BORDEAUX 2016: Day 3

Tasting at Nathaniel Johnston With Spec’s Christina Walther (aka Audrey Hepburn) and Ivanhoe Johnston

9:00am the morning of Thursday March 30th brought us to the offices of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnson on the Coeur du Medoc in Bordeaux for a brisk tasting of 34 wines. After that it was off to the right back for a series of chateau visits to taste mainly 2016s.

2016 Highlights from the office tasting include Ch. Tour St. Bonnet Medoc 2016 (90+), Ch. Senejac Haut Medoc 2016 (91+), Ch. Mauvesin Barton Moulis en Medoc 2016 (91), and Ch. D’Issan Margaux 2016 (93+). Highlights of some of the currently available wines include Ch. Tour Salvet Haut Medoc 2014 (91), Ch. Daugay St. Emilion 2005 (92+), Ch. Lalande Borie St. Julien 2014 (92), Duluc de Baranaire Ducru St. Julien 2014 (92), and Margaux de Brane Margaux 2015 (91+).

Old Cabernet Vines at Ch. Daugay in St. Emilion

First stop on the right bank (after a traffic jam near Libourne) was Ch. Daugay St. Emilion with the irrepressible Jean Bernard Grenie. Both the 2015 (92+) and the 2016 (93) are showing very well.

Daugay then gives way to a tasting with Stephan von Neipperg at Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere. You will be shocked to learn that the count  was wearing neither an ascot or a scarf nor did he have a sweater draped over his shoulders. He did however ably present seven excellent wines: Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Rouge 2016 (93+), Ch. d’Aiguilhe Castillon 2016 (92+), Clos de l’Oratoire St. Emilion 2016 (93), Ch. Canon La Gaffeliere St. Emilion 2016 (96+), and Ch. La Mondotte St. Emilion (96) along with the rarer white Ch. Clos Marsalette Pessac Leognan Blanc 2016 (92), and Ch. d’Aiguille Castillon Blanc 2016 (92).

Count Stephan von Neipperg with his signature scarf and sweater on his bottles rather than his person

 

Our next stop was Grand Corbin Despagne to taste both that wine and special Ch. Ampelia with François Despagne. Ch. Ampelia Castillon 2016 (92+) is the best Ampelia yet. Ch. Grand Corbin Despagne St. Emilion 2016 (93+) also stands out. After our visit and tasting, we were treated to lunch at Grand Corbin Despagne that included the lovely 1970 served blind. Bragging a bit, I did guess the vintage so my record at Grand Corbin Despagne is intact at 2-0 (since I also correctly guessed the 1959 he served three years ago).

As Grand Corbin Despagne is next to Pomerol, we headed to our three Pomerol stops to taste Ch. La Pointe 2016 (92+), Fugue de Nenin 2016 (91), Ch. Nenin 2016 (93) and Ch. Clinet 2016 (94). After Pomerol,  we visited and tasted at Ch. Tour St. Christophe in St. Emilion. While these wines (owned by Mr. Kwok) were well received by others, I struggled with what seemed to me to be too much wine making to the point where the winemaking overwhelmed the terroir. At this point, I will say that these are wines I don’t understand very well and so am not going to score.

Our last appointment of the day was with Jean Philippe Janouiex at his Ch. La Confession St. Emilion where warmly greeted with both the Texas and American flags flying. We tasted the range:

Ch. Croix Mouton Bordeaux 2016 (90+ – best Croix Mouton yet))
Ch. Le Conseiller Bordeaux 2016 (91)
20 Mille Bordeaux 2016 (93)
Ch. Cap St. Georges St. Georges St. Emilion 2016 (92)
Ch. La Confession St. Emilion 2016 (94)
Sacre Couer Pomerol 2016 2016 (92 – a new wine I hadn’t tasted before)
Ch. Croix St. Georges Pomerol (94)

The Spec’s Bordeaux Crew with Jean Philippe Janouiex and Ivanhoe Johnston

 

BORDEAUX 2016: Day Two

Christina with Champagne looking awed by the Plat du Mer

After a business meeting in Talence this (Wednesday) morning, I headed to BOD (aka Bordeaux Merignac Airport) to pick up the rest of my Spec’s crew: Christina Walther and Jim Cubberley from Austin and Mirek von Springer from Dallas. After a quick lunch involving an enormous Plat du Mer and a bottle of Champagne, we dropped their bags at the hotel and got to work. First stop Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou where we were warmly greeted by Bruno Borie followed by stops (in the company of Noel Richard of negoçiant Borie Manoux) at Ch. Pontac Lynch and Ch. Batailley. So on our first less-than-half-day together, “Team 2016” tasted a not insignificant 31 wines.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (98)
Favorite wine of the day not from Ducru: Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux, 2015 (95)
Best Value of the Day (Tie): Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc 2016 (92)  and Les Hauts de Lynch Moussas Haut Medoc 2015 (92)
(Both should be close to $20 when they arrive)

The visit to Ducru Beaucaillou started off with a lovely Ch. Ducluzeau 2016 (91) from the southern part of Listrac which offers an incredible mouthful of richer more modern style, Merlot dominant red Bordeaux that ultimately should sell around $25.00 per bottle. We also tasted the more elegant and riper Ch. Forcas Borie Listrac (91+, a wine that is raking the bar for Listrac), Ch. Lalande Borie St Julien 2016 (92, an elegant balanced Cabernet-dominant red from the team at Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou), Croix de Beaucaillou St. Julien 2016 (93+, a more elegant and refined cuvee from a single contiguous block on the Ducru Beaucaillou estate), and the afore mentioned ethereal grand vin, Ch Ducru Beaucaillou 2016.

We finished at Ducru with rarest wine from the estate: the Croix de Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou Cuvee Colbert 2016 (93+). This lovely elegant expression of the estate’s terroir is a unique selection made even more unique as it was aged in a special Foudre commissioned by Borie from the wood of what is thought to be the last living oak tree planted in the time of Louis XIV’s naval minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert (who also has had 6 French naval ships named after him, most recently a cruiser).

The late Marie Christine Bondon and Bear Dalton in March of 2016

After Ducru, we headed to Ch. Pontac Lynch in Margaux where I saw my old friend Bijoux the bull dog, made the acquaintance of the new owner, the sister of the late owner Marie Christine Bondon, and tasted the 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages of both Ch. Pontac Lynch Margaux and Ch. Pontac Phenix Haut Medoc. This all are pure focused old school (in the best sense of that term) wines showing fruit and place and a refreshingly non-interventionist style of winemaking. The Pontac Phenix wines come from two parcels just outside the appellation of Margaux. One is behind and below Ch. Margaux and the other is behind Ch. d’Issan. The wines are the closest thing you will find tot he flavor and style of classic Margaux at a $20 or under price point. All three vintages sparkled. Ch. Pontac Lynch is a jewel of a Margaux estate on a mix of gravel and sand touching Ch. Margaux, Ch. Rauzan Segla, Ch. Palmer, and Ch. d’Issan (how’s that for a fancy address). All three wines were excellent with the still developing 2015 edging the others for the best wine of today’s visit. This was a tough visit for me because it was my first time back since the passing of Madam Bondon, a friend I liked and admired despite our not speaking the same language. And I am afraid that I won’t see Bijoux again as at 11 years old he seems to be sliding down hill. Nevertheless, these are wines I love and this is a place where I feel at home.

Bijoux of Ch. Pontac Lynch and Bear Dalton

After Pontac Lynch, we headed to Ch. Batailley Pauillac to taste the 2014, 2015, and 2016 wines from all the Left Bank properties of Borie Manoux including the wines of Beau Site, Haut Bages Monpelou, Lynch Moussas, and Batailley. Everything was better than good and the Ch. Batailley wines have moved to the next level (2014 – 94, 2015 – 95, and 2016 – 96) showing more charm and elegance along with their classic Pauillac Cabernet-Sauvignon-and-gravel-terroir character.

At some point I will follow this up with some detail on these vintages from these northern Haut Medoc properties but right now the bed is calling my name.

Tomorrow will find us soon enough on the Right Bank with my friend Ivanhoe Johnston (of negoçiant Nathaniel Johnston) as our guide for the day.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, 2016 (at least so far) is living up to its hype.

BORDEAUX 2016: Day One

Starting the week off slow, I just had two appointments today with negoçiants Thibault Lacoste of Duclot and Jean Rouge (aka Austin Powers) of Barriere. Between the two, I tasted over 50 wines today. While 50 wines would not be an unusual number to taste on a normal day in my office, today pretty well kicked my butt because I am singing the jet lag blues. Tomorrow WILL be better. God Willing. Of those 50-plus wines (about 1/3 were 2016s), there were no dogs and a few where glorious.

Best Wine of the Day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2015 (95).

Best 2016 of the day: Ch. Beychevelle St. Julien 2016 (94).

Biggest Surprise of the Day (Tie):  Ch. Beaumont Haut Medoc 2016 (92 and hands down the best Beaumont I have ever tasted) AND Ch. Taillefer Pomerol 2016 (91+ to an elegant, balanced, red-fruit Pomerol that is a pleasure in the mouth).

Had lunch today at an excellent new Italian restaurant called Murano located just off the Boulevard in Bordeaux. It’s a hidden jewel with a beautiful setting including a fabulous courtyard for al fresco dining and (at least what we ordered) excellent food and friendly service. I will go back.

The rest of my crew (Posse? Bordeaux Posse?) arrives tomorrow about noon. We’ll get them started with visits to Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou and a few of the Borie-Manoux properties (Chx. Pontac Lynch, Batailley, Lynch Moussas, and Beau Site).