Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > A Wine Tasting & Reception with Philippe Casteja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855

A Wine Tasting & Reception with Philippe Casteja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855


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I recently attended the Cultural Icons Wine Tasting & Reception in honor of The French-American Cultural Foundation’s 15th Anniversary.  In attendance was Philippe Castéja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855.  The theme was “Jefferson and Bordeaux” so the tasting was appropriately held at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC.  There were a several familiar faces including Mark Wessels (MacArthur Beverages), Christian Schiller (Schiller Wine),  Michael Besche (Commanderie de Bordeaux), and Heidi Arnold (Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction).  Also present was Bette Alberts (Madame Le Maitre of Commanderie de Bordeaux).  I attended the event due to the graciously invitation of Karen Taylor, the editor of France Magazine, whom I met earlier in the year at A Dinner with Henri Lurton of Chateau Brane-Cantenac.  It was only a matter of coincidence, then, that at this event I met Bérénice Lurton-Thomas of Chateau Climens.

President Thomas Jefferson never planted vines in Washington, DC.  However, he much admired the local nurserymen Alexander Hepburn and Thomas Main.  Both of these men propagated vines for sale.  President Jefferson had Alexander Hepburn propagate the foreign vines he received from Thomas Appleton and Philip Mazzei.  These vines, along with some from Thomas Main, were eventually planted at Monticello in 1807.

Though President Jefferson was specific in terms of the wines he ordered, he could have journeyed to Georgetown or walked from the President’s House to purchase wine.  Some stores relocated from Georgetown to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC as early as 1801.  At these initial stores President Jefferson could have purchased Claret or “Bordeaux Claret”.  Early in 1814, there was Claret, St. Julien Red, and Vin de Grave available at the Wine Cellar of Andrew Ross.  That summer Boone & Company of Georgetown sold “St. Julien Chatau, Margau, Monton, Montferrand, Medoc and Lafitte.”  These wines were available in hampers of two dozen bottles or boxes of one dozen bottles.  David Ott sold “Barsac, and Saturine” wines at his Pennsylvania Avenue store. In 1817 “Old Bottled Grauaud la Rose Claret” was locally available.

The location of the tasting has further ties to the vine and wine.  Not far away from the hotel Thomas W. Pairo had a three-story brick house at F Street and 12th Street.  He advertised it for rent on February 25, 1825.  Attached to the house  was a garden with “upwards of 200 of the best European Grape Vines, all in a bearing state.”  For a further exploration into the history of this and other local vineyards I suggest you read my Vineyards of Washington, DC series.

Please find my brief tasting notes arranged in the order presented by the tasting sheet.  The wines classified by Jefferson in 1787 are marked with a star.  The stemware was provided by Baccarat who exhibited a brand new Claret glass.  This glass has a wide bowl to let the wine breathe and a short chimney for directing the aromas to the nose.  I was particularly taken by the 2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2000 Chateau Montrose, 1990 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, and 2005 Chateau Climens.

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1990 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, Margaux
The nose bore mature aromas and wood box. In the mouth were mature but surprisingly ripe berries which expanded in the mouth.  There was lots of berry grip towards the finish which was followed by a good aftertaste.  The juicy acidity mixed well with black minerals in the finish and an earthy note.  Drinking well now with plenty of life ahead.

2010 Chateau Boyd Cantenac, Margaux
In the mouth the flavors began with a vanilla note, toast, and a round personality.  It maintained concentration with smokey graphite, flavors, and strong, drying, citric, tannins in the finish.

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2007 Chateau Branaire Ducru, Saint-Julien
There was a good, rich nose of cherries, red berries.  In the mouth was round red fruit, minerally acidity, then black fruit with some weight.  There were some greenhouse tannins, integrated acidity, and blacker fruit in the finish.  The wine left some tannins on the teeth which were a little spicy.  Drinking well.

* 2006 Chateau Lagrange, Saint-Julien
There was an earthy, berry nose with hints of maturity.  There was bright acidity, vigor, and a wood note.  Will age.

* 2007 Chateau Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien
This wine played it close at first with a hint of salivating acidity.  It showed more structure, drying flavors, and will clearly last for some time.

* 2007 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien
There was a grapey nose which finished with earthy aromas.  In the mouth was concentrated red fruit followed by black fruit and drying tannins.  The finish was firmer.

2009 Chateau Saint-Pierre, Saint-Julien
There was a slightly earthy nose with aromas of blue berries.  In the mouth were red and black fruit with the acidity and tannins building into a firm structure of ripe tannins.

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2005 Chateau Batailley, Pauillac
The nose had hints of maturity.  In the mouth the wine was more austere before building in flavor to reveal hard red fruit.

2009 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
The round nose was perfumed and young.  There was young red fruit in the mouth, tart acidity, and gentle integration with the very fine, ripe tannins persisting through the perfumed aftertaste.  Built for long development.

* 2006 Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac
There was cassis on the nose followed by tart, red fruit in the mouth. The drying structure and acidity was present but the wine is very young with graphite and black fruit in the finish.  It was a little spicy.

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2000 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
There was a classic nose with a mature aspect.  In the mouth there were fresh flavors, ripeness, expansion, and a controlled, classic structure for further development.  Nice but will continue development.

Berenice Lurton-Thomas, Proprietaire Chateau Climens

Berenice Lurton-Thomas, Proprietaire Chateau Climens

* 2009 Chateau Filhot, Sauternes
There was higher toned flavors followed by honied, yellow fruit which builds to add moderate spice.  There was a rich, creamy, apricot aftertaste.  The wine has underlying acidity.

2005 Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes
The nose was nutty with the flavors in the mouth evocative of a mature Bordeaux.  There were spices, creme brulee, and a cola hint.  The acidity was noticeable on the sides of the tongue.  The aftertaste was spicy.

2005 Chateau Climens, Barsac
There was a good, complex nose.  The mouth followed the nose with balance, a glycerine mouth feel, acidity, and complex spices.  The yellow fruit mixed with frangipane.  The flavors were big and mouthfilling.  Hard to resist now but it has a long future ahead.

* 2007 Chateau Coutet, Barsac
The nose revealed marmalade and peach aromas.  In the mouth there was rich weight to the yellow fruit.  There was a hint of spices, underlying acidity, and a honied, sticky aftertaste.  Tastes like a lot of residual sugar.

2010 Chateau Nairac, Barsac
The nose was light with more white than yellow fruit aromas.  In the mouth the wine was heavier and much thicker than the nose suggested.  There were yellow fruit flavors, brighter acidity towards the end, and a little salivating aspect in the aftertaste.

Philippe Casteja and the Author

Philippe Casteja and the Author

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