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Top values from Bordeaux: Marsau and Clos Marsalette

Phil at MacArthur Beverages recommends the two wines featured in this post and so must I.  The 2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs is a highly mineral, savory wine with an attractive nose of herbs.  It is a top value at $22, offering both personality and the ability to age for several years.  For me, the 2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan is all about satisfyingly deep aromas and supple, dark flavors.  This may be a forward wine but it still has tension.  It is the sort of wine I want to drink glass after glass of and worth every bit of $25.

2015 Chateau Marsau, Cotes de Francs – $22
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Merlot.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose of herbs evokes sage and thyme.  In the mouth there is a savory edge to this highly mineral wine.  There is a focused vein or core of ripe and dense black fruit.  There is  subtle perfume in the end with a cool, zippy finish.  The supportive structure leaves ripe, gum coating tannins and a spicy note.  It has strong personality!  ***(*) Now – 2025.

2014 Clos Marsalette, Pessac-Leognan – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc fermented in wooden and concrete vats then aged for 18 months in 40% new oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A good nose of deep aromas.  In the mouth this is dark with licorice and cassis, a bit gravelly with tense freshness.  With air it is decidedly dark fruited with cassis and a eucalyptus/greenhouse hint.  The tannins are present yet completely integrated.  It takes on a cooler tilt with air.  This is a very satisfying, supple wine to be drunk now.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

Chateau Camino-Salva in Cocks-Féret (1901)

Bordeaux et ses vins classés par ordre de mérite (7e éd…). 1901. Cocks & Féret. [1]

“Les vins de Camino-Salva se distinguent par beaucoup de corps, une belle couleur et un parfum tres abundant.”[1]


[1] Bordeaux et ses vins classés par ordre de mérite. Cocks, Charles and Féret, Édouard. 1901. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philosophie, histoire, sciences de l’homme, 8-LK7-1082 (BIS,C). URL: https://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb302537639

A tasting of Château Léoville Poyferré 2015-1990

February 25, 2019 Leave a comment

On January 18, 2019, Panos Kakaviatos (https://wine-chronicles.com/) gathered together a group of DC wine lovers for one of his biannual Bordeaux dinners. This was one was at Le Petit Bouchon Restaurant in the French Embassy and featured the wines of Léoville Poyferré.

As in the past he invited a guest from the Chateaux and had a vertical representation of multiple vintages. Also, as always, Panos was a wonderful host who obviously took great care in the menu and the wines to make sure everything showed at its best, and that the guests all had a great time. From the Chateau was Sara Lecompte-Cuvelier, who provided great commentary on the wines and was a charming ambassador for the estate.

The wines were served in five flights preceded by a variety of Champagne. For me the highlights were a 2002 Piper Heidsieck Rare and a 2002 Dom Perignon. Both were in a great place with bracing acidity, citrus fruit and a rich body. I give the edge to the Dom.

My general impressions of the wines were very positive, with a few very great ones. They all showed a nice structure that was never over the top. They were balanced and fresh, even in the riper vintages.

First Flight: 2014, 2012, 2010. Paired with Snails Croque Monsieur.

My favorite dish of the night and a smart pairing for these vintages.

2014 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
I liked this a lot and still think that 2014 Bordeaux overall may be the vintage to buy, given the balance of quality and price. This wine was very deep and rich, with cassis, cedar and a drying finish. Maybe a little austere in the middle. ***(*)

2012 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
My least favorite of the flight. Less polished, a little musty and earthy in the middle with some heat at the end. I do like the concentration and acidity. **(*)

2010 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This is a very great wine. Very concentrated. Cassis, graphite, a spicy herbal note all balanced by some mineral and balanced acidity. Medium tannins and great structure. A terrific future. ****(*)

Second Flight: 2011, 2008, 2002. Paired with a lobster “purse” in a carrot ginger sauce.

While this was an unusual choice, I actually think it worked well.

2011 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
This reminded me of the 14 but a notch below in quality. Still very good. Tasting very young with hard tannin but great fruit and structure. I think it needs some time to come together a bit more. ***

2008 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
An expressive wine with hints of dried berry, lavender and mint on the nose. The fruit is there but more contained. I like it very much and can see this coming around sooner than some of the other wines. ***(*)

2002 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The weakest of the flight. Leaner, with some green notes. Actually may be drinking at its peak now. Shows way better with the food. ** to *** ?

Third Flight: 2001, 2000, 1990. Lamb loin.

All these wines showed very well with the 1990 my favorite of the night.

2001 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Some green herbaceousness, dill, some earth. Classically styled. ***

2000 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A great nose with balanced notes of fruit, herbs and cassis. A long life ahead. ****

1990 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fresh nose. Bright, rich. Creamy, silky fruit in the mouth. Perfect acidity and concentration.****(*)

Fourth Flight: 1989, 1985, 1982. Cheeses.

2006 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A sharp, somewhat shrill nose is a deceptive start to what is actually a balanced wine. It likely just needs a bit of time to smooth the coarseness and fully integrate. ***

2005 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
A huge wine showing as very locked in at present. It is very rich and concentrated, very complex but desperately in need of time to show its best. ***(*)

2004 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Showing better than I expected, this is a concentrated wine with strong notes of cedar and cassis. A pleasant surprise. ***

Fifth Flight: 2003, 2009, 2015. Chocolate Dessert.

An ok pairing. I remain skeptical about big red wines and chocolate.

2003 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Very fond of this tonight. Not showing as roasted or overripe, except some coffee notes. Actually some green, minty notes present. Very fresh and complex. Another surprise. ****

2009 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
Still fairly primary. Black fruits, some wood and earth but smooth tannins. Needs lots of time. Impressive wine. ****(*)

2015 Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien
The greatest potential of all the wines tonight but now very primary with only the hints of what this will be. Very concentered blue fruits, vanilla, smoke and liqueur. I really like this. Is it better than the 1990? I’m not sure but can’t wait to see how it is after another couple of decades. The 2010 will certainly give it a run for its money. ****(*)

Thanks Panos for including me in a great event!

Random French oldies

February 22, 2019 Leave a comment

At an impromptu, informal gathering of several wine drinkers, I decided to clear out several oldies and offer one decent wine.  The 1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac smelled passed prime on the nose and tasted as such in the mouth.  Others were more tolerant.  Up next came a pair of 1988 Gigondas which came from a cellar of oddities picked up by MacArthur Beverages.  I cannot say I drank 1988 Gigondas before, being a modest vintage, but these two bottles were obviously well stored.  The 1988 Guigal, Gigondas is the modest surprise, compact and still retaining a core of fruit. The 1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas has an edge up.  It is less fruity but more complex.  I would not seek any of these wines out but they served a purpose that night.  For Lou, I served the 1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon.  It is a lovely wine, in full prime.

1975 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Shipped by Rineau.  Imported by The Rineau Wines.  Alcohol 11%.  Advanced on the nose, it remains a bit stinky and is passed prime in flavor.  Drinkable I suppose.  Not Rated.

1988 Guigal, Gigondas
Imported by Classic Wine Imports.  Obviously well-stored.  Initially a bit stinky on the nose it cleans up with air.  A surprisingly rugged, pure core of bluer fruits and compact structure.  A simpler, modern style that provides decent drinking at 30 years of age.  ** Now.

1988 Domaine Santa Duc, Gigondas
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  More complex with a blend of cool blue fruits and structure.  Robust with mouth coating tannins and good acidity.  Evocative of Gigondas.  Less fruity but more expansive.  ** Now.

1990 Olga Raffault, Les Picasses, Chinon
A good, medium-body with some density yet there is also levity.  With mature flavors of earth, tobacco, and leaves there is still fruit and life to last a long time.  It slowly unfurls in the glass.  Concentrated in a way yet elegant.  **** Now – 2029.

“There is no such thing as Round Hill”: 1974 Round Hill, 1970 LMHB, and 1978 Mastantuono

January 4, 2019 3 comments


Sickness and scheduling issues meant I was never able to host any tastings this holiday break. I did manage to meet up at Lou’s house for an impromptu tasting of mature wine.  I was given several bottles of 1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves from that odd DC cellar years back.  With ratty labels (the 1970 is still visible though) and good fill, the cork came out in good shape.  Just a brief bit of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal deep aromas.  It is deep flavored as well, yet also lifted, quickly showing fully mature flavors.  Equally good, the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley lived up to my hopes.

It is due to these two wines that I stayed at Lou’s for nearly five hours as we finished off both bottles.  Two years ago I mentioned Round Hill in the context of some old Ernie’s bottles I had opened.  Ernie Van Asperen ran a chain of more than 80 liquor stores in California.  He also operated a negocient business, purchasing up extra wine from wineries who bottled it for him under the Round Hill and Ernie’s labels.  Round Hill wines could be highly regarded and won medals at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Frank J. Prial, a judge at the fair, wrote in The New York Times that he found this “amusing because there is no Round Hill.”

As for what was in our bottle we do have some clues.  In 1980, the Underground Wine Journal wrote that the 1974 Ernie’s “Special Selection” Cabernet came from old Souverain stocks that were sold off in the 1970s.  In 1974, Souverain was sold by J. Leland Steward to a group of investors.  They in turn sold Souverain to Pillsbury Co. under which the new winery was constructed in Alexander Valley.  It was not a profitable deal, for Pillsbury sold off the Souverain winery and its assets in 1976.  Round Hill was founded in 1977.  That same year Frank J. Prial noted that wine from Sonoma Vineyard and Souverain were bottled under the Round Hill label.

There is a strong chance, then, that the 1974 Round Hill is actually Souverain.  Whatever it is, Ernie knew what he was doing for it is an excellent wine at the height of maturity.

I do love a good surprise and the 1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County represents just that.  I refrained from any prior research so was quite impressed with the savory and saline profile of this full-bodied, red fruited wine.  Founded in 1976, Mastantuono is the fifth oldest winery in Paso Robles.  The Dusi Vineyard was planted in 1923 so even at the time, the Mastantuono was made from old vines.  The 1978 vintage was a hot year producing “intensely flavored” Zinfandel according to Robert Parker Jr. in The Washington Post during 1981.  This bottle is intense yet savory, lending interest as it reflects both the vintage and vineyard.  It lasted about two hours in a decanter before it started to fade.

The wines that evening were a treat!

1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Deep flavored with ripe hints and goof lift.  Additional notes of low-lying leather and minerals adds complexity.  The watering acidity weaves through the palate as the wine grips the sides of the gums, turning redder in flavor.  With air it offers up deep flavors of cranberries and other bright fruit.  **** Now but will last

1974 Round Hill Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  A deep, black cherry color offers more pigment than the LMHB.  Immediately striking as medium-bodied with good fruit weight and rounded nature.  This wine is rich in flavor with no hard edges due to fully integrated structure.  It is dense and gravelly with minerals and grip by the middle.  It took half an hour to open up in the decanter, eventually offering big mouth feel and flavor for hours.  A touch of structure comes out in the end. **** Now but will last.

1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 12.5%. A fresh nose with an herbaceous hint.  A savory, salty start soon yields bright red fruit that is deep in flavor.  This is a medium to full-bodied wine with quite the weight to the fruit.  Flavors of candied berry and old leather mix with good watering acidity, actually zippy acidity.  A very solid wine.  The savory personality makes it stand out.  *** Now but will last.

Wines from a birthday celebration

October 17, 2018 Leave a comment

A small group of us gathered for a birthday celebration where we all contributed bottles around significant years.  While the name and age of the celebrant are withheld the wines we tasted are not!  Many fine wines were tasted both young and old with only a few off bottles.  Please find my notes below.

1996 Deutz, Cuvee William Deutz, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Joshua Tree Imports. Alcohol 12%. A mature color with aromas of apricot and apple orchard. Very fine and firm bubbles from the start. The orchard note follows through in the mouth where there are flavors of tart apple, a hint of lees, and general maturity. It is drier through the middle. What is just a racy bit in the finish develops into an oily body. This bottle is drinking at its peak.  **** Now.

1996 Tattinger, Comte de Champagne, Champagne Brut
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 12%. green, almost bright yellow color. The nose offers fine, ripe aromas of yeast and articulated fruit. Very gentle bubbles carry tart apple with tons of texture on the tongue and a weightier middle. It becomes a bit creamier after the start. **** Now – 2025.

2010 Jean Noel Gagnard, Chassagne Montrachet Blanchot Dessus Premier Cru
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by The Source. Alcohol 13.5%. More gold in color. Aromatic of dark, yellow fruit. Nut oil density from the start with more sweet fruit than the 2010 Jobard. This wine is mature but still has a vein of acidity that carries the weight and oily body. It takes on a hint of lees, certainly stones in the end with an oily aftertaste.  Drink soon.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

2010 Antoine Jobard, Meursault Les Tillets
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Alcohol 13%. Gold and yellow in color. Crisp and closely played with gunflint and almost tart acidity. With air assuredly tart on the tongue, with attractive salinity, and verve from the acidity. Very focused. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Francesco Rinaldi, Barbaresco
Imported by Grape Expectations. Alcohol 13.5%. A nose of umami, Asian sauce, and veggies. Maderised a touch, more advanced than I would expect, with watering acidity, a dry middle, and grip on the tongue.  Not Rated.

1978 Cortese Giacomo, Barbaresco
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13.5%. Perfumed. A lovely, sweet nose which remains aromatic. The ripest of the 1978 trio with earthy notes, sweaty middle, and firmer finish. It still possesses structure. There is good presence which persists with air. **** Now – 2023.

1978 Scarpa, Barolo Cascina Roncaglia
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 13%. Fresh, slowly evolving nose with articulated aromas of eucalyptus. More acidity in the mouth with tartness in the gently firm, still structured first half. With air it becomes silky and more ethereal in nature. It is driven by acidity which almost provides verve. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2000 Bruno Giacosa, Falletto, Barbaresco Riserva Asili
Imported by Chelsea Ventures. Alcohol 14%.  A nose of raspberries.  In the mouth freshness with hints of pruned fruit, a roasted element, and very ripe bits.  Still quite primary.  With air it retains fine focused on brambly red fruit and fine, wood notes.  Not offering much, try again in several years.  *** 2023-2033.

1967 Domaine Jean Gros, Richebourg Grand Cru
Shipped by Remoissenet Pere et Fils and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. Alcohol 13%. A fruity, weighty wine with flavors of orange-citrus and red fruit. An old-school wine of substance and life. It could stand more acidity to lend tension but I would happily drink this all afternoon.  **** Now but will last.

1966 Chateau Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Mestrezat-Preller and imported by Great Lakes Wine Company. 12%. Sadly a bad bottle. Not Rated.

1989 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Kermit Lynch. Ripe aromas of strawberry and briar bramble. Fresh and youthful in the mouth with a certain lifted quality. The ripe fruit lie over a focused core, revealing this bottle is in great shape and has yet to hit mid-life. It remains focused with supple red fruit and develops structure.  **** Now – 2033.

1989 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape
Imported by Vineyard Brands. Redder, more focused flavors stay towards tart red in profile. It is a lovely drink, taking on more ripeness and strawberries with air. **** Now – 2028.

2005 Clos Mogador, Priorat
Maturing with blue and mixed fruits on the nose. An impressive wine with a trifecta of fruit ripeness, acidity, and structure all of which is well balanced. It is slowly evolving, still young, but willing to reveal its components. Pastilles eventually come out.  ****(*) Now – 2033.

1988 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Imported by T. Elenteny. Apricots and oranges on the nose. Rounded, sappy, with improving definition as it breathes. There is a ripe and dense core of flavor that is all about the mouth feel. This is a racy and inky wine intertwined with glycerin and spice. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

1989 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes
Alcohol 13.5%. Slightly lighter in color than the 1988. Good acidity makes this a tense wine, a tough bright with focus and grip. **** Now – 2038 .

2005 Markus Molitor, Riesling Beerenauslese * Zeltinger Himmelreich, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Schmitt Sohne. Alcohol 7%. Very aromatic. Brighter yellow fruit, eventually pure apricot, with sweetness that almost oversteps the fruit flavor. A slight spritz before the wine becomes dense and seductive with enough acidity to make it zippy. ****(*) Now – 2038+.

A blind tasting of 2014 Bordeaux

Several weeks ago I was a guest of Phil’s tasting group for a blind event featuring featuring seven wines.  I will admit to being confused.  I thought some wines from Bolgheri, others certainly from Bordeaux, and I was sure one was Barbera! Six of the wines were Bordeaux and what I thought was Barbera turned out to be from California.  All wines were from the 2014 vintage which I did not guess.

When we sat down to taste the wines they had the corks removed just one hour prior.  The naturally forward wines showed the best but the subsequently decanted Pichon Baron improved greatly.  In all fairness, I heard that the Clinet improved greatly after three days.  If in doubt hold on to your 2014s!

My favorites include the 2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, undoubtedly the best value of all wines tasted but also my type of wine, and even the forward 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan.  The best wine for long-term development is the 2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac.  There are interesting flavors here but the balance and stuffing will see it evolve into something quite engaging.

Please find my notes below in the order the wines were tasted.  If my ratings seem conservative just remember these wines are young!  Many thanks to Phil for including me.

2014 Chateau La Gaffeliere, Saint- Emillion – $55
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc. Alcohol 14.5%. Still young in color with dark aromas of mulberries. In the mouth black fruit, cherries, and good acidity are still structured. The fresh finish brings powerful tannins. With air the fruit takes on a cool aspect but is sappy and chewy with a graphite note. Will certainly improve with age.  ***(*) 2020-2035.

2014 Chateau Pichon Baron, Pauillac – $99
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.   This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose remained tighter. An almost puckering start with wood flavors and a tart finish on the tongue. The tannins are fairly unresolved grabbing the gums but there is an interesting blend of fruit and flavors. After decanting the fruit balanced out the structure revealing good harmony and flavor.  **** 2023-2038.

2014 Chateau Giscours, Margaux – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon. 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Alcohol 13.5%. Tight, somewhat aromatic but unevolved. In the mouth are focused and tight flavors of black fruit. The wine is fresh but also very young with structure and acidity reminiscent of Bordeaux. It takes on hints of fat in the finish, some greenhouse, and is clearly built to age. ***(*) 2023-2035.

2014 Chateau Les Carmes de Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan – $65
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This is a blend of 54 % Cabernet Franc, 32 % Merlot, and 14 % Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.5%. A little more on the nose perhaps some meat. There is more immediate fruit weight compared to structure. This is a dense wine with gum coating, rather than drying, tannins. The watering acidity is integrated with the structure. This wine is young but in balance with a hint of fruit in the end along with baking spices. **** Now – 2028.

2014 Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate – $54
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvingon, 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the Monte Bello Vineyard. Alcohol 13.7%. A good nose of black fruit and violets but the aromas are almost raisinated. There is a riper core of dark and ripe fruit, quite the structure but the brambly fruit perseveres. It has a soft edge and notes of sweet oak. Reminded me of Barbera!  *** Now – 2026.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan – $75
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 14%. There is depth to the nose. In the mouth, ripe fruit, black and violet, exists in a structure but there is more good fruit to the balance. It is a good modern wine, will be ready sooner, with nice weight that marks the structure as supportive. It opens up well, is the most forward, and even offers a mineral finish. **** Now – 2030.

2014 Chateau Clinet, Pomerol – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 90% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is a finely flavored wine, cool in flavor, structured, and focused. It did not give up much. *** 2021- 2031.