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A tasting of Chateau Cos D’Estournel from 2012 back to 1982


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On Monday January 18, Panos Kakaviatos (Wine Chronicles) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for his annual Bordeaux dinner.  As in previous years he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages.  Also, like in previous years, he did an impeccable job of working with the restaurant staff in preparing the wines to show their best.  His care, attention and expertise always make for an excellent evening! The dinner was at Ripple, where Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley prepared a very good five-course meal that paired well the wines. The wine service was flawless. The guest of honor was Aymeric de Gironde, Director General of Chateau  Cos D’Estournel, the famous St. Estephe Second Growth. The diverse crowd made for excellent conversation and everyone enjoyed a lineup of wonderful wines.

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As we prepared for the dinner itself we sipped Michel Reybier Champagne.  This is a grower’s champagne purchased in recent years by Cos d’Estournel. The property consists of 40 hectares of premier and grand cru vineyards sites. The wine is made in a big style, with evident oak aging and low dosage.  Tart green apple, yeast and toasty notes are present in this well balanced, well made Champagne.

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The wines were served in five flights.

First Flight: 2008, 2006, 2004.

These wines all showed well.  While they were all big wines, the cool vintages provided them a nice sense of balance. Spice and white pepper notes were evident on many of the wines throughout the evening. The wines were paired with a lamb heart tartare with pickled mustard seed.  I liked the vinegar acidity in the dish and thought it was a nice foil for the tannins of the wines.  Others thought the acidity was too overpowering.

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2008 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Spice or fruitcake notes were at the forefront.  This leads to a big wine with hard tannins and a finish with a lush, glycerin mouthfeel.  Very good structure and my favorite of the flight. ****(*)

2006 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric commented that this was “undrinkable” for many years and is just starting to come around. The nose is actually slightly more open than the 08.  Blackberry, white pepper and wood notes lead to some smoky notes and very drying tannins.  There is a nice energy to this wine but it’s hard to understand right now. ***(*)

2004 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : The spice notes are again very prominent.  The nose is more evolved and clearly the most approachable of the three vintages at present. The tannins are still hard and there was a slightly unbalanced heat at the end.***

Second Flight:  2005, 2003, 2002.

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Glazed sweetbreads and radicchio provided a nice richness/bitterness balance that echoed the wines.

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2005 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric called this a “wine (for) forever.”  This was my favorite of the flight and a very great wine. The wine was rich with excellent integration of the oak.  Currants and a subtle spice lead to a wine that has gotten slightly softer in the mouth.  Perfect balance. ****(*)

2003 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : I expected more evidence of the heat of the vintage but was surprised by how balanced the wine was.  Exotic spices were obvious. Some coffee notes were present but balanced by a lively acidity.   This wine is actually quite approachable now. Some of the other tables notes mint and menthol notes in their bottle.  This was not evident in ours but may suggest some (not unexpected)  bottle variation. ***(*)

2002 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Dark fruits and licorice are interesting but some hot alcohol is distracting on the nose. The wine is well done for the vintage but lacks some complexity in my mind. ***

Third Flight: 2000, 1996, 1995.

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Potato gnocchi with a wild boar ragu was hearty and complex and again balanced the wines well. All these wines showed very well with the 2000 my favorite of the flight.

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2000 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe (from magnum): A very exotic nose with Indian spices, herbal, forest floor and leather notes. Rich in the mouth with a firm structure. ****(*)

1996 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Some initial funk that blew off. Concentrated currants and perfume that leads to an herbal note.  A bit softer in the mouth with a long finish. ****

1995 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Aymeric called this the “year of the experiment.”  The wine was aged entirely in new oak.  Some hints of maturity were noticeable at first with some hints of iodine. There was an off putting hardness at the end that made me wonder if the fruit would dry up before the wine fully comes together. ***(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982.

Seared duck breast with foie gras grits.

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1989 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : My WOTN (though the 2005 was close).  Secondary notes on the nose.  Cassis, concentrated figs, bell pepper. Rich in the mouth with a smoky note at the end.  Very long finish.  Beautiful. *****

1985 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe :  Some mustiness on the nose. Asian spices.  Harder and leaner in the mouth. Good but the weakest wine of the flight. ***

1982 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : While a very good wine it failed to live up to its reputation and not at the level I remember from when it was young.  Figs, herbs, some iodine.  The nose came across as younger than it was in the mouth.  Still some tannin and some bitter medicinal herbs at the end. ****

Fifth Flight: 2012, 2010, 2009.

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Aged Gouda with date jam.

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2012 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Very dark.  Black pepper, perfume.  Very fresh and balanced structure. I liked this a lot. ***(*)

2010 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Very structured, fresh.  Deep cassis fruit. Cigar box. Hard but lots of potential. ****(*)

2009 Château Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estèphe : Spice up front, very lush fruit.  Hard tannins, heat at the end.  More California in structure than Bordeaux.  It’s very well made but I think not the wine that the 2010 is. ****

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