Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wine Spectator's
Critic's Choice Grand Tasting 2011
"30th Anniversary"
Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York
October 21, 2011

When the New York Wine Experience arrives each fall season, I try to go to the Grand Tasting event as it brings together some of the best names in wine from all over the world.  The price of the ticket is steep, but for the high quality of wine you have access to taste the experience is bar none for a consumer.  Trade shows happen all the time for the pros where they can taste many wines, but nothing like this at one event.

Under one roof one can taste all of the Bordeaux First Growths, the major Super Tuscans, the best Sauternes, many a cult level Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, many of the top Rioja from Spain, Barolo and Barbaresco from Italy, Chianti from Tuscany, some of the best Pinot Noir from all over the world, Riesling from Germany, as well as many, many other stellar wines from Argentina, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.  In the 2.5 hours one person cannot get to all of the wines so a "careful study the day prior to map out a strategy is necessary.  A little discipline is needed to not 'go back to the well" too many times - I was guilty of this at Chateau Latour's 2003 second wine Les Forts de Latour this time around and Paul Hobbs' 2004 Dr. Crane Cabernet.  You may even want to practice spitting a few days before, maybe at home in a big sink or in the shower.  If you don't spit you won’t make it past 20 wines and still be able to know what you are tasting.  If the person pouring the wine is generous don't feel like you have to drink it all, have a good taste or 2 and dump it in the spit bucket - it is there for just that purpose.  All professionals spit at trade tastings, in fact when you visit many places in France the Domaine or Chateau expect you to spit the sample you are poured. 
I made it through quite a few wines with a break or two to catch my palate and my breath.  The tables are spread out over 2 floors in the Marriott Marquis ballroom in the middle of Time Square in New York.  I was able to crack 60+ wines, much lower than what I have done in the past but I wanted to talk to some of the people this time around, mostly my favorites like Jen and Paul at Paul Hobbs, the team at Latour, Vieux Chateau Certan and and new discoveries like Evening land Vineyards and Masi.  If I could attend the two nights and the all of the weekend events it would be a dream, but two nights of the grand tasting would be quite exceptional as well.  In all honesty I think the tasting should be longer, which would allow people to get the chance to talk to the person pouring the wine more and of course taste through more wines.  Usually the person pouring is the owner of the Chateau or winery you are actually drinking.  Sometimes it’s not but either way they know the wines well and can talk to you about how your favorite producer is or more about a new discovery.

My top ten wines from the Grand Tasting are as follows:

1)   Masseto 2001 (from Tenuta dell'Ornellaia)
      Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

2)   Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2006
       Pauillac, Bordeaux, France 

3)   Paul Hobbs 2008 Dr. Crane Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon
       St. Helena, Napa Valley 

4)   Chateau Latour, 2003 Les Forts De Latour
       Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

5)   Chateau Climens 2007 Sauternes
       Barsac, Bordeaux, France

6)   Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 2008
       St. Julien, Bordeaux, France

7)   Chateau Montrose 2004
       St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France

8)   Chateau Cheval Blanc 2005
       St. Emilion, Bordeaux, France

9)   Ornellaia 2001, (from Tenuta dell'Ornellaia)
       Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

10) Evening Land Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay
       Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon

           Here is a view into why these wines were my top ten and how they made an impression on me to think so.  Its deep in Bordeaux, but that was what I had aimed to taste.  I am sure Vega Sicilia, Gaja, Saxum, and Salon could have made the list but there was only so much time.  I have had those wines at previous tastings or at home recently so I saw it fit to try more wines that I have not had recently.

            The 2001 Masseto was an eye opener.  I knew this was a top wine when I approached the table to taste the wine, but had no clue as to the fact is was 100% Merlot, rated 100 points, and retails for north of $1,000.  I found out these details the next morning.  A fellow taster mentioned $400-600 and I was blown away then!  Does this make it great, no, certainly not, but it was a fantastic wine showing depth, purity and length in perfect proportion and detail.  I do not have enough experience with Super Tuscan wines to rate it properly but I would say it easily is 96+.  My friends this is no ordinary Super Tuscan.  My first impression from the aromas was that it was more like a mature Bordeaux than a wine from Bolgheri on the Tuscan coast.  

           The 2006 Chateau Mouton Rothschild defines Pauillac.  A deep sense of terroir shines through in layers as this wine mesmerizes the senses.  A heady, and typical Mouton aroma leads the taster into a deep palate of black currants, licorice, and cassis that floats the taster back to the nose and then back to another sip.  In time this will be a superb example of Mouton.  One may not have tasted but more sensed the greatness of this wine on this night.  It was my favorite of the Bordeaux on the night, just eclipsing the Les Forts De Latour.  The Mouton is still a baby, it is young, tight and aggressive and needs many, many more years to show its proper potential.   2006 was not so bad a vintage, the problem is that it came right after the exceptional 2005 vintage.  I tended to buy in 2006, but in limited quantities on futures.  I tend to look back now and buy 2006 in bottle and am pretty pleased with what I have had so far.

           The Paul Hobbs 2008 Dr. Crane Cabernet Sauvignon was a luxuriously deep and complex wine.  I had to go through it 3 times, but it really needs more time to open up properly.  Waves of black and red fruits, dark chocolate, and licorice wafted from the wine and converged on the palate.  Sweet and ripe tannins framed the finish that sailed on forever echoing the currants and cassis.  A deep garnet color with vibrant red edges from the wine’s youth tells me this baby is ready for the long haul.  I have had a few 2001 of late, the Hyde Cabernet in particular and the wine was in perfect shape.  Paul has a magic touch with many grapes, but Cabernet is where he has the Midas touch.   

          I have to say I was a little disappointed that Chateau Latour was not being poured.  Only their second wine was being poured instead.  However, I am happy to write that the 2003 Les Forts De Latour was drinking superbly this evening.  Overall I do not love the 2003 vintage in Bordeaux.  It was hot, the vines were over stressed and many Chateau did not have the proper terroir or experience to know how to get through such a hot year.  The Les Forts De Latour is ripe but well balanced as the ripe tannins are big and pair well with the ripe fruit and good levels of acidity. All three of those lead to a long finish of fruit, tannin and freshness.  This was the second best Bordeaux of the night for me in that it was complete, and fully expressive.  Even at this young an age, it was utterly delicious, sumptuous even.  It had length, a wonderfully captivating aroma and a beautiful robe of deep red and garnet flecked colors.  It was as if Frederic Engerer knew that this would be a good choice for this occasion.  Whatever the logic, it was a pretty good one, albeit Chateau Latour would have been nicer.

          The 2007 Chateau Climens was the best sticky on the night, even better than the venerable 2008 Chateau d'Yquem which leaned more to the exotic side as my second favorite Sauternes wine of the night.  Pure aromatics of citrus, petrol, minerality, honey and stone fruit rose from the glass and coated the palate in a rich, yet lively feel, racy even for the Climens.    

           I have yet to receive my shipment of 2008 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou futures, but this top wine of the night brought me great satisfaction in the depth and complexity found in this wine.  A nose of currants, spicy plum, cedar, and toasted coffee bean lead through to the palate which was full bodied, yet silky with plenty of fruit and depth through the palate expression.  Terroir rings with minerality that leads to a long finish of fruit, fine but sturdy tannins and a wealth if fresh acidity.  

           The 2004 Chateau Montrose blew me away.  I am rarely impressed by any 2004 Bordeaux, but this wine was in great form this evening.  Showing true to form with roasted and toasty notes of coffee, currants, blackberry, an earthy fall leaves note, as well as some saddle leather aromas.  The palate was round, delivering from the attack on down to the finish which delivered a stoic and tannic finish typical of young St. Estephe wines.   The beauty here was the fruit and other notes that accompanied that structure.  This wine should age nicely over the next 20 years.  At about $60 it will probably also be the last time you see a Montrose for anything close to that price as the new vintages are running close to $200 or more.

           2005 Chateau Cheval Blanc is a legend in the making.  The 2005 Cheval is way too young to drink and enjoy at its finest, but is quite a generous offering from the Lurton clan that runs thus legendary property.  This was a nice peak at how a young wine of such pedigree is in its youth, way before I would ever open to see just how it tastes at this stage.  Super tight in nose and flavor the 2005 Cheval had firm but ripe tannins, silky, even lush fruit peaks through that wall of youthful structure.  This will be an amazing wine in 10 years, but even better in probably 20-25.  

           2001 Ornellaia was rich, yet refined, structured yet seductively inviting.  The wine was at once ripe, deep, and dark and at the same time structured, noble and classy in that it could strut well in its youth but also show the structure and concentration to know this will age gracefully.  A super Tuscan of the higher order, this is the cousin to the Masseto that was my number one wine of the night.  Lisa and I had a bottle of this in Florence on our first night with a traditional bistecca alla Fiorentina, I believe it was a 1997 and was exquisite.  

           Evening Land Vineyards was pouring 2 wines, a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay.  ELV is a unique producer of Burgundy wines from a few places in the world:  Burgundy, Oregon and California.  Mark Tarlov is the owner and was pouring his wines that night.  We talked about the difference they are trying to make in the style of wine they are crafting in California and Oregon.  Mark and his winemaking team have chosen cooler sites such as the Sonoma Coast and the Willamette Valley to showcase the subtlety  that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can have outside of Burgundy and at the same time maintain acidity and balance.  Both wines were new world in flavor, but had exceptional freshness on the finish because of the acidity maintained in the wines.  Red fruits instead of black came from the pinot and citrus, pear, and a slate like minerality rose from the Chardonnay.  I had actually walked down about four table and the acidity in the Chardonnay came into full force.  I had to walk back and tell Mark exactly that and that his wines were superb.
           Many, many other wines were exceptional.  In fact they call it the Critic’s Choice as each wine was rated at least 90 points out of the 100 point scale that Wine Spectator uses to rate the wines they taste.  If you ever wanted to try some of the best wines in the world in one place this is it.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chateau Brane-Cantenac Vertical Tasting

    A few weeks ago Chris Riccobono, from the video blog Pardon That Vine, invited me to taste a select vertical of vintages of the renowned Bordeaux Chateau Brane-Cantenac. Brane-Cantenac is located in the Margaux commune in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. In wine circles, the wines from Margaux are known to be more feminine in style when compared to other communes in the Medoc such as Pauillac and St. Estephe that are typically more tannic and can sometimes express more power than grace. Typical of Margaux are seductive perfumes and silky textures on the palate that help reinforce its reputation as an elegant, yet compelling style of wine.  Cabernet Sauvignon typically dominates the melange (blend) of grapes in Margaux but it also tends to have the highest proportion of Merlot in its blends when compared to other Medoc communes.

     The vintages we tasted were all young: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The much heralded 2009 and the yet to be released 2010 are barrel samples that were flown in direct to New York City from Bordeaux by Corinne Saussier Conroy. Corrine is the Director of Marketing and Communications at ‘Brane’ and led us through an informative introduction to Chateau Brane-Cantenac. I really enjoy talking to people who work in the wine biz, we chatted before and after the formal parts of the tasting and I enjoyed our conversations about vintages, futures prices, travel and everything else wine.

     We talked through each vintage, discussing what we liked and how some aromas and flavors were different because of the vintage conditions. It was also nice to see the terroir as a common thread to each vintage, giving Brane a wonderful typicity. The barrel samples were a real treat as it is quite rare to taste a Bordeaux barrel sample outside of Bordeaux, let alone in New York City.

Here we go into the tasting notes:

The most mature in color, slightly brick at the edges and the least vibrant in color. Aromas of mint/eucalyptus, licorice, blackberry, spice, a little dill and herb add a little extra nuance. The aromas flow into the flavors and hit the palate gracefully for such a ripe vintage. I was expecting more weight but it was not there, in a good way.

The 2004 had more typical aromas of currant, plum, minerality, and spice mixed in with cooler vintage aromas and flavors of herbs matched with higher acidity. Supple and well balanced, this wine was elegant and a good representation of a cooler vintage Brane.

The best wine of the night for me, the ’05 was pretty tight but revealed hints of what is to come as this wine moves into maturity. Full on all levels, the fruit, tannins and acidity wove a deep palate expression of roasted coffee bean, black cherry, cassis, minerality, and spice. It changed and evolved in the glass through the tasting, showing the varied array of aromas and flavors. Great length on the finish. Superbly balanced and complex, a real winner!

A superb bargain, the 2008 offers up wonderful aromatics of a fruit perfume mixed with spice and a little toast. Loads of minerality and tobacco fight for the palate’s attention along with licorice whips and cherry. Silky and fine tannins pair well with bright acidity.

A blockbuster or a wine, the ’09 shows huge fruit on the nose and the mouth, with some noticeable heat from the higher alcohol. Tannins cover the palate, gums, and cheeks . Sweet tobacco, black fruits like plum and cherry. The tannins are pretty big, this is going to be a big wine on all levels. A long and silky finish! Not as noticeably acidic as the 2010 but I think that is ok and makes for an interesting counterpart to taste next to 2010.

When tasting such a young barrel sample you need to know what to expect. It’s not like tasting a finished wine, as you look for more primary flavors and textures in measuring balance on the palate. Since a nose is not as prevalent, you immediately go to the palate and you taste and feel the wine immediately. Massive tannins are the first thing I notice on this wine. Smoke, currants, and cassis reveal some pretty complete flavors that emerge through a forest of tannins and a sea of acidity. This is going to be a profound wine for the ages as it will take many years to mature. 2010 Brane is similar to 2005 in my opinion, but could be better. I’d be curious as to what the barrel sample for 2005 tasted like at this stage to compare to 2010.

Thank you to Corinne and Chris for organizing such an enlightening event. I feel like I know more about Brane, barrel tasting Bordeaux futures, and vintage variation. I look forward to tasting Brane from my collection over the coming years. I think on my next trip to Bordeaux I will have to make a stop at Brane to visit Corinne.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

2008 Bordeaux Wine Tasting
Union Des Grand Crus de Bordeaux
Great Wines of Bordeaux
USA Tour - New York City

Each year the UGC of Bordeaux tours the US to offer samples of the new vintage to the trade and consumers. The tasting represented most of the sub regions of Bordeaux with many classified and unclassified Chateau.  2008 was not an exceptional vintage, but a pretty good one.  Especially for the American palate that likes a little more fruit in their wine.  I like it better than 2002, 2004, 2006 and a notch better than 2001.  It is also the MOST affordable vintage in many years as prices in the US were released in the midst of the fallout from the 2008 economic meltdown.  

However this does not mean you can throw a dart and pick a good wine, you need to do a little homework.  By writing this I feel I have done a lot of the legwork for you the reader to choose confidently any of these wines, especially if you have experience with Bordeaux wines.

I list my 10 favorites first followed by the villages in group order.

Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Solid, the best wine for me at the 2008 UGC tasting in NYC as it was perfectly in balance and had all of the right components: beautiful aromas in the nose, wonderful flavors (though packed tightly b/c of youth), and stoic tannins that will allow this to age well for years, plus the right amount of acidity to keep things fresh.
Color: medium to dark red, crimson edges
Nose & palate: Coffee bean, licorice, blackberry and black cherry. The nose was a little tight, but still pretty generous. The tannins were so perfect for what you want at this stage, ripe and big but not too strong. Great texture and purity of flavor....very well done, I bought some the day after the tasting. (95 pts.)
90% Merlot
5% Cabernet Sauvignon
5% Cabernet Franc

St. Émilion Grand Cru
My second favorite wine of the night, exceptional balance and purity, everything was showing extremely well.
Color: dark red to lighter gradation at the edges
Nose & Palate: A superb perfume with a long and full nose. Juicy with structure, a beautiful fruit filled cornucopia of cherry, cassis, currants and plum, concentrated and pure, with great focus from the ripe tannin and fresh acidity. Long finish. (94 pts.)
50% Merlot
45% Cabernet Franc
  5% Cabernet Sauvignon

Libournais, Pomerol
I initially thought this started out slow but with a few minutes in the glass the wine's aromas and flavors grew and expanded nicely. Ripe cherry, plum, floral notes, and some toasty mocha all wrapped up in a superbly balanced wine that is nicely concentrated and finishes long and silky. (94 pts.)
85% Merlot
12% Cabernet Franc
  3% Cabernet Sauvignon

Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Good concentration and showing very well, deep black flavors of cassis, cherry, tar, toasty oak with big tannins, a touch of mint lingers on the finish. It may be big with fruit but the wine comes into balance with the tannins. (94 pts.)
48% Merlot
48% Cabernet Sauvignon
  3% Petit verdot
  1% Cabernet Franc

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Deep red and blue fruits, big but supple and silky tannins, currant and cherry wow the palate and help to provide a full aroma that also shows earth, sweet tobacco, a touch of mocha and a splash of spice. As usual super, silky and supple Angelus. (93 pts.) 
58% Merlot
42% Cabernet Franc

2008 Château Malescot St. Exupery
Médoc, Margaux
A very impressive effort here and tops in Margaux on this night. The nose was singing fresh roasted toasty coffee beans, lush currants and black cherry, flowers and a spicy streak. On the palate raspberries joined the currants and cherry, to fan out over the palate in a full bodied and silky display of pure Margaux. The acidity finishes this clean while the tannins add structure and what would seem a nice ability to age. (94 pts.) 

2008 Château Lascombes
Médoc, Margaux
The other top Margaux of the night, this was a solid wine with a wonderful perfume of currants, flowers, smoke, and earth. The palate was full and round, with a clean finish from nicely held acidity that buttresses the deep fruits and minerality. It was so fresh I had to go back for more! (93 pts.) 

Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Superb concentration and length, this wine was an early blockbuster in the night's lineup. Meaty and cherry notes, some scorched earth and charcoal, smoky and toasty oak, ripe and full tannins. Great wine especially at $40! (93 pts.) 


Médoc, Pauillac
This seemed to have the most terroir of all of the grand vins of the night. Some funky notes of earthy barnyard mixed with concentrated floral currants, black cherry, roasted coffee, herbs, crushed rocks, and kirsch. This was very complex and intriguing as it was throwing quite a few layers of flavor and aroma. Medium to mostly full bodied, this was a remarkably fun wine to smell and taste. The tannins are big, but round and ripe with well balanced acidity.
63% Cabernet Sauvignon
29% Merlot
5% Petit Verdot
3% Cabernet Franc (94 pts.)


Médoc, Haut-Médoc
Another solid wine from the Haut MedocCantemerle.  Violets from the Petit Verdot jump from the glass and enhance the pencil lead and currants from the cab and Merlot. Good depth and a nice 30 second finish. (92 pts.)
60% Cabernet Sauvignon
25% Merlot
15% Petit Verdot


Médoc, Haut-Médoc
This Chateau is on a hot streak, even in 08 they deliver superior Bordeaux quality at a great price.
Color: Dark red core with vibrant red edges.
Nose: Smoky and toasty oak, coffee bean, currants and black cherry, a touch of oak
Palate: Medium to full bodied with chocolate, ripe bing cherries, currants. Nice structure with good tannins and very fresh acidity. Very well done.....back up the truck! (91 pts.)  

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Plum and blackberry, tobacco and black tea, tannic with full on ripe tannins.
Color: Black with red edges
Nose: Ripe, full of blackberry and ripe dark fruits, black tea aromas, lush
Palate: Juicy and ripe fruits of plum and blackberry, kirsch, but the terroir still comes through with notes of earth and minerality. Its a ripe wine with concentrated flavors but not heavy on the palate so its not fatiguing. (91 pts.) 
89% Merlot
14% Cabernet Franc
2% Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Émilion Grand Cru
Bright and full fruits that had a silky and inviting perfume that got better with a few minutes in the glass. Cherry, currants, spice and great texture with fine but full tannins. (92 pts.)
BLEND: As usual 1/3 Cab Franc, 1/3 Merlot, 1/3 Cab Sauv
St. Émilion Grand Cru
A pretty wine with restraint and elegance, bright and juicy red fruits merged with obvious mineral notes. This was a very highly rated wine by Parker and I thought it was not up to his score, but thats fine, it was still a good wine but did not match my expectations.  Maybe it was in a sleepy phase as I felt the nose and the palate were a little shy.
Color: More medium red than the others, with lighter red edges
Nose & Palate: Elegant red fruits and acidity, tighter and more angular red cherry and flowers, lots and lots of minerality, very terroir driven wine (89 pts.)
84% Merlot
16% Cabernet Franc

2008 Château La Gaffelière
St. Émilion Grand Cru
Lots of raspberry and cherry, with the tannins in full bloom, feeling quite structured but still some suppleness and roundness from the fruit. (91 pts.)
Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Supple and elegant, this was a little shy compared to the other wines but was in great balance. This wine passed over the palate with the texture and feel of silk.  Deep red fruits in the nose and palate drew you in to keep trying this more, very complex and tight, this was not showing as well as I would have hoped, but the hints are there as well as the pedigree. (92 pts.)

2008 Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Graves, Pessac-Léognan
Lots of tannins, big fruits of cherry and raspberry with a toasty oak frame, not too much of course but just enough oak. (90 pts.)

2008 Château Beauregard
Libournais, Pomerol
Very full nose with sensual red and dark fruit aromas, toasty smoke and a touch of sweet oak. The palate is full and expansive, with silky cherry, sweet plum, a little earth and tobacco. Silky textures and a long easy finish with smooth and supple tannin. Very nice start to the Pomerol lineup. (91 pts.)

2006 Château La Cabanne
Libournais, Pomerol
The 2006 was being poured as this chateau lost all of their 2008 to fire, the 2006 was showing more animal and barnyard funk as well as more tannins, as you would expect, from 2006. A nice wine showing terroir and more strength than some of the fruity and plush 08s. (88 pts.)

2008 Château La Conseillante
Libournais, Pomerol
Nice and pretty, a little less oomph than the other 08 Pomerol, but a very elegant wine showing supple red fruits and silky tannins, with a touch more acidity than I'd like given it's lighter structure. (89 pts.)
Médoc, Margaux
Lots of cab notes of green pepper, tobacco, piney, silky textures and a supple finish. Nice wine with more masculine aromas.
65% Cabernet Sauvignon
30% Merlot
  3% Cabernet Franc
  2% Petit Verdot (90 pts.)

2008 Château Branaire (Duluc-Ducru)
Médoc, St. Julien
A pretty wine with elegant textures and purity to the red fruits and a zesty freshness. Good length and texture on the palate and the finish. (90 pts.)

2008 Château Lagrange St. Julien
Médoc, St. Julien
Classy and elegant, this was a nice wine with good balance and structure. Cherry and cassis wove neatly into a medium bodied palate with sturdy tannins and good acidity.
72% Cabernet Sauvignon
26% Merlot
2% Petit Verdot (89 pts.)

2008 Château Gruaud Larose
Médoc, St. Julien
With nice depth and a fine elegance this was a good wine with nice fruit and perfume. Blackberry, currant and cassis meshed nicely with flowers, violets and spicy plums, a medium bodied palate with fine grained tannins and a touch of leaner acidity. (88 pts.)

2008 Château Saint-Pierre
Médoc, St. Julien
A lovely wine with bright red raspberry, cherry, flowers and spice box, very fresh on the palate, this medium bodied wine finished pure and clean. The 2005 is still the best frequent years,though this is a nice runner up that vintage. (91 pts.)

2008 Château Lynch-Bages
Médoc, Pauillac
A big and lush nose of black fruits, herbs, licorice, and spice. The palate was very giving upfront but the mid palate tightened too much and the finish clamped down with acidity and tannins shutting out some length on the finish. Too young or starting close down? Good potential however... (90 pts.)

2008 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron
Médoc, Pauillac
A very ripe and expressive nose, plush mocha and roasted coffee beans mixed with currant and cassis fruit. Lots of oak, surprising though how it finishes so long and full, the Bordeaux really know how to use oak in the right way. Good acidity keeps things in line too.
71% Cabernet Sauvignon
29% Merlot (92 pts.)

Médoc, St. Estèphe
Pretty and simple but so great because of that simplicity. Very straightforward offering of red fruits like currants and so ice in a nice package of tannin and acidity. Good value wine. (87 pts.)

2008 Château Phélan Ségur
Médoc, St. Estèphe
What a bargain, this wine came across very classic in Bordeaux in style. Smoky and toasty oak aromas mix with ripe red fruits for a fresh nose of fruit and tastiness. The tannins were big, but ripe and perfectly fit for this wine. (91 pts.)

SAUTERNES (sweet wines)

Chateau Climens - Lisa had this and together with the Suduiraut, was the best of the stickies being poured that night. Climen is a little low on the radar, but is getting the word out by pour at events like this and scoring well in the critics cirlce. (92-95 pts.)

Chateau Coutet - Another under the radar producer generally speaking, the Coutet was very nicely balanced with peach, honey, fresh and sweet citrus acidity, some floral notes with a solid long finish. Great value. (91-94 pts.)

Chateau Fargues - Very classic in flavor, aroma, and texture, this sweet wine started with candied citrus notes, honey, and had a long and full finish. (91-93 pts.)

Chateau Doisy Daene - More citrus and ripe fruit, more acidity, less complex but still quite delicous. (88-90 pts.)

Chateau Guiraud - Good texture and lenght, this wine started with honey and stone fruits, peaches galore and a sweetness that was quite amped. (88-90 pts.)

Chateau Latour Blanche - corked

Sigalas Ribaud - Excellent, with a little more of a petrol aroma to the stoen fruits, a liuttle spice as well, cirus oil and honey add more complexit. Great value here as well. (89-91 pts.)

Chateau Suidaraut - We had dinner with the winemaker in Bordeaux last June, so there is a little bit of an attachment to this wine, but it is a very well made and consistently delicous producer. Lisa also has this one and was the best of the night. (92-94 pts.)

In summary the 2008 was not an exceptional year, but a good year in that many fresh tasting wines were produced with good acidities and full flavors and tannins from the long hang time achieved as most Chateau did not finish picking until mid to late October. I find it more approachable than 2006, but more flavorful and more charm than 2004, 2002 and 2001. This is also hands down the best priced vintage on the market, with many wines well under $100. In fact if you focus on the $25-55 you will find many, many fantastic wines available. But please try to remember that vintages are a decent indicator of quality but not the ultimate indicator. Going to tastings like these allow you to be the judge.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Obsidian Ridge 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Red Hills Lake County
North Coast, California



     I am taking this break and one more until I get back to our Bordeaux trip, it was supposed to only be one but I have to write about this fabulous value Cabernet Sauvignon.

        I can’t say I have had a wine of this quality for such a great price and value from Northern California in several years. The last time was 2001 and nothing close under $25 has come close to this quality. Back up the truck and make this your house Cabernet or red wine if you like new world wines.  I bought this for $20, but most of you will probably see it in the $25 range.  However, this tastes more like a wine twice the price or more.

       Turns out besides the glowing Robert Parker review that nudged me into picking up a bottle of this to try, Wine and Food Magazine named this as one of their “100 Bottles To Drink Right Now” at #27.

       Lake County is just north of the famed Napa Valley and just east of the Alexander valley in northern Sonoma County. In other words, this land looks kind of like Napa did 30-40 years ago and has attracted many new and pioneering winemakers looking to find great terroir to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. Obsidian Ridge is one of the first successful vineyards in this region and the proof is in this bottle. The vineyard is set high in the peaks of the Mayacamas mountain range at 2,640 feet, with steep hillsides and poor soil to stress the vines into producing great fruit to make wine from. These same mountains are the ones the line the west side of the Napa Valley. Obsidian Ridge got its name for its high elevation on a ridge, but more so because the soil is composed of volcanic red dirt and namesake black glass-like shards and chunks of obsidian rocks.

Color:  Deep and vibrant garnet edges frame a dark core

Nose:  Aromas of black cherry, currants, mochas, secondary notes of bell pepper, licorice, hot rocks and charcoal.

Palate:  Rich, but not weighty the flavors fan out to coat the whole palate in black cherry, currants, and a savory mocha. The licorice, spice and oak complement this wine and the finish is a long and pleasing 30-40 seconds. The tannins are well tamed for such big mountain fruit, giving this good structure.

Back up the truck and BUY, BUY, BUY!



Saturday, February 05, 2011

The 2008 Wines of Lucien Le Moine

White & Red Burgundy


Lucien Le Moine is a small, actually very tiny, négociant in Burgundy that purchases and produces in excess of 50 distinct wines from Cru level vineyard parcels spread out across Burgundy.  If tiny does not get the idea across of how small they are, they produce a total of 30,000 bottles of wine (or ONLY 2,500 cases of rare beauty).  LLM creates some of the most sought after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the world as they meticulously respect the vines, the grapes and the wines to allow themselves to naturally express their true terroir.  At the most they are able to create 3 barrels of production from one vineyard, but many are also just one barrel, creating scarcity and therefore high prices.  Love and passion run deep in these wines and one could tasted and hear it first hand from proprietor Mounir Saouma.  Mounir is apparently somewhat of a road warrior, traveling a lot to speak about the wines he cares and tends to so well.  Mounir spoke about enjoying a wine over a period of hours, something we do at home as well, allowing to see how the wine changes over the few hours it is opened - basically respecting the wine and allowing it to show its true self.  "WOW" was a word he said to not use in describing his wines, as these wines were to slowly raise their volume as opposed to a huge California Chardonnay that starts out with an immediately loud and fast WOW impact on the palate that gives little complexity and intrigue to the taster.  Though by the looks on many of the faces in the room they had the word "WOW" written all over them as they tasted through the reds and then the whites.  I could not tell if he was joking by saying this, maybe only half so as these were wow wines, but also very complex and thought provoking wines that seemed almost cerebral.  The order of tasting red wines before whites is tradition in Burgundy and other areas of France.  My guess is that the higher acidity in the whites is not as shocking to the palate after first tasting through the rounder and richer red wines.   To me this was one of the better tasting I had been to recently and was a great testament to the care and quality of product that Lucien Le Moine is and will be known for so long as Mounir is at the helm.  The 2008 vintage is a mixed bag requiring expertise and a lot of hard work to achieve a high quality level of wine.  Many days of rain brought rot to the vineyard and the grapes, requiring a strict selection regimen and experienced vinification methods.  

All wines are vintage 2008

Bourgogne Blanc: Lithe and supple aromas of sea air and minerality, fine but good length, crisp pear and granny smith apple, minimally tart acidity


Morey St. Denis "Clos des Ormes" 1er
Only 2 barrels made
Deep maroon color
Spice, savory red fruits, good perfume
Metallic (iron) taste, orange zest, sour cherry and cranberry, tangy acidity and minerality, silky tannins

Chambolle-Musigny "Charmes" 1er
The vineyard is located in very dry soil on a hillside
Red/burg with purple tones
Deep nose plush with red to more black fruits
Cherry, Plum and savory Black Olives, baking spices
Bright acidity and a tighter structure with more noticeable tannins, shows much elegance

Chambolle-Musigny "Haut Doix" 1er
Fomr a vineyard with more moist soil and lower on the hillside where more moisture collects
Red/burg with medium red
Sweet and fruity perfume
A softer attack that cleans up with good acidity, plusher fruit, strawberry, plums, a hint of sweet herbs, sappy fruit, long and elegant finish

Bonnes Mares Nord Grand Cru (GC) (North)
Concentrated and balanced, with good depth and plushness
Classic color, grading from deep to lite burgundy
Aromas of tomatoe leaves, red fruits, somewhat savory and meaty aromas and flavors, great length on finish, long tall tannins.

Bonnes Mares Sud GC (South)
A touch lighter burg color
Muted and subtle nose, shy fruit and finishes deeper, olives, it smells like its compacted and not showing much yet, very young.
It gained weight in the glass and was the wine that stayed in it the longest since it was literally going through a mild evolution in the glass.
Bigger tannins but a deeper palate finish, still the palate tasted compact and comlex, showing great promise for ageing.

Meursault "Genevrieres" 1er
Golden straw hue
Popcorn nose initially blew off with sliced green apple, citrus, and a mineral streak in the nose
Great acidity and balance.

The 2007 label, we tasted the 2008 vintage.

Meursault "Perrieres" 1er
Golden color with green flecks
More taught and bright, salinity, lemons with minerality, flowers. Complex texture, nose and palate, all around  very impressionable and complex wine requiring some thought, Almost Chablis like in texture with rounder Beaune attributes.  Possibly the best wine of the night.

Corton Blnac GC
Golden yellow in color
Rich color, nose, and body
A nose of citrus, stone fruit peachy/nectarine, minerality, white flowers
Bigger palate presence, super complex with bolder fuits blending with mineral and acid structure, acidity keeps the largesse in place like a belt.

This was a small break from the Bordeaux notes I am still posting from our trip their in 2010. The next posting will resume with day 2 in Bordeaux in the Pessac-Leognan region of Bordeaux. 



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