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Senior editor James Molesworth joined Wine Spectator in 1997. He reviews Bordeaux, the Loire, the Rhône, South Africa and New York's Finger Lakes.
James Molesworth

A Bordeaux Value from Ausone's Former Winemaker

Château Tour du Pas St.-Georges St.-Georges-St.-Emilion 2005

James Molesworth
Posted: December 17, 2010

While in Bordeaux, my colleague Thomas Matthews and I decided to celebrate getting to the end of our recent marathon tasting of 2008 Bordeaux by seeing if Hotellerie de Plaisance in St.-Emilion is worthy of its two Michelin stars. It is.

The wine list is excellent as well—and the wine service a worthy match. Both sommeliers are smart and savvy, willing to give suggestions and helpful advice with an easygoing air that belied the gilded dining room and opulent menu.

We were eventually steered to a bottle of 1998 Château Bélair, a wine made by Pascal Delbeck, the winemaker famous for his tenure at neighboring Ausone. The Delbeck style was always a bit austere on the palate, while delivering lilting aromas and tangy mineral-filled finishes—and the Bélair was all of that. But as we talked with the sommeliers about Delbeck and the older years at Bélair (it was purchased by Christian Moueix in 2008 and renamed Bélair-Monange), we asked, “Where is Delbeck now?”

Turns out he has his own small property, Château Tour du Pas St.-Georges, in the outlying appellation of St.-Georges-St.-Emilion. So we ordered a bottle of the 2005.

This wine—made from a blend of 60 percent Merlot, 35 percent Cabernet Franc and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon—is sourced from 14 hectares of vines on clay/limestone and sandy soils. It’s true to the Delbeck style with a lightly chalky edge that frames the perfumy black cherry fruit. It doesn’t have the depth of the ’98 Bélair—a function of terroir, probably—but it’s still delicious, pure and vibrant, and delivers the winemaker’s trademark style. At a modest 60 euros on the wine list, it delivers great value too. 89 points for me, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: The top-scoring 2008 Bordeaux from James Molesworth and Thomas Matthews' December blind tastings appear in the Dec. 15 issue of the Wine Spectator Insider. Additional reviews of the region’s best dry whites and dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac will follow.

• Our Wine Ratings Search lists scores and tasting notes for other recently rated 2008 Bordeaux in bottle. A complete list of all wines tasted and a comprehensive analysis of the vintage, with a special emphasis on values, will be published this spring in Wine Spectator magazine, and all reviews will be added to the online Wine Ratings Search.

Thomas Kobylarz
Hoboken, NJ —  December 22, 2010 4:38pm ET
James congrats on your first tour of duty in Bordeaux, your notes and scores seem quite fair from what I was expecting based on other readings and my experiences with 2008 when I was in Bordeaux last June. I cant wait to hear what you have to say about 2009 and 2010 if you tried any while there, and next year at En Primeur! Isn't Hotellerie de Plaisance amazing? When the maitre'd says "good luck" after you order the tasting menu, by the cheese course you know what he is talking about! Such an unforgettable experience!
James Molesworth
Senior Editor, Wine Spectator —  December 22, 2010 6:05pm ET
Thomas: Thanks for commenting...I did taste quite a few '09s while there, as well as a handful of '10s - two impressive vintages on the way. I'll be back there in March to officially taste the '10s from barrel, fyi.

Plaisance is very impressive - assuming I can get through my notes I'll be writing up some comments on the restaurants there that I tried, as well as some general impressions of the '09s...so stay tuned!

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