And then it all went south …
Monday Morning, 8am. One of my guys is down with a stomach bug and can’t go that day. We figure he can sleep it off and this too shall pass and the rest of us head out to Pessac Leognan (which actually is south of Bordeaux) for the day starting at Ch. Carmes Haut Brion. After a great visit (super Cabernet Franc-dominated wine from a clos inside the city of Bordeaux – 95-96) and being asked not to publish or post any pictures of the visually-arresting-but-site-appropriate-ultra-modern new winery designed by Phillip Stark, we headed to La Mission Haut Brion where we tasted through Domaines Clarence Dillon’s three red second wines: Dragon (92), La Chapelle (93), and Clarence (95-97), three red grand vins – Ch. Quintus (95-96), Ch. La Mission Haut Brion (96-98), and Ch. Haut Brion (98-100), and three white wines – Clarté (92), Ch. La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (97-99), and Ch. Haut Brion Blanc (98-100).
As we were leaving La Mission, another of my guys started down the stomach bug path. Instead of going on to our next appointment at Ch. Carbonnieux – which we tasted later in the week and found both the red (94-95 and maybe the best Carbonnieux red ever) and the white (also 94-95) to be excellent, we took him first to the coolest McDonald’s ever (big golden arches, ‘50s diner decor and a pink Cadillac in the outdoor seating area) for a Coke in a futile attempt to settle his stomach and then back to the hotel. We then went to the store for some stomach-settling food and drink (for when they were ready) and to the pharmacy for anti-stomach-problems drugs. Once they were somewhat settled, my last guy and I headed back out to Ch. Haut Bailly (95-96 with the most Cabernet Sauvignon they have ever put in the blend), Domaine de Chevalier red (94+) and white (94), and Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte red (95-96) and white (95-96).
All-in-all, the wines of Pessac-Leognan rocked but as we were leaving Smith, my stomach was beginning to rock, too. Back to the hotel, call and cancel on a dinner at Ch. Haut Brion with Prince Robert of Luxembourg (I don’t even want to know what wines I missed) and by 7pm, I went from feeling rocky to I-want-my-mommy. Being alone and sick in a hotel room sucks. Of our group, Richard was the last man standing.
So now you know why the blog posts are so late in coming.
Tuesday Morning, 8am. Still too sick to go. Cancel morning appointments and reschedule Ch. Margaux from 11am to 2pm. Back to bed.
Tuesday, 1:10pm. We suck it up and get back on the road. First stop: Ch. Margaux for a tasting in their blending room on the second floor of the new Norman Foster-designed winery building (stunning). Really excellent Pavillon Rouge (95-96+), Outstanding Margaux (97-100), and stunning Pavillon Blanc (96-99). So-far-so-good. Thank you Ivanhoe Johnston and Aurelien Valance for working out that rescheduling.
On to Ch. Ferriere where we were greeted by owner/winemaker Claire Villars Lurton and treated to a tour of an absolute jewel box of a Margaux chateau and a fine tasting of the wines she and husband Gonzague Lurton make at their properties: Ch. La Gurgue (91+), Ch. Ferriere (93), Ch. Durfort Vivens (93), and Ch. Haut Bages Liberal (Pauillac, 93+).
On to St. Julien and Ch. Branaire Ducru (30 minutes late) where we are greeted by and taste with owner Patrick Mar0teaux (one of the true gentlemen of Bordeaux). His 2012 Duluc (the 2nd vin) is showing very well (91+), as are the 2011 (92+) and 2012 (93+) Branaires but the 2015 Ch. Branaire Ducru (95-96+) was the star of the show.
Then a quick stop to taste Chx. Gloria (93+ and as good a Gloria as I can remember) and Saint Pierre (94+).
And so on to Ch. Leoville Poyferre to taste with Anne Cuvelier and Thierry Gramon. Here we got Ch. Le Crock (St. Estephe, 92), Ch. Moulin Riche (93), and Ch. Leoville Poyferre (96-98) along with a warm welcome and an American flag flying at the chateau.
After stops to taste Ch. Senejac (Haut Medoc, 92+), Ch. Talbot (St. Julien, 94+), Ch. Camensac (Haut Medoc, 92), and Ch. Chasse Spleen (Moulis, 91+), we headed back to Margaux (now 45 minutes behind schedule) to taste at Ch. Pontac Lynch.
At 6:45pm, we pulled into Ch. Pontac Lynch in a cloud-of-dust to meet owner Marie-Christine Bondon and her team including my favorite dog in Bordeaux, Bijoux (who is beginning to show his 10 years but is still up for greeting visitors). Here we tasted her located-on-sandier-terroir, just-east-of-the-Margaux-appellation, behind-Ch. d’Issan-Haut-Medoc Ch. Pontac Phenix 2012 (91) and 2014 (91+) first. Then we tasted the touching-Ch. Margaux-on-the-north-and-Ch. d’Issan-on-the-south-east-and-Ch. Palmer-on-the-south-west-and-Ch. Rauzan-Segla-on-the-west (How’s that for a good address?) Ch. Pontac Lynch 2014 (93) and 2015 (94++). While this 2015 was far from the highest score of the day, it was my favorite wine of the day and this was my favorite stop of the day. Why? Because Pontac Lynch is a throwback. The winery is old school (compact, concrete tanks, basket press, non-fancy barrel room) and the wines (both the Pontac Phenix and the Pontac Lynch) are that very pure, very elegant, fruit-and-terroir, non-extracted, lighter-colored style that you don’t see much at all anymore. They are a pure pleasure and are frankly delicious.
By the end of the day on Tuesday, we were still feeling a bit rocky but we had persevered to taste 25 wines between 2pm and 7:30pm.