After working for Baron Philippe de Rothschild for 35 years, where he had been the managing director of Château Mouton-Rothschild since 2006, Hervé Berland left the first-growth to join Château Montrose, a second growth in St.-Estèphe. This was an unusual move in hierarchy-driven Bordeaux, noted Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth in his introduction, but exemplified the potential Berland saw in the estate.
Château Montrose is a jewel within the northern Médoc—one of the few properties that directly fronts the Gironde estuary; this position helps cool the vineyards in the hot summers and protects them from frost in the winter. Also rare for the region, the estate comprises a single block of vineyards.
"If you don't have 2010 Bordeaux in your cellar, your children are going to be very disappointed in you," Molesworth warned the Wine Experience crowd before Berland poured the Montrose St.-Estèphe 2010 (97 points, $232), a classic vintage considered a benchmark.
Current owners Mélissa and Martin Bouygues, of the namesake French telecommunications company, were introduced to Montrose when they were served the 1989 vintage at a friend's dinner party in California. "It was love at first sight. They decided there and then, if the chance came along one day, that they would buy this estate," said Berland, now the CEO. Luckily, that chance arrived just a few years later, in 2006, when the Charmolue family chose to sell Montrose.
When they took over, the Bouygueses undertook a seven-year renovation of the property. The goals were threefold: To provide the best winemaking and viticultural technology, to renovate the building in keeping with its original 18th-century architecture, and to commit to sustainability. "We only modernize for the benefit of improving the quality of the wine," said Berland of the team's balance between innovation and respect for the past.
Montrose now has 32,000 square feet of solar panels on its roofs. In 2015, the estate began converting to organic viticulture; the entire vineyard should be organic by 2020.
The Montrose team's commitment to quality shone through in the 2010 poured Friday morning. The Cabernet Sauvignon–Merlot blend has a delicious core of youthful blackberry fruit, with tobacco and olive notes demonstrating a little development already, and finishes with a bold mineral streak.
Berland recalled what the artist Salvador Dalí once said, that the connoisseur doesn't drink wine, but rather tastes its secrets. "I have shared some of the Montrose secrets with you today," Berland mused. "And I hope it will add to your enjoyment in tasting Château Montrose now and in the future."