3-4-16 Private residence in Miami, FL
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.
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.
1990 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even though we had recently visited Bordeaux earlier in the summer, it was obviously hard to stay away for long. We found ourselves coming back a mere three months later. It turned out that this was a fantastic time to visit. The skies were clear. The rains abated. And fortunately for us, the harvest was just beginning. The 2015 Bordeaux vintage was just hitting its stride.
Our trip began in St.-Émilion, where we stayed at the restaurant/B&B Logis de la Cadène. Hubert de la Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, owns this small guesthouse. For those who are aware of the fantastic restaurant, it should come as no surprise that the rooms here are top-notch. The service was also fantastic; we will definitely stay here again. Our visit here was also highlighted by a great dinner at Le Tertre, an excellent family-owned restaurant across from Logis.
In the Right Bank, we visited a number of properties in both St.-Émilion and Pomerol, including Clinet, La Conseillante, Petit-Village, Vieux Château Certan, Beau-Séjour Bécot, La Gaffelière, La Dominique, and Villemaurine. Echoed at most châteaux was the belief that the Merlot ripened extremely well, which should bode well for the vintage. Some even felt that the sugar ripeness was possibly a bit high and could lead to higher alcohol levels. Despite this, there was an excitement here that this vintage will easily eclipse the past four.
When we reached the Médoc, the harvest was in full swing. Again, this early harvest was due to the excellent ripening of the grapes. We stopped by Château Margaux and spoke with Managing Director Paul Pontallier, who relayed his cautious optimism about the 2015 vintage. At Margaux, they were also planting a few vines in front of their new winemaking facility; these vines won’t be made into wine, however. They are going to serve as ‘reference vines’ to teach visitors about the different varietals. We visited other properties in the Médoc, including Lynch-Bages, Palmer, Phélan Ségur, and Giscours. At Palmer, Thomas Duroux was furiously moving through the vineyards, likely awaiting the upcoming harvest.
Finally, we made it to Péssac-Léognan and Sauternes. The harvest was in full swing at Haut-Brion, which had already harvested the white grapes and had just started with the young Merlot (destined for the second wine). Château Climens in Barsac was also harvesting the beautifully botrytized grapes. We also visited La Mission Haut-Brion, Pape Clément, Guiraud, and d’Yquem. The weather throughout was just amazing, with clear azure skies contrasting with the rolling green vineyards.
Our trip ended in the city of Bordeaux. Again we dined at Garopapilles, one of our favorite restaurants in the city. The chef here previously worked at Haut-Bailly, and the food here is consistently brilliant. We also briefly joined Jane Anson, the renowned author of numerous Bordeaux books, for a glass of wine at Le Bar à Vin. This was followed by a special dinner at Comtoir Cuisine, where good friends Hamish Wakes-Miller of Bella Wine Tours, Ronan Laborde, and Monique Bailly joined us. Ronan is the owner of Château Clinet, which produces some of the best wines in Pomerol. Ronan and Monique brought a bottle of 1960 Château Clinet to share with us, and what a special bottle this was.
All in all, this was a whirlwind of a trip, but what a trip it was. We covered a lot of ground, but there is so much more to cover. Until next time…
Pomerol and Saint-Émilion Tasting at Wine Watch in Ft. Lauderdale 10-21-2015
This 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.
1975 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
1988 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
1989 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
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
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
1998 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
At 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.
10-10-2015 A horizontal tasting of 1970 Bordeaux at Wine By the Bay, Miami1970 has been considered by many to be the best vintage of the ‘70s. However, this is a dubious distinction, as the decade was marred by poor quality vintages. Despite that, there were some great successes in 1970, with many in Pomerol (Pétrus, Trotanoy, and La Conseillante, for example). As of 2015, the vast majority of wines have reached maturity, or have already faded. Still, it is always nice to check in on a classic Bordeaux vintage to see how everything is drinking. This tasting included only wines from the Médoc and Pessac-Léognan, but there were some impressive representatives. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that wines this old can vary considerably due to storage conditions. Certainly, in this tasting there were variances in fill levels (all noted in the tasting notes) that seemed to have quite an impact on the tasting experiences. How else can you explain the Prieuré-Lichine outperforming the Léoville Las Cases?
Château Prieuré-Lichine, the surprise wine of the night, as expectations weren’t terribly high. Base neck fill. Brick red color. Nose of cassis, raisin, fig, leather, and mint. Smooth mouthfeel. High acidity, fresh finish. Finish a bit short. Nearing end of life but still kicking. This bottle was obviously well-stored and was enjoyable. Absolutely drink now if you have this in your cellar. – 90pts
Château Pichon Lalande, top shoulder fill. Medium ruby color, lightened edges. Still nicely concentrated. Nose of red and dark fruits, barnyard, leather, and a hint of cheesiness and truffle. Lively on the palate and surprisingly tannic. Impressive long finish (the strength here). Overall very good. – 92pts
Château Lafite-Rothschild, very high shoulder. Really light color, almost Burgundian. An elegant delicate nose of red cherry, floral (fresh violets), asparagus, and brown spices. Very strangely, there was an unmistakable muscadine grape scent, which provided some sweetness to the nose. Soft mouthfeel, nicely balanced. Tannins essentially resolved. Medium-plus acid. Freshness on the finish. An incredibly unique Bordeaux wine. Would like to try this again, as it was hard to make sense of this. What I can say is that this was enjoyable, and one of the better wines of the evening. – 93pts
Château Haut-Brion, dark color, surprising for a 1970. An interesting nose. A little funk that blew off. Dried fig, prune, smoky earth, licorice, and eucalyptus. Big on the palate. Tannins still a bit firm. Acidity nicely balanced. Powerful. Young. Can probably hold for a bit longer, but the fruit is certainly fading. – 92pts
Château Léoville Las Cases, high shoulder fill. Medium ruby. Very earthy nose, a bit tired. Walks the line between dried and cooked fruits…fig, prune, bacon, old library book. Better on the palate. Somewhat powerful. Seems a little clunky. Acidic on the finish. Drink up. A disappointment. – 88 pts