Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de LaLande 2006

This is a very special wine from my collection that I open today for a very special reason. This was a wine I intended to keep many more years, and share with a new friend and colleague, Jon. We visited Bordeaux together in 2012 on a work trip, and visited Pichon. While we actually visited the brothers’ chateau across the street – Baron de Pichon Longueville, the two chateaux straddle the same stretch of road through the heart of Pauillac, and from my tasting today, the terroir and style of the sisters’ Ch Comtesse de Lalande is a beauty of equal nature. 2006 is aged enough to enjoy, though I have no doubt it would only become exponentially elegant with age. And there’s always more, when I have the money. I had wanted to try theirs as well on the trip, and its close enough for me in regards to the Pichon Baron to drink in tribute for this reflective occasion. That day our group toured the vineyards that stretched on for what seemed like eternity, observed the famous gravelly soils of the region at the roots of the vines, toured the winery, had lunch with the winemaker, negociant and winery manager (drinking plenty of Pichon and their sultry Sauternes the Ch Suduiraut) and then tasted through a vertical of these amazing Bordeaux. While the prices weren’t really easily affordable, I’ve had my eye on these wines at a few local retailers ever since, just in case. And I was lucky enough to receive this bottle for Christmas from my wife and father-in-law.

During this outing, and the rest of the chateaux we visited in Bordeaux, Jon and I became close friends with a strong bond over wine, and later, the Tottenham Hot Spurs who we’d go see together a year later in London. Despite being separated by the Atlantic, we talked regularly about wines, particularly Bordeaux, for which he was a huge fan and collector. We continued to share our love for wine and talked about when we would drink this, and many other of our prized bottles together. And I was doing everything I could to get him a position on my team in the American office so we could one day work together doing what we love.  We spoke up to the last, until I received the unexpected tragic news of his passing just over a week ago while on vacation. It has been a rough go. But I knew one thing for sure, that I would open this bottle as soon as I returned home, and pay tribute to his memory.  Price and maturity were no longer giving me pause – this is a celebration of his life and our friendship and bond over wine.

The color is deep purple with some color variation on the rim from the age. On the nose, developing elegant black fruit abounds, with notes of perfume and spicy French oak, of course! On the palate, while still young, it is an incredibly supple wine with a perfect balance of fruit, tannin and acid which will all mellow in time. The body is of medium weight and it has a nice finish for its age. An excellent wine by any standard, and worthy of such an occasion. I will be pairing it with some steak shortly to much success I have no doubt.

 

 

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Chateau Ferrande Graves (white) 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

ChIateau Ferrande Graves 2010

Being both a writer and a fan of rich, flavorful reds lends me one disadvantage: the potential to seem biased. So, I thought it was time to show you all that I still love a good white wine. Sure, I’ve covered them before. But probably not as much as I could. Today I’d like to tell you about a lovely white Bordeaux I had last night. Purchased in a marathon sale from Last Bottle Wines, this was the first to arrive at my doorstep and it was just what I was in the mood for last night. You can’t pair red with everything. Well, almost…

Fully lemon in color, this wine comes from the large catch-all appellation, Graves AOC. Located just southeast of Bordeaux city along the Garonne river, it includes the more famous AOC of Pessac-Léognan (where the only non-Medoc first growth Château Haut-Brion resides) and the highly renowned sweet white wine-producing AOCs, Barsac and Sauternes. Sauternes is where Premier-Cru Supérieur Château Y’Quem resides.

While not as famous, its regionally-appellated reds, whites and sweet wines are still very well-regarded and for that reason, quite affordable. For example, great sweet white wines are also made in the appellations of Cérons AOC and Graves Supérieur AOC. Thriving in the gravel soils, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the reds, usually blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. And Château Ferrande Graves 2010 is your typical white from the region – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon with a medium body and finish thanks to the Sémillon, but still crisp and refreshing thanks to the Sauvignon. Both the reds and whites of Graves AOC are more modern and forward than their austere Prémier Cru counterparts. I think this is a good thing and allows the appellation a bit of its own identity.

Graves is also the origin of Claret, the oft-traded Bordeaux wine of the middle ages and hence, is often considered the birthplace of the fine red wines of Bordeaux. It derives its name from the gravelly soil, where wine-making thrived long before the marshy areas of the Medoc were deemed suitable for viticulture. At the sale price I paid only $13 which is affordable indeed for such an enjoyable wine.

Oh, Bordeaux! (Day 2)

Harvesters in the Medoc

Harvesters in the Medoc

We just got back from another great visit to the North Fork of Long Island’s wine country, and I have some great experiences to talk about. We had to cut the trip a day short due to a little hurricane named Sandy that just rolled through with a vengeance, but I think Saturday was a fantastic day all around, and I am happy to have gotten home easily and safely and well stocked on great wine for the storm. I will recap next week, but first I wanted to talk about the rest of my Bordeaux trip.
We woke up the next morning (god I love French continental breakfasts) and got right on the bus. On the way to our tour of St. Emilion, we made a small detour and drove past the one and only Petrus and Cheval Blanc where harvesters were busy out in the vines.

St. Emilion

St. Emilion

Our wonderful trip organizer didn’t miss a single detail. Oh what I saw. We then made our way to the small ‘train’ car that would guide us through the beautiful medieval town of St. Emilion. A recording played over the intercom walking us through the history of the town and its wine. But really the scenery was what this was all about. Stunning, and I mean stunning views of rolling hills, castles, cathedrals and cellars were around every postcard-like turn. The limestone cellars pretty much ran the full perimeter of the town underground many wineries and vineyards and the cathedral in the center of town has an even older one from the early middle ages below it, carved out of the limestone to around 90 ft deep. We took a walk through the village afterwards to pick up this and that and get more photos. Then it was on to the left bank and the Medoc.
Our drive took us over the much larger Gironde and past downtown Bordeaux, actually the 5th largest city and financial center of France, and the airport. We then made our way up into the Medoc, passing countless large Châteaux in Margaux, St. Julien, and then Pauillac. You could clearly see the gravel in the vineyard beds and these were much larger in size, upwards of 60 hectares each.  Harvesters were out in numbers here too.

Château Pichon-Longueville

Château Pichon-Longueville

We arrived at our destination, Chateau Pichon-Longueville, formerly “Baron” before it was acquired by its current owner AXA insurance, who also restored it shortly thereafter. It was built in 1851 in a style that was a tribute to the famous Loire Chateau Azay-le-Rideau. It was a small castle right out of a fairy tale with a shallow square lake in front.  The original owner (Pierre de Rauzan) also owned the land and vineyards across the road and split the two between his sons and daughters, this being the Château the sons were in charge of until selling to AXA.  The daughters’ Château, Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is also fully operational still.

Our visit started with meeting the head winemaker, property manager, an AXA representitive and their negociant, or the person who arranges the sales of their wines to buyers and vice versa. They gave us a brief overview and then we sat down to a gourment harvest lunch with them and their staff, which included several of their top vintage reds and some whites they make under the label Château Suduiraut. There was a typical (but of high quality) white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon and Semillon, and then an outstanding Sauternes made of the same varietals, that just blew me away. I couldn’t get enough.  These bottles are all upwards of 100 euros a piece, and were flowing freely about the table.  We then went on a short vineyard tour where we were told of the history of both Châteaux and their purchase and upgrades by AXA. Incidently there are a few other Châteaux in the region owned by large companies, another being Chanel.

Barrel Cellar, Pichon-Longueville

Barrel Cellar, Pichon-Longueville

We then started our tour and tasting. As we reached the vineyards they told us about how they harvest each year. This vineyard alone is 73 hectares and most of the vines are 30 year-old Cabernet and Merlot, with some Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. We then went to the large barrel room underneath the square lake, full of room after room of hundreds of barrels of this and last years vintages. These were all bought en-primeur already, hundreds of millions of euros worth! This is definitely a larger operation than its right bank competitors. We made our way next into the vinification rooms, with 40 large steel tanks fermenting and pumping over large batches of wine, and even got to walk along the upper metal walkway to view the wine pumping over the caps in the tops of the tanks.

Pichon tasting

Pichon tasting

We completed the tour by going to the tasting room and trying about 6 different vintages of their incredible red wines. While I didn’t bring any home, I know where I can order some and will be picking up a few for special occasions.

On the way out we took a quick detour through St. Estephe and by Lafite, which was a nice final treat. Then it was back to the airport for our return to the UK and then home. What an amazing experience. More than a few times some of us wanted to offer to stay and help harvest, being paid in wine and food just like their workers! Maybe one day…

Should you want to visit yourself…

www.pichonlongueville.com

D2  33250 Pauillac, France

05 56 73 17 17

Baugier Montagne Saint Emilion 2009

Baugier St Emilion 2009

Baugier St Emilion 2009

Yesterday, I got back my WSET advanced exam results, and I was very pleased with them so I wanted to celebrate. On the way home we picked up this bottle of Montagne St. Emilion. I know it’s not from St. Emilion AOC proper but still, this was VERY-well priced at about $15. And it’s very very close geographically. Not to mention, 2009 was a fantastic vintage all around in Bordeaux. Just goes to show what a name and a piece of land can do to a price. Of course, the same holds true in many regions in France, the world, and in fact anything from real estate to cheese. I wasn’t expecting top St Emilion Châteaux results so the price was probably appropriate, but still. What’s better is that it was good. So good that I well, finished it. At about 70% Merlot, it poured a medium-plus intensity and the nose was nice and plummy with a bit of the classic Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon fragrant black fruit notes which complete the blend. I picked up very little oak, if any. The tannins were very smooth, and it went incredibly well with my chicken tarragon and wild rice. Just goes to show what you can find in a large discount wine shop. I enjoy scanning the racks there as much as the fancy wine shop with all the expensive stuff I pick up on special occasions. Turns out there’s a new one about the size of the Home Depot open in town, and I have avoided it only because I’m afraid I will walk out of there wine-rich and wallet-poor. That’s ok when I’ve got the means, though.

A wine meetup review for National Wine Day

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Domaine de Dionysus 2010 and fromage Morbier

Let me start by saying Happy National Wine Day! Like I need a reason to drink wine every day!

On Monday night, we started off what has become an insanely busy week with a casual wine and cheese ‘meetup.’ For my international readers, a ‘meetup’ is an event created on meetup.com. This is a site where anyone can organize an event to bring people with mutual interests together whether its movies, bowling, or wine. My wife and I have joined a few of these particular to wine to learn more and enjoy our love of wine with others in our area, and make some new friends.  This one had a local wine shop, cheesemonger, and wine importer team up to provide all the wine and cheese and choices, as well as discounts on the wines at the shop if you were part of the event.

It was held at a brand new wine bar in my hometown in Connecticut, not far from where we live now. The organizer chose French wines as the theme, and paired them all with French cheeses. There were three whites (well 2 whites and a rosé) and 3 reds, 2 wines of which I had never had. Care was taken in each case to properly pair the cheese to the wine, with great results.

The first wine was one I had not had before, a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (this means it was left on the lees for a period of time, adding some more complexity), from the coastal Nantes region of the Loire. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, which has become synonymous with Muscadet. This is touted as ‘the perfect oyster wine.’ Unfortunately, I don’t eat shellfish, so the goat cheese (Chabichou du Poitu) did the trick, and I really enjoyed the crisp, refreshing citrus and peach flavors of this wine. Though probably not my favorite white, it was nice to experience something new. This was one I remember studying in my class, but that we hadn’t had in a tasting. It was a Pierre-Luc Bouchaud 2010.

Next up was a wonderful Vignerons de Correns Croix de Basson Côtes de Provence Rosé – made with Grenache, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. This was only slightly different than the other rosé I had this week which saw Carignan in place of the Cab. Both were very good, and it was interesting to have both in one week to be able to compare the flavors. This one, using Cabernet for structure, was a little chalkier than the one with the Carignan. It was paired with a Saint-Angel triple-cream which was to die for, and definitely one of the best cheeses there.

Third was a 2008 Pfaffenheim Alsatian Pinot Gris. There were 3 magnums from the importer’s own cellar, and if you thought these bottles were a fun shape to begin with, you should see them in this size! A beautifully rounded wine with light body, and the expected floral, apricot and orange flavors. Paired with a Fromage de Meaux Brie, it was a perfect match. Though to echo the organizer’s sentiments, this wine would go with just about any cheese.

The reds started off with a Domaine de Dionysos Côte de Rhône “Le Deveze” 2010. This was your typical CdR with all the classic flavors of black cherry, plum fruit and vanilla (from the oak) from the usual suspects of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Carignan. Straightforward but satisfying and paired with a Morbier, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that was a bit plain but perhaps appropriate.

I was more than happy to try the next one, a Domaine du Grand Montmirial Vacqueyras 2009. It is also a southern Rhône, but a step up to a recently-promoted vineyard site, Vacqueyras (in 1990). I have never had one of these, and just learned about this and neighboring Gigondas during my last WSET class.  Gigondas requires a further 30% of Grenache and are considered even more refined than this. Being of a higher appellation, one would expect a better wine than the regional Rhône I just had, and you’d be right in this case. A powerful, punchy blend of Grenache and Syrah, ripened beautifully to a thick purple hue, with help from the ‘galets roules’ (or ‘pudding stones’), also found in its famous neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The steep southwestern-facing hillside vineyards also provide the perfect amount of sun exposure and drainage for ripening, as does the Mediterranean climate and a long hot and dry growing season. This purple is clearly the Syrah showing, and it had a nice full body, well-integrated tannins, low acidity, and some cassis and blackberry aromas. It paired beautifully with the Abbaye de Belloc sheep’s milk cheese provided.  This was probably my favorite wine of the night, being such a fan of reds, Rhône reds among them.

Last was a Château de Macard Bordeaux Supérieur (means higher quality and can age better, aged a minimum 12 months before sold) 2009, paired with a Bleu d’Avergne. I’m nuts about blue cheese, and Bordeaux is a brilliant match. The cheese really cuts through the tannin so well. This was a well-balanced wine with the typical blackberry and blackcurrant flavors and tobacco and baking spice notes from the French oak. What I really enjoyed about this one is that the Cabernet Franc dominated at 50% and there was no mistaking it on the nose especially. I’ve been loving Cab Franc lately, having had many on the North Fork that were made brilliantly on their own. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon fill out the remainder of the blend.

All in all this was a fun, delicious, and educational social gathering for wine lovers, especially once I loosened up a little from the wine and felt more chatty. If you live in the states, definitely check out meetup’s website. There are a lot of new groups popping up all the time, and we have since signed up for more wine-related events in our area including the Connecticut Wine Festival, which we are really looking forward to.  This weekend I also plan to play our wine nerd game, and pick up some top Sancerre and a 99-point Pinot Noir and share my experiences with you next week. Have a great weekend and Memorial day if you are in the United States!