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More Bordeaux We like
estate was well-regarded in the 1970s, producing a fairly typical, if
slightly rustic Bordeaux.
A few decades ago, ownership changed and it's been in the hands of the
Borie family who own the prestigious Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou in Saint
These days Francois-Xavier Borie is at the helm and the wines from
"G-P-L" are showing marvelously and are well worth a look.
We have fond memories of the 1970 vintage and the 1975 is still holding on
The vineyard plantings on the estate had dipped to about half of capacity
in the 1960s, but today they're back up to the full 55 hectare
capacity. About three-quarters of the vineyards are Cabernet
Sauvignon, with 5% Cabernet Franc and the rest devoted to Merlot.
We have the 2006 in stock presently. What a stylish bottle of wine,
too! (I'm referring to the contents, not the label or glass...)
We'd tasted this wine in its infancy and it was nice, but having had a few
years in the bottle, it's developing beautifully. There's plenty of
dark or black fruit notes of the Cabernets, along with a wonderfully
cedary bouquet and flavor. Clearly this saw a hefty percentage of
new oak in this vintage and the wine is magnificent.
Tasting lots of high-priced California Cabernets recently, we keep
thinking how good and how well-priced the G-P-L is...how we'd prefer to
drink this instead of most of those, even though this is a youthful
wine. Another feature is its balance: the wines they made in
the late 1960s and early 1970s were lean, muscular tannic Bordeaux.
Today the tannins are a bit tame and the overall balance is such that
drinking the wine in its youth is no longer a criminal offense.
We expect the 2006 to continue to develop over the next 5-10 years and it
should hold up another 10 after that, well-stored.
Currently in stock: 2006 GRAND-PUY-LACOSTE
Pauillac (List $80) Sold Out
- CHATEAU BEYCHEVELLE
- This is a major landmark right on the main highway through
Bordeaux. The name "Beychevelle" is said to be a corruption of the words
"baisse voile" meaning "lower the sail." That's because
ships passing by (it's right on the water) were told to offer this "salute" to
the owner of the property who was an admiral. Others say the name came about as boats were
obliged to stop here to allow the taxing customs authorities to sniff around.
vineyards cover some 90 hectares, though the property is considerably bigger. The
plantings include 60% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 8% Cabernet-Franc and 4% Petit
Verdot. The owners today include the Japanese drinks group Suntory.
seem to have set the property on the right course.
We have a few bottles, too, of their 2006. I found this to be one of the
more showy wines of the vintage. It's got nice Cabernet aromas and a
whiff of wood. The balance is good, so it's drinkable now and should
age nicely for a decade, or so. The price is reasonable, too.
- Currently in stock:
- 1988 Chateau Beychevelle 750ml SALE $159.99
2009 Château Beychevelle SALE $109.99
- CHATEAU PICHON LONGUEVILLE COMTESSE de LALANDE
- This wine is known to the trade and consumers alike as "Chateau
Pichon Lalande." The estate across the street is known as "Chateau Pichon
As Pichon Lalande has, for at least a quarter of a century, been making the superior wine,
it is almost always the higher-priced Bordeaux.
Their neighbors have been beating the drums to call their wine "Chateau Pichon
Longueville" (which is more correct), even though they are probably aware
this will confuse the consumer.
Pichon Lalande was run for many years by Madame May-Eliane de Lencquesaing. Her husband was a
General in the French army. He passed away a few years ago and today she is known as
She'd run Pichon Lalande since 1978. The property has been in her family since
the 1920s, having been bought by her father and uncle. A dynamic person, she's not a
spring chicken anymore, yet she is still full of energy! But none of
her younger relatives were interested in running a winery, so the place was
sold to the Roederer Champagne people. This should be a good
continuation for this winery.
I drove May-Eliane to a party in Napa some years ago. Many top Napa vintners
were in attendance for this wing-ding. The Duckhorns, The Brounsteins,
Bob Long and others I can no longer remember...
I was curious to know how she viewed
"New World" wines and was impressed to discover she is not at all chauvinistic
about Cabernet Sauvignon. There are, certainly, many old world winemakers who
believe that they have some exclusivity on making the wines they produce. Not this
I expected she might say something like New World wines are "alright, but the best
Cabernet-based wines in the world are Bordeaux."
She said "If people plant the right grapes in the proper conditions, they have the
potential to make great wines." And we were speaking about Napa, Washington,
Australia and South America.
She was certainly familiar with the top Napa estates, having great respect for the
Napa Valley elite in that era...
If you taste Pichon-Lalande wines, you'll notice they're marked by a plump, ripe fruit
character. The wines have a silky, supple quality, even in their youth.
Even in a poor vintage such as 1980 Pichon Lalande turned out a very good bottle of wine
(and it was really cheap way back when!). Madame de Lencquesaing embarked on a major
improvement program after taking over. This covers the vineyards, the aging cellar
and bottling facility.
I hosted her for dinner one evening, along with some Italian winemakers. May-Eliane
told an incredible story of a disgruntled staffer. He, apparently, didn't like
working for her (for one reason or another....maybe that's why she's known as "La
Generale") and sabotaged some tanks of a modest vintage. He then called the
authorities to turn her in for having adulterated wines! The story was of tremendous
intrigue, even including hidden listening devices and "bugging" equipment!
Pichon is always a favorite wine for us. We've had the good fortune to taste many
older vintages. Former Weimax staffer, the late Robert Gorman hosted a fabulous dinner for Gourmet
Magazine wine writer Gerald Asher and opened a 1934 Pichon Lalande. This was a very
memorable bottle and a superb dinner, too.
Given her mania for high quality, it is not a big surprise to learn that the European
Grand Jury tasting found Pichon-Lalande to be the top wine in a field including
Ducru-Beaucaillou, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Léoville Las Cases,
Margaux and Joseph Phelps of Napa. A handful of Italian wines were also included,
but Bordeaux ruled the roost and Pichon Lalande was voted "Number One."
Even though Pichon Lalande is "only" classified a Second Growth, you'll still
have to dig deep and pony up a pretty penny to buy Madame de Lencquesaing's wine. I
suppose at less than half the price of First Growths, it's comparatively a bargain. It still
costs a small fortune, though.
The 1989 is a fabulous bottle of wine! It displays the blackcurrant fruit of
Cabernet, along with the underlying cedary notes and a sweet, plummy sort of note, too.
Though now eleven years old, this is still a youthful and delicious red wine.
It ought to continue to develop for another ten years, maybe more.
1975 is a fine bottle, on a plateau, at this point. We drank one in
May, 2002 at L'Amie Donia in Palo Alto, a restaurant which closed
its doors, sadly.
The wine had the fragrance of mature Cabernet Sauvignon, a hint of a cedar
cabinet sort of note. On the palate it's dry, smooth and
refined. Elegant, even. It's about the last "old
style" vintage in Bordeaux. The wines today are a bit more plump
and ripe. It's labeled "Vin de Pichon." May-Eliane
wrote to me saying this was a fashionable way of labeling the wine, in the
manner of Léoville-Las Cases, whose wine is "Grand Vin de Léoville."
She was thinking of going back to labeling her future vintages in the same
manner. I hope I dissuaded her.
Well, some years ago, since her relatives were not interested in running the
estate, she sold the estate to the Rouzaud family, who have proven
themselves quite capable of making Bordeaux at their St. Estèphe property
called Chateau de Pez. The family also owns a little Champagne house
of modest repute, Louis Roederer. This means Pichon Lalande is in good
The recent vintages seem to be a tad more supple and round, perhaps
"plush" on the palate. The estate does have a fair
planting of Merlot and so they can make a wine which is reasonably
harmonious in its youth.
- Currently in stock:
1996 Pichon Lalande Sold Out
- CHATEAU COS D'ESTOURNEL
- The Prats family
had long been associated with this
wonderful St. Estèphe property which is located just north of the Pauillac border.
If you're ever in the Medoc, do make a point of seeing the unusual pagoda-styled
architecture of Cos d'Estournel. This seems to have originated when the owner of the
property, Louis Gaspard d'Estournel, was engaged in horse-trading in the Far East.
His shipments of horses were frequently accompanied by bottles of his wine. He
brought his wine along on one voyage and didn't find a buyer for it. What he did
find, however, is that the very fine wine had transformed, due to this vibration and heat
of the ocean voyage, to perfection. Those who tasted the wine were amazed to
discover that Cos d'Estournel was, indeed, a wine rivaling the best of Bordeaux.
Having been involved in commerce with the Far East, d'Estournel renovated his cellars and
incorporated oriental arches and three Chinese-styled pagodas.
In 1917 the property came into the hands of Fernand Ginestet, of a famous Bordeaux wine
family. Ginestet's daughter married into the Prats family, who were involved
in the vermouth business in Ste (these people originated the French aperitif called
Saint-Raphael, by the way).
In 1998, Cos was sold again, to the Merlaut family, of the Taillan Group.
Two years later it was acquired by industrialist Michel Reybier (who had a bid
in to buy Napa's Chateau Montelena, but when the dollar gained a bit of
strength, he withdrew his offer, apparently).
- The proper pronunciation of the wine is "koss d'Estournel", though many call
it "koh d'estournel." Keep that in mind, especially when you're in France
and ordering a bottle of Cos.
- One impressive item about the winemaking team at Cos d'Estournel: they seem to actually
be in tune with each and every vintage. Not that this is a revelation, exactly.
But some of their neighbors are wed to the idea of using the exact same percentage
of new oak for each and every wine they make.
- Cos, for example, changes this number
according to the wine they're working with. Much like a good chef tastes what is
being prepared and adds salt only when necessary. In 1987, a "small"
vintage, they used but one-third new barrels. In 1985, a riper, bigger vintage, Cos
d'Estournel was matured entirely in new wood. In 1995, a particular favorite of
mine, they used 65% new wood, saying that number allowed the fruit to really shine.
And how! The 1995 will probably age quite handsomely, given the intense cassis-like
fruit, for another 10-20 years!
We have the 2004 in stock...very nice and elegant, a classic Bordeaux with
good cellaring potential.
- Currently in stock:
- 1985 COS D'ESTOURNEL Sale $219.99
1988 COS D'ESTOURNEL Sale $179.99
1989 COS D'ESTOURNEL Sale $199.99
- 2004 COS D'ESTOURNEL Sale $119.99
before Americans had Robert Parker telling them what to drink, there was an
early U.S. enophile named Thomas Jefferson. "TJ" as he was
known to his friends, was instrumental in writing a little document called
the "Declaration of Independence."
Jefferson, it's clear, knew a good wine when he tasted one and his
preferences in various French wines show him to have been a rather savvy
buyer. And Chateau Margaux was a favorite, especially with the 1784
vintage. Don't ask me how many points The Wine Spectator gave to the
vintage or Robert Parker gave to this wine out of barrel and then on the 12th
time he tasted it out of bottle.
With a flock of various owners through the early 1900s, the estate came into the
hands of the well-regarded Ginestet family, who took over the estate in
1949. With the routine ups-and-downs of the wine industry, the Ginestets
found themselves in dire financial straits and they did not have the resources
to keep the wines of Chateau Margaux at the same elite level of quality as other
First Growths. And an American group of investors tried to buy the
property, but the French government stepped in to say "no,
merci!" The property was cited as a French historic icon and
could not be purchased by Americans!!
And in 1978 the property was sold to André Mentzelopoulos, a Greek-born fellow
who'd come to France and bought a chain of grocery stores, those being
"Felix Potin." He had well more than a thousand of these shops
around France, but sunk his money into the Margaux estate. He vowed to not
only restore it to its lofty level, but to make it the best of the First
We recall tasting the 1978 vintage when it was a young wine and damned if
Mentzelopoulos didn't have a hell of a bottle of wine. The 1979 was a
great follow-up and Margaux was on its way, once again, to being viewed as an
The winery remains in the hands of the Mentzelopoulos family and they're still
producer exceptional wines.
We currently have some bottles of their 2007...The wine offers a fairly woodsy,
cedary bouquet and it's medium-full on the palate. You'll find some dark
cherry notes and a nice fragrance of the Cabernet Sauvignon (it accounts for 87%
of the blend with 11% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc). This is showy now and
it can be set aside for another 15-20+ years, if you like.
In the 2005 vintage, Margaux had far too much Merlot of
"First Growth" quality and so much of this wine was declassified into
the Pavillon Rouge wine. This is equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon
and Merlot with something like 4% of Petit Verdot in this wine. When we
first tasted this, it was clearly apparent that this was no ordinary
"declassified" wine of second class. It is, in fact, superior to
most estate's first wine.
Pavillon Rouge, further, is approachable earlier than the Chateau Margaux wine
and even Chateau Margaux tends to be more supple and drinkable in its youth than
most of the other top Bordeaux.
We like the woodsy, smoky notes of this 2005. It is gorgeous now and has
been, when we've served it, a conversation stopper.
There is a small parcel of Sauvignon Blanc under vine at
Margaux, but as this somewhat noble wine is not covered by the French
appellation laws (there is no white wine permitted to be labeled as
"Margaux"), it takes the lowly "Bordeaux" designation.
Yes...that's right...there are little estates east of Bordeaux who make ten buck
white wines which take the "Bordeaux" appellation and here's a wine
from one of France's most prestigious estates and, it too, takes merely the
We have the 2006 Pavillon Blanc in stock currently...they
experienced a bad frost (not that there's ever a good frost) in the Spring and
this reduced the crop level by half. The remaining grapes actually
achieved a remarkable level of maturity and they made a full-throttle wine in
2006. There's a nicely herbal Sauvignon character and some power on the
palate. Simple seafood preparations work nicely with this rare wine (they
make a relatively small quantity compared to the reds).
Currently in stock: 2005 PAVILLON ROUGE du CHATEAU
MARGAUX Sold Out
2007 CHATEAU MARGAUX Sale $699.99
2006 PAVILLON BLANC du CHATEAU MARGAUX SALE $199.99
CHÂTEAU CANTENAC BROWN
estate is rarely on any expert's list of the elite in the Medoc and we've
usually found the wines to be well-made and perfectly nice.
It's simply that other wines are often more compelling.
The property is situated in Margaux and it's one of the most striking
buildings you will see in Bordeaux. The drawing on the label doesn't
quite do it justice.
The property was in various hands from the late 1800s until 1968
when some people embarked on a renovation project. They sold the estate to
the AXA insurance people who had invested in Pichon Baron, Suduiraut and Quinta
do Noval and Cantenac Brown began its current ascent. Curiously, though,
AXA bailed out in 2006, selling the chateau to a Syrian-born fellow named Simon
Halabi was on Forbes' list of billionaires in 2007, ranking at #194. But
things seem to have gone south for this fellow and so who knows what the future
holds for Cantenac Brown?
A series of poor investments, from a fitness gym to real estate, have hit the
skids and Mr. H has disappeared after the British courts declared him to be
bankrupt. The last known whereabouts of this fellow was Switzerland, as
he's dropped out of sight!
What this holds for the domaine is unknown.
But in the meantime, a local importer had purchased some 1998 vintage Cantenac
Brown and we bought a bottle under the guise of "research."
We were quite surprised, actually.
The nose is gorgeous and classically "Margaux," showing a mildly
floral note with some dark berry fruit or plum-like flavors. There's a
very faint hint of wood. It's medium-full on the palate and beautifully
balanced. This was showing beautifully now and it can probably be stashed,
if you like, for another five to ten years. The wine is supple on the
palate and has blossomed handsomely.
Currently in stock: 1998 CHATEAU CANTENAC
BROWN Sale Sold Out
little estate is owned by Denis & Christine Corre-Macquin and it's in
one of the outlying areas from St. Emilion, a small appellation called
Saint Georges-Saint Emilion. This is about a three mile drive north
and slightly east of downtown Saint-Emilion.
Today the estate covers some 30 hectares and it's planted primarily to
Merlot, though the two Cabernets each account for three hectares.
The vineyards range in age from 15 years on the young end of the spectrum
to 60 on the old.
The vineyards are actually machine-harvested and they've been using
mechanical pickers for about 35 years now. They have a crew at the
cellar door where they run the grapes over a sorting table and cull out
anything that's not quite right.
After the primary fermentation, the wine is put into large oak cooperage
for a while before they transfer it to small oak barriques. We
understand they replace about one-third of these barrels annually, but the
wine is not especially oaky.
We do like a measure of oak in Bordeaux wines. Heck, we
appreciate salt and pepper on a steak, too. But it's to the credit of the
folks farming the vineyards that a wine matured in roughly 33% new barrels seems
to 'soak up' the wood.
We currently have the 2012 vintage. It's the second or third year we've
had of this wine. It's a solid example of Merlot-based Bordeaux and it has
the words "Saint" and "Emilion" on the label. Most
customers have no clue that it's from the Saint-Georges Saint-Emilion
The nice thing, though, is it costs just $19.99 and customers who've tried a
bottle seem to come back and get a second bottle.
It's a wine intended for rather immediate enjoyment, rather than long-term
cellaring. Pair this with a mildly-seasoned beef dish or a
nicely-seasoned, roasted chicken.
Currently in stock: CHATEAU MACQUIN 2012 SALE
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