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!
WGCBordeaux
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.

UGC Tasting – Bordeaux 2013 Vintage

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Los Angeles 1-29-2016

Since the Union des Grands Crus tour did not stop in Miami this year, we instead attended the tasting in the great city of Los Angeles. The tasting was actually held at a really interesting venue, the Santa Monica Museum of Flying. Hosted by Wally’s, this UGCB tasting featured the 2013 vintage. But while this vintage was quite challenging for the majority of properties in Bordeaux, we found a number of bright spots and cause for optimism.

It is generally agreed that the white wines from 2013 are overall more impressive than the reds. This was quite apparent at the tasting, as we sampled all of the white wines from Pessac-Léognan. They all showed excellent freshness and approachability across the board. Standouts included the wines from Smith Haut Lafitte and Pape Clément. However, we were also impressed by other producers such as Olivier and Larrivet Haut-Brion. The red wines from Pessac lacked the consistency and complexity typically associated with this region.

The wines from Sauternes were also quite impressive. From Doisy Daene to Coutet to Guiraud, these wines all showed great balance even in their youth. They all had really nice acidity to balance the concentrated sweetness. These appeared to show better than those from 2012 overall. It was great catching up with Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu from Château Doisy-Daëne. We both agreed that the wines of Sauternes are great accompaniments to meals, and should be offered more by the glass at restaurants. One can only hope that this becomes a trend one day, as it is rare to see a restaurant or wine bar offering any Sauternes by the glass.

Overall, the red wines from the right bank appellations of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol seemed to fare better than those from the Médoc. The common theme was that this was a challenging vintage and yields were low. The always friendly Stephan von Neipperg told us that his production was only 30,000 bottles, compared to the typical 80,000 bottles. Despite this drop in production, his 2013 Canon-la-Gaffelière was one of the strongest of the night. It was also great to catch up with Monique Bailly from Château Clinet. This was also one of our favorites of the night. After tasting wines from Canon, La Dominique, Gazin, Troplong Mondot, and others, it was apparent that while these wines may lack the intensity and concentration of other recent vintages, they appear to be somewhat accessible even at this youthful stage. With time, some of these may actually outperform expectations.

The 2013 vintage in the Médoc was also challenging. Again, these wines seemed to share an accessibility at this stage, but there is less stuffing and complexity for long-term aging. But to us, one of the beauties of Bordeaux is the variability among its vintages. I have enjoyed many Bordeaux wines from ‘lesser vintages,’ so it is still a good idea to pay attention to all vintages. There are great values to be found in every vintage. While tasting the left bank wines, it was particularly nice to catch up with Patrick Maroteaux of Château Branaire-Ducru, who is a true gentleman. We also enjoyed speaking with Frederic Vicaire of Château Coufran and Jean-Luc Chapel of Château La Lagune, who are both extremely friendly as well.

1a intro tent crowdAll in all, the UGCB tastings are always wonderful occasions to taste Bordeaux wine in a relaxing environment, while getting to know the winemakers and proprietors from the region. If you have not yet attended one of these events, we highly recommend it to anyone who loves wine. They visit various cities in North America every January, and their schedule can be found on their website. And if you really want the ultimate UGCB experience, consider coming to Bordeaux for Le Week-End des Grands Crus, which is their large annual tasting with dinners and tours at the châteaux.

The Union des Grands Crus will host this tasting event in Bordeaux on June 4th, 2016. They will showcase the 2013 vintage in addition to a second vintage chosen by each producer. The For more information please visit www.ugcb.net.

Château Cos d’Estournel – Wine Tasting Event

12-3-2015 Château Cos d’Estournel tasting at Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, West Palm Beach, Florida

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It is always special to attend a tasting of one of the world’s greatest wine producers, whether young or old. So of course we were excited to attend a Cos d’Estournel tasting that included three vintages of the grand vin, with a few other wines from the Cos stable. The tasting was directed by Etienne de Nantes, a representative from Cos d’Estournel, who gave a nice presentation of the château’s history and its wines. Having recently tasted the 2005 Cos d’Estournel, it was great to taste this great vintage once again. The surprise of the night was the 2004, which should turn into a very nice wine. Each tasting of a wine from 2004 confirms that this vintage may turn out quite well. And while many Bordeaux from the 2004 vintage are quite accessible now, it seems the 2004 Cos needs a bit more time. It is well-structured though, and could turn into a wine with impressive longevity. Essentially every wine tasted seemed to need more time in bottle, but they all could still be enjoyed now with a proper decant. One thing is for sure; Cos d’Estournel is producing some impressive wines, even in so-called ‘off-vintages.’ It was a good night indeed.


IMG_67332012 Goulée

Lots of dark fruits, blackberry, coffee, and oak spice. Full-bodied, with somewhat rough tannins. Excellent length to the finish, but some bitterness and high acidity. This is a bit austere and not ready for drinking yet. Give it some time to smooth out its rough edges.

2011 Les Pagodes des Cos

A fresh nose of plum, blackberry, chocolate, licorice, and earth. Lush and lighter in weight than the Goulée. The Merlot character really shows through. Very soft tannins, but a bit short on the finish. This is a wine with some approachability, but still needs years in the bottle.

2002 Château Cos d’Estournel

Dark, concentrated, and youthful. Red and dark fruits, pepper, and licorice. Lots of spiciness. Oak still hasn’t integrated at this stage. Firm tannins. Lacks a bit in the mid-palate. A smooth, elegant finish. A strong showing from 2002, and still young for the vintage. I was surprised by the ripeness and purity of fruit with this wine. Give it time.


 

IMG_67372004 Château Cos d’Estournel

Still quite young but showing nice balance. Good ripeness of the plum and red fruits. More dense than the 2002, but the nose is more subdued than the 2005. Lots of tannins still to be resolved. Overall, I really enjoyed the style with this wine and its balance. While you can drink this now, I would still wait a few years before opening.

2005 Château Cos d’Estournel

Quite an intense nose, with lots of spiciness. Also showing mocha, ultra-ripe fruit, and floral notes. This is a powerful wine that really leaves a mark on your palate. Still very tannic. Long finish. It’s easy to sense the serious potential with this wine, but this wine is nowhere near ready. Will certainly give much more pleasure in the future. Wait 5-10 years on this.

2012 Château Cos d’Estournel Blanc

Really floral and nutty. Stone fruits and citrus on the nose as well. Really smooth, with few hard edges. Very good freshness on the finish.

Château Latour Vertical Tasting

Latour Lineup
1-22-2016 Château Latour tasting at Aquavita, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
For any Bordeaux wine lover, what would be the ultimate tasting? Perhaps a Pétrus/Le Pin comparison? A first growth horizontal tasting from 1982? One could argue that a vertical tasting of Château Latour that included both the 1961 and 1982 could qualify as an ultimate tasting. This is why we were very excited to take part in a private Latour vertical tasting, held by Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale. This tasting included not only the iconic vintages of 1961 and 1982, but also included many other tremendous vintages as well, like the 1990 and 1996. What made this tasting even more unique was that it included the 1962, an excellent vintage that often gets overshadowed by the 1961.
Château Latour produces some of the best wines in the Médoc, year in and year out. Much of this is due to some of the best terroir in Bordeaux, which includes the famous l’Enclos vineyard. There is also amazing history associated with this estate, from the planting of vines in the 14th century to the purchase by François Pinault in 1993. This tasting included a number of the best wines from this famed history. On this night, many wines were stars, but the ultimate standout was the 1982 (though the 1961 was perhaps not a great representation). Regardless, I would be happy spending the evening with any of these wines.

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This incredible vertical tasting started with the famed 1961 Château Latour. Unfortunately, this did not appear to be a good representation of this wine, and it appeared a bit oxidized. Amber/brown color. Pruney fruits, dried raisins, leather, herbs, and damp forest floor. A nice mouthfeel, and still adequate structure. A bit flat on the finish. I won’t render much of an opinion here, and will defer until the next 1961. The 1962 Latour also had a bit of an oxidized note, but less so than the 1961. Less earthy and rustic than the 1961. Still had similar fruit profile with prunes and dried raisins. Also noted old library book, tobacco, mushroom, and green pepper — a much more vibrant nose. Really lively and elegant on the palate, and seemed to become more interesting with more time in the glass. Classy, with a beautiful richness. Still had nice structure with round, soft tannins. On this night, I preferred the 1962.


Latour-82

The 1970 Château Latour was the least impressive of the tasting. Still had a surprisingly ripe nose, with black currant, some cherry, and fig. Very soft mouthfeel, but a bit thin on the palate. Reserved on the attack and lacked punch on the mid-palate. Hint of bitterness on the finish. Overall, the 1970 did not impress tonight. But, oh did the 1982 Latour impress. This was clearly the wine of the night. The nose was simply amazing, complex and layered. Black currant, cedar, brown spices, licorice, and tobacco. Pure perfection on the palate, from the attack to the finish. A long finish that left a sense of currant and sweet tobacco. Easily one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. This baby will sing for decades. After this was the 1989 Latour, which was quite reserved for the first two hours. There is certainly potential here. Nice garnet color. A shy nose of dark fruits, spice, and musk. Lacked the concentration of the 1982 and 1990, but it still had charm. This wine didn’t blow anyone away, but when bookended by the 1982 and 1990, it’s just not a fair fight. I would still consider holding onto this a bit longer before opening (perhaps a year or two), based on the tasting this evening.


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The 1990 Château Latour was my #2 wine of the night. Gained weight the whole night and kept revealing its complex layers. Dark fruits, lots of cherry, barnyard, lots of cedar, fennel, and sweet tobacco. Full-bodied, with incredible balance. Clearly in its wheelhouse right now. Silky ripe tannins, with a solid structure. Very long finish, with lots of fresh acidity. The 1996 Latour was probably the #3 wine of the night. At times, seemed similar to the 1982 in aromatic profile, but still showing very young. Very dark ruby color. Black currant, cedar, mushroom, and licorice. Like the 1990, incredibly well balanced. Lots of ripe tannins. You can open this now, but if you wait for another 5 years, you will be rewarded. The 1999 Latour was the pleasant surprise of the night. I really enjoyed this, and found it be quite interesting. There was much more earthiness on the nose, with a pleasant barnyard scent. Also showed the characteristic dark fruits, cedar, and tobacco. When I closed my eyes, it was like smelling fruit that had been crushed in dirt. Soft tannins in the background. An elegant mouthfeel, but still had adequate power. A bit higher acidity noted on the finish. Compared to the 2000 Latour, this seemed much more evolved.


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The 2000 Château Latour was simply fantastic, but is just so young right now. A shy nose that did open up nicely in the glass, really showing its pedigree. Black currant, damp earth, pencil shavings, and licorice. Such a classic Pauillac nose. Well-structured but silky smooth on the palate. A formidable wall of tannins on the finish. Also notable acidity. This is an awesome wine, but it really deserves 5-10 more years in the cellar. The 2005 Latour seemed like a baby on this night. Again, a shy nose, but layered and nicely perfumed. Black currant, lots of fennel, clove, and mocha. Can still detect some oak influence. Powerful and really hits you in all corners on the palate. Tannic, but not aggressively so. An incredibly long finish that never seemed to go away. Should be another ‘wow’ wine in 10-20 years. It wouldn’t be criminal to try it now though.


Les Forts Yquem

The night finished with a tasting of the 2001 Les Forts de Latour and 2011 Château d’Yquem. The 2001 Les Forts was a very impressive wine. A really nice nose of ripe cassis, blackberry, tobacco, and chocolate. Lots of finesse and elegance. Smooth on the palate. The Les Forts certainly held its own tonight among the great wines of Latour. The 2011 d’Yquem was the nightcap. It paired beautifully with the chocolate covered bacon. What more can you say? I’ll certainly pair more bacon with my Sauternes from now on. Such a classy wine, with such great balance at this young age.

Château Cos d’Estournel – 1990

1990 cos d'estournelLived up to its pedigree. ~30 minutes of air opened up the nose nicely. Also had a slight acidic edge initially that resolved. Really dark fruits, smoke, tobacco, spice, and licorice. Silky on the palate, with medium weight. A finish that lingered on and on. Acidity a bit forward. Still has tannins to resolve. Likely at or near its peak, but likely has considerable time left. No reason not to drink this now if you have it. – 95pts Nov 2015

Château Gruaud Larose – 1989

1989-gruad-laroseFrom one of the best values of the 2nd growths, this ’89 has matured nicely. Medium ruby with lightening of edges. Decanted for 4 hours. A dense array of aromatics, with cherry > blackcurrant, leather, musk, licorice, and sous bois. The tertiary notes are starting to outshine the fruit a bit. Good balance and smooth on the palate. Tannins silky smooth. Medium length finish. Acidity seems a bit high on the finish. This is still drinking well, but it appears to be coming off its peak. Still, there’s at least a few years left of good drinking. 92pts –  Sept. 2015