Rose Returns 2: Chateau de LANCYRE Rosé 2013

Pic Saint Loup

Pic Saint Loup

A few months ago, Christi and Matthew and I tasted through a range of 2013 French Rose’s to decide which 2013s to buy. We were very persnickety and so bought fewer pink wines than in some years past. At that time we were tasting either tank samples or, in some cases, barely bottled wines and so did not take notes for use in describing the wines. Now that the wines are here, I’m re-tasting them to give accurate notes. This 2013 Ch. de Lancyre is the latest iteration of a consistent year-to-year favorite that thrill s on release and has the stuffing and character to last and even improve for a couple of years (The 2012 improved for the first 8-9 months and is still drinking great). It is a bit more expensive than the run-of-the-mill Rosé but well worth the “bit more.” Ch. de Lancyre is an estate owned by two families in Pic Saint Loup, the best part of the Languedoc.

Ch. de LANCYRE Rosé, Pic Saint Loup, 2013 ($17.09)Lancyre Bottle
A 13.5% alcohol blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, and 10% Cinsault grown on clay (for fruit) and limestone (for minerality) at 2,000 feet of elevation about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean sea with hot days and cool (60° or less) nights.  Made using both rapid cuvaison and saignee techniques with fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with some lees stirring and no oak contact.   Salmon-pink in color with good legs; dry, medium-light-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics.  Vivid red fruit in the raspberry and strawberry range with some cherry and enough citrus to give it a thrilling balance. Fresh and vivid and alive in the mouth. The mineral component is there along with a surprising (but welcome) richness and a bit of earthiness. Lovely classic pure Rosé for summer picnic foods and some richer meals. This is more than just another “porch pounder.” Delicious. BearScore: 92.

Let’s get ready to stumble!
– paraphrasing wrestling ring announcer Michael Buffer

BearOnBordeaux: Le PETIT HAUT LAFITTE 2010

SmithOver the 17 years that I have been regularly visiting and tasting in Bordeaux, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte has steadily grown on me. I’ve visited the chateau more than twenty times and have lost track of how many meals I have enjoyed in L’Auberge de la Table du Lavoir, the casual restaurant at Les Sources de Caudalie, the on-site hotel and spa also owned by the Cathiard family. (I know, its a tough job but someone has to do it.) Smith Haut Lafitte and the people that own and run it are now favorites of mine.

Florence and Daniel Cathiard of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte

Florence and Daniel Cathiard of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte

Over that time, I’ve watched both the chateau and the style of the wine evolve with a pleasure not unlike that of seeing a girl you like change from being young and pretty and maybe a bit shy into a woman who is  beautiful, gracious, confident, and even alluring. As this transformation in the grand vin (both red and white) took place, I was never able to grab onto the second wine – Les Hauts de Smith – in the same way that I liked say La Parde from nearby Ch. Haut Bailly or Les Tourelles de Longueville from Ch. Pichon Baron (in Pauillac). Then Dan Snook of the Bordeaux negoçiant house Joanne sent me a sample of a wine I had somehow not heard about – Le Petit Haut Lafitte. He said it was a sort of alternative 2nd wine. I tasted it and was dazzled. To me, this was the 2nd wine that made sense given the evolution of the grand vin.phl_rouge

Le PETIT HAUT LAFITTE, Pessac Leognan Rouge, 2010 ($41.79)
One of the two red “second wines” (the other is Les Hauts de Smith) of Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, this  14% alcohol blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot all grown on deep gravel is destemmed and fermented (initially as whole berries) in small temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks utilizing a combination of pigeage (punch-downs) and pump-overs and aged 14 months in all French oak barrels (50% new – and all made at Smith Haut Lafitte’s almost-unique-in-Bordeaux in-house cooperage).     Dense purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics.  Smoky, dusty, coffee-scented oak accents mostly black fruit layered with black pepper, smoky tobacco leaf, graphite, and dark spice. Rich and ripe but with balance and focus. Lovely in the mouth. Develops in the glass and really lasts. Almost new world in some ways but the class (and the Cabernet-Merot balance) of Pessac Leognan is there. Delicious. Serve it with beef, lamb or birds featuring grilled or rich roast flavors. This 2010 is drinking well already. While it will certainly evolve, I don’t see it going very “dumb” and so it should drink well right through. BearScore: 93.

CHAMPAGNE FRIDAY: DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV

DelamotteBdBAt last Tuesday’s 2011 Bordeaux dinner we started with Delamotte Blanc de Blancs. Why? Why not? The elegant 100% Chardonnay Champagne was a delicate but satisfying prelude to the symphony of flavor that followed. I think everyone quite enjoyed it and I know I wish I had had a bit more, even with all the fine Bordeaux that followed.

DELAMOTTE Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, NV ($58.89)
Tech: A 12% alcohol, 100% Chardonnay Cote de Blancs (from the area around les Mesnil) Champagne made from base wines fermented in stainless steel tanks including the 10% of reserve wines that are utilized. It develops on the lees for 5 years prior to disgorgement, while the legal minimum is 15 months. Finished truly brut with a minimal dosage.   Sensory: Straw in color and fully sparkling. Dry, medium-light-bodied with crisp acidity and scant phenolics. Fine, focused, supple. Citrus and mineral with yeast and real power. Lovely; elegant but engaging Champagne. Catches you with its elegance and vividity. Great tension. Vibrant in the mouth but ultimately satisfying. Perfect aperitif. BS: 94+.

Champagne Quote:
Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life. – Charles Dickens

Rosé Returns: Commanderie de la BARGEMONE Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, 2013

Bargemone_Photo_BrandRemember the old TV show Password?
Q. “Rosé.”
A. “Provence.”
Rosé season is here. Well at least the first half of Rosé season is here. In Texas, we have a split season for Rosé just like we have a split season for dove hunting. Our Rosé season runs from about Memorial Day until mid July when it gets stupid-hot and everyone goes either inside or away until mid-late September when the season resumes and runs through Thanksgiving.
When I think of Rosé, the first place I think of is Provence. This Bargemone Rosé is a consistent winner of a Provence Rosé that I have drunk every year for at least the last 20 years. And it just keeps getting better.

Owned by Christian and Marina Garin since 2006, Commanderie de Bargemone is a former Knights Templar barrack originally converted to a fine wine estate by the Bargemone family and later revived and restored by French industrialist (do any little boys grow up saying “I want to be an industrialist?) Jean-Pierre Rozan. It seems that quality has improved with each transition. The current owners have continued the property’s tradition of sustainable farming and good winemaking so the good scores and recommendations just keep on coming. It’s not new and it’s not snazzy and the label is, well, a bit frumpy – but the wine is quite good and that’s all that should really matter.

Commanderie de la BARGEMONE Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, 2013 ($13.99)Bargemone_Rose_300dpi_Label
Tech: A 12.5% alcohol classic Provence Rosé blended from 30% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Carignan, and 6% white varietals including Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc, and Ugni Blanc given a short skin contact before pressing and a 10 day, 57° white-wine-style fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks with no malo-lactic fermentation and no oak exposure.    Sensory: Offers fresh red cherry-berry fruit with notes of citrus and mineral. Lively and refreshing with a crisp balance and fine length. Finishes clean and dry. Excellent with steak tartar or beef carpaccio, rich seafood dishes (Gumbo, Crawfish Étouffée, etc.) and classic with Bouillabasse. Or enjoy it with a summer afternoon picnic. BS: 90.

There is little else that says summer to me like a lovely dry French Rosé.
– Sheri Sauter Morano, MW

As of 2007, sales of Rosé wines surpassed those of white wines within France.
– The Wine Enthusiast

Winery Profile: Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS Haut Medoc

Owned by since 1959 by the Terygeol family and now run by Eric Terygeol with consultation from the famous Boissenot family, Ch. Pontoise Cabarrus traces its roots back to the Baron de Brane (then also owner of Brane Mouton, now known as Ch. Mouton Rothschild) in the 1700s. Located just adjacent to the St. Estephe appellation in St. Seurin de Cadourne in the Haut Medoc appellation, this is adjacent to and shares the same terroir and exposures as Ch. Sociando Mallet.PontoiseWinery

The vineyard is planted to a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot, mostly on well-drained gravelly slopes close to and facing the Gironde estuary. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot are on deep gravel and the Merlot is on clay over limestone. The Caberent Franc is where they meet. The location and situation are ideal for producing elegant Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines in the classic style.

Alcoholic fermentation is in temperature controlled concrete tanks with pump overs. Malolactic fermentation and aging are in French oak barrels. The percentage of new barrels has increased from 25% to now 33% while time in the barrels has decreased a bit.

Rather than new world, these are classic claret-style reds with elegance and finesse to go with their generally more red than black fruit and distinctive notes of tobacco leaf, cedar, and gravel-dust terroir.

This personal favorite of mine is an every-day priced Bordeaux you can drink now (decant it roughly if you do) but that will reward your keeping it for up to 10 years. I can’t think of a more consistent or better value in a Cabernet-dominant, classically-built Bordeaux red.

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2008 ($18.99)Pontoise2010
Tech: 13.5% alc. A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new) and bottled after a traditional egg white fining.   Sensory: Purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium plus phenolics. Richer, juicy ripe fresh red and black fruit with gravelly dust (along with a hint of limestone) terroir and dusty oak accented with cedar, tobacco, black pepper, exotic sweet spice; long finish; Exciting, bright, and fresh; lovely-in-the-mouth. BS: 90+

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2009 ($19.99)
Tech: 14% alc. A blend of roughly 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 18 months in French oak barrels (25% new) and bottled after a traditional egg white fining.   Sensory: Deep-purple-red in color with well-formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with fresh, balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Juicy evenly mixed black & red fruit with dusty gravelly earth and accents of tobacco, spice, black pepper, cedar; very long finish; focused and quite tasty. Exciting, bright, and fresh; lovely-in-the-mouth. BS: 91

Ch. PONTOISE CABARRUS, Haut Medoc, 2010 ($19.99)
A 14.5% alcohol blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc fermented in temperature-controlled concrete tanks using pump-overs and aged 12 months in all French oak barrels (1/3 new).   Sensory: Deep-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Dark juicy rich blackberry-black cherry-blueberry fruit supple with gravelly earth and dusty oak accented with tobacco leaf and a hint of pencil shavings. Long finish; complete, delicious, lovely-in-the-mouth. Classic Haut Medoc and real “go to” for me. BS: 91.

(Not Quite) Champagne Friday: LUCIEN ALBRECHT Cremant d’ Alsace Rosé

I love bubbly Rosé but I can’t always afford to drink my preferred pink Champagne. So when pink fizz is the required tipple and my finances aren’t cooperating, I look to Tasmania (Jansz Brut Rosé), Burgundy (François Labet Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé), and Alsace (Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’ Alsace Brut Rosé). I’ve already written about the Jansz and I’ll get to the Labet (I need a more current note) so here’s my recent note on the Albrecht from Alsace.lucien-albrecht-cremant-d-alsace-rose

LUCIEN ALBRECHT Cremant d’ Alsace Brut Rosé, Alsace, NV ($19.94)
A 12% alcohol, 100% Pinot Noir sparkling Rosé made using rapid cuvaison and methode champenoise and aged nine-months on-the-lees before remuage and disgorgment.     Sensory: Salmon in color and fully sparkling. Dry and medium-bodied with refreshing acidity and a scant hint of phenolics. A richer-style bubbly with some red fruit and a nice bit of balancing citrus along with notes of earth and toast. Lovely feel in the mouth with enough weight to work with a wide range of foods (Maybe seared scallops over pasta?). YUM. BS: 91.

Champagne Quote:
Tiny bubbles in the wine…make me feel happy, make me feel fine.Don Ho

WHAT’s HAPPENING: Two Fun Events

Here are two opportunities to drink a little wine and have a good time all while benefitting one of my favorite causes, the Houston Area Women’s Center. This coming Monday brings a tasting of some of the most terroir specific wines made by a real vineyard innovator, Bill Hill. And the following Monday brings the 3rd annual WOW Sangria Throwdown. Can Sean Beck (Backstreet/Hugo’s/Caracol) win it again?

TASTE with BILL HILL Expression Wine Blast HOU copy
of Expression, Tetra, and Prime Solum
On Monday June 9th at 6:30pm, come to Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street to meet and taste with Bill Hill (aka “William Hill”), vineyard developer extraordinaire. Bill was the founder of William Hill Winery (now owned by Gallo) and many other vineyard projects on the West Coast. He is now the owner of Expression (Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from California and Oregon) as well as Tetra (Napa Valley), and his newest project Prime Solum. For more information, CLICK HERE.

WOW! SANGRIA!!WOW_Sangria_flyer
On Monday, June 16, 2014 at 5:30pm, please join WOW (Women of Wine) at Tommy Vaughn Ford (1201 North Shepherd Drive) for their 3rd Annual Sangria Throwdown. (READ MORE)