First Growth Tasting – 1982 to 1996

3-4-16 Private residence in Miami, FLIMG_4183 copy

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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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

Pomerol VS Saint-Émilion Tasting

Pomerol and Saint-Émilion Tasting at Wine Watch in Ft. Lauderdale 10-21-2015

IMG_6200This year, Wine Watch in Fort Lauderdale has hosted tastings that compare two appellations. Obviously we decided that we just can’t miss any of these, especially one that includes an older Pétrus. Pomerol holds a special place in our hearts for multiple reasons. First of all, the wines of Pomerol are some of the most charming and unique in Bordeaux. But perhaps more importantly, older Pomerols can sometimes be so elusive to obtain. And let’s not ignore St.-Émilion, which had some heavy hitters in the tasting as well. The 1975 Pétrus was certainly one of the stars of the evening, but the 1998 Trotanoy has the potential to perhaps eclipse it. On the St.-Émilion side, the more modern style Valandraud and Peby Faugères stole the show, beating out classics Cheval Blanc and Canon. But on a night like this, one just has to feel fortunate to taste any of these greats. But if there’s one takeaway from this night, it’s that the Right Bank did very well in 1998.


IMG_62531975 Pétrus from Pomerol. Still with a deep, dark color. Nose of dried plum, dark fruit, licorice, mineral, cedar, and mushroom. Pure elegance in a glass. Still has a solid structure, with silky tannins. Gorgoeous finish. 97 pts


IMG_62541988 Château Lafleur from Pomerol. Exotic. Brighter red fruit than the Pétrus, a little pepper, truffle, and Asian spices. Solid mouthfeel. Still fairly tight and tannic. An impressive long finish. Took on a slight oxidized note after 4 hours, which was a bit concerning considering the present tannin structure. Not a crowd pleaser, but more of a bruiser at this stage. 93 pts

1989 Château La Fleur Pétrus from Pomerol. Initially disappointing, this did show some improvement with a couple of hours in the glass. Medium ruby color. A bit light, lacking concentration. Cherry and plums dominate. Would like to see more tertiary elements at this stage. Notable acidity. Slight bitterness to the finish, which subsided. 91 pts


IMG_62551989 Château Le Gay from Pomerol. One of the better surprises of the evening. Took lots of time to show itself and open up, but was quite impressive when it did. A much more evolved nose than the ’89 La Fleur Pétrus, with black currant, cherry, cedar, tobacco, espresso, and a hint of green pepper. Solid tannic structure. Like the balance here. Long finish. 95 pts

1998 Château Trotanoy from Pomerol. Really interesting to try this after drinking a bottle of this recently. Interesting bottle variation, with this bottle showing a hint of Brettanomyces (but in a very good way). Black currant, blackberry, earth, truffle, and espresso. Powerful but elegant at the same time. Full-bodied on the palate, hitting on all cylinders. Beautiful, long finish. A memorable wine. 97 pts


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1967 Château Cheval Blanc from St.-Émilion. The biggest disappointment of the evening. Like drinking chewing tobacco enveloped in a wall of tannins. Disjointed and flat. Aromatically very evolved, but the structure is still overbearing. Not much to like with this bottle. Hopefully, this was just a bad example. 87  pts

1985 Château Canon from St.-Émilion. Like the ’89 Le Gay, became much better after a couple of hours in the glass. Light ruby color. Fruity and earthy nose, with a charming old library book scent (which is so common in mature Canon). Light-medium body, almost Burgundian in a way. The strength here is the excellent finish, which just seemed to linger. Not a special wine, but I wouldn’t mind trying this again, with its very charming nose. 92 pts


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1998 Château Petit Cheval from St.-Émilion. Much more memorable than the ’67 Grand Vin. Red fruit, spice, and cedar. A fresh nose. Adequate mid-palate. Still quite tannic and tight. A good finish with no bitterness noted. 91 pts

1998 Château Valandraud from St.-Émilion. Another one of the strongest wines of the night. An amazing nose…still young and bursting with fruit, but with tobacco, sweet musk, and espresso. Definitely an exotic feel to this. Great mid-palate and finish. Silky on the palate. Love the concentration, balance, and overall like-ability. 95 pts


IMG_62581998 Château Peby Faugeres from St.-Émilion. Still appears very young. Very dark color, minimal lightening of the edges. Ripe plum, blackberry, licorice, spice, and chocolate. Full-bodied. Tannins still need a bit of further integration. Acid balances well with the fruit. Impressive length on the finish. 95 pts


IMG_6275At the end of the tasting, we opened up a couple of interesting bottles. We didn’t have high hopes for the 1967 Carruades de Lafite, but the 1995 was a treat and a surprise. The 1995 vintage has been known by many to be a somewhat tannic and backward vintage, but the Beychevelle showed very well and was quite approachable.