Bordeaux Trip Overview – September 2015

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. 1-chateau-haut-brion-harvesting-grapes

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. 

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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.3-chateau-la-conseillante-wine-glass-vineyard

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.

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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.

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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. 6-chateau-clinet-1960

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… 

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www.DrinkBordeauxWine.com

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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.

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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

Palmer_Menu

Chateau Palmer 2009

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Tasting Note:

Dark purple, inky in color. An intoxicating perfumed nose of blackberry, blueberry, violet, dark chocolate, truffle, and tobacco. Full-bodied and concentrated. The palate was silky smooth, velvety and dense. Firm tannins, with a long finish. While this is a very young wine nowhere near its drinking window, it is immensely enjoyable now. Huge potential here.


About Chateau Palmer:

Considered a “Super Second” by many, this third grown wine (from the 1855 Classification) consistently produces outstanding wines that rival First Growth standards. This wine from the Margaux appellation on the left bank of Bordeaux, is unique in that it often uses a majority of Merlot in its wines.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. Chateau Palmer gets its name from an Englishman, General Charles Palmer, who purchased the property in 1814. He eventually sold the property in the 1840s due to economic difficulties.
  2. Since 2004, Chateau Palmer has been managed by famed winemaker Thomas Duroux.
  3. The famous chateau was built by the Pereire family in 1856 due to a rivalry with the Rothschild family.

Blend:

52% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot

Aging Potential: 2015-2050+