Château Gruaud Larose – 1986

GL 1986This is at its peak, or just coming off of its peak. Dark ruby color with some lightening of the edges. A mature, earthy nose with cassis, leather, old library book, mint, and forest floor. Full-bodied with great concentration. Some sweetness on the attack. A finish of great length and complexity. Firm tannins. The fruit/acid balance is perhaps favoring the acidity a bit. I would drink these over the next few years, as I think this may start to slowly decline. It’s certainly drinking in a great spot right now. A deep, intense, and powerfully aromatic Gruaud Larose. -94pts Dec 2015

GL 1986Questionable storage with this 1986  from Saint Julien. Started out a bit awkward, but after 15 minutes, noted leather, old library book, bacon, red fruit, and hint of eucalyptus. Still a bit tannic with notable acidity. After 30 minutes or so, the nose took on a bit of an off-putting swampy character. A very strange bottle indeed. Will try this again soon! Oct. 2015

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 Talbot – 1981

1981 Talbot1981 Château Talbot from #StJulien. You would never know this is from such a weak vintage. This is still very enjoyable and has put on age nicely. Light ruby color, with amber brown at the edges. Black currant, cedar, old library book, tobacco, and a hint of leather – a beautifully musty nose. There is still some vitality on the palate, but there is average complexity and depth. Surprisingly the tannins are still a bit drying, but nothing overbearing. Bright acidity, bordering on the high side. This is certainly past its peak but is drinking quite well. It also seemed to get better after 2 hours of air. This could go south fairly quickly, so I would drink these in the next year or two – 92pts Mar 2016

Château Gruaud Larose – 1989

1989-gruad-laroseFrom one of the best values of the 2nd growths, this ’89 has matured nicely. Medium ruby with lightening of edges. Decanted for 4 hours. A dense array of aromatics, with cherry > blackcurrant, leather, musk, licorice, and sous bois. The tertiary notes are starting to outshine the fruit a bit. Good balance and smooth on the palate. Tannins silky smooth. Medium length finish. Acidity seems a bit high on the finish. This is still drinking well, but it appears to be coming off its peak. Still, there’s at least a few years left of good drinking. 92pts –  Sept. 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.

Chateau Lagrange 1996

FullSizeRenderTasting Note:

Nice ruby color with some lightening at the edges. Nose was initially with strong animal and meaty notes, but this softened up after an hour. Nose exhibited blackcurrant, wet earth, cedar, cinnamon, and leather. Medium bodied. Round tannins, well-integrated. Medium finish. Firm structure should make this drink well for several more years.


About Chateau Lagrange:

Chateau Lagrange is a third growth located on the highest point in Saint Julien. It is one of the largest plots in Bordeaux with approximately 157 hectares.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. Michel Delon (of Leoville Las Cases) helped Suntory, a beverage corporation in Japan, acquire the chateau in 1983.
  2. Prior to the Suntory acquisition, some plots had been sold to both Chateau Gloria and Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou.
  3. The director was Marcel Ducasse from 1993 to 2007 (who expanded vineyard from 48 planted hectares to 138).

Blend: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot

Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2003

IMG_3895Tasting Note:

Dark ruby red and concentrated, with minimal lightening of the edges. Benefited from 2 hour decant. Open nose of dark fruit, blueberries, a little leather, damp earth, and dark chocolate. Full-bodied, rich, mouth-filling and silky. Ripe tannins. Long 60 second finish. Should continue to drink well and improve for 10+ years


About Chateau Leoville Poyferre:

Chateau Leoville Poyferre was once part of the massive Leoville estate, present in the 17th and 18th centuries. This Second Growth Chateau in St. Julien has been consistently producing top quality wines, especially since 2000. The vineyards are 80 hectares and the terroir is mostly gravel with some limestone.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. The Poyferre family owned the estate for a very short time, but it happened to be during the 1855 classification.
  2. The Cuvelier family has owned the estate since 1920, with Didier Cuvelier running the estate since 1979.
  3. Leoville Poyferre shares a building (and entrance) with Leoville Las Cases. For marketing purposes, they designed an imaginary chateau for the label that is now the current logo. In 2014, they built a new facility across the street that resembles the logo seen on their label.

Blend: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Aging Potential: 2030

Ducru-Beaucaillou 2005

FullSizeRender

Tasting Note:

Impressive complexity and concentration. Let this decant for 3 hours, tasting it along the way. Dark purple color. The nose exhibited bold and ripe dark and blue fruit and secondary aromas of truffle, forest floor, violet, and wood spice. The oak is in no way overbearing. The palate is silky smooth with an impressive mid-palate. Finish is medium-plus. The structure is sound, with round tannins and a nice balanced acidity. This wine is just getting started, but is very enjoyable right now. Glad to have more of this.


About Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou:

Ducru-Beaucaillou is an acclaimed Second Growth Chateau in the St. Julien appellation of Bordeaux. It has been managed by Bruno Borie since 2003.

Three Interesting Facts:

  1. The Ducru vineyards were once part of Beychevelle, until it was broken up in the 17th century due to considerable debts.
  2. The name ‘Ducru’ comes from Bertrand Ducru, who purchased the estate in 1795. ‘Beaucaillou’ literally means ‘beautiful pebbles’, referring to the large stones found on the property.
  3. In the 18th century, the estate was known as ‘Maucaillou’, meaning ‘bad pebbles’, a reference to the difficult, stony ground and perhaps the poor quality of the wine.

Blend: 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot

Aging Potential: 2018-2050