A wine from my cellar, plus Bordeaux at a Basque restaurant

 

A few nights ago I pulled the Charles Krug 2008 Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley), which cost $75 on release. The color was still as inky dark as a young Cabernet, but after almost precisely ten years, the aromatics and flavors had turned the corner, picking up secondary (although far from tertiary) notes. The fresh blackberries and black currants I found when I initially reviewed the wine, in the Autumn of 2011 when it was three years old, were still there, but “growing grey hairs,” as they say, becoming more fragile, and showing leathery notes and, perhaps, a little porty, due to high alcohol, namely 15.7%.

In my early review, I wrote that the wine was “certainly higher in alcohol than in the old days, but still maintains balance.” In those olden days (never to come again, alas), Krug’s Vintage Selection, always 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, hovered in the 12-1/2% range. Gerald Asher, writing in the early 1980s, credited Krug’s “influential legacy” (along with Beaulieu, Martini and Inglenook) as having contributed to “the seeds of all [stylistic Cabernet] options available to winemakers today,” a statement that remains true. His fellow Englishman, the enormously influential Michael Broadbent, in The Great Vintage Wine Book, went him one better. He gave the 1959 Krug Cabernet his highest rating, five stars, calling it “most perfect” and “a lovely rich wine,” and added, amazingly, that his friend, Edward Penning-Rowsell, who wrote the best book on Bordeaux ever (The Wines of Bordeaux), “could not fault it,” rare praise indeed from an oenophile who opined about his specialty, Bordeaux, for decades in the Financial Times. James Laube, the most important American wine critic after Robert Parker, was of more ambivalent opinion. While he called Krug’s Cabernets (first produced in 1944) “grand, distinctive [and] long-lived,” his scores on the 100-point scale were less impressive. In his 1989 California’s Great Cabernets he managed only two 90-plus scores over more than four decades of vintages of the Vintage Select (as it was then called).

I scored the 2008 Vintage Selection 93 points in 2011, and would do the same now. Admittedly, that wine took an enormous departure from the Krug Cabernets Asher and Broadbent loved. The high alcohol is a conceptual problem, and perhaps makes pairing it with food more challenging, but these are matters for our imaginations, not our palates. Organoleptically, the wine still provides good drinking. Even on release the $75 price was a bargain, when, for example, Grgich Hills already was $150, and Jarvis was a sky-high $315. Charles Krug had by then long lost its luster among the label chasers, a fickle bunch, and it must have been hard for Krug, used to being at the top, to be so overlooked, or maybe disrespected is the better word.

It’s always risky to predict the future of such wines, but I would not be surprised if the ’08 Vintage Selection is still purring away contentedly in 2028.

Tasting Légende Bordeaux at Piperade

In France “piperade” (pronounced something like “pip-rod”) is a Basque stew of onions, green peppers and tomatoes, spicy and garlicky. In San Francisco, it’s the name of Gerald Hirigoyen’s restaurant, which opened in 2002 and has long been a fixture on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants list. It’s situated on Battery Street, an old-timely San Francisco neighborhood at the junction of North Beach, Chinatown and the Financial District, just below the cliff of Telegraph Hill: old brick buildings, lovingly restored, that now house tech hubs and architectural firms.

A wine from my cellar, plus Bordeaux at a Basque restaurant

Piperade was where an interesting tasting of Bordeaux took place on Monday. I was invited despite my status as a retiree and had the privilege of being seated to the right of Diane Flamand, the winemaker for Légende, the Bordeaux brand that sponsored the luncheon. (I think this honor was because I was the eldest person in the room!)

Légende is owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR), which also owns Lafite-Rothschild. It produces five what might be called “entry-level” Bordeaux: a basic red and white Bordeaux, a Médoc, a Pauillac, and a Saint-Emilion. (This latter is, of course, not within DBR’s traditional wheelhouse, but was developed in response to the market.)

I have to say how impressed I was by all five wines. The white, which was served as a conversation starter before we sat down for the meal, was fine, clean and savory, a blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. The red Bordeaux was equally satisfactory, being dry and somewhat austere, although elegant. The official retail price of both–$17.99, although I’ve seen them for less—made me inquire where in the Bay Area I could find them.

As we progressed through the lineup, the red wines all showed true to form: the Médoc more full-bodied than the Bordeaux, the St. Emilion wonderfully delicate and silky, and the Pauillac the darkest and sturdiest of all, as you might expect. The flight was capped off with 2010 Carruades de Lafite, the “second wine” of Lafite-Rothschild, just for the sake of comparison. As good as it was–and it was!–the other wines had nothing to be ashamed of.

During the meal, where most of the other guests (about 15 in all) seemed to be bloggers, the topic arose concerning Bordeaux’s status and popularity in the California market. I weighed in, as is my wont : ) I mentioned that younger people are looking for unusual, often eccentric wines—the kind their parents never drank—which means they’re not drinking Bordeaux. But, I added, there’s a reason why Bordeaux has been the classic red wine in the world for centuries; and that, as they get on with life, I was sure these drinkers would eventually discover Bordeaux—especially reasonably-priced Bordeaux that shows the classic hallmarks of the genre.

At any rate, if you can find these Légende wines, they’re worth checking out!

Wine of the Day – Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15

Chateau Mayne Vieil is a single vineyard (47 hectars) in Fronsac on a hill of clay loam with a moderate slope at an altitude of nearly 40 meters. The vineyard is planted with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. The village of Fronsac lies due north of Pomerol about 15 minutes from the famous chateaus of Le Pin and Cheval Blanc.


Mayne-Vieil is not some newcomer from 1500 to 1809 Mayne-Vieil belonged to the DePaty family. The squire DePaty, Lord of Mayne-Vieil, built the winery in the 17th century. It was eventually replaced in the 18th century by the fortified house with an elegant chartreuse that currently stands on the grounds today.

Wine of the Day – Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15
Mayne-Vieil was then purchased by the Fontemoing family; a group of renowned vintners from Libourne. In 1918, Louis SEZE acquired the property. His son Roger, an agronomist who succeeded him in the early 1950’s, expanded the vineyards to make a contiguous and beautiful plateau. His children Bertrand and Marie-Christine Sèze succeeded Roger SEZE in the 1980’s.

Wine of the Day – Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15 $14.99 btl / save $10
“Château Mayne-Vieil Cuvée Alienor is a selection of old Merlot vines. This is the luxury cuvée from vineyards in the Seze family since 1918. With its perfumed fruits and firm tannins, it is serious as well as sumptuous. It has weight and a dry texture that will soften into the blackberry fruits and generous structure. This wine, with its still firm texture, needs to age, so drink from 2022.” 
93 pts Wine Enthusiast

This wine shows tremendous density and character. Although drinkable now this wine has the potential to lay down for years and at this price you can afford to buy a case to lay down. I find this wine utterly charming, if you have more questions – Arnie has actually visited the property and knows first hand the quality of this wine and the property.  

“They were delicious, more for drinking then collecting I thought, although the Cuvée Alienor is a big serious wine that is 100% Merlot. At our dinner, Bertrand brought out two old bottles. They were still excellent and we were stunned to learn one was from 1949 and the other from 1959. Incredible. ” Arnie Millan

Check out Arnie’s notes here

Give us a call if you would like us  set you aside some. 

Cheers!  lenny@esquin.comWine of the Day – Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15

The post Wine of the Day – Château Mayne-Vieil cuvée Alienor Fronsac ’15 appeared first on Madewine's Sippy Cup - Blog.

Chateau Cantelaudette Bordeaux is a Merlot Showcase

One of the many nice things about going to free tastings at wine shops is getting to try something you normally might not come across. Like a Bordeaux with a ubiquitous, old-school label on it. Enter the Chateau Cantelaudette.

It was being poured at Dandelion Wine and I ended up taking a bottle home. Why?

2014 Chateau Cantelaudette Graves de Vayres Cuvée Prestige

It’s 100% Merlot and if you’re turned off by that grape, the nice thing (in a strange way) is that it doesn’t say “MERLOT” on the label. So if you have an open bottle lying around you can just tell people to “try this great Bordeaux I got for under 20 bucks.” (‘Twas $19 at Dandy.)

It’s aged half in neutral oak (not like Swiss neutrality, but rather vessels used enough that they don’t impart oaky flavor) and half in stainless steel. Based on this, the Chateau Cantelaudette is a perfect medium-bodied wine. A nice combo of fresh fruit and some stately mannerisms in the glass.

The wine is imported by Polaner Selections, located in Mount Kisco, New York. (This is where The Thuse had its HQ when I started there, BTW.) I kind of like the company’s all-caps motto/call-to-action on the back of the label: OPEN YOUR MIND AND TASTE. Pretty good advice, especially if you have preconceived notions about a wine, a region, a producer, or a grape.

The post Chateau Cantelaudette Bordeaux is a Merlot Showcase appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Loving Grana Padano

You're at the store with two pieces of cheese in your hand. They are equal in size. They are the same price. One is Grana Pandano the other is Parmigiano Reggiano.

You'd buy the Parmigiano right? The king of cheeses, why not go for the best? But think for a second. These two pieces of cheese are the same price. That means you're probably getting top-of-the-line Grana Pandano, while the Parmigiano is almost certainly mass produced and on the lower end of the Parmigiano spectrum. Do you want to pay for the name or the cheese?

You're at the store with two bottles of wine in your hand. They are equal in size. They are the same price. One is cabernet sauvignon the other is syrah.

You'd buy the cabernet right? The king of wines, why not go for the best? But think for a second. These two bottles of wine are the same price. That means you're probably getting top-of-the-line syrah, while the cabernet is almost certainly mass produced and on the lower end of the cabernet spectrum. Do you want to pay for the name or the wine?

Grana Pandano and Parmigiano Reggiano are the same type of cheese. While at its pinnacle many connoisseurs consider Parmigiano the ultimate expression of this style of chesse, there are many passionate producers and consumers of Grana Pandano that would take exception with their position.

One thing I've learned is that dollar-for-dollar you get better value for Grana than you do with the more famous Parmigiano. Often it's a far better choice to buy the most expensive product with a less famous name than the lowest price product with a more exalted name.

I apply the same strategy to buying wine. If I have $30 to spend cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay don't even enter my mind. My thoughts go to gamay, syrah, tempranillo, aglianico, vermentino, chenin blanc and on and on. Today it seems the choices are limitless.

Like the Reggiano cheese place name, many wine appellations get bonus points for name recognition that spot them extra dollars on each bottle over their competitors. When you buy wine from a famous place name you pay a premium for that privilege. Is it worth it? Sometimes yes. There are experiences you can get from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and Napa that are truly sublime. But with the $30 I want to spend, sublime will not be found in those appellations. You can find extraordinary wine experiences on a budget if you're willing to go beyond these famous place-names. Think El Dorado, Mendocino, Rogue, Sablet, Madiran, Languedoc, Corsica, Sardegna, our own Applegate Valley and, as with the varieties, the options go on and on.

Never in the history of wine has it been easier to drink great wines without spending a fortune. Next time you're in a wine shop hold that bottle of cabernet in one hand and a different wine from a place or variety you don't know in the other and ask yourself what you want to pay for - the name or the wine?

A comment on marketing, after receiving the latest Bordeaux hype from a press release

 

You know, I understanding marketing. When a winery or wine region touts itself as the “best ever,” or “greatest vintage,” or simply uses self-reverential language that makes it sound like it’s sitting at the right hand of God, it’s merely putting its best foot forward in a formal situation—as most of us do.

Say you’re at a job interview, or maybe meeting your new boyfriend’s family for the first time. Of course you’re going to be charming and try to impress these people with what a special fellow you are. You might even do a little discrete bragging…nothing too over-the-top, just enough to let them know you’re better than the average bear. After all, as Rabbi Hillel said two thousand years ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

But really, there has to be a limit. Bordeaux (echoed by its various supportive critics) has proclaimed vintages of the century so often, we might have to reinvent the concept of “century” in order to accommodate all those special years. Its image, conjuring up marble palaces and royalty, is the nearest thing in winedom to regal. And certainly, the proprietors of Bordeaux chateaux know a thing or two about pulling off the elite act! On the other hand, Napa proprietors who try to mimic the glamor, fashion and mansions of Bordeaux–and they’re out there–are plus royaliste que le roi, more royal than the King. Which makes them tres amusant, although they don’t intend to be.

* * *

A word about the commotion over Justin cutting down those oak trees. I have a long admiration for Justin, one of the icons of Westside Paso Robles. I always liked their wines, and when Justin Baldwin himself owned it, I thought he was a great guy who brought a lot of savvy to a region that needed it.

Now, Justin appears to be experiencing a rather serious backlash because of the tree cutting: restaurants are canceling their accounts and longtime customers say they won’t buy the brand anymore. As one of them noted, in the Paso Robles Daily News, Paso Robles itself is Spanish for “Pass of the Oaks.” Cutting down a bunch of old, beautiful oak trees must hit doubly-hard in that lovely part of Central California.

I couldn’t say if Justin’s ownership was right or wrong. I’ve learned not to take fast positions on topics I haven’t studied. But I can say that the owners, The Wonderful Wine Company, showed surprisingly little foresight into how such a thing would be perceived. This is the age of the Internet, of social media; cutting down those trees provided perfect fodder to the nimbyism that often runs throughout wine country, where people like the rural, scenic ambience and don’t want anybody or anything to mess with it. Surely, the Justin brouhaha testifies to the need to have a public relations consciousness within the enterprise—not necessarily a department, but somebody savvy who can anticipate public reaction and warn management of the potential risks. That does not seem to have been the case at Justin. There are lessons to be learned here for all wineries.

That *Other* Antidote To Bordeaux-Bashing

As reported by Dr. Vino (and elsewhere), much-celebrated (and almost-as-often-maligned) consultant winemaker Michel Rolland was recently asked if there was an antidote to “Bordeaux-bashing” (i.e., a backlash against the Bordeaux region in general – and its most storied houses, in particular – for producing wines that are increasingly too similar and increasingly too expensive).

You can read Rolland’s response in the original French, if that’s your motif; I offer the following English translation (as supplied automatically via Google):

“There is no antidote to stupidity. It is increasingly monumental. For me, 2015 is a great vintage. There are [those] too stupid to notice. We will notice in ten years, as usual. We are in a world without balls, we live with no balls. Full stop. There is not a journalist [who] will notice. Anyway, there is not a journalist who has weight in the world today. It has nothing to do with the market. They can say, write and think what they want, everyone cares at the fortieth year! When they know that, maybe they will start to become humble. Not to become smart, because it will be difficult, but to think differently.”

In other words, it’s nor Bordeaux that is wrong, it’s all of the journalists covering Bordeaux that are wrong.

Hmmm.  Well.

Let’s discuss this little Rolland rant in a bot more detail…

First, I will take the sure-to-be-flamed stance that Rolland is partially correct. Journalists covering wine do, in fact, get Bordeaux vintage calls wrong. That kind of goes with the territory of making calls on subjective products based on limited information (which is why I think that broad-based vintage calls are of extremely limited utility).

But if we define Bordeaux-bashing as pointing out that the region’s top-shelf reds seem to be offering increasingly homogeneous taste profiles and have opted for the greedy route in terms of pricing (thanks to Asian demand), then I think the logical sand on which Rolland’s rant is partially built starts to erode pretty quickly.

You can’t argue with the numbers: as of the time of this writing, the average price for a bottle of 2010 Chateau Margaux in the U.S. was $1,104. I’m not going out on a limb here by saying that price is a bit outside of the affordability range of 99% of Americans. Most of Bordeaux’s top producers have way too many dollar signs in their eyeballs versus the quality of their wines. Yes, some of the wines are sublime, I’m just not sure that the ones I have tasted are worth a mortgage payment.

Bordeaux, as a red blend benchmark, isn’t going away anytime soon, and there are a dozen solid reasons for that. But its top-shelf producers cannot price their wines the way that they are and not expect the vox populi to call bullshit (as is their right), or journalists to call bullshit (as is their job). Doing so is trying to spit out of both sides of one’s mouth, so to speak.

Now, the Bordeaux region makes a shit-ton of wine, and not all of it can be top-tier, or even good. So I feel for the area’s excellent affordable wines (and god knows that there are several of them); they are probably taking it on the chin, unfairly, for the sins of their overpriced neighbors on both sides of the pricing spectrum.

But they’re not taking it on the chin because of the sins of journalists, Michel. Sorry, I gotta call bullshit on that.

As for lining up to defend Bordeaux’s tippy-top, ultra-expensive tier producers against coverage that they are too expensive? I suspect that the length of that line will be inversely proportional to the number of digits they demand per bottle.

Cheers!

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Copyright © 2015. Originally at That *Other* Antidote To Bordeaux-Bashing from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Michel Rolland rants about the post-Parker world

Michel Rolland, the consultant wine maker based in Pomerol, really likes the 2015 Bordeaux vintage, which is currently being shown off en primeur in Bordeaux. When a journalist asked him if the vintage was an antidote to “Bordeaux bashing” it set him off. Here is his rant (my translation):

“There’s no antidote for stupidity. And it’s reaching monumental proportions. For me, 2015 is a superlative vintage. There are too many assholes to even see it. They realize it 10 years later, as usual. We’re in a world without balls, we live without balls. Full stop. There isn’t a journalist who would notice. Anyway, there isn’t a wine writer with enough weight in the world today. Wine writers are totally indifferent. This has nothing to do with the market. They talk, write and think as they wish [today] and nobody will give a flying fig in 2040! When they know that, they will start to become humble. Not become intelligent, mind you, because that would be difficult, but reasonably different.”

In related news, Robert Parker stopped reviewing Bordeaux futures last year.

The post Michel Rolland rants about the post-Parker world appeared first on Dr Vino's wine blog.

Bordeaux in Blue Jeans

Jeans (Source: Wikimedia)

Source: Wikimedia

Discover the comfortable and accessible wines from Côtes de Bordeaux.

Generally I prefer not to recycle the marketing lines pitched to me in an effort to taste a wine or attend an event, but in this case, it is too fitting. The wines of Côtes de Bordeaux really are like “Bordeaux in Blue Jeans.”

The Côtes de Bordeaux falls outside of the five classified hierarchies in Bordeaux, the most obvious of those being the 1855 classification, but also including one for Graves, one for St. Émilion, the Crus Bourgeois, and Cru Artisan. The Côtes are a collection of four regions that have banded together under the appellation name.

“Côtes” translates to slopes and “Bordeaux” literally means “the side of the water.” The Côtes de Bordeaux are hillside vineyards, mostly south or southeastern facing, on the right bank of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. The four regions, in order of size, include Blaye, Castillon, Cadillac, and Francs.

Frankly, the appellation is much more about camaraderie and marketing nomenclature than it is about geology and terroir (i.e., 50 miles separates northern Blaye from southern Cadillac, not mentioning the fact that they are on different rivers). That said, what the regions do have in common is they tend to produce accessible wines, both in terms of profile and price, which are perfectly suited for everyday. A la jeans.

As expected given the clay-limestone rich soils of the right bank, the wines are predominantly Merlot-driven. Edouard Bourgeois, sommelier at Café Boulud, summarizes the appellation’s approach and style saying, “These family-run wineries proudly make approachable, affordable, Merlot-based cuvees. They aspire to a different Bordeaux that uses little or no oak and produce wines that don’t require aging and are perfect for by the glass programs or casual meals at home.”

In total, the Côtes de Bordeaux makes 5.5 million cases annually (of the 57 million in Bordeaux) from 941 producers (of the 6,800 in Bordeaux).

A map and quick descriptions of each region are below:

Cotes de Bordeaux map

Blaye: Northernmost region – just across the Gironde from Margaux and Saint-Julien. Blaye’s history dates back 2,000+ years when it was a prized Roman vineyard. Limestone cliffs and some clay.

Castillon: Ridges and plateau of limestone as you move away from the Dordogne. Here you’ll find very similar, but sometimes higher elevation terroir than Saint-Emilion. Closer to the river, the soil is predominantly clay with sand.

Francs: Pale limestone clay soils with several high elevation plots. Dry continental climate with cold winters and hot, sunny summers. Only 46 wine producers in this small region.

Cadillac: Southernmost region in the Cotes de Bordeaux appellation, lining the shore of the Garonne. Limestone (sometimes below shallow loam), a variety of clays (including a thick blue clay like in Pomerol) and stony, fine gravel. It’s warmer and sunnier here, which makes the reds more susceptible to rot, so it’s difficult to always let the grapes hang long enough to ripen in the acidic limestone soil.

La Cuvee Bistrot du Puy ArnaudRECOMMENDED BOTTLES
Chateau Robin (Castillon)
 SRP $19
A perfect bistrot wine. Round and plump, but enough acidity to match food.

Chateau Cap de Faugeres 2010 (Castillon)
SRP $18.99
Dark plummy perfume and a rich palate.

La Cuvee Bistrot de Puy Arnaud 2012 (Castillon)
SRP: $25
Biodynamic estate. A fun wine – 100% Merlot grown on limestone soil. Semi-carbonic maceration, all stainless steel. Serve it slightly chilled with the end-of-summer dishes.

Chateau Cru Godard 2011 (Francs)
SRP $17
Organic. Packed with peppery spice and begging for simply prepared meat.

Chateau Lamothe de Haux Valentine par Valentine 2011 (Cadillac)
 SRP: $28
Juicy and easy to drink with a nice vein of minerality.

* In full disclosure, I wrote this article before I started a new job, but I’m now working for a Bordeaux negociant and importer.