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: Days Seven & Eight (April 4 & 5)

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.

Bear@PontacLynch

At Ch. Pontiac Lynch with chateau owner Marie-Christine Bondon. 

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.

More soon.

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

11/04/14 – 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.

10/13/14 – Taste with Ch. LEOVILLE POYFERRE’s Anne Cuvelier at SPEC’s on Smith Street

AnneCuvelierOn Monday, October 13, at 6:30pm, please join me (Bear Dalton) in welcoming Anne Cuvelier of the Cuvelier family, owners of Ch. Leoville Poyferre and Ch. Moulin Riche in St. Julien and Ch. Le Crock in St. Estephe. Anne will guide us through a tasting of six of her family’s wines including:
Ch. Leoville Poyferre 2011, 2010, and 2006
Ch. Moulin Riche 2007
Pavillon de Poyferre 2010 (the second wine of both Ch. Leoville Poferre and Ch. Moulin Riche)
Ch. Le Crock 2008

When: Monday, October 13th at 6:30pm
Where: The Second Floor meeting rooms at Spec’s on Smith Street
Cost: a $10 donation to the Houston Area Women’s Center (in cash or check only please)
RSVP: to MarloAmmons@specsonline.com or 832-660-0250. Limited to 60 guests.

09/17/14 – The TOUR de MEDOC

WendyNarbyA Class and Tasting featuring the Wines of the Medoc with Wendy Narby

On Wednesday, September 17th at 7pm, please join me (Bear Dalton) at l’Alliance Française in welcoming my friend Wendy Narby of the Conseil Des Vins Du Médoc for The Tour de Medoc: a class and tasting offering a virtual tour through the wine appellations that make up the whole of the Medoc. British/French wine professional Wendy Narby will lead us through ten wines including:

Ch. Tour St Bonnet, Medoc, 2010
Ch. Senejac, Haut Medoc, 2011
Ch. Bibian, Haut Medoc, 2010
Ch. Pontoise Cabarrus, Haut Medoc, 2010
Ch. Poujeaux. Haut Medoc – Moulis. 2011
Ch. Fourcas Borie, Haut Medoc – Listrac, 2008
Ch. Beau Site, St. Estephe, 2010
Ch. Pontac Lynch, Margaux, 2011
Pavillon de Poyferre, St Julien, 2010
Ch. Batailley, Pauillac, 2010

To reserve your spot, please contact Marlo Ammons at 832-660-0250 (after 10am) or MarloAmmons@specsonline.com. The cost of this class is a $20 donation (cash or check please) to the Houston Area Women’s Center. L’Alliance Française is French Cultural Center in Houston. Located at 427 Lovett Blvd., l’Alliance is on the south-east corner of Lovett and Whitney (one block south of Westheimer and two blocks east of Montrose).

About WENDY
Wendy Narby has spent the last 25 years in the French Food and Wine Industry. She is a teacher at the Ecole du Vin, has been a wine and food consultant in Paris and Bordeaux for the last 20 years. British born Wendy’s wine experience is not just based upon study but years working as a marketing consultant, journalist, teacher and guide. Leaving Paris to marry a local Château owner and negociant Wendy now shares her passion for the region with friends and clients from all over the world. Wendy now teaches professionals and the general public in Bordeaux, the UK and as far away as Asia and the US, as well as accompanying private wine tours for amateurs and enthusiasts alike. Her aim is to open the doors of the world’s most famous vineyards, explaining and making the wonderful world of French wine more accessible. Not being completely biased she often escapes to Champagne, Burgundy and the Rhone to explore other regions and wines. Wendy blogs on Bordeaux at InsiderTasting.com

CIMAbout the Conseil des Vins du Médoc
Formed in 1969, the Conseil des Vins du Médoc is the official body which represents all of the wine-producers in Médoc from the 8 appellations (Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Listrac, Moulis, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe) and from the different families of wines (Crus Bourgeois, Grands Crus Classés, Crus Artisans, brand wines and wines from cooperatives and other independent wines).