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Senior editor Alison Napjus joined Wine Spectator in 2000. She is the lead taster for Alsace, Beaujolais and Champagne and also tastes wines from regions throughout Italy.
Alison Napjus

The Unexpected Winner on Belmont Race Day

Château Giscours Haut-Médoc Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours 2004

Alison Napjus
Posted: June 22, 2011

Neither Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom nor Preakness champ Shackleford placed at the Belmont Stakes this month, where Ruler on Ice pulled off the surprise win. Like Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, my Belmont experience wasn't so winning, and light rain and cool temperatures severely diminished the overall experience of a day at the races, despite a well-stocked tailgate tent and a good spot in the grandstands.

The surprise turn of the tide, for me, was a (smart) decision to head to the ever-popular Balthazar restaurant in Manhattan after the race, to enjoy some warming red wine, as well as burgers and fries of the sort you can only get at a good French bistro. The chill quickly left us when we ordered a magnum of Le Haut-Médoc de Giscours 2004, a wine made by Château Giscours from a 100-acre plot of vines located adjacent to the château but outside of the Margaux appellation. 2004 is my go-to vintage from Bordeaux these days: Most are made in a lighter style, making them easy to sip or to pair with a wider range of food, and as the poor cousin of the better-known 2005 and 2009 vintages, they're considerably less expensive on most wine lists.

To boot, this magnum was only $95 on Balthazar's wine list, a real value for the quality and considering the many other offerings from Bordeaux available in the restaurant. I enjoyed the well-integrated tannins and hints of currant and dried blackberry paired with a core of spice, tobacco and smoke. I gave it 90 points, non-blind, and it was the clear winner on Belmont race day for me, and far more exciting than Ruler on Ice’s win!

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Haut-Médoc reds.

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