the night. Lacked complexity on the nose (though there was still some ample fruit), and was completely flat on the palate. – 86/100

1964 After the stunning 1961, a bit of a disappointment. More transparent and lighter than the 61. A bit of a metallic nose, with some cherry and earthiness, though there was some charm. Average complexity on the palate, and lacking in concentration. Tannins a little drying and high acidity. I just felt the balance was not quite there. – 89/100IMG_3271

1961 Not quite as strong as the last bottle (which was bordering on perfection), but this was drinking beautifully. Such a fragrant, open nose of blackberry and strong juniper berry notes. Lots of smoke, tobacco, and leather to accompany the fruit. Tannins soft and perfectly integrated. Elegant on the palate, with gorgeous fresh acidity. A long, vibrant finish. Not the best wine on the this evening (but the most special, given its age), but close. -96/100

 

 

A Château Montrose Evening with Hervé Berland

If there is one Bordeaux property that deserves its ‘Super Second’ status, it is Château Montrose. This renowned estate, located in the Saint-Estèphe appellation, consistently produces some of the Bordeaux’s best wines every year. It is also one of only a handful of producers in Bordeaux to earn 100 points from Robert Parker in both 2009 and 2010.  But the excellence of Montrose goes well beyond these two vintages, which is tied to its prime terroir and vast history. With this in mind, we were very pleased to attend a dinner and tasting with Hervé Berland, the Managing Director of Château Montrose, held at Michael Mina’s Stripsteak restaurant in Miami. The dinner included wines from Château Monrose, Dame de Montrose, and Château Tronquoy-Lalande (also owned by the Martin Bouygues of Montrose). The event was sponsored by Best Wine Co., a negoçiant firm that specializes in high-end Bordeaux wines.

chateau-montrose-dinner-2Mr. Berland started the evening by offering a few words about Montrose, its terroir and its history. He discussed his role as Managing Director, and why he came to Montrose in 2011. Prior to Montrose, he was the Managing Director at Château Mouton Rothschild for many years. He has certainly approached his new role with both passion and dedication. Among the topics discussed were the prime location of the gravelly terroir, atop the hill overlooking the Gironde Estuary. Of course we discussed the wines of Montrose as well. He has quite a bit of enthusiasm for the most recent vintages, especially 2016. He described the near-perfect conditions during 2016, and is very optimistic about the wines to be produced. He drew comparisons to both 2005 and 2010, two exceptional vintages at Montrose.

img_1327We also discussed the massive renovations that were recently completed at Montrose. This included the creation of perhaps the most impressive barrel cellar in Bordeaux. Having recently visited Château Montrose, I can attest to the superb design and impressive facilities throughout the property. Mr. Berland told me that they are currently renovating their vat room, switching to smaller vats so that they can vinify individual parcels from the vineyard. As successful as Montrose has been in recent years, it is commendable that they continue such massive investments in their facilities. It is this type of dedication that leads to the fantastic wines that are produced in Bordeaux today.

chateau-montrose-bottles-2Paired with dishes such as lamb chops and steak (of course), we enjoyed a number of excellent wines. First up was the 2013 Château Tronquoy-Lalande blanc, which was quite impressive. This was very popular among the attendees, and is an extremely smooth wine. We then tried the 2012 Château Tronquoy-Lalande rouge, which is a nice red Bordeaux wine for early drinking. We moved on to the 2011 Château Montrose, which showed a step-up in complexity. Having tasted a number of 2011 Bordeaux wines over the past two years, it is apparent that these wines are started to soften and become approachable. This 2011 Montrose is definitely approachable now, but will need several years to show its true potential. Mr. Berland noted that this vintage is often overlooked, due to the stellar 2009 and 2010 vintages, but that it deserves far more attention. Next we tasted the 2012 Dame de Montrose, the second wine of Château Montrose. Being more Merlot-based, this wine was soft, fruity, and quite charming. These are known as some of the best second wines in Bordeaux, and for good reason.

chateau-montrose-botles-1We then tasted the highly acclaimed 2005 Château Montrose, which I felt was the most impressive wine of the evening. Despite its obvious complexity, it is only starting to show its potential. This is a wine that will drink well for decades. We finished the evening with the 1998 and 1986 Château Montrose. The 1998 was enjoyable, but lacked some of the concentration and complexity of the 2005; however, it is ready for business, and has shown improvement since I last tasted this almost two years ago. The 1986 vintage, provided by one of the attendees of the dinner, possessed the charming aromas and flavors found in aged Bordeaux wines. But it is obvious that the 1986 vintage does not possess the sheer beauty and poise of the 1989 and 1990 vintages that soon followed it.

chateau-montrose-herve-berlandThis fantastic evening perfectly demonstrated the consistent excellence of Château Montrose. The dedication and passion of Mr. Berland should help to maintain the excellence at Montrose, and perhaps propel it to even greater heights. Perhaps this will become apparent with the most recent 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages. But as the wines of Château Montrose are known to be some of the longest lived in Bordeaux, tasting these excellent wines in their youth provides only a glimpse of what these wines will eventually become. One thing is for certain; the investments and leadership at Montrose should help them to maintain their ‘Super Second’ status for the years to come.

A Château Latour Vertical Tasting (1937 to 2003)

Attending a vertical tasting of Château Latour is a once in a lifetime experience. But we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend not one, but two Latour vertical tastings this year. This second tasting was also held by Wine Watch, and took place at 1800 East Las Olas. While the last tasting featured fantastic vintages, like 1961, 1982, and 1996, this one included 1937, 1955, and 1959. In all, there were twelve wines represented in the tasting (one being 2000 Les Forts de Latour). Most showed well, though the 1937 proved to be undrinkable (possibly due to questionable storage). The other older vintages had held up quite well, though some appeared to be tiring a bit. As expected, 1959 showed extremely well, an excellent representation of this famed vintage. The tasting started out blind, and I was able to correctly identify a number of vintages. In this case, the blind aspect of the tasting made it much more interesting; in fact, a number of tasters chose the 1960 and 1980 vintages as among their favorites. If one thing is for sure, it’s that Château Latour can make a great wine in just about any vintage.
img_1560
1937 Light amber color. If you want to know how this tasted, imagine a mixutre of acetone and sour spoiled apple juice. This wine was difficult to taste. If you want to buy a bottle of this, pay what you think the bottle is worth, not the wine that’s inside. – 70/100
1952 Lots of browning at the edges. Very advanced on both the nose and palate. The fruit appears to be fading. A bit cheesy, some red fruits, stewed prunes, wet leaves, tobacco, and leather. Tannins have essentially resolved. Acidity is showing a bit much on the finish. Still a drinkable wine, but was obviously inferior to the 1955 and 1959 on this evening. – 88/100
1955 Showing its age, but quite charming. Obviously this wine is past its peak, but it’s still quite drinkable. Dark plum, black currant, herbs, curry, barnyard, and leather. Subdued but quite elegant on the palate. Tannins have essentially resolved but there is still a nice mouthfeel and good balance on the palate. Impressive length on the finish. Good level of acidity to give this wine good freshness. – 93/100
1959 My WOTN in this Latour vertical tasting. This wine is still rocking. The tasting started out blind, and I thought this wine was much younger. Medium ruby color. Improved significantly over 2 hours, more so than any of the other wines. Black currant, cedar, tobacco, and spice. Impeccable balance; everything just seemed to blend so well together. Full mouthfeel, with silky tannins. An incredibly long, lingering finish. This wine won’t be better than it is today, but it’s a strong contender for one of the best Latours I’ve ever tasted. – 96/100
img_15611960 This is why I love starting tastings blind. A lot of people loved this wine, and we were shocked to learn it was a 1960. In truth, this seemed like a soft, elegant right bank wine from 1982. Lots of fruit – very pure, herbs, cedar, leather, and dark chocolate. Still has a nice tannic structure, but soft and silky. As I said before, very soft and elegant on the palate. A medium-plus length finish. Perhaps this was a perfect bottle, but this was an overachieving 1960, for sure. It was very un-Latour like though, but I don’t mean that negatively. – 94/100
1962 This bottle of 1962 Latour was not as strong as the last that I had almost one year ago. It still had that oxidized note. Fruit profile of prunes and black currant. Also noted Asian spices, tobacco, and green pepper. Still had some life on the palate. Structure still intact with round, soft tannins. Fell a bit short on the finish. – 92/100
1970 I don’t know what it is about the 1970 Château Latour, but it always disappoints me. Perhaps it’s because I always try this in a vertical tasting with superior vintages. But on this night, it was one of the least impressive wines. The nose has lots of ripe fruits, with black currant and cherry. Very soft mouthfeel, but a bit thin on the palate. Reserved on the mid-palate. A charming finish, with very good freshness. I would love to drink this any night of the week, but there are simply better Latours out there. – 92/100
1975 Advanced color for a 1975. Dark and red fruits, fig, sous bois, tobacco, and Asian spices on the nose. Not terribly interesting on the palate. Past its apogee. Very drinkable now, but I wouldn’t hold this for much longer. – 91/100
img_15621980 On blind tasting, this easily outclassed the 1970 and 1975. One of the surprises of the evening. An exotic nose. A bit of Brett, saddle leather, tobacco, mint, fig, and black currant. Medium bodied on the palate. Tannins have essentially resolved, but a nice solid mouthfeel. Acidity does show a bit high. Really enjoyed this wine. It stayed interesting throughout the evening. It goes to show you that Latour can really shine in some of the off-vintages. – 93/100
1989 It seems that the 1989 is really starting to show its potential. Nice garnet color. Great aromatics of dark fruits, barnyard, leather, tobacco, spice, and musk. The nose was much more open than when I tasted this wine one year ago. Good, but not great concentration. Started out a bit tannic, but this loosened up after an hour. Earlier this year, I recommended others holding this wine for another year or two, and it seems to be ready to go now. Should still drink well for a number of years. – 94/100
img_15632003 From half-bottle. A gorgeous wine, and a crowd pleaser in this vertical tasting. On blind tasting, this and the 1937 were the easiest to identify. A big wine, and very concentrated. Still a dark opaque color. Cassis, pencil shavings, graphite, cigar tobacco, and espresso. Very smooth for a 2003, and with excellent ripeness of its fruit. Excellent balance, but still a bit tannic. A wine to hold, but surprisingly, this can be enjoyed now with a lot of aeration. – 96/100
2000 Les Forts De Latour Lacks the punch and concentration of a Latour, but this is a charmer that was among the better wines of the evening. Cassis, cedar, tobacco, barnyard, and dark chocolate. Silky tannins and a smooth mouthfeel. Good length on the finish, but a hint of bitterness noted. Truth be told, I prefer the 2001 Les Forts. – 93/100

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

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

IMG_4667 2 copy

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

Bordeaux Trip Overview – May/June 2016

dIssan 3When we started planning this most recent trip back to Bordeaux, we never envisioned how enriching it would be. But by trip’s end, we had connected with old friends, made new ones, and left with a broadened perspective of Bordeaux. We visited during the 2015 futures campaign, which obviously permeated throughout the visit. It was clear that the winemakers and proprietors in Bordeaux are very pleased with the 2015 wines overall. We tasted many of these, and we can now see why.

L1020495b IGFirst, the 2015 vintage itself…the general consensus is that the 2015 prices have been as expected, and fair. The average increase of 25% over the 2014 wines was expected due to the rise in quality in the wines. The wines we tasted were rich, structured, and with fresh, ripe fruit; this was across the board. Some of them certainly stood out among the others. But it’s safe to say that people are buying 2015 Bordeaux. Ludovic Fradin of Smith Haut Lafitte told us they sold out in two hours; but what’s most surprising is that the U.S. was their biggest buyer. Perhaps things are changing in Bordeaux…

Cos dEstournel 2.JPGWe visited a number of great estates on both the left and right banks. A visit to Cos d’Estournel finished with a lovely lunch at the estate. We had a great visit and tasting with Bruno Rolland, the third generation Cellar Master at Léoville Las Cases, where we tasted wines from the entire Delon range, from Nenin to Clos du Marquis to Léoville Las Cases.

Lafon Rochet 1.jpgA visit with dynamic Technical Director Lucas Leclercq at Lafon Rochet was also quite educational and enriching. It was great to check out their beautiful new vat room, with concrete and steel vats that had been installed only eight days before the 2015 harvest. On the left bank, there were other great visits to Lagrange, Dauzac, Brane-Cantenac, d’Issan, and du Tertre. While in the Médoc, we stayed at Château du Tertre, which we would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone planning a visit to the Médoc. A private tour there was highlighted with a tasting their unique 2015 blanc, composed of Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Tertre Roteboeuf 1As busy as we were on the left bank, we were even busier on the right bank. Again we stayed at Logis de la Cadène, one of our favorite places to stay (and eat!) in and around Bordeaux. The dining in Saint-Émilion was superb, as always; you simply can’t go wrong with places like Le Tertre, Logis de la Cadène, and Les Belles Perdrix. One highlight was our morning spent with François Mitjavile at Tertre Rôteboeuf. His passion and philosophies about wine are inspiring. In his cellar, we tasted with 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf, as well as the more recent 2014 and 2015 vintages. Les Belles Perdrix group.jpg

After proprietor Jean-Bernard Grenié joined us for lunch at Les Belles Perdrix, he guided us on a private tour of Château Angélus. We also had a great visit with Comte Stéphan von Neipperg at Canon-la-Gaffelière, where we discussed organic sustainability.

On this trip, we had some very memorable dinners. One of our best gastronomic experiences was at Logis de la Cadène, with Ronan Laborde and Monique Bailly of Château Clinet. Among the wines of the night were the 1985 Château Le Gay and 1990 Château Gazin. Prior to the dinner, we toured the new and very impressive Ronan by Clinet facilities.Logis de la Cadene 2.jpg And after touring the new facilities at Château Mauvesin Barton, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with the Barton family and some of their fantastic wines. And before departing Bordeaux, we had a final dinner with Fred Vicaire of Château Coufran, Basile Tesseron of Château Lafon Rochet, and Ferdinand Mähler-Besse of Sobovi.

Branaire Ducru 2There were a number of highlights on this particular trip, but the crescendo occurred following the Union des Grands Crus tasting. First, we attended a lovely dinner at the beautiful Château Branaire-Ducru in Saint-Julien. Proprietor Patrick Maroteaux is the vice-president of the UGCB, and certainly hosted a dinner to remember. Following a tour of the property with son François-Xavier, we were treated to an excellent French meal and even better wines. Smith Haut Lafitte, Canon, Rauzan-Ségla, and La Tour Blanche were all there to share some of their wines as well. But the highlight was the Imperial (6 liter) bottle of 1995 Branaire-Ducru.

Branaire Ducru 1On the morning after the dinner, we were treated to a tasting at Branaire-Ducru that included the 2009 to 2015 vertical. It was quite enlightening to note the evolution and differences among the wines. It was also easy to see why M. Maroteaux prefers the 2010 vintage to all others. Following this, we were then treated to a lovely lunch at the estate. And to celebrate Allison’s upcoming birthday, they even opened a bottle of 1983 Branaire-Ducru and served a ‘cake’ of cannelés!

St EmilionSo it’s one more visit to Bordeaux in the books! This was a truly special trip, where there was never a dull moment. It was another reminder that while the region may be known for its wines, but it’s really the people who are the soul of Bordeaux. Look out for upcoming blog posts, where we will add a bit more detail to all of our adventures. We look forward to a return trip in the near future. but until then, we will continue to Drink Bordeaux!

 

A Château Angélus evening with Hubert de Boüard de Laforest

April 20, 2016

L1020106bRecently we were contacted by Victoire Touton from Château Angélus, who informed us that proprietor Hubert de Boüard was scheduled to visit South Florida. When she asked if we would be interested in helping coordinating a tasting, obviously we agreed without hesitation. Monsieur de Boüard is one of the most iconic and recognizable figures from Saint-Émilion, also serving as a winemaking consultant to numerous producers throughout Bordeaux (such as Château Siran and Château de Fieuzal). Tasting multiple vintages of Château Angélus, while discussing the wines with him, would certainly be an opportunity noP1060929b.jpgt to miss.

The event was held at Café Maxx in Pompano Beach, and was coordinated by Wine Watch. There were eight vintages of Angélus included in the tasting: 1994, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011. Two vintages of the second wine Carillon d’Angélus, 2009 and 2012, were also included. Elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) in 2012, Château Angélus has consistently produced some of the best wines in Saint-Émilion over the past twenty-five years. After Hubert de Boüard took the reigns at Angélus in 1985, the vintages of 1988, 1989, and 1990 brought life back into the château and placed it back into the Bordeaux elite. And over the next couple of decades, Angélus produced wines that were consistently among the best in the right bank of Bordeaux. Angélus is known for its appearances in James Bond films, which certainly helped raise global awareness of their wines. L1020104b.jpg

Humility and passion. This is how I would sum up Hubert de Boüard after speaking with him about his wines. He was extremely nice and forthcoming, engaging every person throughout the evening. But what is most striking is his unyielding passion for winemaking and his wines. He considers himself a farmer, who is quite proud of his family heritage. The legacy of the Angélus estate spans eight generations, which is quite a rare feat among the top properties in Bordeaux. M. de Boüard emphatically stated that he considers his greatest success to be the love and knowledge of winemaking that he passes on to the next generation, rather than his own successes in winemaking. While he still serves as the technical director at Angélus, his daughter Stéphanie has assumed more responsibilities in running the estate. This is a man who puts his heart and soul into producing the best wines possible every vintage.FullSizeRender 3.jpg

What truly makes nights like this special is the opportunity to get to know the personal side of the winemaker. Certainly we talked about wine, such as the underrated reputation of the 2001 vintage for the right bank. When I asked to name one of his favorite wines (other than his own), he mentioned the 1989 Haut-Brion without hesitation. We discussed the 2015 vintage at length; he drew similarities to 1998, but suggested the character of 2015 is somewhere in the middle of 1998 and 2005 (perhaps structurally as well). When discussing his wines, he commonly reminded me how important the Cabernet Franc is in the blend, and how it gives the wine longevity. His goal is to produce a wine that can span three decades, if not more, and the Cabernet Franc is the key. You will know what he is referring to if you have ever tasted the 1990 Angélus. And finally, he had an interesting anecdote about his dogs. Apparently, his labrador only likes to eat grapes in the vineyard when they are ripe; he joked that the dog knows when the right time is to harvest. L1020094b.jpg

Regarding the wines themselves, this was clearly a night of consistent excellence. All of the nights showed well, but perhaps the surprise of the evening were the two vintages of Carillon d’Angélus (2009 and 2012). These showed great complexity and drinkability, especially considering Carillon is the second wine of Angélus. Most of the vintages of Château Angélus were quite young, but there was great potential shown in most of the wines. It is always a good sign when no one can agree of their favorite vintages, and on this night, everyone seemed to indicate a different vintage to be their favorite. But on the this night, it certainly appeared that vintages like 2001, 2004, and 2010 stood out. The 2010 is an impressive effort, and should evolve into one of the greatest wines in the history of the estate; the complexity and mouthfeel are stunning. And despite the 15.5% alcohol level, there is no detection of heat at all. The 2001 and 2004 continue to show why they are among the best Bordeaux wines of their respective vintages. The 2005, on the other hand, appeared to be in a shy, shut-down phase on this evening. But the conclusion drawn from this tasting is that Angélus has produced impressive wines throughout the past 15 years, irrespective of vintage. Much of this could be attributed to advances in modern winemaking, but you cannot deny the influence of terroir and a passionate winemaker as well.

Overall, this was an evening of great company and great wines. We learned not only about the wines, but about the history of Saint-Émilion and Angélus. And as the night was closing, M. de Boüard told a story of his young grandson who is already learning to taste the grapes in the vineyard. The ninth generation is already learning to become a winemaker, which should ensure that the family lineage continues.

Tasting Notes

IMG_05851994 Château Angélus. Medium ruby color, mild bricking at edges. A very complex nose, with bright red fruits, tobacco, herbs, cedar, Asian spices, and violets. Lacks the charming earthiness of the 1989 and 1990, but has more of a spice element to it. Medium weight. Still has very fine tannins to resolve. This beauty is still in its drinking window, and there is enough fruit and remaining structure to take this at this five more years. In comparison to other vintages, this is not not as round and structured as the 1995; it is much more evolved than the still youthful 1995. This is more of an understated charmer than the bigger and more complex 1989, 1990, and 1990. For a so-so vintage, this is a success.

2001 Château Angélus. Deep, dark purple color. One of the more open and intoxicating noses of the night, with ripe plum, damson, licorice, mineral, barnyard, and espresso. Caressing on the palate, with soft, round tannins. Impressively structured. A long, lingering finish. There is always a lot of life with this wine. This is a vintage to follow. This wine showed extremely well tonight.

2004 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. Another fragrant, open nose of dark and red fruits, violets, sous bois, and chocolate. Impressive concentration. The palate seems to have layers, with a very pleasant mouthfeel. Tannins a bit firm and in need of more integration. Nice acidity on the medium-plus length finish. Optimistic of a long future.


IMG_05842005 Château Angélus. A shy nose. Not really showing its stuff right now. The nose is still quite primary, with dark fruits, spice, and vanilla. Dense and concentrated. A full-bodied mouthfeel, with serious backbone and structure. Fairly tannic right now. Lengthy finish. This is obviously an excellent wine, but this is nowhere near maturation. That said, with enough air, this is still very enjoyable and should start to nudge at its drinking window in the near future. This should easily eclipse three decades.

2006 Château Angélus. Dark purple color. This one is pretty tight right now. Probably needs a lot of aeration. Nice is fairly open, with black cherry, blackberry, herbs, and dark chocolate. Tannic and not quite balanced right now. Lots of acidity on the finish. Hasn’t quite entered its drinking window. If you’re planning to open this now, I would probably save most of it for the next day.

2008 Château Angélus. Nose somewhat subdued, but very floral. Lots of plum, black cherry, truffle, licorice, and violets. Really like the complexity on the nose and palate. A really silky mouthfeel, with nicely integrated tannins. A long, smooth finish with lots of balanced acidity.

2010 Château Angélus. Deep inky purple, almost black in color. A seriously densely aromatic nose of black fruits, licorice, truffle, and dark chocolate. Incredible concentration. Very tannic at this stage, but they are still surprisingly soft. A full-bodied affair, with so much intensity on the palate. Very impressive length on the finish. While this wine clocks in at 15.5% alcohol, there was absolutely no detection of heat at all. The most impressive wine of the evening. This wine deserves cellaring for at least 10 years, though it may become more approachable sooner.


IMG_0583.JPG2011 Château Angélus. Deep purple color. A bright, lively nose of red fruits, cherry, herbs, and vanilla. Full-bodied mouthfeel. Good concentration. Has that tannic edge that is characteristic of so many wines from ’11. Average acidity on the finish. This wine needs more time to come together and integrate. Still, this is a smooth drinker that just needs lots of aeration right now. I was able to try this on the following day, and it had shed some of its sharp edges and was even smoother on the palate. The nose was a bit shy, however. Should reach its prime drinking window within five years but expect nice longevity.

2009 Le Carillon de l’Angélus. The second wines were quite good. This had lots of ripe red fruits, black cherry, spice, and vanilla. Soft tannins with no astringency. Smooth finish. While lacking the concentration of the Château Angélus wines, this is so drinkable right now. A really great food wine, but could stand on its own as well.

2012 Le Carillon d’Angélus. Initially, this seemed to be pretty simple. Red currant, cherry, with a bit of licorice and spice. It was pretty straightforward on the palate, but with a nice medium weight and smooth delivery. I was fortunate enough to save some and drink it over the next two days. The improvement was quite impressive, with a much more open, lively nose. The balance was better. There was some earthiness that wasn’t apparent on the first day. This wine obviously has a pretty nice future, especially for a second wine. It’s a testament to the fact that the top producers take their second wines quite seriously.

Château Lagrange Tasting

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

IMG_8208

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.

FullSizeRender 2

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.