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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Favorites of 2012

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc

Happy new year!  I am looking forward to another great year in wine. I was thinking over the last week or two about how I wanted to wrap up the inaugural year of this blog. I can do a wrap-up of all my favorite wines of the year, as many do. But I’ve already written about them in detail on this blog, so that would just be repetitive. So I will tell you about a few more that I really enjoyed over the holidays, and then will link you back to my other favorites I reviewed this year…

Cabernet Franc and I met for the first time in 2012. It quickly became one of my favorite wines, and I will kick things off with a few I’m fond of.

Ravines 2010 Cabernet Franc (Finger Lakes) was something I found in our new wine mega-store (I have to admit they have an impressive inventory including many fine wines now on my wish list).  They have a nice selection of local wines including Finger Lakes, North Fork, Hudson Valley and Connecticut wines. I wanted to try a Finger Lakes red, as I will be experimenting with making one of my own, and I don’t think I’ve had one yet. It was a really nice wine. It had a nice bright ruby color and the nose was enticingly smoky and spicy and bursting with red and black berry aromas. The tannins were soft and the acidity was bright but nicely balanced with the tannins and body. A lingering spicy fruit finish made this a new favorite.

Bedell 2011 Cabernet Franc

This was one of those Cab Francs I had for the first time in March on my inaugural North Fork visit that made me fall in love with the variety.  It was a ruby color of medium intensity. On the nose were blackberry and currant and a little ‘farmyard’. The palette echoed the rich black fruit and currant, with the addition of a spicy earthy flavor. The body and finish were about a medium.

Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes

Château Doisy-Védrines Sauternes

I also grew quickly fond of fine Sauternes. Usually I don’t have a major sweet tooth (unless peanut butter is involved) but the quality of this wine is so high that its really hard not to enjoy it. I had the amazing Château Suduiraut 2005 Sauternes at Château Pichon Longueville in Bordeaux in October, and another from our range over thanksgiving that was very nice. But I picked up one at the wine shop that day for Christmas that was delicious.

Château Doisy-Vedrines 2009 is a nice example of Sauternes. It was in the $25 range for a half-bottle, which is average for this wine.  The body was nice and round, and the sweetness was pronounced as expected yet not cloying and overly sweet. Everything was nicely balanced and I enjoyed it over a few occasions last week, in most cases as a luxurious nightcap. Also, I can’t really have more than one a day, as its too much sweetness for me (well except for Château Suduiraut)  and this is not a table wine . One wants to take their time to enjoy sipping this one.


Some other 2012 Favorites from this year in my blog:

Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Paumanok Assemblage 2007

One Woman Vineyards Gruner Veltliner

Château Pichon-Longueville Pauillac 2009/2010 and Château Suduiraut Sauternes 2005

Land of Nod Chocolate Raspberry dessert wine

Bodegas Carrau Tannat 2000, Font de la Figuera Priorat 2008

Lenz Blanc de Noir 2008

Bedell First Crush (red) 2010

Hope your holidays were joyful, and here’s to 2013!

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

Oh, Bordeaux! (Day 1)

Merlot in Castillon

Merlot in Castillon

Where to begin on this one? How about a little background on how I got here, writing a wine blog. My company started and is headquartered in the U.K, as the founder is British and spent his university summers helping tend to vineyards and washing bottles in Castillon. These vineyards were later to be entrusted to him to carry on their legacy and begin making his own wine. Soon after, his first business importing fine French wines back to Britain was born. They now have another Châteaux and a winery in Côtes de Castillon, with yet another newly acquired. After many years of success, they  were able to start operations in the USA, and about 2 years ago I luckily applied for a job in this company, knowing little about wine other than what I would now call very poor stuff. Sorry, mom. Since then I’ve had the privilege of learning massive amounts of wine knowledge not only from marketing it and being surrounded by wine culture and writers 45 hours a week, but from the WSET classes they provide all employees for free. My eyes have been opened to the world of fine wine and a lot of tastings and two courses later, I am fully addicted to the history, making of, and enjoyment of wine. Writing about it helps me learn more, retain what I’ve learned, and hopefully make some new friends along the way. And here we are.

Tasting from the barrel

Tasting from the barrel

Another perk of the company is that every year they send employees from the USA and the U.K. offices to their Châteaux in Bordeaux to meet the winemakers, and see where all of our own wines are grown and made, as well as touring other fine Châteaux we have relationships with. Our trip from the USA started with a trip to the U.K. for a visit to our headquarters and some of our shops in the greater London area. I thought I might mention, they have over 700 vines of Chardonnay in a vineyard just outside this U.K. office, and they seem to be doing quite well. If they had any outside my office, I’m afraid I’d be way too distracted, so probably better that they don’t. We then made our way to Bordeaux.

The first morning we made a visit to our first Châteaux. What seemed like an unassuming cow barn, opened to reveal several steel tanks, and a winding limestone staircase down to a large cellar, holding about 200 barrels of 2010 and 2011 Merlot and Cab. We got to use the extractors to remove the wines from the barrel and taste them directly from the source. Amazing experience #1 – check. Under these vineyards and wineries all over Bordeaux are cellars carved out of the abundant limestone. Next we went to the founder’s son’s winery, where they were already harvesting. I got to get up on an overturned bin and shovel grapes from the bin on the forklift directly into the de-stemmer, and then help at the sorting tables to remove remaining pips or bad fruit. Amazing experience #2 – check. Afterwards we briefly visited a winery that they had just bought and were going to begin upgrading, and went for a great lunch at a nearby restaurant. They served many of the wines in our range while we all made friends of each other and spoke of our various functions in the business, from store owner to website designer to winemaker.

Shoveling grapes into the de-stemmer

Shoveling grapes into the de-stemmer

Next, we headed to our winery that sits alongside the Dordogne river, and listened to our head winemakers while they educated us on their craft, let us try wines in various states of completion, and then had us break off into teams for the blending experiment. Each group made their own blend from three of our wines and then had to name it, create a label, and a pitch. Each group presented their finished product to the other groups and the winemakers and these were to be judged here at dinner.  After a brief rest at the hotel we returned to the winery for a barbecue dinner, our tables surrounded by barrels and candlelight. While my team did NOT win, the experience was invaluable. Amazing experience #3 – check. I have just made my first wine – well, sort of. It was then back to the hotel and to bed to prepare for another long, wonderful day of drinking incredible wines.