Just Arrived: Ch. LATOUR (pricing corrected)

JUST ARRIVED: Chateau Latour 2000 and Les Forts de Latour 2009 direct from the cellars of the chateau: Available from the temperature-controlled third floor of Spec’s at 2410 Smith Street in Houston.chlatour

Ch. LATOUR, Pauillac, 2000 ($1113.89)
77% Cabernet Sauvigon, 16% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petite Verdot. Red-purple in color, and with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-plus phenolics. Lovely-pure-focused-integrated-complete. Fruit, dry floral, and pencil shavings bouquet. Secondary flavors have emerged. WOW. Beautiful wine. BearScore: 98+.

Les FORTS de LATOUR, Pauillac, 2009 ($243.19)
65% Cabernet Sauvigon, 32.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petite Verdot.   Red-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Elegant, supple, developing. Deep red and darker red fruit with tobacco and spice, gravel, and dust. Still youthfull but opening up and more than drinking as a big steakhouse red. BearScore: 95+.lesforts2009

I’ve been visiting Ch. Latour every year for 20 years now and the changes there have been staggering. My first visit showed wines that were consistently in the top 4 or 5 for any given vintage in Bordeaux. No surprise there; this is on of the five first growths of the classification of 1855. While all the great properties have upped their games since the mid 1990s, none has spent more and focused more than Chateau Latour. The vineyards and the process are immaculate and the wines have continued to improve and stay in that top quality level. But the biggest changes may be in the storage and commerce of the wines. Ch. Latour has enlarged and deepened their cellars and has stopped selling new vintages in the premiers system on the Bordeaux place. Instead, they are holding the three wines in their own pristine cellars and selling them when they determine that the wines are ready. The most recent release is Ch. Latour (Grand Vin) 2000 and Les Forts de Latour 2009.

Some years ago, three of the so-called second wines of the first growths (Les Forts de Latour, Pavillon de Margaux, and Clarence de Haut Brion) have risen in quality to the point that each is now in the top five and sometimes in the top two or three wines from their respective appellations (Pauillac, Margaux, and Pessac Leognan). Les Forts is now performing at a level that exceeds most of the second classified growths. It is a top ten wine within the whole of the Haut Medoc (which includes Margaux, St. Julien, and St. Estephe as well as Pauillac). Current vintages (due to improved farming, tighter selection, and focused process) can give pre-1995 vintages of the grand vin a run for their money. I no longer think of Les Fort as a second wine; rather, it is (after the three first growth grand vins) one of the three or four best wines of Pauillac on a year-in-year-out basis.

latour

BLOGGING BORDEAUX: Day Ten (April 7)

Gentlemen, start your Livers …
Thursday Morning, 8am. On the road to Pauillac. Which is a full hour north of where we’re staying at Bordeaux Lac on the north side of Bordeaux (not far from the old German U-Boat pens).

First stop, Ch. Pichon Baron to taste AXA-owned properties, arriving in the rain. Much to my surprise, AXA managing director Christian Seely (who does office at Ch. Pichon Baron) is standing behind the tasting bar to pour the wines. This is new. First comes Ch. PIBRAN (90+) and then the two 2nd wines of Pichon: the merlot dominant Les TOURELLES de LONGUEVILLE (92) and the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Les GRIFFONS de LONGUEVILLE (92+) followed by Ch. PICHON BARON (94+) and Ch. PETITE VILLAGE (91) and finally Ch. SUDUIRAUT (93). Are these scores too low? Maybe. Quite possibly. It could be that I was still a bit out of sorts that morning. Or it could be that that is just how they showed. I did not have a second chance to taste these wines – and we did not have time to linger – so I’m stuck with what I’ve got.

From Ch. Pichon Baron to Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste is maybe five minutes and in that time the sun came out and the skies cleared. Warmly greeted by the ebullient and professional François Xavier Borie (yet another of Bordeaux’s great gentlemen) and his daughter Amelie, we tasted 2nd vin Ch. LACOSTE BORIE (92+), Ch. HAUT BATAILLEY (93+), and Ch. GRAND PUY LACOSTE (96-98+ and wow, wow, wow!).

On to Ch. Lynch Bages where we were greeted by the limping (scooter accident) but ever genial and entertaining Jean Charles Cazes who has several years back taken over the properties from his father – University of Texas alumnus (petroleum engineering) and former Pauillac mayor – Jean Michel Cazes. We tasted St. Estephe Ch. Les ORMES de PEZ (92+), Pauillacs ECHO de LYNCH BAGES (92+) and Ch. LYNCH BAGES (95), and Bordeaux Blanc BLANC de LYNCH BAGES (94).

Next came Ch. Mouton Rothschild were we’d taste Ch. d’ARMAILHAC (93), Ch. CLERC MILON (93+), PETIT MOUTON (94), and Ch. MOUTON ROTHSCHILD (97-99) and then across the road to Ch. PONTET CANET (96-98) before we stopped (in the rain) for a lovely lunch with the delightful Veronique Dausse of Ch. PHELAN SEGUR (94+).

There is a lot of talk, especially from producers in Pessac-Leognan and Margaux (that didn’t get the late season rains) that “poor St. Estephe and Pauillac and St. Julien” got too much rain too late and so are less good. It appears that, at least at those chateaux with well-draining deep gravel-sand terroirs, that late rain wasn’t much of an issue. This 2015 is the best Phelan I have ever tasted.

Leaving lunch (and still raining), we head for Ch. COS d’ESTOURNEL (94-96), then Ch. Montrose to taste Ch. TRONQUOY LALANDE (91+), La DAME de MONTROSE (92), and Ch. MONTROSE (94-96) before a sprint over to Ch. Calon Segur. At Calon, we tasted Ch. CAPBERN (92+, from a separate terroir close to Tronquoy Lalande), 2nd vin MARQUIS de CALON (93+, another of those 2nd wines that can be mistaken for a grand vin), and Ch. CALON SEGUR (95-97+). I’d say St. Estephe made a more than respectable showing.

Now on to one more Pauillac, Ch. Pichon Lalande before we finish the tasting day in St. Julien. With estate manager Nicolas Glumineau, we tasted RESERVE de la COMTESSE (93) and Ch. PICHON LALANDE (96-98).

After Pichon comes Ducru Beaucaillou where we tasted Bruno Borie’s two Listrac wines – Ch. DUCLUZEAU (90+) and Ch. FOURCAS BORIE (91) – which may be the cleanest, least funky wines of Listrac, followed by the his St. Julien wines Ch. LALANDE BORIE (90 here but a better sample the next day at Joanne got 91+), La CROIX DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU (93 and now a separate property, no longer a 2nd vin), and Ch. DUCRU BEAUCAILLOU (97-99 and the best young Ducru I have ever tasted. Ethereal).

We end the tasting day at Ch. Leoville las Cases running only 25 minutes behind (which unfortunately is about normal). Normally this is not one of my favorite tastings as 1) it always seems to come at the end of a long day and 2) I have sometimes (often) struggled to understand these wines. Not this year. The two Medoc-appellated wines from just north of the Haut Medoc appellation of St. Seurin de Cadourne CHAPELLE de POTENSAC (91+) and Ch. POTENSAC (92+) were fresh and lively. The St. Julien former 2nd vin, now separate property CLOS du MARQUIS (94+) now has its own second wine called La PETITE MARQUISE du CLOS du MARQUIS (92). Which brings us to the main event: 2nd vin Le PETIT LION (94) and Ch. LEOVILLE Las CASES (96-98, most enjoyable young Leoville las Cases of my career).

At this point we were all feeling heathy enough to go to the river front in Pauillac and sit outside for a sip of Champagne and nibble of jambon before the drive back to Bordeaux. Nothing cleans your mouth up – and gets the purple off your teeth – after a long day of tasting young red Bordeaux like Champagne.

A great day, despite the rain but it’s not over. We have an hour plus drive ahead of us to get to a great party at negoçiant Archie Johnston’s house where the Champagne and oysters are flowing freely, the conversation about the new vintage and Bordeaux in general is intelligent and lively and, later in the evening, some jewels like 1982 Ch. Haut Brion and 1955 Ch. Lafite get drunk.

But wait, there’s more. We still have Friday to go. Stay tuned.

BLOGGING BORDEAUX: Day Six (04/03/16)

BEST. WINE. DINNER. EVER.
So. Me and the boys (that would be Richard Malphrus, James Barlow, and Robert Boyd, all of Spec’s) were invited to a dinner at Ch. Batailley celebrating the launch of the new 2nd wine of Ch. Batailley – Lions de Batailley. Ok. These folks – the Castejas and their manager Noel Richard – have been friends for a long time and I love the wines of Ch. Batailley (a fifth classified growth Pauillac) so saying yes was a no-brainer. Also, I have been in the cellar at Batailley so I know that there is a wealth of older vintages available to serve at a special dinner. I envisioned 2010, 2009, 2005, 2000, 1995, 1990, and maybe 1982 with traditional Bordelaise food. That would have been a great line up with fine food. But no. Try Ch. Batailley 1881, 1900, 1904, 1929, 1949, 1945, 1961, 1982, 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2010 plus Ch. D’Yquem 2007 plus Michelin-three-star food (and that doesn’t even include the 2002 Pol Roger from Magnum as the aperitif wine).  Philippe Casteja raided his cellar for these stunning vintages and hired Chef Michel Gerard of Michelen thee star restaurant Les Pres de Eugenie (in Eugenie les Bains) to come to Bordeaux to cook a five course meal including an obscene amount of truffles incorporated into the first four courses. I have never had better food and I have never had a better, more consistently excellent selection of wines. in addition, the pairing of the wines in multi vintage flights with the food was brilliant. I am stingy with 100 point scores but I will allow that at least 8 and maybe 9 of these wines warranted 100 point scores. And the other 3 0r 4 deserved scores of 95 or more. ALL of the wines improved in the glass. The first bottle of 1900 was corked. Too bad, so sad? No. They opened another bottle which turned out to be brilliant. All in all, a legendary evening.

Below is a photo of my comments. Below that is a photo of the menu. And below that is a photo of the tech sheet on the wines (none of which had ever left the cellars of Ch. Batailley).

My comments on the wines:
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Le Menu (Hope you can read French)
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Just the Facts M’am.
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Proof of Concept:
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Utterly Stunning. Great Wines with Great Food. I have never eaten better. I may be ruined. The food and wine bar is now impossibly high.

Oh. And the Lions de Batailley turned out pretty good, too.

Merci Noel. Merci Philippe.

 

BLOGGING BORDEAUX: Day Two (3/30/16)

BLOGGING BORDEAUX: Day Two (3/30/16)

We started tasting 2015s today but like yesterday, it was the older, more developed wines that stole the show. It’s funny how things work out. Yesterday I gushed over Ch. Gruaud Larose 1995 and today we visited Gruaud. So now I am going to gush over the 2009 Sarget (the 2nd vin of Gruaud Larose) and the 2001 Ch. Gruaud Larose.

Why the sudden interest in Gruaud? Well, it’s not sudden at all. I first became an appreciator of Ch. Gruaud Larose in 1983 when I Got to taste from a magnum of 1962 which was then on the wine list at Tony’s. That 1962 dazzled me and I went back for more. In fact, I drank them out of that wine. And then I started looking at other vintages of Ch. Gruaud Larose.

Which brings me to the now. Over the last two years, I have used multiple vintages of Ch. Gruaud Larose (’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, and ’12) at some dinners and tastings and all have showed well, often against more expensive wines. So on to the two older vintage Gruaud wines I tasted today:

Sarget de GRUAUD LAROSE (2nd vin), St. Julien, 2009
54% Cabernet Sauvigon, 26% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petite Verdot aged 18-months in all 3-year air-dried French oak barrels (30% new).   Red-purple in color, and with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-plus phenolics. Delicious, dusty pencil shavings, dark red fruit. spice, tobacco leaf. All in a swirl. Integrating nicely but the pieces are still somewhat defined. BearScore: 92+.

Ch. GRUAUD LAROSE, St. Julien, 2001
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvigon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petite Verdot aged 24-months in all 3-year air-dried French oak barrels (70% new).   Sensory: red-purple in color, and with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium phenolics. Pencil Shavings and dark red fruit; ripe and even exotic. Tobacco-spice and dusty gravel. Supple, Alive. Complete. BearScore: 95+.

BUT WAIT, THERE’s MORE!
Here are my notes on the current releases from Ch. Latour – which has withdrawn from the en premiere system. We tasted the 2015s to get a look at the new vintage (even though the wines won’t be offered for several years) and then tasted these three wines that Ch. Latour is currently offering:

PAUILLAC de LATOUR (3rd Vin de Ch. Latour), Pauillac, 2010
A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvigon, 44.5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Red-Purple with well formed legs; dry, medium-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity and medium-chewy phenolics. Supple, juicy; the flavors are developing but the wine is still fresh. Lots of red and darker red fruit with gravel and tobacco and a bit of spice. YUM. BearScore: 92+.

Les FORTS de LATOUR (2nd Vin de Ch. Latour), Pauillac, 2009
65% Cabernet Sauvigon, 32.5% Merlot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petite Verdot.   Red-purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-chewy phenolics. Elegant, supple, developing. Deep red and darker red fruit with tobacco and spice, gravel and dust. BearScore: 94+.

Ch. LATOUR, Pauillac, 2000
77% Cabernet Sauvigon, 16% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petite Verdot. Red-purple in color, and with well formed legs; dry, medium-full-bodied with freshly-balanced acidity; medium-plus phenolics. Lovely-pure-focused-integrated-complete. Fruit, dry floral, and pencil shavings bouquet. WOW. Beautiful wine. BearScore: 98.

No firm pricing on any of these as yet but Spec’s will be getting all of them. Something to look forward to.

I will start talking about the 2015s we’ve tasted at some point but with so little yet under our belts, it seems too soon to draw even the broadest of conclusions (even though some of the press is doing just that). Having said that: So far, So good.

TTFN!
(Ta Ta For now!)
More soon.

ChLatourTasting

11/18/14 – A PAUILLAC PERSPECTIVE

Grand_Puy_Lacoste1On Tuesday, November 18 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a Pauillac Perspective, a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great PAUILLAC chateaux: Ch. Haut Bages Liberal, Ch. Batailley, Ch. Clerc Milon, and Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste. Did I mention that all of these are Pauillacs? Each is from a little bit different area of Pauillac and together they tell the story of Pauillac’s fabled terroir. We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties (for a total of 16 wines.

This is the third in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. It will be fun and informative. This Pauillac Perspective tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 18, 2014. To reserve your spot, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

11/04/14 – MORE FUN WITH BORDEAUX

CalonSegurSixteen Wines – Four Chateaux – Four Verticals
d’Armailhac – Branaire Ducru – Calon Segur – Cantenac Brown

On Tuesday, November 4 at 7pm, please join me (Spec’s fine wine buyer Bear Dalton) at the Wine School at l’Alliance Française for a unique Bordeaux tasting featuring four verticals from four great Haut Medoc chateaux: Ch. d’Armailhac in Pauillac, Ch. Branaire Ducru in St. Julien, Ch. Calon Segur in St. Estephe, and Ch. Cantenac Brown in Margaux We will taste the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages from each of these properties.

BranaireDucruThis is the second in a series of vertical tastings where we look at four vintages of four top wines. I think it will be fun and informative. The cost of this unique tasting will be $100.00 per person (Cash or Check) or $105.26 regular. The class will meet at 7pm on Tuesday November 4, 2014. To reserve your spot for this four-week class, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com.

L’Alliance Française is the French cultural center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., l’Alliance is on the southeast corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

10/30/14 – PAUILLAC and St. JULIEN 2011 Dinner at Charivari

On Thursday, October 30th at 7pm, please join me, Bear Dalton, at Charivari Restaurant for our Pauillac and St. Julien Dinner featuring a lucky thirteen great Bordeaux wines from the under-rated 2011 vintage (plus, as always, a fine Champagne) with Chef Schuster’s fall menu.Unknown-1

The MENU
Walleye Pike Quenelles with
Bonnaire Brut Variance NV, Champagne NV

Wild Mushroom & Freekeh stuffed Quail with
Ch. Echo de Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 2011
ChGloriaLabelCh. Lacoste Borie, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Gloria, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Langoa Barton, St. Julien, 2011

Sorbet

Black Angus Hanger Steak with Beef Marrow Butter and Roasted Potatoes with
Ch. Haut Batailley, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Batailley, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Lynch Moussas, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac, 2011
Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac, 2011
pontet_canet2011Ch. Pontet Canet Pauillac, 2011

Cheese Tart Flambe with
Ch. Branaire Duru, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Beychevelle, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Leoville Barton, St. Julien, 2011
Ch. Leoville Poyferre, St. Julien, 2011

Swiss Chocolate Tart & wild berries

This Pauillac and St. Julien Dinner will cost $140.00 per person including a 5% discount for cash or check or $147.37 regular. All taxes and tips are included. Attendance at this dinner is strictly limited to 20 people. For reservations, please reply by email to (MarloAmmons@specsonline.com) or call Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250.

Charivari is located at 2521 Bagby (77006) in Mid-Town Houston.