The Heart’s Delight lunch with the Ambassador of France, Gérard Araud and Herve Berland of Chateau Montrose
The French Ambassador’s residence is located in Kalorama just off of Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC. Completed over one century ago, this grand Tudor Revival building was purchased by the French in the 1930s. Following the completion of a recent renovation, this house has resumed its social role in the city. Last week it was the scene of a spectacular wine lunch hosted by His Excellency, The Ambassador of France to the United States, Gérard Araud featuring the wines of Chateau Montrose.
The lunch took place as part of the Private Series of events organized by the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction. Heart’s Delight is an annual five-day event of wine tastings, auctions, and meals aimed at raising money for the American Heart Association. The first event took place in 1999 in memory of Bruce Bassin who passed away the previous year from a heart attack at the young age of 40. Bruce Bassin had managed MacArthur Beverages since he was 28.
My experience with Heart’s Delight is only recent, having become a member of the Auction Committee just a few month ago. That this lunch is the first event I have attended at Heart’s Delight is due to an invitation from Mark Wessels, the current manager of MacArthur Beverages. It was a remarkable introduction for this intimate lunch took place for only two dozen guests.
This is the first time the wines of Chateau Montrose have been featured at Heart’s Delight. They were presented by CEO Hervé Berland who shipped the wines straight from the cellars of Chateau Montrose. Hervé Berland pulled out all stops in his selection of wines by including the 1990 and 2010 vintages, both of which Robert Parker rated 100 points. Robert Parker described the 1990 vintage as “one of the all-time modern legends from Bordeaux” with the 2010 as “among the greatest vintages ever made in Montrose”. This is also the perspective of Chateau Montrose who regarded the 1990 vintage as the reference standard by which subsequent vintages were held against until the 2010 vintage came along.
The lunch began during a mild spring afternoon on the terrace with glasses of 2012 Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande Blanc, Saint-Estephe. Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande is located near Chateau Montrose, both of which are owned by the Bouygues family. Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande primarily produces red wine with just a small amount, some 250 cases, of white wine as well. Our glass of 2012 represents the first vintage of the white wine made using the fruit of very young vines. Though made mostly from Sauvignon Blanc the substantial inclusion of Semillon lent it an appealing amount of fruit and body. After canapés and a photograph with his Excellency we moved inside for lunch.
Lunch was cooked by Chef Michel Bastide. The beautifully plated and aromatic dishes were quite flavorful. They were rich enough to stand up to the wines yet not overpowering.
Emince de bar marine au pollen de fenouil
Creme de caviar Oscietre
Casserole de petits legumes de racines
Jus d’estragon et truffe
Magret de canard poele
Artichauts et girolles
Petit bijou du Vermont et pousses de cresson
Pain aux raisins
Nage d’orange sanguine
Emulsion de pamplemousse
Chateau Tronquoy-Lalande, Saint-Estephe, 2012
La Dame de Montrose, Saint-Estephe, 2011
La Dame de Montrose, Saint-Estephe, 2010
Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe, 2010
Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe, 2005
Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe, 1990
Chateau Montrose is located on a gravelly knoll adjoining the Gironde. From this unique microclimate it produces powerful, age-worthy wines. Indeed, my recent experience with the wine includes the older vintages of 1959, 1964, and 1966. In contemporary vintages, selection is strict with approximately half of the wine destined to be the grand vin, one-third as the second wine La Dame de Montrose, and the rest is sold off.
All of the red wines were double-decanted at least one hour before lunch started. We began with the 2011 and 2010 La Dame de Montrose. The 2011 vintage is mostly Merlot with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a wine to drink now for the young-tasting, grapey fruit is refreshing to drink. The 2010 vintage features mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Merlot. This bottle was particularly tight and in need of further aging. The 2010 Chateau Montrose, on the other hand, is more expressive with impressive amounts of concentration and lurking power. There is great depth with a substantial structure and acidity to support long term development but none of this is overbearing. Hervé Berland spoke of an effort to fine tune the tannic structure of the wines. That is a remarkable goal for the quality of the tannins is spectacular in the 2010.
Our shift to the 2005 Chateau Montrose brought along the first aromas and flavors from bottle age. If the 2010 is a wine to marvel at future potential than the 2005 is one which is starting to exhibit that potential. The bottle age comes across as an undertone for there is still mouth filling, age-worthy concentration. I really enjoyed my glass but it is best left for further development. The 1990 drank at or near full-maturity. The gorgeous nose is mature with earthy hints and spices. The wine fills the mouth with seamless concentrated mature fruit and fine complexity. This is, perhaps, the most powerful of all the wines tasted that lunch but there is no sense of heaviness.
As we passed from the terrace to the dining room earlier that day, we walked through the Salon des boiseries where a portrait of George Washington hangs. George Washington had a lifelong interest in wine but never tried Chateau Montrose for it was not founded until after his death. George Washington was familiar with the best red Bordeaux, having ordered claret by the case not only for his table but also to drink at a boat race. He certainly would have enjoyed the wines of Chateau Montrose for he placed orders for the “best old wine of Lafitte” and “old” 1785 Chateau Margaux. He even once corresponded about the pleasures “which a Glass of good Claret seldom fails to produce.” It is a sentiment I shared as I drank from that final glass of 1990 Chateau Montrose.