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james suckling uncorked

Bordeaux for my Father


Posted: Oct 18, 2006 12:42pm ET

I had dinner at my father’s the other night in San Diego. He is a keen Bordeaux lover but doesn’t buy much of the stuff because he is semi-retired and thinks it’s too expensive. He still remembers drinking Lafite and Mouton for $10 or $15 a bottle back in the 1970s, so he doesn’t like to drop hundreds of dollars on a bottle of fine wine.

There must be a lot of people out there like my dad. They must be slightly pissed off at the whole thing, with Bordeaux prices so high.

My dad is the one who turned me on to great wine when I was in university. I remember coming to our house in Bel Air and drinking some great bottles. It was a relief from the beer at university. He always shared great bottles of BV Private Reserve from the 1970s and clarets from the 1960s. So I always feel indebted to him for that—among many other things!

Anyway, I brought him a bottle of 2000 Fontenil to drink for dinner with our barbecued steaks. I had picked it up at Jensen’s in Palm Desert for $35 when I was in town visiting my mother. I wanted to make a point with him that outstanding Bordeaux doesn’t have to cost “an arm and a leg,” as he might put it.

We uncorked the bottle a few minutes after I arrived at his house. The steaks were thrown on the grill. And boy did my father have a smile on his face. ‘This is really excellent,” he said, taking a deep nose of the wine and then tasting it.

It was just how I remembered it: aromatic, with lots of blackberries and vanilla and a full, silky and fruity palate. The tannins were caressing. It could have used another year or two of bottle age. But I thought it was delicious. And it was perfect with the filets we had for dinner.

If you don’t know Fontenil, it is a small estate in the Bordeaux region of Fronsac, where global wine consultant Michel Rolland lives. The wine is always very good to outstanding in quality. Rolland obviously knows how to make wine considering he makes the stuff in dozens of wineries around the world including Bordeaux’s Ausone and California’s Harlan. Fontenil is probably his best value for the money going!

My dad was certainly happy. And he saved the empty bottle too.

Anthony Clapcich
October 18, 2006 2:17pm ET
I still remember the first glass of St. Pierre I had with my older brother....stunning, voluptuous, so very different from the stuff I had been drinking in college! I hope to share such experiences with my boys for many years to come--just like you did with your dad. Cheers to a long, healthy life and many fine bordeaux vintages in the future!
Dan Jaworek
Chicago —  October 19, 2006 9:26am ET
James, shut it will you? Fontenil doesn't produce but a couple thousand cases per year and its been hard enough getting my hands on it. Its one that get nearly every vintage. But I'm glad to get a tasting report since I have a case of the 2000 waiting around at home. I'll give it a couple years before I start to drink it. One of the things I love about it is that its a very food friendly wine. Its one of those wines that you end up saying rather quickly, "oh, did we drink that whole bottle already?" It has a small following but it flys off the shelves here in Chicago. I usually order it on futures just to ensure I can get it. But there are others in Bordeaux as well. And I encourage anyone reading this to try the others....and leave Fontenil alone for a while. Dan J
Totv
La Quinta, CA —  October 19, 2006 11:49am ET
Hey James, next time your in Palm Desert, you should come to my wine shop/tasting bar in La Quinta. Treasures of the Vine. My buddy at Ruths Chris steakhouse told me you were in town. BTW, did you ever get to try those Eisch glasses we talked about? If your down this way and want to do a comparative tasting, pop on in! Dustin
Karl Mark
Geneva, IL. —  October 19, 2006 12:01pm ET
A great story on what good wine is all about. Reminds me of the other week when my friend's wife had her first real Bordeaux with us. Her response was WOW! I'm going to the store to buy some dark chocolate! We she returned we spent the next few hours matching desert and the Branaire Ducru 2001. I think she's hooked. That Branaire...we found on sale for maybe $22.
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  October 20, 2006 1:34am ET
Fontenil! I thought that sounded familiar. I got up and went to the wine cabinet. Sure enough-2003 Fontenil Fronsac. A guest gave it to me earlier this yr. I've almost opened it a few times but I am trying to be patient and wait...a few more months anyway.

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