4th of JULY:
More Bordeaux We Like:
- Palmer is an old
property with a long history. It was classified in 1855 as a
"third growth," but today it's wines are routinely as costly as
most of the top second growths.
Located in Margaux (the hamlet of Issan, technically), the estate comprises
something like 45 hectares. Some 55% is planted with Cabernet
Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot.
I have found their wines to be far more interesting with a bit of bottle
aging. Young wines tend to show nicely, but often lack the excitement of
others as the wines tend to be made with an eye towards aging. However, given a decade or so in the bottle, Palmer really
blossoms nicely, showing the almost floral (roses and violets) notes typical
of the wines of Margaux.
Their wines don't have the oak you'll find in those of Chateau Margaux, for
example. Palmer seems to be a tad tighter in its youth and lacking the
sweet oak back-drop, the wine simply needs time to be enjoyable.
We recently found some more 2004. It's 46% Cabernet Sauvignon,
47% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot.
This is showing
very handsomely, bright with a touch of that floral note we find so often in
It is particularly good paired with mildly-seasoned lamb, veal or a prime
rib roast. A young wine, still, of course, but delicious with
substantially savory foods.
- We have not had the 1996 in a while, but a few years ago it was showing
itself quite handsomely and it had a fair bit of tannin to keep it going for
- Currently in stock: 2004 Château Palmer Sold Out
1996 Chateau Palmer Sale $299.99
- CHATEAU MOULIN DELILLE
The wines of Saint-Estèphe used to be regarded as fairly sturdy, hard-edged
These days you wouldn't think the wines of this northern outpost in the
Medoc were that imposing.
Back 50 years ago, or so, it was generally accepted that Bordeaux wines
demanded a decade or two of bottle aging to be drinkable. Winemakers
didn't worry about high levels of tannin as that simple went with the
territory and the territory was "Cabernet Sauvignon."
Well, these days winemakers understand few people invest in wines with the
idea of buying something today to enjoy ten years down the road. It's
an "instant gratification" world, so wines made these days are
often vinified with the idea that you're looking for something to put on the
dinner table tonight, not wait a decade.
One way to produce a more supple and ready-to-drink wine is by increasing
the proportion of Merlot and that's what happens with the Moulin Delille
wine from the Ollier family. The 2011 has a high percentage of Merlot,
whereas in the days of yore, Saint-Estèphe wines were largely Cabernet.
This is a nice, medium-bodied Bordeaux...and while you can hold it for a few
years, this is not likely to blossom to a great point of complexity...it's
nice now and it's rather ready to drink.
There's a nice dark berry fruit note here with a touch of cassis.
Having been matured for a year, or so, in small French oak, there's a mildly
cedary note on the nose which adds interest to the wine.
Its small price tag makes this an attractive alternative to many high-priced
or mass-produced California wines.
Currently in stock: 2011 CHATEAU MOULIN DELILLE St. Estèphe
CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE LAS CASES
- There are
three Léoville estates and this is, hands down, the best of the
three. Not that the other two are slackers, it's simply that this
property makes a wine that rivals the first growths for "best of
The vineyard is located at the northern end of the appellation of
Saint-Julien and it neighbors the famed Château Latour.
The vineyard is "guarded" by a number of stone lions (there's one
keeping a watchful eye on the grapes atop the stone arch depicted on the
label). You'll read stats which say the vineyards of Léoville-Las-Cases
is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit
The standards are extremely high and the wine is labeled
"Grand Vin de Léoville" for a reason. The best wine goes
into the primary label, while those lots that don't make the "cut"
had been sold as "Clos du Marquis." Even this wine can be
exceptional. I recall a candle-lit dinner party where we turned on the
lights to better examine the color of the 1961 we were drinking. The
wine, at well more than 20 years of age, was still incredibly dark and
youthful! We've been Clos du Marquis fans ever since and buy a bottle
of each new vintage for "research" purposes.
In fact, the 2009 vintage of Clos du Marquis is rather good. These
days they claim their "Petit Lion" wine is their
"second" wine and the Clos du Marquis, we're told, comes from
vineyards west of the chateau and bordering vineyards of some famous
neighbors, including Léoville
Poyferré, Léoville Barton and Pichon Lalande.
The Clos du Marquis 2009 is a rather 'serious' bottle of Bordeaux.
It's fairly big and displays the ripe qualities of the warm vintage.
It's said to be 70% Cabernet Sauvignon this vintage, with 20% Merlot and the
remaining 10% split between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wine seems
to show a nice, cedary undertone from some wood, but it's balanced and
certainly quite drinkable now. Some experts suggest it can be cellared
for another 20+ years, but we view it as nice now and probably at its best
over the next decade. And while a hundred bucks isn't
"cheap," the wine is of a quality many of the hundred and
two-hundred dollar + bottles from Napa would be delighted to have.
Léoville's Grand Vin is matured in a high percentage of new oak, but they try to
balance it by not going the 100% new wood regime employed by some of the
neighbors. In richer vintages they'll increase the percentage of new
wood. In more modest vintages, less new wood is used.
The wine routinely shows the "black fruit" character of
Cabernet. We usually find a lovely bit of cedary oak, too.
Prices for current vintages are extremely high and so I often look for older
favorites, finding them reasonably priced by comparison.
- Currently in stock: 1978 CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE LAS CASES Sold
2009 CLOS DU MARQUIS Sale $99.99
de Pez used to be a fairly simple, standard quality red Bordeaux.
Some years ago, 1995, the estate came into the hands of the Roederer
Champagne company and, my-oh-my, how things changed!
They began instituting changes and upgrades in the vineyard and in
We are delighted to report the quality of the wine has elevated nicely and
despite having been designated or classified as a Cru Bourgeois (back in
1932, well before the increased dedication to quality), these days their
wine rivals many 3rd, 4th and 5th "growth" estates.
(The classification took place in 1855 and some people claim it's a good
indication of the quality of the vineyards and wineries, but things change
over the course of 160 years.)
The property consists of 30 hectares, with 26 of them
planted. They have primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a
smattering of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
The wines are fermented in wooden vats and then transferred to small oak
cooperage. Some 40% of the barrels are brand new, 40% once-used and 20%
We've really enjoyed the wines over the past decade. The
prices are generally reasonable given the quality of the wines, though we
by-passed the more highly-rated vintages (2009 and 2010) as we felt the wines
did not warrant the elevated prices. We find, it seems, the critics prefer
hotter vintages and riper fruit which diminishes (we believe) the elements of terroir
in the wines. We like cooler vintages or less ripe wines, otherwise
Bordeaux tastes like Napa Valley which tastes like Chile or
In any case, the 2012 Château de Pez rolled into the distributor's warehouse,
so we bought a bottle, as you can see in the photo at the start of this posting.
We were delighted by the wine. The dark fruit of the Cabernet and Merlot
are prominent, but beautifully framed by a nicely woodsy character. The
tannin level is sufficient to give the wine a bit of cellaring potential, but
not so high that you can't enjoy it tonight.
Currently in stock: 2012 CHÂTEAU DE PEZ Saint-Estèphe
CLOS BADON THUNEVIN
Thunevin name is not popular amongst "old guard" Bordeaux
vintners. Here's a fellow who was an "outsider," a wine
lover who worked in a totally non-related field who started the entire
Jean-Luc Thunevin made his famous (or infamous, if you prefer) Château de
Valandraud wine for the first time in 1991. The early vintages
received great critical acclaim from America's wine "god," Robert
Parker. Thunevin had made wine of greater concentration and intensity
than his neighbors, thanks to his hands-on approach and his insistence upon
striving for perfection. So this "new kid on the block" was
making wine superior to those who'd been in the business for decades,
causing him to be the object of much scorn in the St. Emilion and Pomerol
regions (and on the left bank, I imagine, too).
Thunevin's ideas are simple: He believe in low yields, organic
farming, extensive work in the vineyard work and wild yeast fermentations of
absolutely ripe, mature fruit. Some have questioned his
wines as being "too international" in style, claiming the
"terroir" is lost. In fact, Valandraud in vintages at the
end of the 1990s comes from vineyards which are not the same as those in the
very first years!
But Thunevin has been quoted as saying "You can't make a race horse out
of a donkey." There has to be good quality to the terroir and
vines from which a wine originates.
- We drove out to look at some of his vineyards and to have a peek into the
winemaking facility for the purposes of industrial espionage.
Thunevin is a proponent of fermenting in wood.
These vats also, as you can see, have temperature controlling pipes
Thunevin believes in using lots of new oak. "Great wine is not
afraid of new oak." says Thunevin.
We tasted his young wine out of barrel---most impressive. Good luck
in coming up with the cash to buy a bottle! Valandraud runs upwards
of $200-$300 a bottle.
Thunevin's "Clos Badon" St. Emilion is a much more affordable
wine and it's styled along the same lines as the wine for millionaires.
Badon is a mature vineyard in St. Emilion comprised of about 6.5
hectares. It's located near Pavie and Larcis-Ducasse being planted
with 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Like Valandraud, it is
matured entirely in new barrels.
The 1999 vintage we have in the shop is only the second vintage Thunevin
has made this wine. While I found the Valandraud wine to be very
nice, I must confess I have had trouble in finding it to be worthy of such
a high price. Apparently there are those souls with wallets and
palates which find some value in Valandraud.
I find the Clos Badon to have the polish and Thunevin styling that I enjoy
and, it's priced within the realm of a place I call
The label, at a distance, reminds me of that of Napa's Harlan
Estate. It turns out Harlan is much admired by Thunevin. I
guess we shouldn't be surprised that Jean-Luc would admire another new
winery which can charge stratospheric prices for the privilege of owning a
The wine named after Thunevin's daughter, Virginie, fared very well in a
blind-tasting of 2001s at the shop. The wine displays a lovely
plummy Merlot fruit and sweet, cedary oak. It's delicious right now and
may age nicely for a few years. We don't view it as a long-term
Currently in stock: 1999 CLOS BADON THUNEVIN (List $35) Sold Out
CHÂTEAU VALANDRAUD 1999 (list $300) SALE
VIRGINIE DE VALANDRAUD 2001 Sold Out