Tasting the Cult: Napa Valley 1994- 98

It was one of the very few chances to taste and compare some of the most legendary wines from Napa Valley from 1994- 98 together with other critics and lovers of Californian wine.
The idea was to taste the wines of five wineries – Harlan Estate, Abreu Vineyards, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin and Dalla Valle – side by side and vintage by vintage. Additionally a reference wine from Bordeaux from the same vintage was served blind to get an impression about the benchmark from the region that has always been the role model for great Napa Valley wines.
All wines were double-decanted and served from the original bottle.

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1998, the El Nino vintage, with abnormally cold temperatures and modest ripeness the vintners were forced to reduce their yields and to select fruit strictly:
As David Abreu declassified his 1998 Madrona Ranch, because it didn´t meet his personal standards, we consequently tasted the 1999 Madrona Ranch instead. It comes with dark and powerful aromas of black fruit, glyceric notes, some road tar and leather. While smooth and dense on the palate with ripe fruit and drive, it finishes long with cool, black fruit and peppery spiciness. Still young.

Surprisingly little fruit showed Araujo´s 1998 Eisele Vineyard, which had to step in for a flawed 1998 Bryant Family Vineyard.
The wine is still youthful and even a little edgy, but full of herbs, pencil lead, traces of walnut and little earth. Robust, yet approachable, harmonious and already glorious!
1998 Herb Lamb Vineyard by Colgin was the first vintage made by Mark Aubert and comes from a tiny total production of only 300 cases.
It is a fine, fresh and beautiful wine with aromas of delicious fruit (mostly blackcurrant), perfume and ethereal notes of fresh herbs and menthol. Cool, black fruits on the palate. Great depth, complexity and length.

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Rather controversial is Dalla Valle`s 1998 Maya. With, as always, about 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Cabernet Franc in the blend, 1998 is driven by lovage and a mix of herbs and vegetables, smoke and traces of raisins. Yet, the wine is fresh and alive.
Smooth and soft, but present on the palate. Dark herbs dominate the taste and make it a
distinct and special wine marching to a different drummer.
Right from the start the 1998 Harlan showed what is possible – even in a complicated vintage. Strictly low yields resulted in a tiny production of only 1100 cases in that vintage, but created a wine of darkness, coolness and elegance.
Concentrated aromas of black fruit, leather, forest floor, lovage and cool minerality. Tight, yet approachable on the palate with more black fruits and herbal notes. It might be lacking some juice, but finishes long and focused with licorice spiciness.
1998 Chateau Haut Brion delivered the benchmark from Bordeaux in this first flight. Ripe, dark fruit, earth, dried herbs, some licorice and little pepper on the nose. Furthermore, rustic and tightly structured on the palate, very fruit-driven and long. Youthful, robust tannins and fine acidity. Even though pleasurable to drink, it´s still way to young. Keep this tight power package from Graves for 10+ years.

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After an early budbreak the 1997 growing season provided generally moderate temperatures, with the exception of one hot week in August, and light rains in September and resulted in a huge crop of exceptional quality. Many of the great 1997s are already legends today. Consequently, our expectations were high.

The mixed soils of red, weathered volcanic rock, white tufa and dark clay of Abreu´s Madrona Ranch created an exceptional wine of sweet, ripe fruit, cool freshness and perfect structure. Aromas of red fruits, licorice, smoky notes, cassis, little barnyard and vanilla.
Lush and present on the palate with substance and young, yet approachable tannins. Elegant, harmonious and sophisticated!
Bryant Family Vineyard`s 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon welcomes you with open arms and gives you a never-ending, comforting hug with bold, ripe fruits (mostly cherries), fine sweetness, baking spices and florals. Fruit-driven, lush and juicy, the wine is dense and present on the palate. A perfect wine without any flaws.
Here are the fresh herbs and the lightness again. Yes, that´s the Colgin 1997 Herb Lamb Vineyard. It shows a lot of ripe, red fruits, fresh herbs (mint!), some coffee, vegetal notes and finest minerality. A deep, cool, elegant and present wine of great precision and fascination!
Dalla Valle`s 1997 Maya doesn´t hide its origin either. Lovage, kitchen vegetables, fruit in rum and cassis represent the distinct, always special style of Maya.
Juicy and of great midpalate density the wine is shining brightly on the palate as well. Dark fruits, caramel and a mix of herbs are packed in fine acidity and delicate, dusty tannins. Delicious and full of character!
1997 Harlan is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With a production of about 2500 cases in 1997 there were more than twice as much bottles produced than in 1998. Lots of concentrated, ripe and sweet fruits of cassis, black cherry and plum push the wine forward. It shows very dark with leather, road tar, graphite and delicate smoky notes. Very pure, powerful and focused on the palate, where the dark fruit dominates as well. Perfect and good for decades to come.
The 1997 Chateau Mouton Rothschild couldn´t win this battle – it was just outnumbered by legends. Still, nice with red fruits, animalistic notes, earth, leather, florals and leafy hints. Very elegant with good balance and harmony. Drink soon.

 

1996 produced rather rustic wines of lower acidity in Napa Valley. Yields very reduced due to rain during flowering and at the early stage of the growing season. After that, the season was warm with occasional heat spices and, by that, delivered ripe, tannic wines of great potential.
Abreu´s 1996 Madrona Ranch shows cool, even a little green and straight forward with red fruits, fresh herbs, wet forest, espresso and animalistic notes. A powerful, young and solid structured wine.
Polished, ripe and surprisingly open showed the 1996 Bryant Family Vineyard. As always, fruit-driven, sweet and ripe, but still very fine and elegant with, furthermore, traces of perfume, licorice and little smoke. Smooth and delicious now!
Colgin´s 1996 Herb Lamb Vineyard really shows the characteristics of the vintage with black fruits, violets, fresh herbs, pepper and earth. Dense, concentrated and focused on the palate. Dark fruits, graphite, mineral notes, spiciness and bitter (metallic) notes characterize the palate.
Maybe not a perfect bottle, but still a bulky and scraggy wine with lots of grip and character.
A fresh monster that´ll live forever.
1996 Maya is dark, dense and approachable. Lovage, of course, exotic spices, tobacco as well as black fruits and pruns show character and excitement. Though, the wine is on the point right now. It´s dense, but juicy and smooth.
1996 Harlan is a real monument of ripe and concentrated fruit, sweetness, character and structure. It´s fine and ripe, but also dense and almost austere. Nevertheless, layers of forest floor, graphite, burnt toast, clove and green pepper show its flavor complexity.
Young and massive after 20 years.
1996 Chateau Lafite joined the game and showed a rather rustic than elegant face.
Concentrated and cool aromas of little black fruit, earth, mushrooms and barnyard. Edgy, dense and a little leafy on the palate with hardly any (black) fruit, dark minerality, barnyard and bitter notes. This wine doesn´t allow to be consumed now. I´m curious, yet skeptical, to see what this wine will turn into.

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1995 was a relatively cool year with a long growing season creating elegant and rich wines of firm tannins and present acidity. Results were generally heterogeneous.

Little dark fruit, earth, truffle, herbal notes (thyme!) and traces of barnyard represent the nose of Abreu´s 1995 Madrona Ranch. A wine in perfect balance that is open and ripe now. Yet, not a perfectly clean bottle, but still fascinating to drink.
Flawless and fruit-driven shows the 1995 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet…once again. Aromas of sweet, ripe fruit, cedar and vanilla describe the classic style, while some traces of leather and burnt rubber add character and facets. Juicy and full of substance on the palate, where minerality and herbal spiciness join the play of red and black fruits.
Elegant and a pure joy to drink.
Colgin´s 1995 Herb Lamb Vineyard explodes with fruit, freshness and character!
With aromas of dark fruit, dried and fresh herbs, tons of lovage and mint, some cinnamon, smoke and decent oak it´s fine, ultimately complex and fascinating.
Very alive, dense and focused on the palate very ripe, sweet fruit, minty freshness and fine minerality. Perfectly structured with a core of ripe, approachable tannins and integrated, delicate acidity and an endless finish. Among the best wines of the night!
1995 is a typical Maya and a wine that divides the opinions. However, I really like the herbal, distinct style of lovage, vegetables and dark fruit. 1995 comes with peppery spiciness, licorice and malty notes and shows robust on the palate, while not lacking sweetness and balance. A challenging and special wine.
With aromas of black cassis, tobacco, exotic spices, earth and licorice the 1995 Harlan is stylistically not that far away from the Medoc. Black, deep, but ripe and sweet on the palate. An elegant, silky and open wine. Out of the five vintages tasted, this is probably the candidate to drink soonest.
A true competitor was the 1995 Chateau Margaux. Brightly shining with aromas of red and black fruits, violets, tobacco, iron and minerality. All packed in an elegant, feminine and multi-layered ensemble. While approachable, the wine is still young, dense and very long.
Distinct Margaux and, by far, the best from Bordeaux this night.

After some rains in mid May, 1994 provided a warm, yet long and great Napa Valley growing season with good yields and ripeness.

Abreu´s 1994 Madrona Ranch opened the flight with delicate, yet ripe and dark fruit, pencil lead, dried herbs and animalistic notes. Youthful, concentrated and present, yet elegant and sophisticated on the palate with fine, sweet fruit, opulence and dusty tannins.
Pure perfection in a deep, complex and very long wine!
The 1994 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon jumps with massive fruit and sweetness out of the glass. Aromas of chocolate, autumn leaves and coffee play in the background. Very fruit-driven wine of juicy ripeness, immense concentration, density and drive with all pieces in perfect harmony.
Concentrated, red fruits and freshness of green herbs and lovage describe the nose of Colgin´s 1994 Herb Lamb Vineyard. With cool, almost ethereal layers of menthol and herbs, the distinct fingerprint of the rocky hillside vineyard shines through.
It`s still youthful on the palate combining concentration with finesse, freshness and simply delicious fruit, which now starts to show a little sweetness. Stunning!
Dalla Valle´s 1994 Maya comes with black currant, tons of lovage, herbal spiciness and balmy notes. Fascinating and intriguing! On the palate the wine shows ripe and dense with lots of substance, little fruit and some leather and cigar.
Round and juicy wine of good length.
1994 Harlan is elegant, pure and full of character with cassis, black cherries, little leather, espresso, minerality and some vanilla sweetness. Concentrated, rich and deep, but elegant and of cool freshness. Powdery, approachable tannins, delicate acidity and alcohol in perfect harmony. Endless finish.
Hard to imagine that this wine gets any better, but it´ll certainly last forever.
1994 Chateau Latour took the brave challenge to compete with these wines.
Aromas of black fruits, some raspberry, traces of barnyard, graphite and leather. Open and smooth in the mouth with mostly fruit, good complexity and medium density.
Refined, but open and good to be consumed now.

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A memorable tasting proving, once again, the greatness of many of the so-called “Cult Wines” from Napa Valley, where concentration and ripeness meet elegance, freshness and sophistication like in no other wine region on the planet.

None of the wines showed fat, jammy or tired. Instead, almost all wines just start to open and promise a very long future.
Furthermore, with characteristics of site and vintage shining through, the consistency in quality and character is simply remarkable. Even in supposedly weaker vintages, as 1998, the quality level is extremely high.

It was fascinating to see the different styles of wineries and vineyards and to follow the consistency of these styles through the vintages.
My personal favorites:
Harlan Estate for its consistency in style, quality and simple greatness and Colgin´s Herb Lamb Vineyard for combining concentration of fruit and extract with freshness and focus like no other.

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Tasting Australia

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Tyrrell`s 2009 VAT 1
Fresh, racy lemon and citrus aromatics. Decent herbal spiciness and freshly cut grass join in. Thanks to the vintage, the wine is softer than usual, but still vibrant, fresh and structured for long term cellaring. A great Hunter Valley classic! Keep.

Clarendon Hills 1997 Norton Summit
Far developed, past its prime with oxidative aromatics, orange zest, dried herbs and oaky sweetness. Rather thin, yet alive and harmonious on the palate. Drink up.

Kalleske 2013 Fordson
Yes, this is a Zinfandel from Barossa Valley and it´s a beautiful one! Quite a powerhouse with great concentration of fruit and freshness. Dark aromatics of berry fruit, spices, fruit jam, minerals and earth. Inky and rich on the palate, but of cool depth and freshness. Distinct Kalleske. From a vineyard planted in 2007 this is a promising early-drinking wine.

Torbreck 1998 The Steading
Intriguing aromatics of black cherry, plums, cigar box, road tar, oriental spices and violets. Beautifully integrated tannins and delicate acidity in a smooth, but fresh and super-elegant wine. Great stuff, which is probably still at its peak. Drink soon.

 

Balnaves 2008 The Tally
From an excellent Coonawarra vintage comes this dense and rather robust Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of Petit Verdot (4%). Cassis, plum, green pepper, tobacco, earth and oak describe the nose, while the palate is youthful and dark with black fruits and spices. Still looking for balance while compact tannins keep the wine tight. This is nice, but not there yet. Keep 5+ years.

Leeuwin Estate 2007 Art Series
This was the only wine from the gravelly loam soils of Western Australia´s Margaret River region. Compared to Balnaves` Tally, this wine showed rather elegant and light-weight with beautiful aromatics of cassis, stewed fruit, peppery spiciness and present oak. Rather bumpy on the palate with present acidity, while lacking density and length. Still 13% Malbec provide a dark core. Maybe caught in a bad time…

Henschke 1995 Cyril Henschke
One of two wines of the night that could have been taken for Old World if tasted blind. Even though the wine is little past its prime now, the 1995 Cyril shows very elegant, harmonious and complex. Fascinating aromas of cassis, earth, leather, little barnyard, forest floor, smoke and pepper- anise spiciness arrive vital and perfectly integrated on the palate. The tannins have softened and only little acidity shows and provides drive. Good length with dark layers and peppery spiciness. Excellent! Drink soon.

Wynns 1994 John Riddoch
Dark aromatics of blackberries and some fruit in rum, leather, tobacco, earth and violets. Sweet vanilla and present oak. Dense and dark on the palate with flavors of blackberries, cedar, dried herbs, anise and black olive. Youthful with firm tannins, while not lacking juicyness. Very good length with more black fruits and peppery spiciness. It seems that the wine is just opening up. Keep 5+ years.

Briar Ridge 2010 Dairy Hill
From Terra Rossa clays and sandy clay soils comes this Hunter Valley Shiraz. Aromas of blackberry, plums, spices, olives, road tar and fresh herbs. Arrives with cool elegance and smoothness on the palate. Finishes medium-long. Well made, but lacking fascination, yet delicious and very drinkable.

Rockford 2009 Basket Press
Ripe and sweet aromas of red and black berries, plums, cooked fruit, little herbal spiciness and present oak. Ripe, juicy and of present alcohol on the palate. Fairly broad, while lacking structure and focus. A rather disappointing classic.

Henschke 2008 Mount Edelstone
Rich, fruit-driven and spicy wine from a legendary vineyard planted in 1912 by Ronald Angas. 16ha of deep sandy loam over gravelly medium-red clay, overlying laminated siltstone create a special wine, which is always more expressive than its famous big brother Hill of Grace. The 2008 is still in its early fruity stage, but still delicious and fascinating to drink with aromatics of blackberries, plums, oriental spices, dried and fresh herbs, sage and some road tar. It´s perfectly structured dense, deep and concentrated, while fresh and long. Velvety tannins and fine acidity guarantee a long future. Fantastic!

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Penfolds 2004 Grange
From a great vintage comes this elegant, fresh and complex Grange full of finesse with fascinating aromas of red and black berries, spices, delicate sweetness, some chocolate and minerality(!). Multi-layered, fine, but solid structured and of perfect balance on the palate with dark fruit, herbal freshness, little oak and mocha. Finishes very long. A beauty in its youth.

D` Arenberg 2001 Dead Arm
The Dead Arm brought us back to reality after two exceptional wines. Nevertheless, a very good wine, but by far not as special as Mount Edelstone or Grange. Still youthful, it´s opening with aromas of ripe, dark berries, lilac, chocolate and a mix of spices. Balanced and delicious, but lacking excitement and fascination. Yet, a beautiful, distinct McLaren Vale Shiraz. Drink now or keep.

Wendouree 2000 Shiraz Mataro
Does the best always come at the end? In our case, absolutely yes! From the tiny 11,3ha of AP Birks Wendouree Cellars came the winner of the night. Starting off quite funky and taking its time to open up, the wine presented itself different than I remembered it from out last encounter. Back in June 2012 the wine was wide open, rich, deep and dark. But this time it was even better: Fresh, red fruits, a lot of cherries, ethereal freshness of herbs and pinewood, eucalypt, some licorice and wet earth. Pure perfection on the palate with density, freshness and elegance. Mostly driven by dark fruit, fresh herbs and spices, the wine is still youthful and structured for a long future. Finishes long and focused with dark berries, some spiciness as well as sweetness. An exceptional wine at an early stage of its life with finesse, depth and complexity!

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2015 – A Year in Wine

2015 has been an exciting, delicious and intense year.
Let´s have a brief look back with some of our most memorable tasting experiences:

IMG_2609The wine year 2015 started fantastic as we had the pleasure to taste
1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild in early January.
Indeed, the wine was pure perfection and met our highest expectations: First very dark and even grim with aromatics of leather, earth, barnyard and autumn leaves with only little baking powder sweetness, but opening up with time and air. Dark berries and cherry fruit, herbs of all kind, pencil lead, tobacco, florals and coffee packed in a healthy, yet smooth and silky textured, finely structured wine with all components in place. Perfect harmony without any edges, great enjoyment, length and complexity. While I can´t imagine this wine getting any better, there are no doubts about its magnificient future potential.

IMG_1968It´s no secret that we´re huge fans of Dunn Vineyards.
Over the last year we tasted, as always, many bottles of Randy and Mike´s wine. Among the many beautiful bottles, the 1987 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon stuck in our minds and is my wine of the year! Shining velvety colored. Fine red fruit of cherries, berries and little strawberry on the nose with filigree, multi-layered aromatics, beyond fruit, with beautiful sweet vanilla, cloves, dark chocolate, leather, almond paste, cinnamon, lovage and the coolness of freshly-cut herbs. Velvet, smooth and intense on the palate with dark berries, leather, little earth, hints of coffee and fresh spiciness of fennel. Finest tannins and acidity round up the perfectly structured, harmonious and elegant package of presence, density, length and finesse. Intense, yet delicate, ultimately complex and sophisticated wine that was best during its first two hours in the decanter. A timeless classic!

IMG_3006Another winery that went with us through the year was Chateau Magdelaine. We tasted many vintages and have never been disappointed. Especially the wines from the period between 1964 and 1982 showed exceptionally.
Here´s a note from a legendary evening when tasting 1982 and 1970 side by side:
This bottle of 1982 was more youthful and even tight compared to the bottle we had a few months ago. Full of dark and ripe fruits, tobacco, leather, florals (violets) and fine sweetness. Present, harmonious and of great flavor-depth, delicate acidity, dusty tannins and lots of juice. Finishes long with dark fruit and spicy minerality. Great wine of complexity, charm and pure joy. 1970 needed some time to open up beautifully. Fresh aromatics of red fruits, florals, spices, autumn leaf and tobacco. Relatively lightweight on the palate, but vital, complex and intriguing. Still fruit-driven with some herbs, earth and truffles. Good finish with peppery spiciness, cedar and fresh fruit. Perfectly balanced, fresh and multi-layered wine of sophistication.

IMG_3753ÄAmong the many great Burgundies we tasted,
Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier 1998 Musigny certainly stood out.
A rare and special wine starting with the whole spectrum of red fruits – mostly red cherry and strawberry. Fine perfume, earthy notes, fresh herbs, licorice spiciness and chalky minerality join the party. Later with notes of sweetness and cookies. Intriguing while constantly evolving and best after 2+ hours in the decanter. Light-weight and elegant, but very present on the palate with pure fruit, little herbal spiciness, earthy notes, autumn leaves and minerality. Fine acidity and delicate, yet present tannins prove youth and potential. An ultimately complex and fine wine where elegance and drive meet like in no other terroir. Showing the greatness of Musigny with purity, finesse and fascination.

IMG_9169Tasting with Bruno Rolland at Chateau Leoville Las Cases (09/2015).

Definitely among my highlights of the year is our extensive visit at Chateau Leoville Las Cases in Saint Julien and tasting many back vintages as well as 2014 from barrel with winemaker Bruno Rolland.
On other occasions we also tasted 1982, 86, 88, 89 and 1990, but the best Leoville Las Cases in 2015 to me was the 1975, which we tasted multiple times as well. This was the best bottle:

Dark velvet, dense and brilliant colored with fine and sophisticated aromatics of berries, sweet cherries and little plum. Shows light and fresh with pinewood, mint and dried herbs, iron and dark nuances of earth, tobacco and leather. Inviting sweetnees of pastries. Medium-bodied, silky and very alive on the palate. Finishes long with licorice and herbal spiciness, precise and of gentle power. An elegant, vital and complex wine that is excellent now, but good for many years, due to solid, yet approachable, tannins and present acidity. A perfect bottle and, by the way, the best (out of three) we had from this wine over the last year. One of the stars from a vintage that favored Pauillac and Saint Julien.

IMG_3060I´m looking forward to 2016 with WineCellarTV as well as to many exciting tasting experiences with the MunichWineClub.

Enjoy the holidays, be safe and see you next year!

Cheers,
Thomas

WineCellarTV

Comprehensive Bordeaux – Surprises and Usual Suspects

IMG_2709Last week we hosted a ‘Comprehensive Bordeaux’ Tasting for MunichWineClub to show all facets of the region,
from dry whites, over dry reds, of course, to the sweet whites of Sauternes.
Here are the tasting notes:

We kicked-off with a fresh, steely and precise 2012 L´Abeille de Fieuzal blanc from Pessac-Leognan.
Inviting aromatics of citrus, florals and grapefruit. Smooth and ripe, yet fresh and focused.
Good length of minty freshness and spiciness.
2011 Chateau de Sales and Chateau Le Boscq followed.
Chateau Le Boscq with 55% CS, 40% M and 5% Petit Verdot showed typically dark and rustic with earth, black fruits and spices. Thanks to the 2011 vintage characteristics, this wine was already quite approachable. Medium-bodied, while lacking juice and density.
2011 Chateau de Sales came with red fruit, oaky aromatics, plums and autumn leaf. Rather lean on the palate with fine, but harsh tannins and present acidity. Otherwise driven by fruit and decent length. Give it another 3- 5 years.
From then on, starting with 2009, we looked at supposedly strong vintages only.
2009 Clos René is surprisingly light, even powerless. Red fruit, plums and dried herbs on the nose. On the palate with grippy tannins plums and dark spiciness. Simple, yet nice wine with about 10% of Malbec in the blend.
Now to the first real highlight: 2009 Chateau Batailley showed beautifully at this early drinking stage. Notes of ripe, black fruit and pure, fine sweetness. Earth, leather, black olives and tobacco. Intriguing and exciting. Soft and round in the mouth, but still healthy structured and full of potential. Finishes long with black fruit and peppery spiciness. Distinct Pauillac and very attractive!
2000 Domaine de Chevalier was the wine of the evening. It´s really incredible how beautiful 2000 Bordeaux is already showing after 15 years. Elegant, fine and multi-faceted on the nose with light, yet ripe, red fruit, delicate earthiness, florals, herbal spiciness, iron, some smoked bacon and cedar. Really sophisticated with subtle sweetness.
Medium-bodied, elegant and present. Flavor-intense, but quiet. Long finish full of fruit and herbal spiciness.
Fantastic and in line with the other 2000s we have tasted recently as Pontet Canet, Beychevelle, Lynch-Bages and La Fleur-Petrus. The vintage is really opening up and reaching its (first level) of maturity without getting tired.

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Both following 1989s were good, but not great. 1989 Chateau Haut-Bages had a fine, ripe nose of red fruits, vanilla, graphite, road tar, tobacco and herbal freshness, but was a little weak on the palate. Present acidity without sufficient flesh and concentration. Had this wine twice over the last year and it showed much better each time.
1989 Chateau Cantemerle was a little stronger. Inviting nose of complexity and elegance with black berries, florals, some green tea and oak. More harmonious and alive on the palate than the Haut-Bages Liberal, but still past its prime. Good finish with little smokiness and herbal spiciness. Still a very charming wine.
1988 Chateau Certan-Giraud showed what great terroir is able to do. Black, ripe fruits, green tea, tons of (fresh) herbs and some traces of iron in a silky textured wine of great depth and precision. Fantastic wine driven by tertiary characteristics but still full of impact, presence and great finesse.
Cassis, smoky notes, tobacco, earth and forest floor describe the nose of our 1986 Chateau Haut-Marbuzet. Hardly any fruit left, but still alive. Solid structured, rather robust and edgy on the palate.
1982 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal was next and poured blind. This wasn´t a perfect bottle and, due to that, this wine had hardly anything to do with the perfect 1982 Haut-Bages-Liberal I had in November 2014. Today´s bottle showed very matured, not unpleasant, but lacking complexity, concentration and length. However, aromatically nice with sweet, red fruits, some dried herbs, earth and pencil lead.
1995 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey was the perfect refresher at the end of the tasting.
Well, it was more than that by showing everything what great Sauternes can do:
Freshness, sweetness, spiciness, structure and immense complexity.
Aromatics of tropical fruits and citrus freshness. Little honey, orange zest and petrol plus tons of herbal spiciness (ginger and saffron!). Very alive on the palate. Fresh, vibrant and weightless. Sweetness, Acidity and alcohol in perfect balance.
With only hints of botrytis, this wine finishes very long with a lot fruit and spiciness. An exceptional wine and great value for money. Drink or keep.

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Fascination of Bordeaux

Bordeaux never loses its greatness and fascination-
a fact recently proved in a beautiful tasting of old wines I hosted and, furthermore, underlined in following events over the last weekend.

IMG_3814Here are my brief notes on the wines tasted:

2011 Chateau Le Boscq – Juicy, youthful with dark fruit of spicy cassis, cedar and earth.
Still a little green and bumpy on the finish.

2009 Chateau Gaudin – Ripe and powerful wine with tons of fruit. Typical 2009 Pauillac.
Masculin, deep, concentrated and perfectly structured. Already approachable, balanced and beautiful to drink.

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1995 Chateau ´d Armailhac – Tight, focused and a little dusty. Decent (light) red fruit and first tertiary characteristics.
Pencil lead, dark chocolate and herbal spiciness. Charming, but still young.

1997 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal – Healthy structured clean and focused wine with edgy tannins and fine acidity.
Black Berries and some Cherries, Leather and Dark Chocolate. Nice, but not amazing.

1989 Chateau Certan Giraud – A little closed, but intriguingly complex and fresh. Silky texture of great depth and precision. Black, ripe fruits, green tea, tons of (fresh) herbs. A gentle wine of impact, presence and great finesse. Fantastic!

1988 Chateau Clos Fourtet – This one´s also just starting to open up. More tight than juicy. Cool, fresh and red fruit.
Fresh herbs, peppery spiciness. Another highlight!

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1986 Haut-Bages Liberal – Unfortunately this wine was corked.

1979 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou – Sadly this was corked as well :/

1976 Chateau Haut Batailley – Obviously over its peak, but still beautiful. Light-weight, elegant and almost Burgundian.
In a quiet way, fine and multi-faceted. Red berries, even gooseberry, road tar, anise and spiciness.

1976 Vieux Chateau Certan – In the beginning a little boisterous, then more and more precise and even polished. Harmonious, bone-dry and focused. Still a lot of fruit and freshness (!). Especially in contrast to the 1976 Haut Batailley, a brightly shining star and example for the success of the left bank in 1976 vintage. Black, ripe fruit, power and spiciness. Excellent!

1970 Chateau Montrose – Ripe, powerful and- for a Montrose- surprisingly open, soft and smooth at this “early” stage.
Deep, dark core of ripe, black and candied fruit, pepper, coffee and cigar box. Very good length, complexity and surprise!

1970 Chateau Beychevelle – Still strong, finely-spun and filigree wine. Black currant and more dark fruit, green pepper, delicate spiciness, distinct coal and earth. A wine that whispers in all languages. Truly remarkable, fascinating and simply amazing. Wine of the evening!

1982 Chateau Phelan Segur – Full-bodied, present and now peaking wine. Typical 1982 that still shows a lot of fruit and sweetness. Ripe and bold fruit, pencil shavings, forest floor, tobacco, some leather and a mix of herbs.
Attractive, generous and long, but maybe lacking excitement and fascination.
Well, don´t get me wrong, this is a beautiful wine J

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1982 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal – Another legendary 1982, but this one is more focused, deep and complex.
Black and dark core of fruit, pencil lead, earth and dried herbs. Perfectly structured with dancing acidity and fine tannins, thereby, with some future ahead. Distinct Pauillac and one of the best Haut-Bages Liberal I ever had.

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1995 Chateau Haut Bailly (from Magnum) – Harmonious, very approachable and fruit-driven crowd pleaser.
Red fruit, fresh herbs and some coconut in a silky, juicy textured package with distinct, fine minerality. Beautiful now!

1989 Chateau Giscours (from Magnum) – Youthful, dense and distinct Giscours!
Animalistic and balsamic aromatics with cassis, tobacco and earth joining in. Fresh and deep on the palate.
Great complexity, finesse and excitement. Fantastic wine of detail, amazing density, length  and a fascinating development over the time of drinking!

1979 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou (from Magnum)- And another star: Ripe, red and black fruit, fresh mint and herbs of all kind. Intriguing! Very alive on the palate, with present acidity and fine tannins. Red fruit, some green bitterness, leather, chocolate. A vibrant wine of freshness and substance.

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1977 Chateau Lafite – Dark ruby with delicate light-red fruits, chocolate and an intriguing mix of herbs and spices.
Laurel, nutmeg, vegetables and parsley. Some dark spiciness comes with freshness of eucalypt and cedar.
Super-fine, elegant and delicate aromatics. Truly fascinating!
Medium-bodied, healthy structured and of substance. Long finish with harmony and a great play of spiciness, sweet and tart. Gentle, complex, and quiet wine of balance, fascination and harmony!

1977 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion – Dark-red, purple. Candied fruit, leather and dark chocolate in a generally darker and more robust wine (compared to the Lafite). “Raisiny” traces of oxidation, but still nice.
Fully integrated tannins, vital acidity and decent depth. Distinct traces of iron, earth and herbs on the palate.
Good finish with capacity, spiciness and dark earth.

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Tasting Note: 1959 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal

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1. Introduction:
The 30 hectares (74 acres) of Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal are divided in two halfs, with one half directly neighboring Chateau Latour and the other half of the vineyard on the plateau of Bages, south of the town of Pauillac.
With an annual production of ~138.000 bottles, today´s plantation contains about 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot growing on deep gravel, clay-limestone and limestone chalk soils that generate wines of power and distinct mineral character. Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal´s wines are stylistically typical Pauillac with generosity, elegance and power, while maybe less tannic and more juicy than most other wines from the appellation.

Hot temperatures in 1959 created grapes of full ripeness and, thereby, wines of rich tannins, high alcohol and low acidity. Overall a great vintage that- and this might be a little surprising, due to the low acidity levels- created wines of amazing future potential!
Our 1959 Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal is flawless with a perfect cork and high fill level.
(No decanting).

2. Appearance:
Deep Dark-Red, Garnet. A little lighter edge, but vital and brilliant!

3. Nose:
Elegant and integrated fragrances of Dark Fruit (Cassis and Cedar!) and Fruit in Rum.
Broad range of secondary and tertiary facets with a lot of (Dried) Herbs, Tobacco, Leather, Pencil Lead and some Iron (!). Spices, Fine Florals and (sweet) Vanilla.
Beautiful and delicate freshness of Mint and Eucalypt plus traces of Pinewood.
Pure, multi-layered fascination! Fine, but vital and intriguing.

4. Taste:
Black and Red Fruits packed in a deep, Velvet structure with finest, remaining tannins and subtle acidity.
Very elegant, but with an exciting play of Sweet- and Tartness.
Core of Earthy and Leathery Characteristics and some Truffles (!).
Great finish of good length, herbal spiciness and a decent punch of Dark, Ripe Fruit (mostly Cassis).

5. Opinion:
Polished by time, elegant and velvety, but of great depth, complexity and fascination.
Constantly evolving of the four hours of drinking and showing all beautiful faces of old Pauillac.
Simply off the charts and the best wine for months. A true revelation!

Tasting Note: 1982 Chateau Langoa Barton

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1. Introduction:
After Thomas Barton bought Langoa in 1821 and Leoville in 1826, the two Chateaus remained in the family since then. With its 50 hectares (124 acres) of vineyards Chateau Leoville Barton is the larger and probably more famous estate of the two sister wineries. Nevertheless, Chateau Langoa Barton cultivates 17 hectares (42arces) with large proportions of old vines of Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Merlot (34%) and Cabernet Franc (9%) on gravelly soil with clay sub-soil.
The wines are known for their finesse and elegance rather than power and extraction. As prices of many great wines in Bordeaux rocketed upwards over the last years, the Barton family stuck to their idea of reasonable pricing. Thereby, Chateau Langoa Barton continuously delivers amazing quality for money.
From the exceptional 1982 vintage, our Chateau Langoa Barton is flawless.

2. Appearance:
Deep dark crimson. A little light, but still very much alive and bright!

3. Nose:
Vital, yet discreet, aromatics of Dark, Ripe Berries and Black Cherry.
Forest Floor, Pencil Shavings, Earth and Leather.
Fascinating bundle of Fresh Herbs and some Spices with Lemon Balm, Mint and little White Pepper.
Delicate and very fine nose with but complexity and presence!

4. Taste:
Dark Fruit and Fruit in Rum dominate the palate with mostly Cassis, Blackberry & Black Cherry characteristics. Dark Chocolate, Tobacco, Earth and Forest Floor. Green, Fresh Herbs, Licorice and Green Pepper.
Dense and soft mouthfeel with great, a little cool, depth and polished tannins.
Hardly any acidity.
Finishes long and harmonious with smooth tannins, Ripe Black Fruit and Herbal Spiciness.
Balanced, powerful and very approachable!

5. Opinion:
An elegant, delicious and balanced wine with finesse, beautiful fruit and vitality!
The 1982 Chateau Langoa Barton shines beautifully right now.
Dark, cool and complex to drink now or within the next 5- 10 years.