By: Gary Westby | K&L Champagne Buyer (& Bordeaux lover)
This past Saturday at the Redwood City K&L we hosted a special Bordeaux tasting. As usual, K&L Senior Bordeaux Specialist Ralph Sands was behind the bar to talk about the wines, but in addition we had the added wisdom of K&L owner and principal Bordeaux buyer Clyde Beffa Jr on hand. As if that wasn't enough, Mr. Christophe Reboul, owner of both Chateau Gigault in Blaye and the negociant house the Wine Merchant was the guest star. We had a fantastic line up of Bordeaux to taste, mostly from the outstanding 2009 vintage. Everyone left the tasting with a smile on their face!
We started the tasting with the 2011 l'Avocat Blanc, Graves ($14.99) from the Allison family. This wine is composed of 50% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Sauvignon Gris. It had one of the most unique noses that I have encountered tasting white Bordeaux. The racy Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine a smoky aroma that reminded me of Islay peat! On the palate this wine is very bright and light, and would make a great aperitif or partner for goat cheese crostini.
My favorite wine of the tasting was the 2010 de Fieuzal Blanc, Pessac-Léognan ($58.99 pre-arrival) and it reminded me just how good top white Bordeaux can be. White Burgundy on this level is more than twice the price, and tasting this inspired me to pull out a bottle of 2001 from my cellar the next day. I was surprised to find that it would be very difficult to tell which was the older wine, since these great whites age so slowly! The 2010 will certainly have a very long drinking window, and I would bet on it making a great 20 year old in 2030. It had an intense honey, lanolin and barrel spice nose, and was rich, broad and powerful on the palate. The finish was packed with complexity and went on forever- the tasting could have ended here and I would have been happy! Luckily, we had a bunch of great reds to taste...
Our first red was the 2009 de Birot, Côtes de Bordeaux ($14.99) and it showed just how deep the 2009 vintage is. Most collectors will clamor for the top wines in this vintage, but the real excitement for me with a vintage like 2009 comes from the everyday priced wines like this. Composed of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, this dark wine has lots of herbal intrigue on the nose and excellent, grain free texture. If you are looking for good, dry red for the table that won’t knock you out with too much alcohol, try out the Birot!
I love the Graves region for value priced Bordeaux and the 2009 l'Avocat Rouge ($17.99) is a great example. Composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc it has classic proportions for this area. The powerful nose is full of plum fruit backed up by gravelly earth. In the mouth it has a full, rich texture and a hint of chocolate on the palate. This is a great 2009 to drink while you are waiting for your classified growths to mature. That being said, I think this wine has plenty of stuffing to develop nicely for at least 10 years.
It is a rare treat to have the owner of a Chateau in Bordeaux pouring his wines for you in Redwood City, and we enjoyed every minute of our time with Mr. Christophe Rebaul and every sip of his 2009 Gigault "Cuvée Viva" Premières Côtes de Blaye ($21.99, due in April). This cheerful, easy to drink blend of 99% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon was plump and full of cinnamon and carob flavors. Rich, sweet fruited wines like this are fantastic to drink now and blow the notion of all Bordeaux being expensive out of the water.
We have a few house favorites when it comes to Bordeaux here at K&L, and the 2009 Coufran, Haut-Médoc ($24.99) confirms why we love this property. For the Haut-Medoc, this wine has a huge proportion of Merlot at 85% and just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon at 15%. The wine has a big, ripe, plumy nose, but is very elegant in the mouth. It reminded me very much of old fashioned Pomerol; medium bodied, pure, racy Merlot without the extraneous sugar and oak. At the price, too much of this wine will be consumed to young, but the patient will be rewarded with a great experience at a very small price. If you want to see how they age, we also have the 2003 in stock!
Moving over to the right bank we tasted the 2009 Montviel, Pomerol ($39.99). This flashy right bank wine is composed of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The Montviel is a dark wine with a toasty oak nose and plenty of dried plum fruit on the palate. While modern, big and tannic, it still has Pomerol soul and no residual sugar to ruin it for the table. I am sure the extroverted oak will win over lots of folks who like a big wine.
Staying with the right bank, we tasted the 2009 Monbousquet, St-Emilion ($49.99). The Perse family makes wines that the critics love, and this blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon has won all kinds of accolades. The color is nearly black, and the aromatics are dominated by fancy, expensive oak. This very rich, heavy St. Emilion has plenty of sweet dried fruit on the palate and a big tannic finish. I think it would be a serious contender in a flight of $100+ Napa proprietary reds.
Switching back to the Medoc, we tasted Ralph’s number one wine of the 2009 vintage (and our top seller of the day), the Alter Ego de Palmer, Margaux ($84.99). Palmer makes the most sensual of all Bordeaux, and this blend of 51% Merlot and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon will add to their legend. This has so much class and balance that it could easily pass for the first wine! The Alter Ego has sexy, bright Margaux aromatics of tense currant dusted with chocolate. On the palate it has a velvety texture that is almost perfect now, but will no doubt get even better with time. This great bottle shows incredible focus on the finish- I can’t wait to taste it again when it turns 10!
Moving up the Medoc, we tasted the 2009 Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac ($89.99) next, and the contrast between the two great Medoc communes could not have been starker. This blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc is brooding, backward Pauillac for the long haul. The nose is extraordinary: lead pencil, black currant and high-class gravelly earth are all in harmony. On the palate the wine is tense, packed and unyielding. The finish is powerfully tannic but also powerfully complex, hinting at the bright future that this wine has. This wine is from the old school--not a 2009 to open early--but the patient will be rewarded, as this Grand-Puy-Lacoste has the structure to unfold like the 1982 has. I am happy to see that wines like this are still being made in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux insiders usually snap up our allocation of Chateau Poujeaux before it touches the shelf. It is a property that makes serious wine every year and is a great property to collect vertically. The 2010 Poujeaux, Moulis ($34.99 pre-arrival) is true to form, and a great cellar candidate. It is composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petite Verdot. When I first tasted this wine in Bordeaux during the enpremieur campaign in 2011, I found it very elegant and laid back next to its peers. Tasting it again among 2009’s showed me just how much structure these 2010’s have- it is a powerhouse! It has an opaque, black-purple color and strong currant and cola Cabernet flavor wrapped tightly to its high acid and high tannin spine. If you have room in your cellar, this is a spectacular deal. If you are looking for something to drink in the next couple of years, keep looking!
No Bordeaux tasting should end on a tannic note, and luckily Clyde and Ralph had the 2010 Petit Guiraud, Sauternes (375ml) ($13.99) to finish out the afternoon. This very open knit Sauternes is composed of 65% Semillon and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. I loved the honey and white flower that were present both on the nose and the palate. While this is not concentrated or profound, it tastes great and has the balance for current drinking. Like all good dessert wine, the Petit Guiraud is sweet without being cloying.
I hope that you can join us for our next tasting. If you are interested, please check out K&L Local Events on KLWines.com for upcoming Bordeaux tastings and other events. They are always a lot of fun!