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A disintegrating label yet solid 1966 Lafite Rothschild

A widow recently sold off the small remains of her wine cellar.  The wines were originally purchased from MacArthur Beverages a long time ago, then stored in the basement of her house. There was nearly a case of 1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac with labels varying from largely intact to disintegrating.  I picked bottles with the best fills, which coincidentally had the worst labels.  Last month, I opened a bottle with the lowest fill to gauge what I had purchased.

The 1966 vintage of Lafite was available in Washington, DC for several years.  In 1970, you could purchase 1966 Lafite for $9.50 a bottle.  By 1971, the price had crept up to $12 before skyrocketing to $20 in 1972.  You can understand how this massive increase in French wine prices, in part, led to more people buying Californian wine.

Under the capsule, the top of the cork was covered with mold which was working its way down the long cork.  While not the best preserved cork, at least half of it was still in business.  I decanted the wine into a flask then took a sniff of a freshly poured glass.  It smelled clean.

Edmund Penning-Rowsell writes that Lafite went through a bit of a bad spell between 1964 and 1974.  David Peppercorn reports that 323 tonneaux were produced that vintage which is a greater than in 1982.  I relay this information because I found this bottle just moderately good.  It did smell and taste of good condition despite the fill and label.  My impression seems to follow others on Cellar Tracker.  While the wine is now in a tertiary state with cigar box, earth, and meat, there is good weight and even a sense of fat.  I happily drank it with relishing thoughts of what is in the other bottles.

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1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Laurent Lescure.  Imported by Capitol City Liquors Co.  This is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  Upper to top shoulder fill.  A garnet-mahogany color.  A slight herbaceous edge to the nose but also earth and meat.  The flavors are light yet the body is weighty and develops a round edge.  With air, flavors of tart red fruit take on cigar box by the middle and graphite in the end.  A pretty wine, completely smooth, which becomes meaty with luxurious, ethereal fat in the finish.  **(*) Now.

Magnums at a friend’s gathering

July 30, 2019 1 comment

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Last week I went over to a friend’s house to hang out and drink some wine.  He had invited his neighbors over and to quench our thirst he opened five different magnums from his cellar.  With two glasses in hand we first compared two different Chardonnay wines from the 2004 vintage.  Repeated assessments to determine the different qualities of the 2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru and 2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses meant the magnums were largely finish by evening’s end.  With air and warmth, both magnums continued to exhibit fresh aromas and flavors defying their age.  These pristine examples revealed themselves to be quite different.  The Morey is the more mature, more hedonistic of the pair since it offers more mid-palate ripeness and grip.  The Dauvissat is precise with stone-infused focused flavors.  I liked them both though I give a nod to the Dauvissat.  It really is incredible at how fresh these wines can remain.

The second flight compared two mostly Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from the 1996 vintage.  The 1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley reveals berries on the nose with more fruit and substance through the middle.  It is, no doubt, very good and while generous, it remains controlled.  My preference lies with the 1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac. The deep nose is killer with mineral, tart black flavors that are highly focused.  I would drink it now because the aromas are so attractive.  I can easily image it will last another 10-20 years but it might become too austere at that age whereas the Montelena will continue to offer more fruity, flavorful drinking.

Dessert was in the form of 2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape.  Sadly, it came across as rather unevolved and underperforming so after a quick taste I returned to the other wines.  Due to my friend’s generosity in providing magnums, we were insured there still more to enjoy with the other selections.

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2004 Bernard Morey, Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere 1er Cru en magnum
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13.5%.  A vibrant yellow-green with a fine, smoke hint on the nose.  Mineral with tart lemon flavors and mid palate presence from gravelly fruit with hints of ripeness.  Lovely and mature, it might develop a bit more.  I found it generally precise with a little spice and long aftertaste.  ***(*) Now – 2024.

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2004 Vincent Dauvissat, Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses en magnum
Imported by Wine Cellars LTD.  Alcohol 13%.  A lighter, brighter straw yellow color.  A beautiful, tense wine with a fine layer of fat into the end.  Fresh with lifted acidity with lower-lying flavors that become subtle in the fat infused finish.  It remains focused with lemon flavors before wrapping up with a pure and tart, persistent aftertaste.  **** Now – 2030.

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1996 Chateau Montelena, Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Napa Valley en magnum
Alcohol 13.5%.  Berries on the nose.  Fresh, weighty flavors with a good core of black rurant then a mineral hint in the end.  It takes on more weight and while richer, it is framed out and always in control.  It is mouth filling with flavors that cling to the gums.  **** Now – 2025.

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1996 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac en magnum
Shipped by Bernard et Meneret.  Imported by Vintage Trading.  This is roughly a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot.  Alcohol 13%.  Deep on the nose with graphite and minerals.  A mineral, tart black fruited start is carried by watering acidity.  It is lighter in weight, remaining focused with taut, fresh flavors and a long lasting aftertaste.  **** Now – 2035.

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2005 Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape en magnum
Alcohol 15%.  The waves of rounded, mouth filling fruit, came across as monolithic and not having developed any complexity.  A seemingly underperforming bottle that was just not my style this evening.  Not Rated.

A pair of modest 2000 red Bordeaux

A month or so ago, Phil brought in a cache of well-stored Bordeaux from which I bought a few modestly priced selections.  I went through a few bottles of 2000 Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, concluding that it is a wine to drink up.  At best it has deep aromas followed by gentle, mature wood box flavors.  It is a luncheon wine.  My favorite is the gutsy 2000 Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac.  Produced before micro-oxygenation was introduced, it is saline and savory.  Though mature, it has good life ahead and currently offers fine length.  It is a good value at $30.

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2000 Les Hauts de Pontet-Canet, Pauillac – $35
Imported by LVDH. Alcohol 13%.  Some mature, deep notes on the nose.  The flavors are wood box infused with a gentle and mature nature yet the wine is balanced and not old.  It is in a focused, leaner style with a little minerality, a touch of ripe spice, and freshness.  Good length.  **(*) Now – 2022.

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2000 Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac – $30
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Savory salinity is bound with minerals and mature flavors.  In a good state, it still comes across as fresh, with supportive acidity, a long finish, and good aftertaste.  Has life yet.  *** Now – 2024.

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The 2018 Enclos, Tourmaline

After the Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Franca Barbera d’Alba tasting we were privileged to try an interesting sample from Bordeaux.  I’ll admit it was quite a pivot from mature Barbera but sometimes you must forge on.

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The 2018 Enclos, Tourmaline, Pomerol is a tiny cuvee of some 275 cases produced only in the best vintages from the smallest appellation in Bordeaux. The wine is made entirely of Merlot sourced from vines averaging 25 years of age located on four tiny parcels which total 1 hectare. One plot is next to Clinet, one next to La Fleur Petrus, one between Le Pin and Trotanoy, and one next to Rouget. The fruit is fermented in 100% new oak then will be aged for an expected 20 months.  This is full-bore, mineral Merlot which I found hard to believe it is a sample!  It would be interesting to taste it again with other young Bordeaux to better put it in perspective.

2018 Enclos, Tourmaline, Pomerol echantillon
This wine is 100% Merlot which was whole berry fermented in 100% new oak. Alcohol 14.7%. This is serious, youthfully packed Merlot. It is young and big yet there is balance all around. Of moderate weight and fresh acidity it grips the gums.  The tannins are very fine, fully integrated, and one harmonious part.  Darker red and black fruits, very mineral, and almost plush in nature.  **** from 2020.

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!