Tag Archives: St. Estephe

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

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

For the last several postings in our series about the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign, we’ve been skipping around Bordeaux to focus on the offers from different communes.

Today we’re going to take a break from that to look at some individual offers from the St. Estephe 2nd Growth Ch. Montrose and its second wine, La Dame de Montrose. Then we are going to head out to the Haut-Medoc AOC to check in on the 5th Growth Ch. Cantemerle before ending on the offer from another Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg estate with Ch. d’Aiguilhe in the Côtes de Castillon region of the Right Bank.

If you are new to our Bordeaux Futures series, be sure to check out my post on Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures as well as the our first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley.

At the bottom of page are links to the offers of other estates that we’ve reviewed so far in this series.

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Montrose (St. Estephe)
Some Geekery:

Photo by Rosendahl. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-author

The vivid pink color of heather flowers in bloom on the hill that would become Montrose could be scene by sailors on the Gironde.

Founded in 1815, Ch. Montrose was the youngest estate to be classified 40 years later in the 1855 classification. However, the history of the land dates back much longer when it was part of the historical Calon-Ségur estate that was once owned by the Marquis de Ségur–the “Prince of Vines” who also owned what would become the First Growths of Ch. Latour, Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild.

The descendants of the Marquis sold Calon-Ségur in 1778 to Etienne Théodore Dumoulin. His son, also named Etienne Théodore, took interest in an unplanted hill on the property near the Gironde known as La Lande de l’Escargeon that was covered in heather, stunted trees, gorse and bramble. Underneath this growth was a croupe of gravel soils that Dumoulin suspected would be ideal for grape growing.

Dumoulin cleared the hill and renamed it Montrose (hill of pink) with the name likely alluding to the pink (rosé) heather flowers that were visible to sailors on the Gironde when they were in bloom. While Dumoulin would later sell Calon-Ségur in 1824, Montrose would stay in his family until 1861 when it was sold to an Alsatian businessman, Mathieu Dollfus.

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that Dollfus was a very progressive employer for his time–building housing and a well for all his winery and vineyard workers, offering them free medical care and paid maternity leave as well as dividing 10% of the profits between them on top of their salaries.

When Dolffus passed away in 1887, the estate was sold to the Hostein family who owned Ch. Cos d’Estournel. In 1896, it was passed to Louis Victor Charmoule who was born at Ch. Figeac in St. Emilion and married into the Hostein family.

The Charmoule family would own Ch. Montrose for more than 100 years until 2006 when it was sold to the Bouygues brothers who made their fortune in the construction and telecom business.

Photo by BerndB mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de  Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 2000 Montrose, one of the last few vintages of the Charmoule family.

Under the Bouygues ownership, Herve Berland–formerly of Ch. Mouton-Rothschild–was brought in to manage the estate and Jean Bernard Delmas, previously of Ch. Haut-Brion, was coaxed out of retirement to oversee the winemaking both at Montrose and at the Bouyques’ neighboring sister property of Ch. Tronquoy Lalande.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Around 15,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

96-99 Wine Advocate (WA), 96-97 James Suckling (JS), 94-96 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Vinous Media (VM), 91-94 Wine Spectator (WS), 97-99 Jeff Leve (JL), 93-95 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

This has more Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend this year, the highest level since 2006, because the Merlot didn’t quite make it through the September rains unscathed. The wine is correspondingly powerful with a robust accompanying acidity that promises a long life. The fruit character is savoury, succulent and extremely persistent, with fleshy blackberry alongside touches of redcurrant and a pulsating freshness that keeps on coming. Harvested 12-29 September with twelve days spent actually picking, compared to sixteen days over the last few years, with more hands on deck. They have never been affected by frost, as far as they can remember, and 2017 was no exception. The wind is always such a benefit here. (96 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:

Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $133
JJ Buckley: $132.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $138 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $839.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $134.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $129.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $197 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $177 Average Critic Score: 94
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $141 Average Critic Score: 95
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $98 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

Montrose is a stalwart in my cellar but even though I know the style has been changing to make the wines more approachable younger, I never want to touch a bottle until it has at least 15 years of age on it. A couple years ago, I opened up a 2005 with just a little over 10 years of age and it was heartbreaking how tight and not ready that wine was–especially since that was my only bottle and it is now fetching over $200. Lesson learned.

Needless to say that means that even though this will undoubtedly be a tasty bottle and a solid value with pricing under 2014 levels, Montrose’s style doesn’t fit with my personal objectives of finding early-drinking “cellar defenders” from this 2017 vintage. So while this will be good buy for other Bordeaux fans, it will be a Pass for me.

La Dame de Montrose (St. Estephe)

Some Geekery:

La Dame de Montrose is named after Yvonne Charmolue, mother of Jean Louis Charmolue who created the wine in the 1980s. In January 1944, more than a year before World War II would come to an end, Yvonne’s husband, Albe Charmolue, passed away leaving just Yvonne to care for the estate and her young son.

During this time, Montrose was still recovering from having the chateau and several of the winery’s buildings occupied by the Wehrmacht artillery with portions of the vineyards used as a rifle range by the German soldiers. The unit’s presence and its location near the Shell petrol refinery in neighboring Pauillac made the area a frequent target for Royal Air Force bombers with several bombs that overshot their targets hitting the vineyards and creating huge craters.

Photo by BerndB; GNU free licence; mailto:cassandros@cityweb.de;. Released on Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0

A bottle of 1953 Montrose–one of several post war vintages that the widow Yvonne Charmolue would oversee the production of.


With only the assistance of Marcel Borie, owner of the 5th Growth Ch. Batailley and mayor of Pauillac, Yvonne single-handedly managed Ch. Montrose for the next 16 years until Jean Louis was ready to take over in 1960.

In 1982, around 30,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin of Montrose was produced. With the introduction of La Dame de Montrose in 1984 as well as the reintroduction of a mostly restaurant-only third wine, Le Saint Estephe de Montrose, in the 2000s that number has been halved to around 15,000 cases a year of the Grand Vin being produced from the 95 ha (235 acre) estate.

Today a little more than half of the crop is declassified with La Dame de Montrose getting around 30% of the total crop and Le Saint Estephe de Montrose getting about 20%. The remaining fruit is sold off in bulk.

The 2017 is a blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 10,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

91-92 JS, 89-91 WA, 88-90 VM, 90-92 JD, 89-91 JL

Sample Review:

Deep crimson. Much more scented than the Tronquoy-Lalande, lovely dark fruit on the nose. But still with that savoury graphite quality of the grand vin. Fully ripe but not sweet. Even a touch floral. Silky texture, tannins are so supple. Lightish but juicy on the mid palate and with a good balance between fruit and freshness even in this lighter mode. (16.5 out of 20) — Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $38
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $221.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $39.97
K&L: No offers yet.

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $41 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $40 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $36 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

While I’m a huge fan of Montrose and I adore the story of La Dame, this is another second wine that has never really wowed me–even though it remains a decent value as the prices of other second wines keep jumping. There is nothing offensive about the wines but for the same $40-50 price point, I can find plenty of other Bordeaux wines that deliver more pleasure for my money.

I wouldn’t be opposed to purchasing this at a restaurant but even with pricing below 2014, there is nothing very compelling about this wine to entice me to buy for the cellar. Pass.

Ch. Cantemerle (Haut-Medoc)
Some Geekery:

Ch. Cantemerle is one of the oldest estates in the Haut-Medoc with a history dating back to the 11th century when the property belonged to the Lords of Cantemerle. Unlike the other vassals who were seigneurs of the powerful Lords of Blanquefort, Cantemerle were direct vassals of the king and had many privileges.

From a private postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-OLD

Ch. Cantemerle circa 1900-1920.


In 1575, the estate came into the hands of the Villeneuve family who would own Cantemerle for over 300 years and count Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, author of Beauty and the Beast, as an extended member.

In the 19th century, the wines of Cantemerle where held in high esteem and regularly ranked as 4th or 5th Growths. But its entire production was sold almost exclusively through Dutch merchants so when the local merchants and brokers of Bordeaux put together the original 1855 Classification, Cantemerle was omitted.

When the owner, Madame Caroline de Villeneuve-Durfort, heard about this slight, she barged down to the offices of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce while the Paris Exposition unveiling the classification was still taking place. With over 40 years worth of receipts, she argued successfully to the head of the broker’s union that the wines of Cantemerle had a long track record of fetching prices on par with many of the wines that were included in the classification.

For her efforts, Cantemerle was added to the original document listing the estates of the 1855 classification, albeit clearly in a different handwriting than the other estates.

In the 20th century, the property came into the hands of the Dubois family who owned Cantemerle until 1981 when it was sold to the French insurance group SMABTP with the Cordier family (of Ch. Talbot and the notable negociant house fame) managing the vineyard and winemaking.

Today Cantemerle is still owned by SMABTP where it is part of a portfolio that includes the St. Emilion estates of Ch. Haut Corbin, Ch. Grand Corbin and Ch. Le Jurat. In 1993, Philippe Dambrine replaced the Cordiers as estate manager and is still responsible for production today.

The 2017 is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 92-94 WE, 89-91 WA, 89-92 VM, 87-90 WS, 87-89 JD, 90-92

Sample Review:

The 2017 Cantemerle is deep, fleshy and wonderfully expressive. Savory herb, tobacco, menthol, licorice, dark red cherry, smoke and incense run through this super-expressive, pliant Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé. All the elements simply meld together effortlessly. Rose petal, lavender and a host of floral notes add perfume to the finish. The 2017 should be one of the finer values of the year. Tasted two times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $29
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $179.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $31.97
K&L: $29.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $34 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $37 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

Sourced from http://www.tenzingws.com/blog/2015/5/28/original-handwritten-letter-of-the-1855-classification-of-bordeaux

The inclusion of Cantemerle under Château Croizet-Bages in the original 1855 classification is noticeably smaller and in a different handwriting. Source


The history geek in me loves the story of Cantemerle and particularly the feisty Madame Villeneuve-Durfort who wouldn’t take no for an answer. When I look at photos showing the shaky and hastily added Cantemerle to the 1855 classification, I chuckle thinking of Madame Villeneuve-Durfort hovering over the shoulder of the scared broker and his pen.

However, despite that love and affection for the story, outside of the 2010 Cantemerle (WS Ave $55), I really haven’t found much in the glass to excite me. The pricing is certainly intriguing because there aren’t many classified growths being sold for less than $40–much less under $30–but I prefer to take a wait and see approach with Cantemerle. I may get a bottle when it hits the market (likely around the $35 price point then) and see if there is finally something there worth getting excited about. Till then I’ll Pass.

Ch. d’Aiguilhe (Côtes de Castillon)
Some Geekery:

While wine has been produced at the estate since the 1700s when it was owned by the Leberthon family, the modern history of Ch. d’Aiguilhe (meaning “needle”) began in 1989 when it was purchased by Stephan von Neipperg.

Von Neipperg, who also owns the St. Emillion Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘B’ estates La Mondotte and Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière as well as Clos de l’Oratoire, Ch. Peyreau, Clos Marsalette in Pessac-Léognan, the Sauternes Premier Cru Ch. Guiraud, Capaia in South Africa and Bessa Valley in Bulgaria, brought in his longtime consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and began renovating the estate and vineyards.

All the vineyards are farmed organically with many parcels biodynamic.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced though with close 60% of the production being lost to frost in 2017, that number will be much lower this vintage.

Critic Scores:

90-93 WS, 89-90 JS, 88-90 WA, 85-87 VM, 91-93 JD, 90-92 JL

Sample Review:

Brought up in 30% new barrels, the 2017 Château d’Aiguilhe offers a gorgeous perfume of framboise, blueberries, strawberries, and flowers. Possessing medium body, fine, silky tannin, impeccable balance and obvious minerality on the finish, it’s seriously good Côtes de Castillon that over-delivers. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $22
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet.
Total Wine: $23.97
K&L: $22.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $24 Average Critic Score: 90 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $26 Average Critic Score: 90
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $20 Average Critic Score: 87

Buy or Pass?

As I noted in my reviews of the 2017 offers for Canon-la-Gaffelière and Clos de l’Oratoire, I strongly equate the wines of von Neipperg and Derenoncourt with very New World-ish, Napa-like styles. While that is a style that I tend to avoid during more highly regarded Bordeaux vintages (where I’m looking for more classical and age-worthy Bordeaux), this more lush and fruit forward style fits perfectly into the mold of short-term consumption “cellar defenders” I aim for in vintages like 2017.

And the value is always there as well with it being very difficult to find sub-$30 Napa wines drinking to level of Château d’Aiguilhe. While I’m not going to spring for cases, this is an easy Buy for several bottles.

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

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

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

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

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

We head to St. Estephe for the next installment in our series on the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign to look at offers for the 2nd Growth estate of Cos d’Estournel and its second wine, Les Pagodes des Cos, the cru bourgeois Ch. Phélan Ségur and the 3rd Growth Calon-Segur.

Be sure to check out previous posts in our series for more details about the 2017 vintage.

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge, Haut-Batailley

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

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Cos d’Estournel (St. Estephe)

Some Geekery:

Since its founding in 1811 by Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, Cos d’Estournel has always been a little bit of a rule breaker. The chateau was also one of the first in Bordeaux to estate bottle and instead of selling wine through the traditional courtier and negociant system, Gaspard sold his wine directly to clients across the globe–with India being a key market.

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

Vineyards of Cos d’Estournel in St. Estephe

However, this early rebellious streak came to an end in 1852 at the death of Gaspard which was somewhat beneficial as by the time the fame 1855 Classification was drafted, the brokers and negociants who helped crafted the classification had some pricing records to know where to place Cos d’Estournel. With these records, Cos d’Estournel was able to take its place as a 2nd Growth along with Ch. Montrose in St. Estephe.

Compare this to the story of the Haut-Medoc 5th Growth Ch. Cantemerle whose owner bypassed the Bordelais system to sell directly to Dutch merchants. After initially being omitted from the original classification, it took almost a year of lobbying, producing sales and pricing records, by Mme. De Villeneuve-Durfort to convince the Bordeaux Brokers’ Union that Cantemerle merited inclusion.

For a time, Cos d’Estournel was owned by the Charmolue family who also owned neighboring Montrose but by 1917 it came under the care of Fernand Ginestet whose grandson, Bruno Prats, would usher in the modern-era of success for the estate. Eventually the Prats sold Cos d’Estournel to the Merlaut family (owners of Chasse-Spleen, Haut-Bages Libéral, Gruaud-Larose among many others) in 1998 who quickly sold it two years later to Michel Reybier.

To insure continuity, Reybier hired the son of Bruno Prats, Jean-Guillaume, to manage the estate which he did till 2012 when he left to join Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH). During his time, he completely renovated the winery by removing all pumps and making everything gravity fed. To minimize some of the harsh tannins associated with the cooler and more clay dominant soils of St. Estephe, Cos d’Estournel was also an early adopter of completely destemming clusters even during very ripe vintages like 2009. Prats’ replacement, Aymeric de Gironde, lasted 5 years until the 2017 when Reybier himself took over managing the estate.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Critic Scores:

97-100 Wine Advocate (WA), 97-98 James Suckling (JS), 95-97 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Vinous Media (VM), 94-96 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 96-98 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample Review:

This is exceptional, if a touch below the intensity and harmony of 2016. I love the density that’s displayed in this wine, showcasing luxurious, well-enrobed tannins. The complexity steals up on you little by little, the dark cassis and plum fruit character deepening through the palate with flashes of sage, charcoal, cigar box, graphite and taut tannins. The colour difference is marked between the grand vin and second wine, with the Cos extremely deep damson in colour following a one-month maceration at 30 degrees and clever use of the press. Harvested 12- 30 September. 40% of production went into the grand vin. (94 points) Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average $148
JJ Buckley: $154.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: $154 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $899.94 for minimum 6 pack + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $149.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K & L: $144.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 — Wine Searcher Ave. $192 Average Critic Score: 94 points
2015 — Wine Searcher Ave. $190 Average Critic Score: 95
2014 — Wine Searcher Ave. $138 Average Critic Score: 94
2013 — Wine Searcher Ave. $134 Average Critic Score: 91

Buy or Pass?

As I’ve outlined several times in this series, I have no interest in paying 2015/2016 prices for a vintage that I would put more on par with 2014. I understand that with drastically reduced yields, there is going to be some pressure on prices due to limited supply but from everything I’ve read about this vintage, the quality just doesn’t seem to merit paying a premium.

To that extent, I find the pricing of the 2017 Cos d’Estournel at around $148 a bottle to be quite fair and tempting. My only hedge is the changing management style from Prats to de Gironde to now owner Michel Reybier taking a more hands on approach. While I’ve absolutely adored the 2005-2006 and 2008-2010 Cos d’Estournel of Prats, I was a little underwhelmed by the 2014 vintage but I didn’t want to judge too harshly on that vintage at such a young age. While I have no doubt that Reybier is driven by a stellar commitment to quality, I just don’t know if his style is going to match my personal tastes and when I’m looking at wines north of $100, I want to bank on more certainty than glowing critic scores.

So for me, the 2017 Cos d’Estournel is a Pass but it will certainly be a compelling buy for many Bordeaux lovers.

Les Pagodes des Cos (St. Estephe)

Photo by ThomasPusch. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0
Some Geekery:

The second wine of Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos was first produced in 1994. Sourced from young vines and declassified lots, it originally replaced the role of the Prat’s family cru bourgeois estate Château de Marbuzet as a way of increasing the quality of the Grand Vin by being more selective in the vineyard and the winery.

Even though it still contains the fruit of younger vines, the average age of the vines that go into Les Pagodes des Cos is over 35 years. Reflective of the increasing acreage dedicated to Merlot at Cos d’Estournel, the percentage of Merlot in the final blend of Les Pagodes des Cos is usually notably high with some years (like 2015) even being Merlot-dominant.

While the Grand Vin of Cos d’Estournel will see anywhere from 60-80% new French oak, the second wine usually sees around 40%.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

Critic Scores:

92-94 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-92 WA, 90-92 VM

Sample Review:

This is the second label of Cos d’Estournel, which accounted for about 55% of production in 2017. A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot, the 2017 Les Pagodes de Cos has a deep garnet-purple color and exuberant notes of crushed blackberries, red currants and cassis with touches of charcuterie, black soil and garrigue plus a waft of lavender. Medium-bodied and very fine-grained, it has great intensity and vibrancy with a good long, fruity finish. — Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average $41
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $257.94 for minimum 6 pack + shipping
Total Wine: $44.97
K & L: No offers yet

Previous Vintages:
2016 — Wine Searcher Ave. $47 Average Critic Score: 91 points
2015 — Wine Searcher Ave. $55 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 — Wine Searcher Ave. $47 Average Critic Score:91
2013 — Wine Searcher Ave. $44 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

The value of “second wines” is often hotly debated by Bordeaux fans with some folks feeling that they are overpriced for being “second best” while some feel they can offer exceptional bargains.

I tend to fall somewhere in the middle as I do think that Second Wines can offer terrific value and give the consumer a taste of the house-style of a great estate for a fraction of the price of the Grand Vin. However, I would never invest in cases of a second wine–especially if the Grand Vin of another estate is equivalent in value.

In my assessment of the offers for the 2017 Cos d’Estournel, I expressed my reservations on if the changing house style of the estate will still meet my tastes. While I’m not inclined to gamble at $150 a bottle (even if it is likely to be a 100 point wine that will increase in value), I’m perfectly willing to spend $45 a bottle on the second wine to get a window into Reybier’s style and what he did in this vintage. That makes the 2017 Les Pagodes a compelling Buy for me and worth taking a gamble on.

Ch. Phélan Ségur
Some Geekery:

In 1805, Bernard O’Phelan, an Irishman from Tipperary, began purchasing vineyards in St. Estephe–including parts that belonged to the historical Segur vineyard and Clos de Garramey–creating what would be the largest estate in St. Estephe at the time. Eventually his heirs sold the property and in it was acquired by Chaillou family in 1919.

In 1925, the estate was sold to Roger Delon, member of the notable family that now owns the 2nd Growth Léoville-Las-Cases, Château Nénin in Pomerol and the Medoc estate Ch. Potensac.

Photo from Private post-card collection. Released on Wikimedia Commons under public domain.

Postcard featuring Phélan Ségur in the early 1900s.


The Delons sold Phélan Ségur to Xavier Gardinier, the former head of the Champagne houses Pommery and Lanson, in 1985. When the 1983 vintage was released to poor reviews, Gardinier claimed the used of herbicides in the vineyards tainted the quality of the wine and he recalled all bottles from the marketplace.

The subsequent 1984 and 1985 vintages were likewise sold off in bulk and not released as Gardinier began a project of rehabilitation of the estate in the vineyard and winery. In 2002, he acquired Chateau Houissant next to the 2nd Growth estate Ch. Montrose, adding 25 hectares of prime vineyard land though 22 of those hectares would be eventually sold to Montrose in 2010. A few years later, in 2006, Michel Rolland was brought on as a consultant.

Phélan Ségur stayed in the Gardinier family, under the care of Thierry Gardinier, until 2017 when it was sold to Belgian businessman Philippe Van de Vyvere who formerly took over in January 2018.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

92-93 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-93 VM, 89-92 Wine Spectator (WS), 89-92 JD

Sample Review:

The deep, saturated purple-colored 2017 Phélan Ségur is a classic, well-made wine in the vintage that has notable depth and density as well as textbook Saint-Estèphe notes of ripe black fruits, leafy herbs/tobacco, and loamy earth. It shows the fresher, cooler-climate style of the vintage yet is far from austere and has loads to love. — Jeb Dunnuck

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average $41
JJ Buckley: $43.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $251.94 for minimum 6 pack + shipping
Total Wine: $42.97
K & L: $42.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 — Wine Searcher Ave. $48 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 — Wine Searcher Ave. $49 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 — Wine Searcher Ave. $45 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 — Wine Searcher Ave. $37 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

Phélan Ségur first landed on my radar with the surprisingly good 2013 and then the much better 2014 vintage. My experience with those two less-than-stellar vintages gave me ample confidence to purchase futures of the 2015 and 2016. But as reflective of my more cautious approach in 2017, I’m going to Pass on this year’s offering even though the $41 average price looks to be a solid value.

Change in the wine world is always inevitable–especially in Bordeaux–but when it comes to my wallet, I prefer to take a wait and see approach when it comes to changing ownership and winemakers. Besides, for a cru bourgeois like Phélan Ségur the risk of the retail price of the 2017 rising dramatically when it finally hits shelves in 2020 is fairly small. It might rise to the $45 average that the 2014 vintage is fetching now but it would probably require a major wine critic “re-evaluating” the bottle sample as a 94+ point wine for it to jump over $50 a bottle.

Ch. Calon-Ségur(St. Estephe)

Some Geekery:

Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under the Public Domain.

While the Marquis de Ségur would own land that would become some of the most famous names in Bordeaux, the estate of Calon-Ségur was reportedly his favorite.


One of the oldest properties in the Medoc, the long history of Calon-Ségur can be traced to the 12th century when it belonged to the Monseigneur de Calon. The profile of the estate rose dramatically in the 18th century when it was owned by Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur, the Prince of Vines.

While the Marquis de Ségur would also go on to own an astonishing stable of estates, including 3 of the 5 First Growths–Lafite, Latour and Mouton–as well as land that is today part of Pontet-Canet, d’Armailhac and Montrose, it was said that his heart was always with his chateau at Calon in St. Estephe. That sentiment is reflected in the heart-shape logo of Calon-Ségur that still graces the label of the 3rd Growth today.

In 1894, the estate was purchased by negociant Charles Hanappier and Georges Gasqueton with Gasqueton’s descendants owning Calon-Ségur until 2012 when it was sold to a consortium that included the French insurance company Suravenir and Jean-Pierre Moueix, owner of Ch. Petrus. Flushed with capital, extensive renovations at the estate took place which included new tanks for parcel by parcel vinifications and the introduction of gravity-flow techniques. Vincent Millet, who previously was at Ch. Margaux, was kept as technical director.

In the vineyard, vine density was increased and under-performing parcels were uprooted with a goal of increasing the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the cépage. While today the vineyard is planted to around 53% Cabernet Sauvignon 38% Merlot 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, eventually the owners of Calon-Ségur would like to see the amount of Merlot account for only 20% of plantings.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Around 20,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

95-97 WE, 94-95 JS, 92-94 WA, 92-94 VM, 91-94 WS, 92-94 JD, 94-96 JL

Sample Review:

Inky core with black-cherry rim. Ripe, dark and with a fine mineral cast to the cassis fruit, which is ripe but not sweet. Paper-fine tannins in many layers. Great ageing potential but also accessible. Deceptively accessible, suggesting lack of ageing ability, but I don’t think that is the case. Cool, fresh, serious, fine cassis fruit. The finesse comes from the lack of sweetness but there’s no lack of fruit. Dry, firm and very St-Estèphe, with tannin structure. But the structure is filled molecule by molecule with the fruit. It’s so finely balanced. There’s more firmness than in Cos but there’s still excellent harmony. Opens to a hint of violets. Super-moreish and juicy even with the structure of the terroir. (17.5 out of 20) Julia Harding, JancisRobinson.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average $85
JJ Buckley: $87.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: $88 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet
Total Wine: $84.97
K & L: $89.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 — Wine Searcher Ave. $118 Average Critic Score: 95 points
2015 — Wine Searcher Ave. $106 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 — Wine Searcher Ave. $101 Average Critic Score: 94
2013 — Wine Searcher Ave. $101 Average Critic Score: 92

Buy or Pass?

I was very surprised to have the 2003 Calon Segur be one of my Top 10 wines from the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour.
But even at nearly 14 years of age, this “heat wave” Bordeaux was showing beautifully.


I’ve adored numerous vintages of Calon-Ségur from the still lively 1996 (ave price $138), surprisingly complex 2003 (ave $128), undoubtedly excellent 2009 (ave $130) and the very promising 2012 (ave $105) and 2014.

While I’ve not yet purchased any futures from the estate, my experience particularly with the later two vintages has given me enough assurance in the stewardship of the new ownership team that this will likely continue being a style of wine that I enjoy. Plus with the value of Calon-Ségur rising north of $100 even in sub-par vintages like 2013, makes nabbing bottles of the 2017 at $85 an extremely compelling value and a definite Buy.

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 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

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

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

Photo by Kassander der Minoer. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

Continuing our series on the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign, I’m taking a look at offers featuring the Pessac-Léognan estates of Ch. Pape Clément and Malartic-Lagraviere, the St. Estephe Cru Bourgeois Ormes de Pez and the 3rd Growth Margaux estate Marquis d’Alesme.

For my general approach to buying futures for the 2017 vintage and my thoughts on earlier offers, check out my post Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge, Haut-Batailley.

Pape Clément (Pessac-Léognan)

Brief winery geekery:

One of the oldest estates in Bordeaux with a history dating back to the 13th century. In 1305, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Goth was elected pope (taking the name Clement V) and was gifted the property in Pessac-Léognan. The property remained in the hands of the Archbishops of Bordeaux until the end of the 18th century when many ecclesiastical properties were confiscated by the French government.

In 1980 Bernard Magrez, an entrepreneur who worked as a negociant for the Cordier group, acquired sole control of the estate from the two families who shared ownership (which included his wife). In 1993, he brought in Michel Rolland as a consultant. The style of Pape Clément during this period has been distinguished by its use of 100% new French oak.

The estate is located very close to the city of Bordeaux with the First Growth estate Ch. Haut-Brion being the closest vineyard neighbor. Both red and white grapes are planted with the vineyard spread of red varieties being 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Around 7,500 cases a year of the red Grand Vin are produced.

Photo by Kassander der Minoer. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated

Ch. Pape-Clement


The 2017 vintage is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot.

Critic scores:

94-97 Antonio Galloni (AG), 95-96 James Suckling (JS), 92-94 Wine Advocate (WA), 91-94 Wine Spectator (WS), 90-92 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 94-96 Jeb Dunnuck (JD), 95-97 Jeff Leve (JL)

Sample review:

The 2017 Pape Clément is fabulous. One of the rare 2017s with a real sense of structure, Pape Clément possesses dazzling intensity from start to finish. A rush of dark cherry, plum, chocolate and grilled herb notes hits the palate as this majestic, towering wine shows off its personality. Time in the glass brings out a brighter and more floral set of flavors. The 2017 is the first vintage made with a portion of whole clusters, an inspiration Bernard Magrez takes from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where he recently bought a small property. Quite simply, the 2017 Pape Clément is a magnificent wine by any measure. Don’t miss it. The only problem with the 2017 is that yields are down 40% because of frost. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

2017 Wine Searcher Average Price: $88
JJ Buckley: $89.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland, CA location)
Vinfolio: $95 + shipping
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $87.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $89.97 (no shipping/sent to local store)
K&L: $94.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:

2016 — Wine Searcher Average $ 99 Average Critic Score: 92 pts
2015 — Wine Searcher Average $ 116 Average Critic Score: 94 pts
2014 — Wine Searcher Average $ 96 Average Critic Score: 93 pts
2013 — Wine Searcher Average $ 89 Average Critic Score: 91 pts

Buy or Pass?

To my taste, the style of Pape Clément is very New World-ish which has me comparing its value more to high-end Napa Valley than necessarily to its Bordelais peers. That said, I usually find the wine delivering ample hedonistic pleasure that I would put on par with Napa wines in the $150+ range. This is never a wine that I buy more than a couple bottles of as I’m skeptical about the long term aging potential with this lush, velvety style.

Still, I’m impressed that the average futures price is more inline with the sub-par 2013 vintage–even with the drastically reduced case production. As I noted in my last 2017 Bordeaux Futures post, my objective this campaign is to look for value and “cellar defenders”. To that extent the Pape Clément is compelling enough to be a Buy for me.

Ormes de Pez (St. Estephe)

Brief winery geekery:

The author and her wife with Jean-Michel Cazes.

Cru Bourgeois estate founded in the 16th century in the northwestern part of St. Estephe near Ch. de Pez and Ch. Château Beau-Site Haut-Vignoble. Since 1940, the estate has been owned by the Cazes family who also own the 5th Growth Pauillac estate Ch. Lynch-Bages with the same viticulture and winemaking teams used at both estates.

The vineyard soils are a mix of gravel with high percentages of clay and sand. To optimize the terroir, the Cazes family has been steadily increasing the amount of Merlot planted on the clay dominant parcels with the estate being planted to around 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Around 18,000 cases a year are produced.

The 2017 vintage is 51% Merlot dominant, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

Critic scores:

92-93 JS, 91-93 AG, 88-91 WS, 91 -93 WE, 89-91 JD, 88-90 JL

Sample review:

Ormes has managed another good vintage after a run of them. This is a lovely wine and a buy for me. Succulent, bristling and charming, it has juicy brambled fruit extraction and tension. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, just asking to be loved. The fruit spectrum is rich with blueberries and damsons, with integrity and a swirl of vanilla bean oak. Includes 6% Cabernet Franc in the blend. No need to wait too long for this. 45% new oak. (92 pts) — Jane Anson, Decanter

2017 Wine Searcher Average Price: $28
JJ Buckley: No offers yet
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $179.94 minimum 6 bottle purchase + shipping.
Total Wine: $29.97
K&L: $29.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 — Wine Searcher Average $ 34 Average Critic Score: 91 pts
2015 — Wine Searcher Average $ 35 Average Critic Score: 90 pts
2014 — Wine Searcher Average $ 34 Average Critic Score: 90 pts
2013 — Wine Searcher Average $ 27 Average Critic Score: 88 pts

Buy or Pass?

I was impressed with how well the 2011 Ormes de Pez was showing despite that vintage being much more promblematic than 2017. That gives me a lot of optimism about the quality level that the Cazes family will deliver.

At around $30 a bottle, this looks like the quintessential “Cellar Defender” that will offer short term pleasure and guilt-free enjoyment which will help me keep my paws off of my 2015/16 Bordeaux. This is a good Buy for me, even with a 6 bottle minimum purchase.

Photo from unknown author's private postcard collection. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under  CC-PD-Mark

Old postcard featuring the exterior of Ch. Marquis d’Alesme circa 1900-1920.

Marquis d’Alesme (Margaux)

Brief winery geekery:

Third Growth Margaux estates founded in 1585 in the northern part of the commune near Ch. Margaux, Ch. Malescot St. Exupéry and Ch. Ferrière.

In 2006, the property was sold by the Zuger family (who own Malescot St. Exupery) to Hubert Perrodo who also owned the Cru Bourgeois Margaux estate Ch. Labegorce. Following Hubert’s death after a skiing accident, both estates have been ran by his daughter Nathalie Perrodo.

The estate owns three parcels of vineyards, including a significant section close to the D2 road on silica and gravel soils. In recent years, plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc have been increased with the current vineyard mix being around 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. About 7000 cases a year are produced.

The 2017 vintage of Marquis d’Alesme is a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot.

Critic scores:

92-94 WA, 92-94 AG, 90-93 WS, 91-92 JS, 91-93 JL

Sample review:

The wine quickly shows off its floral essence with black cherry and spice box notes. Sweet and fresh, the wine is full bodied, soft, refined and displays its freshness and ripe cherries with a bit of cocoa just as you approach the endnote. The wine reached 13.5% alcohol. — Jeff Leve, The Wine Cellar Insider

2017 Wine Searcher Average Price: $39
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet
Total Wine: $41.97
K&L: $40.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 — Wine Searcher Average $ 42 Average Critic Score: 91 pts
2015 — Wine Searcher Average $ 49 Average Critic Score: 92 pts
2014 — Wine Searcher Average $ 43 Average Critic Score: 91 pts
2013 — Wine Searcher Average $ 36 Average Critic Score: 89 pts

Buy or Pass?

Compared to the 2014 (and even 2016) vintage, this does look like a decent value. But I must confess that I’ve never been terribly wowed by Marquis d’Alesme in the past. While in vintages like 2015/16, I’d be more willing to give an estate a flyer or another look, for 2017 I’m leaning more towards estates that I have a track record of enjoying.

Truthfully, I’ve founded the Perrodo’s Cru Bourgeois estate Ch. Labegorce to be a much better value in the $29-33 range. I’m more incline to investigate JJ Buckley, Spectrum, Total Wine and K & L’s offers on that wine and Pass on the Marquis d’Alesme.

The calm before the storm at the UGC tasting for the 2014 vintage in Miami, FL.

Malartic-Lagraviere (Pessac-Léognan)

Brief winery geekery:

This Graves estate was originally known as Domaine de Lagraviere until the Malartic family changed the name in 1850 to honor Comte Anne-Joseph-Hippolyte Maures de Malartic who was a notable Admiral in the French Navy. The boat featured on the wine label also pays tribute to this heritage. In 1990, the estate was purchased by the Champagne house Laurent-Perrier who later sold it to the Bonnie family in 1997.

The Bonnies have modernize the facilitaties and introduced sustainable farming to the vineyards. The terroir of their 53 hectares (located near Domaine de Chevalier and Ch. de Fieuzel) includes deep gravelly soils that can be as deep as 8 meters in the parcels near the Chateau. The vineyards are planted to 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc

Critic scores:

94-96 WE, 92-93 JS, 90-93 WS, 90-93 AG, 89-91 WA, 92-94 JL, 89-91 JD

Sample review:

Deep crimson. Dark, nicely dusty cassis. Dark chocolate and graphite finesse. Dry, fine tannins with the graphite freshness marked on the finish. Elegant, if not charming at the moment. Attractive restraint. (16.5 out of 20)– Julia Harding, Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages

2017 Wine Searcher Average Price: $47
JJ Buckley: $49.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet
Spectrum Wine Auctions: No offers yet
Total Wine: $49.97
K&L: $49.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:

2016 — Wine Searcher Average $ 59 Average Critic Score: 91 pts
2015 — Wine Searcher Average $ 61 Average Critic Score: 94 pts
2014 — Wine Searcher Average $ 51 Average Critic Score: 92 pts
2013 — Wine Searcher Average $ 41 Average Critic Score: 90 pts

Overall I was fairly impressed with the 2013 and 2014 from Pessac-Leognan at the UGC tastings but for 2017 I’m more incline to buy in for estates like Domaine de Chevalier (pictured) .


Buy or Pass?

This is another estate that looks to be offering decent value but is one that I just don’t have a strong personal track record with. My most recent tastings of Malartic-Lagraviere were at Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux events for the 2014 and 2013 vintages and while I found the wines well-made, there was nothing spectacular about them either. My notes for the 2014, in particular, highlighted how tight the 2014 was and that it would need far more time than what I typically anticipate for a “Cellar Defender”.

As a futures offering, I’m going to Pass on the Malartic-Lagraviere but would certainly be open to tasting it in the bottle at a future UGC tasting and perhaps buying in then if the prices still remain compelling as a good value.

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

*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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Getting Geeky with 2007 Leoville Poyferre

Going to need more than 60 Seconds to geek out about the 2007 Ch. Léoville Poyferré from St. Julien.

The Geekery

The history of Léoville Poyferré is intimately connected to its fellow 2nd growths, Léoville Las Cases and Léoville Barton, dating back to the 1638 vineyard founded by Jean de Moytie. Along with Ch. La Tour de Saint-Lambert (now Ch. Latour) and Ch. Margaux, this estate–known then as Mont-Moytie–was one of the first estates to produce wine in the Medoc.

Over the next couple centuries, the estate was the source of much innovation in Bordeaux, identifying some of the current Bordeaux varieties for their smaller berries and higher quality wine as well as utilizing the use of oak barrels and sanitizing them with sulfur.

In 1740, Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins the estate was acquired by Alexandre de Gascq, the Seigneur of Léoville. Under his stewardship, the estate grew to almost 500 acres.

During the French Revolution, a quarter of the estate was sold off and eventually became Léoville Barton. In 1840, the estate was divided again when Pierre Jean de Las Cases inherited 2/3 of the estate with his sister, Jeanne, passing her share to her daughter, the wife of Baron Jean-Marie Poyferré de Ceres.

In the 1920s, Léoville Poyferré came under the ownership of the Cuvelier family where it joined the family’s holdings of Ch. Le Crock in St. Estephe, Ch. Moulin Riche in St. Julien and Ch. Carmensac in the Haut-Medoc (which was later sold in 1965 to the Forner family of Marques de Caceres fame in Rioja).

At first, the Cuveliers delegated management of the estate to the Delon family from Léoville Las Cases as the two properties were interconnected with adjoining chais. In 1979, Didier Cuvelier took over management and began overseeing not only massive vineyard replanting but also renovations in the cellars. He brought in first Emile Peynaud and then, in 1994, Michel Rolland to assist in consulting.

2006 vintages of Léoville Barton and Léoville Poyferré on sale at a wine shop.


Coates quotes the famous Bordeaux wine merchant Nathaniel Johnston as describing Léoville Poyferré as having the best terroir of the 3 Léoville estates with their vineyards being second only to the First Growths in potential. Most of the vineyards are located on gravelly soils on the west side of the famous D2 road across from Las Cases that is on the river side.

Further inland near the Pauillac border with Ch. Batailley is the almost 50 acres of Ch. Moulin Riche. Declared a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel in 1932, Stephen Brook notes in The Complete Bordeaux that until 2009 it was treated as a second wine of Léoville Poyferré. Since 2009, Pavillon de Poyferré has been the estate’s second wine.

Brook describes the style of Léoville Poyferré as the most opulent and hedonistic of the 3 Léoville estates with Léoville Barton being more classic and structured while Léoville Las Cases is more concentrated. Coates compares Poyferré to being the Mouton-Rothschild to Las Cases’ Latour.

The 2007 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. The wine spent 18 to 20 months aging in 75% new oak with around 20,000 cases made.

The Wine

Medium-plus intensity nose. While there is still some dark fruits like cassis and blackberry, the nose is dominated by savory notes of cedar cigar box, earthy forest and smokey spice. Very evocative and mouth watering bouquet.

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

While the seductive and silky mouthfeel hints at being a St. Emilion, the tobacco spice and cedar cigar box notes gives the 2007 Léoville Poyferré away as a St. Julien Cab dominant blend.


On the palate, the smokey notes become more leathery and meaty while the dark fruits from the nose become more muted. Medium-plus acidity adds to the mouthwatering while the medium tannins have a silky, velvety curve to them. If it wasn’t for the tobacco spice and cedar cigar box, I can see myself being fooled into thinking this was a Merlot-dominant St. Emilion with the velvety mouthfeel. The finish is regretfully short for how savory and delicious the palate is.

The Verdict

As I noted in my review of the 2011 Ormes de Pez, you can’t overlook the issues of problematic vintages like 2007. A wet, mildew ravaged late spring was followed by an unusually cool and rainy summer. By the time more ideal weather came in September, the acidity of many wines were dropping faster than the flavors were ripening. This produced wines that Jancis Robinson noted are often “… characterised by what they lack: alcohol, acid, ripe tannins, flavour.”

But the truism that good wine can still be made in rough vintages is still apt and this 2007 Léoville Poyferré is a perfect example. Many estates responded to the troubles of 2007 by being more selective in the vineyard and winery and making less (but hopefully better) wine. While Léoville Poyferré usually makes around 31,000 cases a year, in 2007 they made around 20,000.

Photo by self. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as User: Agne27 and released under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Really poor lighting but the 2006 Léoville Poyferré I had back in 2013 was outstanding too. You almost can’t go wrong with this estate.


It is not a great wine by any means, the short finish gives it away as well as the fact that there is so much tertiary aging notes emerging in a relatively young 10+ year old Bordeaux. This is not a wine that you want cases of in your cellar.

But it is still an absolutely scrumptious wine that is drinking very well now and will probably continue to give pleasure for another 3-5 years. With a Wine Searcher average price of around $83 for the 2007 vintage it certainly offers good value compared to the 2008 ($94 ave) and 2006 vintages ($97 ave) that people are cracking into now.

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Getting Geeky with 2008 Sarget de Gruaud-Larose

Going to need more than 60 Seconds to geek out about the 2008 Sarget de Gruaud-Larose from St. Julien.

The Backstory

Clive Coates notes in Grand Vins that the 2nd Growth estate Ch. Gruaud-Larose was formed in 1757 when two brothers, one a priest and the other a judge, pooled together their inheritance and purchased adjoining vineyards to create the 116 hectare (≈ 287 acres) property. Wine that was in high regard and commanded prices almost on par with estates like Ch. Latour and Margaux had been produced on the property for sometime prior to the brothers’ involvement.

The Gruaud brothers were known for their eccentricities, particularly the judge, who would hoist different flags on the property after harvest to signal what nationality he felt that year’s wines would most appeal to. A British flag would be raised if the wines were going to be full-bodied and firm, a German flag if they were going to be soft and supple and a Dutch flag for a style that was a mix of the two.

The magistrate also garnered a reputation for alienating the merchants and négociants with his business practices. Each year when the previous vintage was ready to be sold, he would go to the market center and set his price for the vintage. If his price wasn’t met, he would leave only to come a few months later with an even higher asking price for his unsold wine. In what seems like a foreshadowing of the future tranche release and en primeur systems, M. Gruaud would keep raising his price until eventually the merchants capitulated else wise the price would be higher the next time he returned.

In 1778, the property passed to the magistrate’s daughter and son-in-law, Joseph-Sébastian de La Rose, who affixed the name Larose to the estate. Larose would also go on to establish the large Haut-Medoc estate of Ch. Larose-Trintaudon located on the border of Saint-Laurent and Pauillac.

The author at Gruaud-Larose.


The estate would change hands multiple times and in 1867 the two families who jointly owned the property split it up into two estates–Ch. Gruaud Larose Sarget and Ch. Gruaud Larose Faure (sometimes labelled as Ch. Gruaud Larose-Bethmann). The two estates co-existed until the early 20th century when the Bordeaux négociant family of Cordier bought first the Sarget portion in 1917 and then the Faure portion in 1935 to reunite the two properties.

Founded in 1877, the Cordier négociant house became a significant player during World War I when they landed the exclusive contract to supply the daily wine rations for the entire French Army. Flushed with income, they were able to acquire numerous estates over the next several decades beyond Gruaud-Larose, including the St. Emilion estate Clos des Jacobins, the Premier Grand Cru Classé Sauternes estate Ch. Laufarie-Peyraguey, Ch. Meyney in St. Estèphe, the 5th Growth Haut-Medoc estate of Ch. Cantemerle and the 4th Growth St. Julien estate of Ch. Talbot.

Today, Gruaud-Larose is owned by the Merlaut family under their Taillan Group which also includes the 5th Growth Pauillac estate of Haut-Bages Libéral, the 3rd Growth Margaux estate of Ch. Ferrière, Ch. Chasse-Spleen, Ch. Citran and several others in Bordeaux, the Loire and the Rhone.

The Estate

Bottles from the 1815 vintage of Gruaud-Larose in the estate’s cellar.

While still a large estate by Bordeaux standards with over 200 acres planted to vines, Ch. Gruaud-Larose has seen it size reduced somewhat since the 18th century. However, it is still one of the few estates whose vineyards have remained relatively the same since the property was classified in 1855.

The majority of the vineyards are on the southern side of St. Julien between Ch. Lagrange and Ch. Brainaire-Ducru. There is a parcel further west next to Ch. Talbot and another plot of vines located on the boundary of St. Julien and the commune of Cussac, across the road from the Haut-Medoc estate of Ch. Lanessan. While the average age of the vines are 40 years old, the estate owns several plots that are more than 100 years of age. All the vineyards are sustainably and organically farmed with around 100 acres farmed biodynamically.

Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider notes that Gruaud-Larose is unique in St. Julien for not only having the most clay soils in the commune but also for being located at the highest elevation on the St. Julien plateau.

After the retirement of winemaker Georges Pauli, Eric Boissenot has served as consultant for the estate.

Wine Stats

Ch. Gruaud-Larose produces around 540,000 bottles a year with about 45% of the yearly production being declassified to the second wine of Sarget de Gruaud-Larose. Named after the mid-19th century owner, Baron Jean Auguste Sarget, the wine spent 18 months aging in 30% new oak.

In 2008, the blend was 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec with around 15,100 cases made.

The Wine

Photo by © Superbass. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-by-SA-4.0

A lot of cedar cigar box notes in this wine.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Very cigar box with tobacco spice and cedar. Underneath there is some red fruits like currant and plum.

On the palate, those cigar notes carry through and bring an even more savory, meaty element. Medium-plus acidity maintains freshness and adds a little juicy element to the red fruits. Medium tannins still have some grip but are rather mellow at this point. Moderate length finish ends with the same cigar box notes that have dominated this wine from the beginning.

The Verdict

With the 2008 edition of the Grand Vin of Gruard-Larose going for around $90, the 2008 Sarget de Gruaud-Larose is a very solid second wine at around $35-40.

It is a classic St. Julien that would certainly appeal to folks who like old school, savory Bordeaux. While the tannins are softening, the wine has enough acidity and structure to still be drinking well for at least another 3 years.

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60 Second Wine Review — 2011 Ormes de Pez

A few quick thoughts on the 2011 Château Ormes de Pez from St. Estephe.

The Geekery

Since 1940, Château Ormes de Pez has been under the ownership of the Cazes family, owners of the famous 5th Growth Pauillac estate of Lynch Bages, with the same viticulture and winemaking team used at both estates. Additionally the Cazes family also own the Graves estate Villa Bel Air and Domaine des Senechaux in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Stephen Brook notes in The Complete Bordeaux that Ormes de Pez has 3 distinct soil types with a third of the vineyards planted on a mix of clay and gravel, another third planted on gravel and sand and another parcel, located near Tronquoy Lalande, planted on pure gravel.

The 2011 vintage is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot that spent 15 months aging in French oak (45% new). The estate produces around 210,000 bottles a year with no widely distributed second wine.

The Wine

Medium-plus intensity nose. Some dark fruits (currants and blackberry) with earthy leather. With a little air some of the oak spices comes out.

Photo by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under Public Domain usage.

There is quite a bit of spice and complexity in this wine as well as an intriguing black licorice note.


On the palate the dark fruits carry through and have a juicy component with medium-plus acidity. Medium-plus tannins still have a firm grip on this wine but, thankfully, they don’t seem as green as some of the other 2011 Bordeaux wines have been. A little black licorice spice joins the more pronounce oak spice of clove and cinnamon. The finish has good length with the earthy leather from the nose returning.

The Verdict

You can’t sugar coat the problems that the 2011 vintage gave Bordeaux with its crazy spring, rainy July and uneven ripeness seen throughout the region. However as Andrew Jefford noted in Decanter even in rough vintages, high quality producers still have the tools to make good quality wine.

At around $35, this 2011 Ormes de Pez has impeccable pedigree with the Lynch-Bages team and is a solid value for Bordeaux.

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60 Second Wine Review — 2008 Potensac

A few quick thoughts on the 2008 Chateau Potensac from the Médoc.

The Geekery

Chateau Potensac is owned by the Delon family who also own the 2nd Growth St. Julien estate Léoville Las Cases and Chateau Nénin in Pomerol. According to Stephen Brook in The Complete Bordeaux, the estate has been in the hands of the Delon family and their ancestors for over two centuries. The same viticulture and winemaking team at Léoville Las Cases takes care of the wines at Potensac.

The estate is located just 4 miles north of Chateau Calon Segur and the boundaries of St. Estephe. The soils contain a fair amount of clay and limestone that is not that dissimilar to the right bank region of St. Emilion which is why Merlot tends to dominate in plantings.

Since 2002, the estate has produced a second wine known as Chapelle de Potensac with around 40% of the estate’s Grand Vin being declassified down to this level.

The 2008 vintage of Potensac was a blend of 42% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged for 15 months in 30% new oak with around 320,000 bottles produced each vintage.

According to the very cool vintage chart on the Domaines Delon site (also available for Léoville Las Cases and Nenin), the 2008 is ready to drink now but can still be held for a few years.

The Wine

Photo by Dan Smith. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.5

This wine has a mix of both cured and green tobacco notes.

Medium intensity nose. Fresh cigar tobacco and cedar dominant. There is a little red fruit underneath–cherry and currant.

Those red fruits carry through to the palate but are quite muted with more earthy and green leafy notes emerging. Medium-plus acidity and firm medium-plus tannins hints that this wine definitely can age for longer. The tobacco notes also come through and linger for the moderate finish.

The Verdict

At around $30-35, this is a solid “old school” style Bordeaux with a firm structure and earthy notes. While I had this wine by itself, I suspect that it will really shine on the table with food.

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Wine Spectator Grand Tour Las Vegas (Part 2)


First things, if you haven’t checked out the first entry in Spitbucket’s 3 part series on the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour Las Vegas, head there now. You will find a lot of a great wines that often get passed over as score hounds hunt for the wines with the blockbuster ratings.

While the wines featured in Part I were described as Ted Williams wines, the wines that I’m featuring now are more the Joe Dimaggios. They got the big scores and married Marilyn Monroe (or MaryAnn Worobiec) so of course they garnered the bulk of attendees’ attention. Out of the 244 wines, there were 25 wines that received scores 94+ available for tasting, headlined by two Vintage Ports–the 98 point rated Graham’s 2000 and 97 pt Croft 2011.

I got a chance to try several of them and while there were many delicious treats that made my Top Ten list, there were also a few that were just “meh”. It’s good to remember that while Joe did get Marilyn–so did Arthur Miller.


Adobe Road 2013 Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III A1-Block Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points. Wine Spectator list price $175) Hands down, my wine of the night. Tiny production wine from a single block of Cabernet Sauvignon in the legendary Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard in Rutherford. The highly sought after fruit from this vineyard is prized by a “Who’s Who” of high-end California wineries like Caymus, Alpha Omega, Chateau Boswell, Duckhorn, Staglin, Hunnicutt, Myriad, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Provenance, Robert Craig, Sojurn and Schrader. This example from Adobe Road delivers in spades.

High intensity aromatics of black currant, blackberry with floral elements and a mixture of baking and Asian spices. I spent several minutes just smelling my glass before taking sip because the bouquet was so intoxicating alluring. The mouthfeel was classic Napa–silky smooth tannins that added weight and depth to the palate but wrapped around your tongue like kiss. But unlike a few of the other high scoring wines, this is not a fruit bomb. The acidity was still medium-plus to keep the fruit lively and fresh with the ability to age in the cellar for several more years. However, it is at such a fantastically delicious spot now, I don’t know if anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one of these bottles will want to wait. Just a perfect combination of power, balance and elegance.

Ch. Calon Segur 2003 Saint Estephe (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $117) Another wine that made my Top 10 list. The 2003 vintage often sends a shudder down the spines of European wine lovers because it was a “heat wave” vintage. Indeed, a staggering number of people died from the heat and, while nowhere near as tragic as the loss of human life, grapevines also suffered. But the axiom that “Good wine is made even in bad vintages” is still aptly true. You just have to be more selective and look for the gems that had the kismet of the right terroir and right winemaking touch for the vintage. The 2003 Calon Segur is a perfect case in point.

Located in St. Estephe, the Third Growth estate of Calon Segur is the most northern of the classified growth in the Medoc. While the soils have the typical Medocian mixture of gravel and sand, you also find a far amount of clay. This coupled with the overall coolness of its northernly location, gives you soils that were more apt to retain the limited, precious amount of water needed to weather the heat. Then you add a winemaking style of Calon Segur that (was then) focused on lower alcohol but brawny wines that prized acidity and structure, and you have a wine with a fighting chance to not only be good but maybe even great.

It was a long term bet but one that paid off exceptionally well for the 2003 Calon Segur. The wine had a floral, spicy nose with a delicate touch of fruit that almost smelled like a great red Burgundy. The palate, though, was very Bordeaux–almost full-bodied with velvety tannins that had no greeness or bite. The spice from the nose carried through as a mixture of tobacco and baking spices that complimented the juicy, ripe dark fruits which still had plenty of acidity and life. This wine easily has several more years that it could go on but it is at a great point right now and an absolute bargain at this price. I would put this toe to toe with Bordeaux from the more heralded 2005 vintage in the $170-200 range.

Croft 2011 Vintage Port (97 points. Wine Searcher average price $81) This was the highest rated wine that I got to try that night and it came from the highly acclaimed 2011 vintage. This is a vintage that is often compared to the great vintages of the 1970s as well as 1963 and 1945. However, the thing to keep in mind with vintage Port is that after a few brief years of youthful exuberance following release, these wines tend to “shut down” and enter their quiet phase or “awkward adolescence” that can last for several years or even a decade plus. The trade off is that when these wines re-emerge from that “dumb phase”, they are even more outstanding and mind-blowing. You need the patience of a grasshopper to reap the beauty of a butterfly.

I go through that tangent because, sadly, this Croft has entered that awkward adolescence. This is a fate rapidly befalling upon its 2011 peers with the Cockburn and Graham’s that I’ve tried in the last year likewise being a bit underwhelming despite their pedigrees and potential. What does a “quiet vintage Port” taste like? Well in the case of the Croft it was very muted on the nose, red fruit and that was about it. On the palate, instead of being focused or concentrated, it was a rather clumsy hodgepodge of undistinguished fruit flavors and sweetness. I have no doubt that the potential to live up to its lofty score is there but it is clear that this wine was tasting exponentially better 2-3 years ago when it was being reviewed and that its best years is still much further down the road.

Kistler 2013 Hudson Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay (94 points. Wine Spectator list price $80) Combine one of California’s top Chardonnay producer with a legendary Chardonnay vineyard and you are sure to have a winning combination. This wine was classic Cali Chard with tropical fruit aromas on the nose–papaya and ripe honeydew melon–followed by a creamy, rich mouthfeel. But what keeps this from being a butter bomb was the elegance with medium-plus acidity that held up the weight of the malo and a minerally streak that you’re often hard pressed to find in many California Chardonnays. No one would ever mistake this wine for a white Burgundy, but fans of the more weightier examples from Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet could appreciate this wine for being a well-made example of a California benchmark.

Antinori 2013 Guado Al Tasso (94 points. Wine Searcher average price $86) A Super Tuscan blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, this wine captures some of the savory herbalness of a nice Pauillac but with a lighter touch and riper tannins. It was a bit tight at this tasting and, like the 2014 Ornellaia noted in the previous blog entry, will need several years to show its stuffing.

Marchesi Fumanelli 2009 Octavius Riserva Amarone (94 points. Wine Searcher average price $173) This was another first-time find and it had me googling where in the US I could buy this wine. That’s always a good sign that something is heading towards my Top Ten list. This was a very spicy Amarone with some floral and earthy elements that smelled like you were hiking through a mint and clover field while carrying a bouquet of roses. The palate was very bold, almost decadent, with rich dark fruit flavors that tasted like a savory Christmas fruitcake. Every sip revealed something different with this wine unfurling on the tongue like chapters and verses of an exciting story. The balance between savory and rich was outstanding. Situated among tables next to a stunning list of top Amarone producers like Allegrini, Masi, Zenato and Bertani, Marchesi Fumanelli stood head over shoulders above them all.

Much like the Emilio Moro Ribera del Duero I talked about in Part I, I was left feeling that if this wine was this impressive based on a single taste, how much more pleasure could be discovered over the course of a whole bottle?


Mollydooker 2014 Carnival of Love McLaren Vale Shiraz (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $72) This winery has its legions of fans but much like smokey, peaty Islay Scotches, its a singular taste that either people love or find that its not really their cup of tea. Being a wine geek, I try to find the nuance of appeal in every wine and while the lush, over the top oak and fruity style of Mollydooker is usually not my cup of tea, I have found examples of their wines that I’ve been able to enjoy for their simple, hedonistic pleasures. But it is kind of like shooting with a bow and arrow at an apple that a circus clown is juggling. Sometimes you hit the apple and win the prize. Sometimes you miss and sometimes you impale the poor the clown.

This one was just a miss. It wasn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination. It was just really, really, really, really oaky. In fact it was competing with the Orin Swift Abstract and Belle Glos Clarke & Telephone for most oaky wine at the tasting. Lots of sweet vanilla with more overt taste of toast instead of more subtle baking spice. Trying to get past the oak to venture for some fruit, I did feel a sense of richness and intense fruit on the palate but I was hard pressed to really identify what kind of fruit it was or pick up any other layer of complexity. While, in general, Mollydooker wines are often meant to be consumed young as their low acidity usually doesn’t bode well for cellaring, I find that giving them 4 to 5 years from vintage date allows the oak to temper itself a bit while letting some character show.


Ramos Pinto 30 year Tawny Port (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $85) Not too long ago, I did a tasting featuring the tawnys of Taylor-Fladgate where I absolutely adored the 30 year tawny. As phenomenal as that Taylor 30 was, I have to say that the Ramos Pinto ran laps around it. Wow, just wow. This may be one of the single best Tawny Ports that I’ve ever tasted and I would start putting it close to the 1970 Taylor and 1970 Fonseca vintage Ports as one of the best Ports, I’ve had. Period.

While I was extremely discipline in spitting throughout the evening, I swallowed and savored every drop of this wine. The nose was a beautiful blend of spice and hazelnuts. The palate introduced butterscotch and dried golden raisins. The mouthfeel was the star with a silkiness that seemed almost feather-light around the tip of the tongue but pulled you in with its richness and weight towards the mid-palate. The finish was the longest of the evening. Several minutes. In fact, I ended up savoring it for so long that I missed out on the 98 point rated Graham’s 2000 vintage port that was being emptied in glasses as I stood by the table still reveling in the Ramos Pinto 30. While I’m sure the Graham’s would have been wonderful, I think the sacrifice of being able to enjoy the Ramos longer was well worth it. Needless to say, this wine was one of my Top 10 of the night.

Rodney Strong 2012 Rockaway Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points. Wine Searcher average price $74) If you mostly know of Rodney Strong for their low-end, chain-restaurant wines then this wine is an eye-opener. Much like Sbragia’s Monte Rosso I reviewed in the last post, it seems sinful to compare this Alexander Valley Cabernet to a Napa wine but I’d be damn if this wouldn’t fool me for a Silver Oak Napa (but still priced like their Alexander!). Though while the Silver Oak Napa usually needs 7 to 10 years to get to this level of complexity and drink-ability, this Rodney Strong Rockaway is already roaring on all cylinders.

The nose has a great mix of ripe black currant and plum with tobacco oak spice and cedar cigar box. The palate is powerful and fills up your entire mouth with seductive fruit but also has layers of savory meaty notes underneath. The oak is present but plays a supporting role while letting the fruit and power of the wine take center stage. This wine would be equally at ease paired with a juicy prime rib as it would be with an elegant lamb dish or just being savored by itself.

Torbreck 2013 Descendant Shiraz Barossa Valley (96 points. Wine Searcher average price $89) This wine was tussling with the Penfolds 2014 RWT, Two Hands 2014 Bella Garden and the Hickinbotham Clarendon 2013 Brooks Road for best Australian wine of the night. A co-ferment with 8% Viognier, this wine has an absolutely beautiful floral nose paired with vibrant berry fruit. Even though time is precious with just 3 hours to taste upwards of 244 wines, this was a wine that deliberately slows you down, encouraging you to spend several minutes just smelling and enjoying it.

When you finally do get to tasting it, the pay off is well worth it with it full-body but elegant mouthfeel that testifies to but also defies it 15.5% alcohol. Tasting blind, I would’ve peg it more around 14% because of how graceful it carries it heavy weight across the palate. Medium-plus acidity keeps the fruit fresh and invites your taste buds to water enough to pick up some of the black pepper and baking spices of cinnamon and nutmeg that wraps around the berry fruit. It’s a shame that Torbreck gets no where near the amount of attention that Penfolds or Mollydooker gets because this wine is certainly among Australia’s best.


K Vintners 2013 Royal City Syrah (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $129) Like Mollydooker, I find Charles Smith’s wines of K Vintners to be “hit or miss” for me with, thankfully, more hits than misses. But these are still wines that I will hardly ever buy “on faith” without tasting first because when they miss, they’re “impale the clown” kind of misses. Partly that’s because of K Vintner’s style which seems to favor high pH, very lush wines that can sometimes veer towards issues with volatile acidity and brettanomyces. I don’t mind a little brett because it can add complexity but VA is something that I’m personally hyper-sensitive about.

This 2013 Royal City had a smidgen of brett but was, thankfully, just in the gamey arena instead of the full-blown camping-in-the-horse-barn arena of brett. Also, thankfully, there was no overt signs of VA but the very dense and lush mouthfeel with medium-minus acidity doesn’t leave me optimistic that VA won’t make an appearance over time as the fruit fades with bottle age. The tannins are smooth, of course, and the fruit sweet and dark. It’s definitely a drink-now kind of wine that I’m sure will give many people much pleasure. It’s just not a wine that I would, personally, risk the clown for.

Well….maybe I’d risk that clown.

El Nido 2013 Jumilla (95 points. Wine Searcher average price $125) Much like Mollydooker and K Vintners, El Nido is about lush, decadence and lip smacking fruit. But while those wines were underwhelming, this wine was absolutely scrumptious. The nose gave off the siren song of rich, intensely concentrated dark fruit signaling a very fruity and full-bodied wine but the palate surprised with high, almost Bordeaux-like, acidity that added a splash of freshness to the fruit. It not only made your lips smack but your mouth water as well. It’s a big, big wine (probably the most full-bodied outside of the Amarones and Ports) but it had finesse to it that would open it up to more food-pairing possibilities than it lush co-horts. Of course, it was quite delicious still on its own.

Coming up next: My Top Ten Wines of the 2017 Wine Spectator Grand Tour

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