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

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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.

Latour-61-62

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.


Latour-1990.JPG

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.


Latour-2000.JPG

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.

Margaux – Pauillac Tasting – Wines from 1959 to 2000

11-4-2015 Margaux – Pauillac tasting at Wine Watch, Ft. Lauderdale

Margaux_Pauillac_wine_tastingContinuing the theme of appellation tastings, Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale hosted yet another great tasting. This time, the tasting highlighted the Pauillac and Margaux appellations. What made this tasting more special was that it truly showcased some of the best châteaux from these esteemed appellations. The Margaux appellation was represented by only Margaux and Palmer, while Pauillac wines included Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Lynch-Bages, and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. There was also a wide range in vintages tasted, from 1959 to 2000. The appellations were evenly matched, and there was no clear winner on this night


1959_Palmer_GPL1959 Château Palmer (Margaux). The WOTN. A dark garnet hue with brown edges; the color was the oldest aspect of the wine. Nose was still very much alive. Cherry liqueur, raisin, tobacco, and a hint of barnyard. Complex and layered, this was one wine that seemed to gain momentum throughout the evening. While more concentrated than the GPL, it was still on the lighter side. Structure hanging on. A special wine. 97/100.

1959 Château Grand Puy Lacoste (Pauillac). Improved throughout the night, but more of an average aged Bordeaux. Similar aromatics, with cherry, fig, raisin, and tobacco. Lacked some weight on the mid-palate and fell a bit flat on the finish. Still an enjoyable wine if you find it. Clearly this round goes to the Palmer. 91/100.


1961_LynchBages_Palmer1961 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Drinking extremely well for a ’61. Still with excellent concentration and deep color. Cassis, black cherry, leather, Asian spices, and cedar. Opened up over two hours and improved significantly in the glass. Still has a solid tannic structure. Only knock would be a bit high acid on the (lengthy) finish. 94/100.

1966 Château Palmer (Margaux). Not a favorite in the room, but I personally considered this the #2 of the night. Dark fruit, smoke, earth, and some beautiful barnyard scent. Exceptional balance. Everything seems in its right place. Extremely smooth on the palate. Long finish. The Palmer edges out the Lynch-Bages in this round. 95/100.


1983_Margaux_LynchBages1983 Château Margaux (Margaux). Has that perfume one would expect. Dark and red fruits, spice, and floral notes. Solid mid-palate. Still with prominent tannins. Long finish. Again, a wine with exceptional balance. Its strengths are its complexity and concentration, but not really a stunner. 95/100.

1983 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). The most unique wine of the night. Cassis, licorice, old dusty library book, and urban funk (distinct from a barnyard funk). This strange nose was initially off-putting, but became quite charming. More elegance than power. Still has a bit of grip. No detectable heat on the medium length finish. Acidity a bit out of balance. Definitely better than the 81 point wine scored by RP. This round goes to the Margaux, but for the value, this Lynch-Bages is something to look at if you don’t mind funkiness. 91/100.


1995_Margaux_Lalande1995 Château Margaux (Margaux). Perhaps the disappointment of the night, considering its pedigree. Shy on the nose, but had a nice mix of dark fruits, spice, and floral. Full-bodied and mouth-filling on the palate. Structured as can be. Very long finish. So why a disappointment? It’s very far from showing its true colors, so it was hard to be too excited about it tonight. 93/100.

1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac). More powerful than the Margaux, with a more open nose. Black currant, cedar, and mint. Lacks the earthiness of typical Pichon Lalandes. Sampled the ’96 Pichon Lalande last night, and the ’96 is definitely the superior vintage with far more complexity. Better on the nose than palate right now. A little tart on the finish. Still, tonight the Lalande beats the Margaux (though that will change in 10 years). 94/100.


LynchBages_Palmer2000 Château Palmer (Margaux). Similar to last bottle enjoyed a few months ago. This is a great Palmer, but like the ’95 Margaux, so far from its potential. Blackberry, raspberry, lots of violets, and mocha. Concentrated and tannic. My first note I wrote was, ‘tons of potential.’ Cellar this baby, and drink your ’83 and ’89 Palmers. 93/100.

2000 Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac). Simply a great wine. Lots of layers, with cherry, tobacco, pencil shavings, and cigar box. Nice balance of power and elegance. Has serious grip. A fantastic finish. No bitterness and acidity is where it should be. This round goes to the Lynch-Bages. 95/100.

LynchBages_bottles