On my last day of visits in Bordeaux, I decided to go back where I started—Pomerol and St.-Emilion. Since I would be beginning my blind tastings of the 2010 barrel samples with wines from those appellations, I thought it would make a smooth transition, so I stopped at Châteaus Pétrus and Cheval-Blanc. Below are my notes.
The expressway that circles the city of Bordeaux has become a major artery for commuters and long-haul truckers, and traffic on the rocade is always bad. So I avoided it for the short drive from my hotel to Pessac, the Bordeaux suburb that now engulfs the historic château and vineyards of first-growth Haut-Brion.
Jean-Philippe Delmas, the technical director at the sister châteaus of Haut-Brion and La Mission-Haut-Brion, which are just opposite each other, has a big vintage on his hands. Of all the first-growths, these wines were easily the most backward examples of the 2010 vintage yet. Delmas was dealing with too much of a good thing, which he admits made for a tough time deciding on the blend.
Below are my notes on the 2010 Haut-Brion red and white, as well as those of La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion, Le Clarence de Haut-Brion and La Mission-Haut-Brion.
Last December, I visited Château Latour, one of the three first-growths in Pauillac, and spoke with its intensely focused president, Frédéric Engerer. On this visit, he picked up where he left off—all Latour, all the time, despite the recent acquisition (pending final paperwork) of Château-Grillet in the Rhône.
Engerer wanted to talk about selection. It seems that every top château in Bordeaux is being more stringent in their selection of the lots for their grand vin. But Engerer insists that the process begins in the vineyards. Simply selecting quality levels of wine after the fact is limited.
After touring a few vineyard parcels, on bike no less, I tasted the 2010 Latour, Les Forts de Latour and the third-wine Pauillac. Below are my notes.
Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac is the only Bordeaux classified growth ever to have been promoted; in 1973, it rose from second-growth to first-growth. Proud yet unyielding, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, the owner at the time, proclaimed the château’s motto: “I, Mouton, do not change.”
But since taking over the winemaking here in 2004, Philippe Dhalluin has made changes—and the wines here are embarking on a new era of purity and elegance, while still retaining their classic, ironclad power.
Below are my scores and tasting notes for the wines I tasted with Dhalluin at Mouton, including châteaus d’Armailhac and Clerc-Milon.
I headed further up through the Médoc today, into the heart of the left bank’s prime Cabernet Sauvignon territory—St.-Julien and Pauillac.
I ended the day at the famed first-growth Château Lafite-Rothschild, where I met with estate manager Charles Chevalier and Christophe Salin, managing director of the parent company, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).
Below are my scores and tasting notes for the wines I tasted, including châteaus Lafite Rothschild, Duhart-Milon, L'Evangile and Rieussec.
Another splendid day in Bordeaux, with bright skies and cool breezy weather greeted me as I made the drive into the Margaux appellation for a handful of visits.
If Christian Moueix is the dean of Pomerol, Paul Pontallier holds an equivalent position in Margaux. The soft-spoken but serious winemaker has built a sterling 30-year career at the helm of one of the region’s top estates, first growth Château Margaux. Like Moueix, Pontallier resists hyperbole, yet he was nearly giddy (by Pontallier standards) at the prospects of the 2010 vintage. I had spoken to him shortly after the harvest last year, and he has not changed his position.
Below are my scores and tasting notes for Margaux's red and white wines.
The weather in Bordeaux today was simply perfect for tasting—bright and sunny, with high air pressure and a fresh, cooling breeze. It put me in a great mood as I set off for Pomerol for my first day of visits to taste the barrel samples of 2010 Bordeaux.
As if I truly needed another reason to be excited, since I was going to visit Christian Moueix. Moueix is one of the true wise men of Bordeaux, and his portfolio is rich with the jewels of the appellations of Pomerol and St.-Emilion. Though he no longer personally controls Château Pétrus (I’ll taste that wine later), there’s no better place than Moueix’s Libourne headquarters to get an overview of how the Right Bank fared in the vintage.
Below are my scores and tasting notes for the wines I tasted, including châteaus Lafleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy.
I'm on my way to Bordeaux to taste the 2010 vintage, the first official unveiling of the vintage by the region's many producers. Just before I left, I was able to taste 20 wines from the Right Bank, a mix of Pomerol, St.-Emilion and satellite appellations. (View notes on these wines here.) Based on that first small sampling, I think I'm going to enjoy my tastings and visits over the next two weeks: 2010 looks like it will give the tremendous 2009 vintage a run for its money.
The châteaus will be showcasing barrel samples, unfinished wines still aging in their cellars. So what exactly do you look for when tasting young wines, reds in particular, at such an early stage in their evolution?
Yesterday I caught up with Isabel Ferrando, owner and winemaker at her twin Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates of Domaine St.-Préfert and Domaine Colombis. She told me a funny story about her first days in the wine world, and where she learned to make wine. She’s always credited Lucien Michel of Le Vieux Donjon, Henri Bonneau, Philippe Cambie and other people in Châteauneuf with helping her get started, and they all remain close friends and colleagues today. But she had a secret to tell.
I'm back from vacation and preparing to head over to Bordeaux for the en primeur tasting of the recent 2010 vintage. I've filed my stories for the April, May and June issues and gotten my desk almost cleared off. In doing so, I came across my notes on a few dining options when in Bordeaux. Reviewed here are La Tupina, Jean Ramet, L’Estaquade, Hostellerie de Plaisance and L'Envers du Décor.