A Château Montrose Evening with Hervé Berland

If there is one Bordeaux property that deserves its ‘Super Second’ status, it is Château Montrose. This renowned estate, located in the Saint-Estèphe appellation, consistently produces some of the Bordeaux’s best wines every year. It is also one of only a handful of producers in Bordeaux to earn 100 points from Robert Parker in both 2009 and 2010.  But the excellence of Montrose goes well beyond these two vintages, which is tied to its prime terroir and vast history. With this in mind, we were very pleased to attend a dinner and tasting with Hervé Berland, the Managing Director of Château Montrose, held at Michael Mina’s Stripsteak restaurant in Miami. The dinner included wines from Château Monrose, Dame de Montrose, and Château Tronquoy-Lalande (also owned by the Martin Bouygues of Montrose). The event was sponsored by Best Wine Co., a negoçiant firm that specializes in high-end Bordeaux wines.

chateau-montrose-dinner-2Mr. Berland started the evening by offering a few words about Montrose, its terroir and its history. He discussed his role as Managing Director, and why he came to Montrose in 2011. Prior to Montrose, he was the Managing Director at Château Mouton Rothschild for many years. He has certainly approached his new role with both passion and dedication. Among the topics discussed were the prime location of the gravelly terroir, atop the hill overlooking the Gironde Estuary. Of course we discussed the wines of Montrose as well. He has quite a bit of enthusiasm for the most recent vintages, especially 2016. He described the near-perfect conditions during 2016, and is very optimistic about the wines to be produced. He drew comparisons to both 2005 and 2010, two exceptional vintages at Montrose.

img_1327We also discussed the massive renovations that were recently completed at Montrose. This included the creation of perhaps the most impressive barrel cellar in Bordeaux. Having recently visited Château Montrose, I can attest to the superb design and impressive facilities throughout the property. Mr. Berland told me that they are currently renovating their vat room, switching to smaller vats so that they can vinify individual parcels from the vineyard. As successful as Montrose has been in recent years, it is commendable that they continue such massive investments in their facilities. It is this type of dedication that leads to the fantastic wines that are produced in Bordeaux today.

chateau-montrose-bottles-2Paired with dishes such as lamb chops and steak (of course), we enjoyed a number of excellent wines. First up was the 2013 Château Tronquoy-Lalande blanc, which was quite impressive. This was very popular among the attendees, and is an extremely smooth wine. We then tried the 2012 Château Tronquoy-Lalande rouge, which is a nice red Bordeaux wine for early drinking. We moved on to the 2011 Château Montrose, which showed a step-up in complexity. Having tasted a number of 2011 Bordeaux wines over the past two years, it is apparent that these wines are started to soften and become approachable. This 2011 Montrose is definitely approachable now, but will need several years to show its true potential. Mr. Berland noted that this vintage is often overlooked, due to the stellar 2009 and 2010 vintages, but that it deserves far more attention. Next we tasted the 2012 Dame de Montrose, the second wine of Château Montrose. Being more Merlot-based, this wine was soft, fruity, and quite charming. These are known as some of the best second wines in Bordeaux, and for good reason.

chateau-montrose-botles-1We then tasted the highly acclaimed 2005 Château Montrose, which I felt was the most impressive wine of the evening. Despite its obvious complexity, it is only starting to show its potential. This is a wine that will drink well for decades. We finished the evening with the 1998 and 1986 Château Montrose. The 1998 was enjoyable, but lacked some of the concentration and complexity of the 2005; however, it is ready for business, and has shown improvement since I last tasted this almost two years ago. The 1986 vintage, provided by one of the attendees of the dinner, possessed the charming aromas and flavors found in aged Bordeaux wines. But it is obvious that the 1986 vintage does not possess the sheer beauty and poise of the 1989 and 1990 vintages that soon followed it.

chateau-montrose-herve-berlandThis fantastic evening perfectly demonstrated the consistent excellence of Château Montrose. The dedication and passion of Mr. Berland should help to maintain the excellence at Montrose, and perhaps propel it to even greater heights. Perhaps this will become apparent with the most recent 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages. But as the wines of Château Montrose are known to be some of the longest lived in Bordeaux, tasting these excellent wines in their youth provides only a glimpse of what these wines will eventually become. One thing is for certain; the investments and leadership at Montrose should help them to maintain their ‘Super Second’ status for the years to come.

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Bordeaux Trip Overview – May/June 2016

dIssan 3When we started planning this most recent trip back to Bordeaux, we never envisioned how enriching it would be. But by trip’s end, we had connected with old friends, made new ones, and left with a broadened perspective of Bordeaux. We visited during the 2015 futures campaign, which obviously permeated throughout the visit. It was clear that the winemakers and proprietors in Bordeaux are very pleased with the 2015 wines overall. We tasted many of these, and we can now see why.

L1020495b IGFirst, the 2015 vintage itself…the general consensus is that the 2015 prices have been as expected, and fair. The average increase of 25% over the 2014 wines was expected due to the rise in quality in the wines. The wines we tasted were rich, structured, and with fresh, ripe fruit; this was across the board. Some of them certainly stood out among the others. But it’s safe to say that people are buying 2015 Bordeaux. Ludovic Fradin of Smith Haut Lafitte told us they sold out in two hours; but what’s most surprising is that the U.S. was their biggest buyer. Perhaps things are changing in Bordeaux…

Cos dEstournel 2.JPGWe visited a number of great estates on both the left and right banks. A visit to Cos d’Estournel finished with a lovely lunch at the estate. We had a great visit and tasting with Bruno Rolland, the third generation Cellar Master at Léoville Las Cases, where we tasted wines from the entire Delon range, from Nenin to Clos du Marquis to Léoville Las Cases.

Lafon Rochet 1.jpgA visit with dynamic Technical Director Lucas Leclercq at Lafon Rochet was also quite educational and enriching. It was great to check out their beautiful new vat room, with concrete and steel vats that had been installed only eight days before the 2015 harvest. On the left bank, there were other great visits to Lagrange, Dauzac, Brane-Cantenac, d’Issan, and du Tertre. While in the Médoc, we stayed at Château du Tertre, which we would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone planning a visit to the Médoc. A private tour there was highlighted with a tasting their unique 2015 blanc, composed of Chardonnay, Gros Manseng, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Tertre Roteboeuf 1As busy as we were on the left bank, we were even busier on the right bank. Again we stayed at Logis de la Cadène, one of our favorite places to stay (and eat!) in and around Bordeaux. The dining in Saint-Émilion was superb, as always; you simply can’t go wrong with places like Le Tertre, Logis de la Cadène, and Les Belles Perdrix. One highlight was our morning spent with François Mitjavile at Tertre Rôteboeuf. His passion and philosophies about wine are inspiring. In his cellar, we tasted with 1989 Tertre Rôteboeuf, as well as the more recent 2014 and 2015 vintages. Les Belles Perdrix group.jpg

After proprietor Jean-Bernard Grenié joined us for lunch at Les Belles Perdrix, he guided us on a private tour of Château Angélus. We also had a great visit with Comte Stéphan von Neipperg at Canon-la-Gaffelière, where we discussed organic sustainability.

On this trip, we had some very memorable dinners. One of our best gastronomic experiences was at Logis de la Cadène, with Ronan Laborde and Monique Bailly of Château Clinet. Among the wines of the night were the 1985 Château Le Gay and 1990 Château Gazin. Prior to the dinner, we toured the new and very impressive Ronan by Clinet facilities.Logis de la Cadene 2.jpg And after touring the new facilities at Château Mauvesin Barton, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with the Barton family and some of their fantastic wines. And before departing Bordeaux, we had a final dinner with Fred Vicaire of Château Coufran, Basile Tesseron of Château Lafon Rochet, and Ferdinand Mähler-Besse of Sobovi.

Branaire Ducru 2There were a number of highlights on this particular trip, but the crescendo occurred following the Union des Grands Crus tasting. First, we attended a lovely dinner at the beautiful Château Branaire-Ducru in Saint-Julien. Proprietor Patrick Maroteaux is the vice-president of the UGCB, and certainly hosted a dinner to remember. Following a tour of the property with son François-Xavier, we were treated to an excellent French meal and even better wines. Smith Haut Lafitte, Canon, Rauzan-Ségla, and La Tour Blanche were all there to share some of their wines as well. But the highlight was the Imperial (6 liter) bottle of 1995 Branaire-Ducru.

Branaire Ducru 1On the morning after the dinner, we were treated to a tasting at Branaire-Ducru that included the 2009 to 2015 vertical. It was quite enlightening to note the evolution and differences among the wines. It was also easy to see why M. Maroteaux prefers the 2010 vintage to all others. Following this, we were then treated to a lovely lunch at the estate. And to celebrate Allison’s upcoming birthday, they even opened a bottle of 1983 Branaire-Ducru and served a ‘cake’ of cannelés!

St EmilionSo it’s one more visit to Bordeaux in the books! This was a truly special trip, where there was never a dull moment. It was another reminder that while the region may be known for its wines, but it’s really the people who are the soul of Bordeaux. Look out for upcoming blog posts, where we will add a bit more detail to all of our adventures. We look forward to a return trip in the near future. but until then, we will continue to Drink Bordeaux!

 

Château Cos d’Estournel – Wine Tasting Event

12-3-2015 Château Cos d’Estournel tasting at Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, West Palm Beach, Florida

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It is always special to attend a tasting of one of the world’s greatest wine producers, whether young or old. So of course we were excited to attend a Cos d’Estournel tasting that included three vintages of the grand vin, with a few other wines from the Cos stable. The tasting was directed by Etienne de Nantes, a representative from Cos d’Estournel, who gave a nice presentation of the château’s history and its wines. Having recently tasted the 2005 Cos d’Estournel, it was great to taste this great vintage once again. The surprise of the night was the 2004, which should turn into a very nice wine. Each tasting of a wine from 2004 confirms that this vintage may turn out quite well. And while many Bordeaux from the 2004 vintage are quite accessible now, it seems the 2004 Cos needs a bit more time. It is well-structured though, and could turn into a wine with impressive longevity. Essentially every wine tasted seemed to need more time in bottle, but they all could still be enjoyed now with a proper decant. One thing is for sure; Cos d’Estournel is producing some impressive wines, even in so-called ‘off-vintages.’ It was a good night indeed.


IMG_67332012 Goulée

Lots of dark fruits, blackberry, coffee, and oak spice. Full-bodied, with somewhat rough tannins. Excellent length to the finish, but some bitterness and high acidity. This is a bit austere and not ready for drinking yet. Give it some time to smooth out its rough edges.

2011 Les Pagodes des Cos

A fresh nose of plum, blackberry, chocolate, licorice, and earth. Lush and lighter in weight than the Goulée. The Merlot character really shows through. Very soft tannins, but a bit short on the finish. This is a wine with some approachability, but still needs years in the bottle.

2002 Château Cos d’Estournel

Dark, concentrated, and youthful. Red and dark fruits, pepper, and licorice. Lots of spiciness. Oak still hasn’t integrated at this stage. Firm tannins. Lacks a bit in the mid-palate. A smooth, elegant finish. A strong showing from 2002, and still young for the vintage. I was surprised by the ripeness and purity of fruit with this wine. Give it time.


 

IMG_67372004 Château Cos d’Estournel

Still quite young but showing nice balance. Good ripeness of the plum and red fruits. More dense than the 2002, but the nose is more subdued than the 2005. Lots of tannins still to be resolved. Overall, I really enjoyed the style with this wine and its balance. While you can drink this now, I would still wait a few years before opening.

2005 Château Cos d’Estournel

Quite an intense nose, with lots of spiciness. Also showing mocha, ultra-ripe fruit, and floral notes. This is a powerful wine that really leaves a mark on your palate. Still very tannic. Long finish. It’s easy to sense the serious potential with this wine, but this wine is nowhere near ready. Will certainly give much more pleasure in the future. Wait 5-10 years on this.

2012 Château Cos d’Estournel Blanc

Really floral and nutty. Stone fruits and citrus on the nose as well. Really smooth, with few hard edges. Very good freshness on the finish.

Château Cos d’Estournel – 1990

1990 cos d'estournelLived up to its pedigree. ~30 minutes of air opened up the nose nicely. Also had a slight acidic edge initially that resolved. Really dark fruits, smoke, tobacco, spice, and licorice. Silky on the palate, with medium weight. A finish that lingered on and on. Acidity a bit forward. Still has tannins to resolve. Likely at or near its peak, but likely has considerable time left. No reason not to drink this now if you have it. – 95pts Nov 2015

St. Julien VS St. Estephe Tasting Comparison (1959 to 2000)

08-14-2015 St. Julien VS St. Estephe Tasting at Wine Watch, Ft. Lauderdale.

One of the great things about the wines of Bordeaux is their many diverse styles, even among close neighbors. Much of this diversity is not just due to differences in winemaking styles, but also the variations in terroir. It is pretty amazing to think that soil differences, slope elevation, or the relative proximity to the Gironde estuary can really create subtle differences among the wines. For this reason, we were intrigued to participate in a tasting that compared selected wines from two appellations of the Haut-Médoc, St. Julien and St. Estèphe. Within both appellations are some of the great wines of Bordeaux, many of which were showcased in the tasting, held at the Wine Watch Boutique in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And just to make it more fun and interesting, we decided to turn the tasting into a battle of sorts, with each appellation pitted against the other.


IMG_97631959 Château Montrose vs. Ducru-Beaucaillou…St. Julien vs. St. Estephe round 1. Starting with the Ducru, some thought there might be some TCA taint, but I didn’t detect any at all. Instead there was some brett (but not powerful) and lots of dusty aromas. Funky, medicinal, dried herbs, dusty old library books, but dark fruits struggling to stay alive. Amber-brown with still good concentration. Completely resolved tannins. We both liked it, but if even a hint of brett turns you off, don’t attempt this ’59 Ducru. The ’59 Montrose was still powerful and not at all austere (as some like to pigeonhole St. Estèphe). Nice garnet color and fragrant aromatics, with cassis, soy, leather, soil, and spice. Drinking quite well for a ’59, with a smoothness and beautifully balancing acidity. Impressive concentration and length on the finish. There is still lots of life left here. So the winner goes to St. Estèphe in round 1.


IMG_53441966 Château Talbot vs. 1975 Château Montrose…St. Julien vs. St. Estèphe round 2. It was interesting trying the ’66 Talbot a week after trying the ’64. The ’66 beats it in complexity and current drinkability. Dark and red fruits, truffled toast, leather, and old library book. Has a bright acidity, but the flaw in this wine is that it was a bit tart on the finish. Still an enjoyable mature claret that is probably on its final descent. The ’75 Montrose, on the other hand, did not impress much and lagged big-time behind the ’59. Cassis, leather, and green pepper. Still fairly tannic with high acidity. An austere wine that is not particularly anything to write home about. Round 2 goes to St. Julien.


IMG_53451982 Château Cos d’Estournel vs. Château Gruaud Larose…St. Julien vs. St. Estèphe round 3. The biggest smack-down of the evening. The room was divided on which was the ‘better’ wine. Starting with the Cos, this is more evolved aromatically than the Gruaud. Dark and red fruits, roasted meat, leather, brown spices, clove, damp soil, and green pepper. The aromatic complexity was matched on the palate. Impressive length on the finish with very silky tannins. Something tells me this won’t improve, but it’s currently at the top of its game. The Gruaud Larose (our WOTN) was simply awesome. Dark, concentrated and appearing young at times. Cassis, leathery, licorice, and spice. Mouth-filling, with silky but fairly prominent tannins. Impeccable balance. A stunner. St. Julien wins by a nose in round 3.


IMG_53461985 Château Gruaud Larose vs. 1989 Château Léoville Barton…both St. Julien, but round 4. ’85 Gruaud Larose had a great nose, one of the best of the flight (as long as a little brett doesn’t bother you). Cassis, hint of brett, olive, black tea, tobacco, anise, and green pepper. Not quite as impressive on the palate but a nice mature claret. In its drinking window. The ’89 Léoville Barton, while not as powerful as many other vintages of Barton, had a nose probably the equal of the Gruaud Larose (but younger with fewer tertiary elements). Dark fruits, blackberry, strong licorice, truffle, and mocha. Smooth drinking, and probably not yet at its peak. How much can it improve? We’ll see. The Léoville Barton probably wins by a nose.


IMG_53472000 Château Léoville Barton vs. Château Calon Ségur…St. Julien vs. St Estèphe round 5. Can two wines be any different? First of all, the Calon Segur was a 375ml, so it’s hard to really compare these two from an evolution standpoint. The 2000 Léoville Barton was similar to other recently tasted bottled…very young, lots of power and concentration, tannic, serious structure. The Calon Ségur was also very dark, with impressive concentration. Dark/red fruits, tobacco, sweet background oak (think butterscotch), and cocoa. Lush and well-balanced. Hard to call a winner here…but probably Barton due to its potential.


In the end, both appellations fared well and were pretty evenly matched. But this was all in good fun, and wine isn’t really about competitions; it’s about enjoyment and savoring every last sip. We would be happy to have any of these wines in our cellar…especially that 1982 Gruaud Larose.

Calon Segur 2004

Tasting Note:

Dark ruby red, with no bricking. Nice bouquet of dark plum, cherry, leather, tobacco, and earth. Good attack and mid-palate. Medium finish. Accessible and smooth, but would guess this should improve in about 5 years.

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About Chateau Calon Segur:

Just south of the town of St. Estephe, this is the most Northerly classed growth on the Left Bank. The vineyards lie on one of the lowest elevations of all classified growths, around 10 meters above sea level.This Third Growth Chateau, ages its wine for 18-20 months in new oak barrels.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. The heart on the label refers to the fact that the owner in the 18th century felt his heart belonged with this chateau, as he also owned Lafite and Latour.
  2. The word ‘Calon’ comes from a translation of a boat used to ferry timber across the Gironde estuary during the Middle Ages. ‘Segur’ comes from a previous owner, the famous Marquis de Segur (Nicolas Alexandre).
  3. The winemaking facilities are undergoing a renovation that is scheduled for completion in 2016. It is anticipated to cost 20 million Euros.

Blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot

Aging Potential: 2022