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.

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Château Latour Vertical Tasting

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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.


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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 Palmer Vertical Tasting (14 vintages) from 1966 to 2012

11-12-2015 Château Palmer vertical tasting at Stripsteak restaurant, Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach

Chateau_Palmer_bottlesChâteau Palmer vertical with 14 vintages and 2 from Alter Ego. Michael Mina restaurant. That’s all I needed to know to attend this once-in-a-lifetime tasting event. It was hosted by Wine Watch in Ft. Lauderdale. Now, Château Palmer is one of our favorite wines, and I honestly can’t remember ever tasting a bad Palmer. In fact, most of them have been excellent. Jean-Louis Carbonnier, the Palmer representative, was in attendance and provided educational background of the wines. On this night, there were really no bad wines. And while some do not like this format of tasting so many wines at once, it really helps to understand a château’s wines by tasting them through the decades. On this night, the 1966 and 1990 Palmers shined above the rest. And while much was learned by tasting 14 vintages, it was also so interesting to taste the 1966 and 1975 again, having recently tasted these. It was surprising to see how different these wines were from the previously tasted bottles. One has to wonder how much bottle variation existed decades ago. This was likely due to how the wines were blended and aged; these days, all of the wine is blended together in one large batch prior to bottling, which serves to eliminate most bottle variation. All in all, this was a fantastic tasting, and I can safely say that I will likely never taste so many vintages of Palmer in one evening again.


Palmer_Alter_Ego2012 Alter Ego. Inky purple color. Plum, blackberry, and blueberry. Medium body. A bit more tannic than the Palmer ’12. While some say this is an earlier drinking wine, I wouldn’t touch this for several years. 91

2009 Alter Ego. Lots of dark fruits, smoke, and tobacco. Velvety texture. Tannic grip similar to the ’12 Alter Ego. A little drying on the finish. 90


Palmer_2012_20102012 Château Palmer. Deep ruby/purple color. An interesting, expressive nose of dark and red fruits, violets, and rich chocolate. Does have some grip, but is surprisingly not overly tannic. Medium acidity on the finish. 92

2010 Château Palmer. More floral than the 2012, and more concentration overall. Notable oak influence. Though subdued, a layered nose, with lots of ripe fruits and some truffle and earth. Full-bodied and a wonderful mouthfeel. Grippy. A long finish. Not a stunner yet, but has the makeup. 94


Palmer_2000_20052005 Château Palmer. Has lost its purple hue, with edges starting to show some lightening. Nice complex aromatics, with profile similar to the ’10. Fantastic on the palate. Excellent concentration and balance. Silky tannins. One of the favorites of the night. 96

2000 Château Palmer. A bit less powerful than the ’05 and ’10, exuding more elegance. A darker nose, with dark fruits, tobacco, cigar, and sous bois. Elegant reservation on the palate. Very fresh finish, with good length. I may ultimately prefer this style to the ’05. 94


Palmer_1990s1996 Château Palmer. Medium ruby color. Starting to show some signs of age. Red fruits, brown spice, tobacco. Can’t fault the balance and concentration. Not one of the best ’96 from the Left Bank, but a solid performer. Likable and charming. 93

1995 Château Palmer. More Merlot in the ’95 than the ’96, but more tannic on this evening. Similar aromatics to the ‘96, but more in your face. A bit more spiciness as well. Full-bodied and weighty. Still some formidable tannins. Probably not yet at peak. 94

1990 Château Palmer. Just a beautiful nose, with sweet red fruits, mint, leather, and flowers. Pure elegance, a lovely mouthfeel. Ultra-long finish that leaves you wanting more. One of the best Palmers I have tried. 98


Palmer_19881988 Château Palmer. More tannic than the ’90. Some described it as strange. Had a unique nose, with some dried fruits, tobacco, mushroom, and green peppers. A finish with formidable tannins and a hint of bitterness. Still had some aged Bordeaux charm. 92

1986 Château Palmer. Layers on the nose, with nice fruit, musk, and spice. Silky mouthfeel. Quite structured and tannic, but nicely balanced. A great finish that is its best attribute, very fresh. Would give this a few more years, but seemingly lots of potential. 95


Palmer_19831983 Château Palmer. Another fantastic nose, with lots of black cherry, cassis, and violets. Lots of complexity on the nose and palate. Not as memorable as a few others, but a very, very good wine. Another great finish. I should note that some at the tasting felt that this ’83 seemed different from recently tasted bottles. 96

1978 Château Palmer. Showing very well. Perhaps the surprise of the night. Not as much depth as some of the younger wines, but still had excellent balance and concentration. Lots of cherry and tobacco. Great finish, with lots of length. 95

1975 Château Palmer. Tried this one week ago, and this bottle was quite different. Much more tannic than the ’78 and ’83 (and the ’75 from one week ago). Some funkiness to the nose, with truffle, tobacco, and red fruits. Amazing how different two bottles can be from the same vintage. 93


Palmer_1970_19661970 Château Palmer. Lots of leather, old library book, and cherry. A little shy and laid-back on the palate. Still with solid structure. Notable acidity on the finish. 93

1966 Château Palmer. Easily the WOTN, edging out the ’90. A pure beauty. Had the most earthy notes of the tasting. Cherry, fig, leather, mushroom, and sous-bois. Near perfect balance. Silky mouthfeel, reminiscent of the ’90. A long, long finish, with balanced acidity. Perhaps the best Palmer I have ever tasted, and significantly better than the ’66 I tasted from two weeks ago. 98

Palmer_group                Tasting hosted by Jean-Louis Carbonnier from Château PalmerPalmer_corks

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Chateau Lagrange 1996

FullSizeRenderTasting Note:

Nice ruby color with some lightening at the edges. Nose was initially with strong animal and meaty notes, but this softened up after an hour. Nose exhibited blackcurrant, wet earth, cedar, cinnamon, and leather. Medium bodied. Round tannins, well-integrated. Medium finish. Firm structure should make this drink well for several more years.


About Chateau Lagrange:

Chateau Lagrange is a third growth located on the highest point in Saint Julien. It is one of the largest plots in Bordeaux with approximately 157 hectares.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. Michel Delon (of Leoville Las Cases) helped Suntory, a beverage corporation in Japan, acquire the chateau in 1983.
  2. Prior to the Suntory acquisition, some plots had been sold to both Chateau Gloria and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou.
  3. The director was Marcel Ducasse from 1993 to 2007 (who expanded vineyard from 48 planted hectares to 138).

Blend: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot

Château Le Bon Pasteur 1996

IMG_4067Tasting Note:

Still drinking well and likely at its peak. Nice ruby color with faint orange at the edges. Nose was aromatic with no decant, though maintained over 2 hours. Noted blackberry, plum, chocolate, earth, fennel, spice, and hints of eucalyptus. Medium weight, velvety mouthfeel. Tannins soft and round. Medium-plus finish. This is a nice high-quality Pomerol that offers great value.


About Château Le Bon Pasteur:

The initial Le Bon Pasteur estate pre-dated the appellation system, which then split the estate into three parts: Pomerol, Lalande-de-Pomerol, and St. Emilion. Two new chateaux were then formed, Chateau Bertineau-St.- Vincent (Lalande-de-Pomerol) and Chateau Rolland-Maillet (St. Emilion); all three wines are made in the Le Bon Pasteur facilities.  Harvesting is done manually, plot-by-plot. The grapes are then double sorted before and after de-stemming.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. The name Le Bon Pasteur, meaning ‘The Good Shepherd,’ was chosen by previous owner Hermine Dupuy on Good Shepherd Sunday of the Catholic calendar.
  2. Joseph Dupuy was the initial owner, purchasing the land in 1920.  His grandson, the famed oenology consultant Michel Rolland, ran the estate from 1978 until it was sold in 2013.
  3. Le Bon Pasteur was sold to a Chinese businessman in 2013, due to Michel Rolland’s brother Jean-Daniel’s desire to sell the estate.
    Blend: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc