After over a year of planning and plenty of stress, our tour of Bordeaux went off as smooth as silk. The thank you cards have been sent off already, but the memories and education will last a lifetime. Even for a cagey veteran like myself, the excitement from an experience like this is hard to come down from; the reflections of the great wines and times keep come back to mind. Here are some of my favorite recollections: We tasted the new baby/vintage of 2004 at numerous estates, and they are showing much better than on our April tasting. More middle fruit and richness really coming thru now from wines like Mouton-Rothschild, Léoville-Barton, Léoville-Las-Cases, Lynch Bages, Palmer, both Pichons, Phelan-Segur, Haut-Bergey, Barde-Haut and Ferriere. We also tasted many 2002s, which are arriving in America now. These are much better than billed, classic firm wines with good shoulders on the best wines. Just as is the case with 2004, the 2002s are excellent values. I tell customers everyday that 1999 is a supple and tasty vintage that is providing great drinking pleasure. The 1999 from Margaux, Haut-Brion ($124.99), Branaire-Ducru ($29.99) and Cantemerle ($42.99 1.5L) are fine examples of that. The 1987 Pavie was just delicious, the great vineyard shining brightly in an incredibly rough vintage as was 1983 Canon. Lunch at Palmer inlcuded a lovely 1997, a young 1996 with great potential and 1990 that’s just starting to sing. After tasting 2000, 2001 and 2002 at Pichon-Baron, the dinner wines were mind blowing. The dry new white of Ch. Suduiraut (S de Suduiraut, coming to K&L in December) for aperitif, 1998 Petite Village and 1996 Cantenac Brown. 1995 Baron (K&L just got magnums and 5Ls), 1990 out of 3L, 1962 Quinta do Noval National, Yikes! 1997 and 1975 Suduiraut, and we were party fresh! The fastest two star lunch in the history of the wine business was briskly loved at Lynch Bages where the 1995 was very fine. At Cos d’Estournel the 2003 was so amazing, huge sweetness, thick layers of fruit and incredible length that the famous 2000 had no chance at this point in time! The 1988 Léoville-Barton, with Lilian, Anthony and Michel was so good I bought some upon returning. The 1988 Pichon-Lalande out of double magnum in the company of Thomas Do-Chi-Nam and May Eliane de Lenquesaing was just outstanding. The tour of Latour’s new facility and tasting the 2001 and 2004 was quite a treat. As was Thierry Gardiner and his warm hospitality as well as the elegant, spicy wines of Phelan-Ségur, which can be enjoyed young. A very good seminar on right bank viticulture and tasting at Canon La Gaffeliere started a new day. A marvelous lunch with Corinne De Bouard at Angelus featuring the 1998 and 1995 Angelus ($159.99). Now we know why these wines are so pure. The merlot grapes were being sorted under close supervision by 30 or more college students, and the fruit was so perfect, not a stem to be seen near the fruit, only in the baskets below. To be continued in next month’s newsletter... A special thanks to all the great customers who made the trek, all our gracious friends in Bordeaux, as well as Cecile Levin and Magda Johnson who made it all happen. Cheers to all of you! —Ralph Sands
2003 Etoiles de Mondorion, St-Emilion ($14.99) This is the very limited, 500 cases, second wine of Mondorion. And all of the care and attention that they put into there first wine is also seen here: hand harvesting, complete destemming, fermentation in temperature regulated concrete vats and aging in French oak barrels. A blend of 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, the nose is bold and dark with red and black fruits, toast and earth. The palate is moderately rich and balanced. The round dark fruit is bolstered by ripe tannins and accented with a hint of earth on the finish. A terrific deal. 2000 Mondorion, St-Emilion ($19.99) New life has been breathed into this estate since it was purchased in 1999. With a new vision for the future, you couldn’t ask for a better inaugural vintage. It undergoes everything as in the case of the above wine but sees 40% new French oak, and the varietal composition is somewhat different: 76% merlot and 24% cabernet franc. It is really the big brother to the Etoiles. Deeper and darker in color and character, it has more berries and oaky spice. Definitely made in a new world style but still rooted in the old world with its unmistakable terroir shining through on the finish. Drink or hold on to it for another few years. Only 3500 cases made. 2000 Trebiac, Graves ($13.99) An old favorite is back! A wonderful ambassador for the wines of Graves, the Trebiac is about structure and minerality. Its relatively high percentage of merlot (40%) fattens the middle giving it a lushness that keeps the wine from becoming austere. This is a dinner wine and needs 30 to 40 minutes in a decanter to open it up and show off its red fruits and gravelly minerality, both of which are enhanced by its acidity. With good length, the wine opens up and reveals even more of its classic earthiness. 2000 Bellerose Figeac Reserve, St-Emilion ($27.99) This is a full-throttle, modern St-Emilion. The grapes for this cuvee come from near the Pomerol border, with is deep sandy iron-rich subsoil. They green harvest, hand pick, de-stem, cold soak, ferment in temperature controlled concrete vats, then age in French oak barrels. 60% merlot with the remaining a blend of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Dark red fruits and berries on the nose peppered with oaky spice and earthy minerality, the wine has good structure. The ripe round fruit is wrapped around a core of dark chocolate and earthy spice. Drink it tonight with about 45 minutes decanting or hold on to it for another 5 years. —Kirk Walker
Yes, Virginia I am still hanging around K&L, though I don’t get to write much in the newsletter. So many writers, so much great wine and not much space in our 24-page Wine News. Perhaps we will enlarge the newsletter in 2006 (and we’re looking at doing just that). Lots of new things in store for K&L and our great customers in 2006. For starters, a store in the Los Angeles area, an updated website with lots of new goodies (I can’t explain them because I am high tech challenged. I’m still getting used to the fax machine), and some great new sales associates. Also more wine locker space is on the drawing board as is an enlarged RWC tasting room and store remodel! And what about all the great wines that will become available in 2006? We’re looking at a possibly stunning Bordeaux vintage (2005) as well as great buys from all over the world. And what am I recommending these days, winewise? Two fabulous sauvignon blancs from Bordeaux are high on the list. 2003 Chateau Reynon ($10.99) and 2002 Clos Floridene ($17.99) are brilliant wines from Denis Dubourdieu. And both are must trys. Old wine winners include the stunning 1986 Château Cos d’ Estournel ($139.99) and the recent value-packed 1.5L formats from Château Pichon-Lalande (1992 $89.99 and 1993 $134.99-right from the château). Dessert wines are a must for the holidays. 2002 Château Climens ($54.99) and Rieussec ($39.99) are almost as good as their 100-point older brothers. In addition, the 1955 Rivesaltes ($59.99) is a spectacular wine value. Have a great holiday season! —Clyde Beffa Jr
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