Tag Archives: Lascombes

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

As folks who have been following my on-going series examining the offers from the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign have noticed, I enjoy playing the Futures Game.

But I understand that this is a game–one where I’m gambling money on today in hopes of future pleasure in the years to come.

Though while I have a gambler’s heart, just like when I’m playing the Somm Game in Vegas, I like to hedge my bets and get the cards stacked in my favor.

When it comes to buying Bordeaux Futures, I have one solid rule that I never waver from.

Buy for pleasure, not for investment.

Like the stock market, you can certainly “invest” in buying Bordeaux wines with the goal of selling or trading them at a higher value. Of course, there are some legal gray areas that are worth paying attention to and David Sokolin’s Investing in Liquid Assets is a great read for anyone interested in dipping their toes in that area.

But I’m not looking to make a profit. I just want to get a good deal on something that I will enjoy drinking at some point. If I lock in the price of a bottle as a future that ends up saving me $20 versus buying it later on a retail shelf, I’m a happy camper.

By not hoping for the price to skyrocket after purchasing it as a futures (and buying only 1 to 3 bottles for personal consumption), I’m able to keep my expectations grounded and realistic.

However, there are certainly times when Bordeaux’s notorious fickleness and pricing does end up giving me a really good deal that I kick myself for not buying more of.

Case in point-2015 Ch. Margaux.

I purchased a single bottle of this wine back in June 2016 for $519.97. I don’t have the wallet to often buy multiple bottles of First Growth Bordeaux or many other estates that regularly fetch $200+ a bottle but a bottle here and there when the vintage and price is right is something I can afford to do.

Lest anyone doubt the price I originally paid for the 2015 Margaux from Total Wine & More’s Concierge service.

I knew 2015 was a very solid year and one worth bulking up my cellar with from both the value end to some of the top crop. With Margaux being one of my favorite estates, it was worth buying at that price as well as a bottle of their second wine, Pavillon Rouge, for $134.97.

The wine had some nice barrel scores during the 2015 en primeur season like 95-98 points from Antonio Galloni of Vinous, 98-100 from Neal Martin (then of Wine Advocate) and 19/20 by Jancis Robinson.

While I don’t personally ascribe much weight to critic scores, I do read the tasting notes for tidbits about the vintage and general style of the year. But the numbers themselves are virtually meaningless to me. I’ve drank 100 point wine and I’ve drank 94 point wine and derived the same amount of pleasure–not to mention many excellent 88-92 point wines.

Then Came The Jump

But I’m very cognizant about the impact of critic scores on the pricing of Bordeaux so when I’m on the fence about a futures purchase, I do weigh how much the price could potentially jump once the bottle scores are released.

So while I certainly expected to see the price of the 2015 Margaux rise above $519.97 (like to maybe around the $994 ave of the 2005), I have to admit that I wasn’t quite expecting this.

100 points Jeb Dunnuck.
100 points Jane Anson of Decanter.
100 points James Suckling.
100 points Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider.
100 points Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast.
99 points Lisa Perrotti-Brown of Wine Advocate.
99 points Antonio Galloni of Vinous.
99 points James Molesworth of Wine Spectator.

And now we have the 2015 Ch. Margaux averaging $1,643 a bottle–more than $1100 above what I originally paid for it as a 2015 Bordeaux Futures.


Yeah, I wish I had bought at least one more bottle.

Other Good Futures Deals I’ve Gotten

While I certainly don’t expect anything from the current 2017 campaign to jump as crazy high as the 2015 Margaux, I still think there is enough consistent savings and value that merit buying futures even in vintages like 2017. But as evident with my 2017 series of posts, I do a heck of a lot of research and decision making before putting my money down on the table.

It’s a lot of work, but to me it’s worth it to get solid deals like this:

2015 Pavillon Rouge — Futures price $134.97, now averaging $233
2015 Valandraud — Futures price $139.97, now averaging $186
2015 Pape Clement — Futures price $76.97, now averaging $120
2015 Malescot St. Exupery — Futures price $47.97, now average $74
2014 Mouton Rothschild — Futures price $299.97, now averaging $517
2014 Angelus — Futures price $219.97, now averaging $297
2014 Canon — Futures price $59.97, now averaging $92
2014 Prieure-Lichine — Futures price $29.97, now averaging $48
2013 Lascombes — Futures price $44.97, now averaging $74
2013 Rauzan-Segla — Futures price $49.97, now averaging $68
2012 Clos Fourtet — Futures price $76.49, now averaging $98

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Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

Photo by Florian Pépellin. Released on Wikimedia Commons under GFDL CC-BY-SAWe are heading to Margaux as we continue our exploration of the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign.

After hitting a rough patch in Pomerol for our last post, we are hoping to find more values in the offers from the 3rd Growth estates of Ch. Malescot-St.-Exupéry and Cantenac-Brown, 4th Growth Ch. Prieuré-Lichine and the 2nd Growth Ch. Lascombes.

If you are new to the series, a great place to start is with our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley that lays out the general outline for our approach to buying futures in this vintage and the use of critic scores. You can also check out the links at the bottom of the page for previous posts in this series.

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Malescot-St.-Exupéry (Margaux)

Some Geekery:

Since its founding in 1616, Malescot-St.-Exupéry has been owned by several well-connected Bordeaux families beginning with the Escousses family who were notaries for the Bourbon kings of France. In 1697, Simon Malescot, the attorney general of King Louis XIV, purchased the estate and affixed his name to the property.

The second-half of the patronymic came in 1825 when Comte Saint-Exupery acquired Chateau Malescot and added the vineyard holdings of Chateau Loyac and Chateau La Colonie that he received from his wife’s dowry. When Saint-Exupery died in 1853, Malescot-St.-Exupéry was sold to the Fourcade family who added the motto Semper Ad Altum, meaning “Always reach higher”, to the labels that is still prominently featured on bottles of Malescot-St.-Exupéry today.

Photo by PA. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The chateau of Malescot-St.-Exupéry

Not long after the estate was classified as a 3rd Growth in the 1855 Classification, the owners purchased fellow 3rd Growth Château Dubignon, absorbing all its vineyard holdings and shuttering the cellar.

The modern history of Malescot-St.-Exupéry began in 1955 when it was purchased by the Zuger family, former owners of Marquis d’Alesme. The estate is still owned by the family today with Michel Rolland consulting.

Located on the right side of the D2 highway, the vineyards of Malescot-St.-Exupéry neighbor those of Ch. Margaux and the 2nd Growth Rauzan Segla.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot. Usually around 9000 cases a year are produced but in 2017 Malescot St. Exupéry lost nearly 20% of its plantings to frost damage.

Critic Scores:

95-96 James Suckling (JS), 91-93 Wine Advocate (WA), 91-93 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 91-93 Vinous Media (VM), 90-93 Wine Spectator (WS), 93-95 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

The 2017 Malescot St. Exupéry has a simpler bouquet than recent vintages with high-toned red cherry and raspberry fruit, quite ‘warm’ compared to its peers and it would benefit from a little more delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin. It is not a complex Malescot St. Exupéry but I admire the balance and focus. There is plenty of tightly wound red berry fruit laced with cedar and smoke, quite finessed towards the finish with a long spicy aftertaste. I would just like the aromatics to step up to the grade of the palate, so let’s see how this shows once in bottle. — Neal Martin, Vinous

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $55
JJ Buckley: $53.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $317.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $53.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $52.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $63 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $70 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

I was really optimistic about the 2014 Malescot-St.-Exupéry but even at $45 it didn’t strike me as a stellar value.

Malescot-St.-Exupéry has been very hit or miss for me. While I’ve enjoyed their work in stellar vintages like 2005 and 2009/10, I’ve been fairly underwhelmed in more average years like 2012 & 2014. Those experiences always tilt me more to a “wait and see” approach with potentially later purchases when the wine hits retail shelves.

With an average price of $55, it’s not that far out of line with 2014 right now though I can see it potentially inching up towards $60 on release if the barrel scores hold true. Glowing critic scores aside, I’m still going to err on my own personal experience and Pass on this offer.

Ch. Prieuré-Lichine (Margaux)

Some Geekery:

The “Prieuré” in Prieuré-Lichine pays homage to the estate’s early history in the 17th century as a vineyard for the Benedictine monks at the Priory of Cantenac. Clive Coates notes in Grands Vins: The Finest Châteaux of Bordeaux and Their Wines that the monks also owned neighboring Ch. Pouget and Ch. Boyd-Cantenac. However, during the French Revolution these ecclesiastical properties were confiscated by the government with the vineyards of Prieuré sold off in pieces to several other estates.

The next century and a half saw several changes in ownership and names until finally in 1951 when Alexis Lichine, the notable Russian writer and French wine expert who wrote Alexis Lichine’s Guide to the Wines and Vineyards of France and his New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits, headed a consortium of buyers that purchased the property.

Changing the name to Prieuré-Lichine and benefiting from an influx of capital from Count Lur Saluces, the owner of Chateau d’Yquem, Lichine set about reacquiring old parcels and adding new ones throughout Margaux from neighboring estates like Boyd-Cantenac, Brane-Cantenac, Durfort-Vivens, Ferrière, Giscours, d’Issan, Kirwan and Palmer. Lichine also pioneered promoting tourism in the region, erecting a sign on the D2 highway advertising tasting and cellar door wine purchases available at Ch. Prieuré-Lichine.

Photo by Prieuré Lichine. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The exterior of Prieuré-Lichine.

The estate stayed in the Lichine family until 1999 when it was sold to the negociant Groupe Ballande. The new owners hired Stephane Derenoncourt as consultant and, in 2013, added 7.5 more hectares of vines from a purchase of Ch. Pontet Chappaz–bring the estate’s total to 77.5 hectares (191.5 acres). All the vineyard parcels, scattered throughout various soils types in Margaux, are farmed sustainably. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 92-93 WE, 91-94 VM, 89-92 WS, 88-90 WA

Sample Review:

This is the definition of a wine to buy in an off-vintage. It has the signature of the last few years, but in an early-drinking package. It’s a little oaky and smoky for sure, but handles it well and delivers punch and personality without overstating the case. Ripe damson fruits help to deliver impact, even if the fruit is generally a touch below the exuberance of the last two years. Planted in the vineyard to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. (95 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $43
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $239.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $41.97
K&L: $39.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $45 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $56 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $51 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $48 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Despite its lackluster reputation and extreme difficulties, I still regularly make it a habit to try examples from the 2013 vintage whenever I get a chance–either at tastings like the 2016 Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) US Tour or even at restaurants if the bottle price is right.

I make that effort because there is so much you can learn about the mettle of the terroir and winemaking team by tasting the products of troublesome vintages. In great vintages, it’s easy to make great wine but if a wine from a rough vintage makes you raise an eyebrow then take note. That was the case for me at the 2016 UCG tasting where the 2013 Prieuré-Lichine stood out from the pack for its balance and charm in what a difficult year to find either.

The follow up year in 2014 proved even better as that vintage certainly gave the winemakers more to work with and I eagerly purchased futures of the 2015 and (especially) 2016 as the prices remained reasonable. Now seeing the 2017 priced even more attractively (even less than the 2013) makes this an easy Buy for me.

Ch. Lascombes (Margaux)

Some Geekery:

Originally founded by the Durfort de Duras family (of Durfort-Vivens fame), the estate was named after Antoine, Chevalier de Lascombes, who inherited the estate in the mid-17th century. Records from the regisseur (trustee) of Ch. Margaux noted that feudal dues of Lascombes was paid in the form of two barrels of wine each year which the owners of Ch. Margaux would use to top up their barrels with.

In 1925, Lascombes was purchased by the Ginestet family who owned Ch. Margaux and at one point were involved with Cos d’Estournel in St. Estephe, Clos-Fourtet in St. Emilion, Ch. Petit-Village in Pomerol and Durfort-Vivens. During World War II, Allied Forces used the chateau as an army headquarters.

Shortly after purchasing what would become Prieuré-Lichine, Alexis Lichine headed a group of investors that included American banker David Rockefeller to purchase Lascombes in 1952. Lichine actively promoted and tripled production before the estate was sold in 1971 to British brewer Bass Charrington.

In 2001, Lascombes was sold again. This time to an American finance company, Colony Capital, who invested more than $47 million dollars renovating the cellars and building a four story gravity-fed production facility. Alain Raynaud and Michel Rolland were brought in to consult with Yves Vatelot of Chateau Reignac. By the time the estate was sold in 2011 to French insurer La Mutuelle, Rolland was the primary consultant who is still working with the estate today.

Photo by PA. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-4.0

Chateau Lascombes.

With 117 hectares (289 acres), Lascombes is one of the largest properties in Margaux and is notable for being dominated by Merlot plantings, accounting for around 50% of the vineyards with 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot.

Critic Scores:

92-95 WA, 91-94 VM, 90-92 WE, 90-91 JS, 88-91 WS, 90-92 JL, 90-92 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

A bit of a drag queen with its fruity character and outgoing nature, the wine is round and flashy. The fruit is ripe and sweet, damp with warm earth, tobacco and licorice. This is the first vintage in recent times made from a Cabernet dominated blend. The wine is aging in 50% new, French oak barrels, which is a choice I hope they stick with, as the wines in the past often suffered from too much oak. — Jeff Leve, The Wine Cellar Insider

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $72
JJ Buckley: $73.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $71.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $82 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $92 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $70 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $64 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

A guilty pleasure, perhaps, but few things could top the combination of silkiness and depth that the 2010 Lascombes had.

Lascombes tends to be a very “modernist”, fruit-forward Bordeaux that features lavish oak and can often provoke some of the lush, hedonistic pleasures of a Napa Cab. While it doesn’t always knock me off my socks, I absolutely adored the 2010 vintage that was one my Top 10 wines at the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour tasting. The estate also did very well with their 2013 and 2014 offerings.

When it’s good, Lascombes is very good but it’s rarely ever screams value. This, coupled with the change in style for this vintage to a Cab-dominant blend, makes it more of a gamble than I’m willing to take for a 2017 so I will Pass.

Ch. Cantenac-Brown (Margaux)

Some Geekery:

Photo by BillBl. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

The Tudor style architecture of the chateau at Cantenac-Brown standsout among its peers.

A relatively young estate, Ch. Cantenac was purchased in the early 1800s by the grandfather of Scottish painter John Lewis Brown. A merchant who moved to Bordeaux after the French Revolution, Brown also owned neighboring Boyd-Cantenac and the Pessac-Leognan estate Château Barrière (now Chateau Brown). It was Brown who commissioned the construction of the chateau in its unique Tudor style.

By 1860 it was under the ownership of Armand Lalande, owner of Léoville Poyferré, and would change hands several more times over the next 146 years until it was purchased by the Halabi family in 2006. After acquiring the property from the AXA insurance group, the Halabis hired Jose Sanfins to manage the winemaking and continue the improvements made by Jean-Michel Cazes, Daniel Llose and Christian Seely under AXA.

With 48 hectares (118.6 acres) spread across the commune, the estate includes several parcels that are over 60 years of age. All the vineyards of Cantenac-Brown are farmed sustainably.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot. Around 11,000 cases a year are produced though the final total in 2017 is likely to be lower due to frost damage.

Critic Scores:

92-93 JS, 90-93 VM, 90-92 WA, 89-92 WS, 89-91 WE

Sample Review:

The vineyard received a bit of frost in 2017 with yields finishing at 35 hectoliters per hectare, whereas normally yields are around 42 hectoliters per hectare. With a larger proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon this year, the blend is 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot. Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2017 Cantenac Brown leaps from the glass with exuberant notes of cassis, warm plums and black forest cake with touches of violets, dark chocolate, cloves and cigar box plus a waft of lavender. The palate is medium-bodied and firm with fine-grained tannins and tons of freshness, finishing with plenty of black fruit and perfumed layers. — Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $52
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $49.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $57 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $65 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $47 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $43 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

Cantenac-Brown was another estate that impressed me during the 2016 UGC tasting of the 2013 vintage–and that was my first ever tasting opportunity for them. I didn’t end up buy any of their 2013s and I must confess that I haven’t had an opportunity to revisit them or taste other vintages.

If the price was more compelling I may have been tempted but with an average north of their 2014 and 2013 still out on the market this will be a Pass for me.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Top Ten Wines from 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour

As we wrap up Spitbucket’s 3 part series on the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour in Las Vegas, we come to our grand finale–my Top Ten Wines of the event. Of course this list is entirely limited and subjective. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, it is virtually impossible to try all 244 wines available in just 3 hours. While I thoroughly enjoyed the 68 wines that I did get to try, I undoubtedly missed out on several gems that may have found their way to this list.

Among the wines that I regrettably missed out on:

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso 2010 (94 pts. Wine Searcher average price $75)
Graham’s Vintage Port 2000 (98 pts. Wine Searcher average price $98)
Marques de Grinon Domino de Valdepusa Petit Verdot 2011 (93 pts. Wine Spectator list price $40)
Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2007 (93 pts. Wine Searcher average price $143)
Recanti Judean Hills Wild Carignan Reserve 2014 (91 pts. Wine Searcher average price $48)
Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Franc 2009 (92 pts. Wine Searcher average price $77)
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 2012 (93 pts. Wine Searcher average price $227)

Now as for my Top 10 list, as frequent readers know I do have a bit of bias towards Bordeaux wines. While the geek in me seeks out tasty treats from across the globe, Bordeaux will always be my most enduring love in the world of wine. So it should not be a surprised that Bordeaux wines account for almost a third of this list with many of the other wines capturing my attention for their “Bordeaux-like” elegance and qualities. Again, this list is completely subjective.

My Top 10 wines of the night:


Adobe Road 2013 Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III A1-Block Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points. Wine Spectator list price $175)

Still the undoubted wine of the event. Even glancing over my list of missed opportunities, I don’t think any of them would have knocked this 228 case limited release from Adobe Road off the pedestal.

My top wine at the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tasting was this Adobe Road Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III in Rutherford.

As I described in part 2, this wine was classic Napa but what set it far above its peers that I tasted was the fresh, lively acidity that gave sparks to tongue while the velvety soft and rich fruit was wrapping it up in a kiss. When you are “power-tasting” through a lot of great wine, you find that they start to meld together, making it hard to stand out. Especially in Napa where the check-list seems to be [x] Ripe dark fruit [x] Full-bodied [x] Soft but noticeable tannins and [x] Noticeable oak. It’s easy to check all those boxes and make a wine that will give immense pleasure when being enjoyed by itself.

But for a wine to stand out when it is being tasted along such illustrious wines as the 2009 Caymus Special Selection, 2012 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow, 2013 Alpha Omega Era, 2013 Beringer Private Reserve, 2012 Chimney Rock Elevage, 2013 Vine Cliff 16 Rows Oakville, 2005 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and 2013 Trinchero Mario’s Vineyard, it is going to be that freshness that hits you like a finger snap in front of your face, commanding your attention. None of the aforementioned wines were bad and, indeed, two of those wines also ended up making my Top 10 list. The 2013 Adobe Road Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III A1-Block Cabernet Sauvignon was just better.

Altesino 2011 Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli (93 points. Wine Spectator list price $110)

Outside of Burgundy and the Mosel, we usually don’t talk about individual vineyards in Europe the same way we do with American wines. There are certainly legendary vineyards in Europe, and single bottlings from those vineyards, but the names don’t easily roll off our tongues quite like To Kalon, Ciel du Cheval, Shea, Monte Bello, Red Willow, Sangiacomo, etc. However, you can make a fair argument (as James Suckling does here [subscription]) that the Montosoli vineyard owned by Altesino is one of the top vineyards in all of Montalcino. In fact, it was the very first vineyard to be bottled as a single cru of Brunello di Montalcino.

Despite being a very young Brunello (even for a warm vintage), this wine lived up to its lofty pedigree with an intoxicating bouquet of tobacco spice, orange peel, black cherry and savory leather. It had me picturing myself drinking an old-fashioned at a Victorian Explorer’s Club gathering. The palate brought more richness to the cherry notes with enough acidity to keep it juicy without being “bitey”. The tannins are still quite firm, again confessing its youth, but a silkiness emerges as you roll the wine around your tongue that holds much promise.

Emilio Moro 2011 Malleolus de Valderramiro Ribera del Duero (90 points. Wine Searcher Average price $85)

I am still a bit dumbfounded how this wine only got a mere 90 points from Wine Spectator. (As I was with several wines like this that I reviewed in the first part of the series.) While I can appreciate the palates and scores of critics like Thomas Matthews, its always important to formulate our own opinions on wine. While I try to avoid using the 100 point scale myself, with pegging wines down to just a number, I will say that this delicious wine from Emilio Moro far surpassed many 93-94 rated wines.

Heitz 2005 Martha’s Vineyard Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (93 points. Wine Searcher average price $181)

Like the Adobe Road Beckstoffer Georges III, Martha’s Vineyard located in Oakville is a legendary site for Cabernet Sauvignon. My adoration of this wine will again reveal my “Bordeaux-bias” a it had, by far, the most Bordeaux-like nose of all the Napa Cabs. Lots of savory herbal elements of what I like to call the “Chicken herbs” used for roasting–sage, thyme and particularly rosemary. The classic Martha’s Vineyard eucalyptus was also there but I was surprised with how much St.-Julien like cedar box and tobacco spice was also present.

The mouthfeel though was tried and true Napa with rich, almost Port-like dark fruit and Belgium dark chocolate undertones. The medium-plus acidity added enough freshness to balance the weight. The tannins were mostly velvety but they had a firm grip along the edge which hinted at how much more time this already 12-year old wine could go. While some of the eucalyptus and tobacco spice carried through to the palate, most of the savory Bordeaux-like notes on the nose were gone. In many ways it felt like I was drinking two different wines and that kept my interest.

Ramos Pinto 30 year Tawny Port (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $85)

You can find my full review here. Again, simply a fabulous Port that is among the best I’ve ever had. If you can find it, its definitely worth grabbing and if you find it priced under a $100, grab two.

Ch. Pichon Longueville Lalande 2011 Pauillac (91 points. Wine Searcher average price $116)

You can’t sugar-coat over how rough of a vintage that 2011 was. Spring was too hot and fraught with drought while summer was too cold with rains happening at the most inopportune times (if they happened at at all). Still, the blessings of modern viticulture and winemaking knowledge means that even in the roughest of vintages, wineries still have the skills and the tools to produce delicious wine.

Does this 2011 Pichon Lalande stack up to the 2010, 2009 or even the absolutely scrumptious 2005 (one of my all-time favs among all wines)? No. But neither does the 2011’s price tag of around $116 stack up to the price tags of those vintages–Wine Searcher average of $229, $204 and $152, respectively. That is the landscape of Bordeaux with every bottle and every vintage needing to be evaluate both on a curve and within the big picture.

So judging this 2011 among its vintage-peers, I was exceedingly impressed with how well it was drinking this evening. With 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 2% Petite Verdot, this wine had far more Cab than typical Pichon Lalande and with the characteristics of the vintage, I was expecting something that needed far more time.

But this wine was ready to dance with a mix of black currant and red cherry fruit framed with the typical savory tobacco and cedar cigar box notes of a good Pauillac. The mouthfeel had a lot more noticeable vanilla oak notes than I would expect. Much as the vanilla works to coax early drinking approach-ability with New World wines, so here it was smoothing out the rough edges of youthful tannins. With a little dark chocolate and Christmas fruitcake spiciness on the finish, you end up with a delightful wine that has character and personality.

Marchesi Fumanelli 2009 Octavius Riserva Amarone (94 points. Wine Searcher average price $173)

Another wine that took me by surprised as I reviewed in part 2. This wine may be more difficult to find in the United States but it is well worth the hunt for any wine lover of bold, brooding reds with layers of complexity.

Diamond Creek 2012 Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon (92 points. Wine Searcher average price $216)

This was only my second encounter with Diamond Creek after previously trying a 2009 Volcanic Hill. That one experience coupled with reading Cellar Tracker reviews of their wines helped form my expectation that this was going to be similar to other Diamond Mountain Cabernets that I’ve had in the past (Wallis Family, Lokoya, Martin Ray and Von Strasser)–powerful, rich but with a lot of structure and firm tannins that need time to mellow.

While this 2012 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow certainly had the power and richness, I was taken back by how soft the tannins where. In a blind tasting, I would be completely fooled that this wasn’t something from Rutherford or Oakville. It was downright velvety with the opulent black fruit. On the nose there was some earthiness, like dusty crushed rocks with a tinge of smokiness, but it was no where near as herbal as I would have expected. This was another wine that I found myself excited at the thought of what enjoyment savoring a full bottle of this wine would bring.

Ch. Calon Segur 2003 (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $117)

As I wrote in part 2, it is easy for Bordeaux lovers to dismiss the 2003 “heat wave” vintage (especially on the Left Bank) but wines like the 2003 Calon Segur shows that there were still many great wines made that year.

Ch. Lascombes 2010 Margaux (91 points. Wine Searcher average price $118)

Oh you didn’t think I could get through this list without slipping in a 2010 Bordeaux, did you? Of course not. I especially couldn’t pass up tasting again and falling back in love with this wine from the 2nd Growth estate in Margaux. Since Dominique Befve took over in the early 2000s (after stints at l’Evangile in Pomerol and 10 years as Technical Director of Chateau Lafite), Chateau Lascombes has been going from strength to strength.

Lascombes is a little unique in that the fair amount of clay in the soils of their vineyards around the communes of Cantenac, Soussans and Margaux, allows them to grow more Merlot than you would expect for a highly classified Medoc estate. In 2010 that translated to a blend that was dominated by Merlot with 55% followed by 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. While many of its 2010 Cab-dominated Left Bank peers still need ample time in the cellar, this Lascombes is following the path of Angelus, Canon-La-Gaffelière, Pavie-Macquin and Le Dome in being one of the best drinking 2010s right now on the market.

The nose has swirls of black licorice spice with smokey espresso that give way to black currant and Turkish figs. The tannins on the mouthfeel are silky with the same black fruits on the nose being wrapped with even more smoke and now chocolate espresso flavors. The finish is long and lingering, giving ample pleasure but making you soon crave another sip. While most 2009/2010 prices are in the stratosphere, this is still an absolute steal for how much this wine over-delivers.

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