Exploring Bordeaux

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Picking up where I left off on Tuesday

Like any good tasting menu or flight, the Bordeaux seminar progressed along a crescendo of increasing complexity and robustness.  Unlike traditional tasting menus where the progression typically follows a change in grape, Merlot remained the primary grape through 10 of the 12 reds.  The grapes that the winemakers blended with the Merlot differed; the first half of the seminar featured primary Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Blends.  By the second half, the wines were also including Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  To my mind, it wound up being a more interesting seminar because of this, providing an opportunity to experience the range and depth of Merlot.

Château Coutet 2009.  AOC St. Emilion Grand Cru.  60% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec.  This, as Jean-Christophe Calvet was quick to point out, was very much a sneak preview as the wine won’t be available until September.  Calvet encouraged us to approach it as a barrel tasting. The nose is subtle with deep rich notes of cherry.  In the mouth, the wine is not as robust as the previous wine, although I suspect that additional aging will bring out some additional depth.  The wine is nicely fruity with light tannins on the finish.  The finish lingers, but I found it to be a bit chalky.  The wine shows a lot of promise, and I’ll be interested to see how it turns out once it’s released.  Scheduled for release in September, this wine will likely retail for $26-$28/bottle.

Château Picque Caillou 2009.  AOC Pessac Leognan.  45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc.  Another 3-star wine in my tasting notes, and one of my top three wines of the seminar.  The nose is rich and deep, but quite discreet with notes of  soil and dark cherry.   The nose hides, and you have to breathe deep to really pick it up, but to my mind that made it all the more interesting.  In the mouth the wine has a silky, smooth mouth feel.  There are hints of spice on the front of the wine, which then opens up to stronger notes of earth and dark berries (definitely blackberry).  The finish lingers for well over a minute, providing an overall satisfying experience.  This wine will be bottled in May and will retail for $25-$35/bottle.

Château L’Argenteyre 2009.  AOC Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  35% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot.  This wine was an interesting contrast to the previous wine.  Where I found myself using words such as “rich” and “deep” with regards to the previous wine, here the adjectives that predominate my notes are “fresh” and “lively.”  The nose is loamy with subtle notes of dark stone fruits, perhaps plum?  In the mouth the notes of loamy earth are strong, but balanced with bright notes of cherry.  The finish has light notes of pepper which provide a nice balance to the brightness in the front.  This wine will be released in April and will retail for $16-$18/bottle.

Château Trois Moulins 2009.  AOC Haut Médoc Cru Bourgeois.  50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  According to Calvet, this is regarded as the best wine produced in the history of the vineyeard.  It’s a lovely wine with a soft fruity nose with notes of black currant.  In the mouth the wine is rich and fruity with notes of black currant and blackberry.  The mouth feel is soft and silky and light tannins give it a nice balance and a beautiful finish.  I really liked this wine, and it definitely made it into my top five of the seminar.  Available now, the wine retails for $20-$22/bottle.

Château Mongravey 2009.  AOC Margaux Cru Bourgeois.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot.  With the last two reds, the primary grape shifted to Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another sneak preview tasting, Calvet described this wine as being in the “feminine style of the Medoc.”  I have no idea what “feminine style” means with regards to wine – perhaps it’s lighter, more delicate?  A quick Google search turned up several references to “feminine style” but no real explanations.  Now I’m intrigued, so the research will continue and hopefully become a post here on Vino Verve at a later point.  And if any of you know, please leave me a comment here or send me an email at marguerite@vinoverve.com

But, today is about the wine, not my research.  Another one of my top five, this one has two stars in my tasting notes, the wine is very fruit-forward with lip-licking notes of lush, ripe berries that develops in the mouth to interesting notes of licorice at the end.  The wine is very well balanced with a velvety mouth feel, and quite delicate, surprisingly so given it’s predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, which in my experience generally produces heavier wines.  This wine will be bottled in April and May and is definitely on the list of wines to add to the cellar.  When it is released, it should retail for $30-$40/bottle.

Château Fonbadet 2009.  AOC Pauillac.  70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Hands down my favorite wine of the seminar – four stars in my tasting notes!  The nose is subtle and discreet with notes of loamy earth and black currants.  In the mouth, the word that first came to mind was gorgeous.  Rich and silky with lush notes of black currant and earth.  Described by the winemaker Eric Boissenet as cassis-style, this wine will cellar for years.  The most expensive of the wines presented that day at $40-$50/bottle, it is definitely worth picking up as many bottles as you can afford.

Château Bel Air 2009.  AOC Sainte Croix du Mont.  100% Semillon.  The seminar concluded with a lone dessert wine.  Medium-gold in color the nose is rich and lightly sweet with strong notes of honey and honeysuckle.  In the mouth the wine is soft and sweet, but not as strongly sweet as many dessert wines, and lightly floral with lovely notes of honey.   A very nice finish to an excellent – and quite extensive – seminar.  The wine is available now and retails for $12-$15/bottle.

What I Am Drinking

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Marguerite isn’t the only person who gets to drink Bordeaux!  While she got to go to the Boston Wine Expo to experience her tasting, I got to do mine in front of the fire in my own living room.  I have always loved Bordeaux for their respect to tradition.  Unfortunately Bordeaux wines have gotten the reputation of being expensive and frou frou and I frankly take exception to this.  I have been finding good bordeaux starting at $10 in the shops that I frequent and for $20?  Well, you can great wines.  So don’t avoid Bordeaux just because you think you have to spend a fortune.  You don’t.

Tonight, I am drinking the 2009 Axel Des Vignes Bordeaux Blanc a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grown in clay and limestone soils and produced at Les Lèves winery near Sainte-Foy-la-Grand in Gironde France.  The wine was crisp with enough minerality to leave my tongue tingling (which makes me happy).  It opens with a fresh burst of the Sauvignon Blanc then lingers with the butteriness of the Sémillon.  Perfect for a pre-Valentine’s evening at home.

Disclaimer:  I received this wine as a sample from Planète-Bordeaux.

The Inevitable Red Hills Map

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I am nothing if not predictable. After discovering that there was a Lake County in California, it was all but certain that I would have to prepare a map of it….

So… Voilà

The Red Hills Lake County is one of five AVAs located in Lake County, California including Clear Lake, High Valley, Benmore Valley and Guenoc Valley. Red Hills is located on the southwestern shore of Clear Lake. It is located at the foot of Mt. Konocti, an extinct volcano between Excelsior Valley, Big Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains. The appellation was designated in 2004 and consists of 31,250 acres of which 3,000 are under cultivation. The soil is volcanic and is full of shards of obsidian that was formed as the magma from the Mt. Konocti cooled quickly due to the waters of the lake. The elevation of the area is betwen 1,400 and 3,000 feet and receives between 25 and 40 inches of rain per year. The region is perfect for Bordeaux and Rhone grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Mourvedre and Zinfandel.

Wineries and vineyards located within the AVA include:

Sol Rouge
Fortress Vineyards
Ferrel Ranch Vineyard
Red Hills Winery
Obsidian Ridge Vineyard
Fore Family Vineyard
Becht Vineyard
Eden Crest Vineyard
Roumiguiere Vineyards – Red Hills Ranch
Snow Lake Vineyard

The Wines of Rutherford Hill

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The tour of Rutherford Hill was wonderful, but it is the wine that was amazing.

Rutherford Hill MerlotRutherford Hill Cabernet SauvignonI am ashamed to say that I can not remember the unique attributes of each of the wines that I sipped on my tour. I was taken with all the sights and sounds going on around me. They were excellent (I hate not having enough hands to do everything that I want to at the same time).

The wines that I drank along the route were the 2005 Merlot and the 2004 Merlot Reserve and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which were wonderful.

When we got back to the tasting room, I got to taste some of the more wonderful wines.

My VinturiThe 2006 Malbec smelled and tasted of blueberries and cherries. The 2006 Petit Verdot smelled of coffee and tasted of black cherries and chocolate. I got a special treat with the winemakers blend getting to taste it both poured regularly and decanted via a Vinturi.  Now in all fairness, the wine smelled and tasted good before I got to taste the version poured through the Vinturi.  But after it was?  WOW!  That is all I can say.  The aroma was fuller and more dramatic.  The taste?  With more body and soul. WOW!  I was so impressed with the Vinturi’s job, I bought one to take home.  It even has the Terlato logo on it.  So I will always remember my trip to Rutherford Hill (as if I could forget).

Angel's PeakCardinal's PeakFrom there we moved on to the to some of the Terlato Family Vineyard wines.  After reading Anthony Terlato’s book, Taste: A Life in Wine (I love my iPhone Kindle reader…  you take your reading with you literally everywhere.)  The Terlato wines are produced at the Rutherford estate vineyard, but in the vineyard within the vineyard.  The idea was to raise the quality of the Rutherford wines which represents the chief goal of the family.  Personally, I believe that the wines achieve this goal in spades!

EpisodePortThe Angels Peak’s is lush with a plum taste and tobacco-y.  The Cardinal’s Peak was more wood and leather with jam overtones.  My favorite of the three was the Devil’s Peak with its smooth and complex flavors.  The “Peak” series are Tony Terlato’s homage to the wines of Bordeaux, France.  These wines are blends of the best of the vineyard and made to express the best elements of the grapes.  The Episode wine, on the other hand, seem to be an expression of place – Napa.  The wine was intense and lingering on the palate.  I brought a bottle home as a thank you to my folks for helping me with my trip.  Dad, naturally is saving it.  I hope he allows us to open it for Christmas!

The last wine that I tasted at Rutherford Hill was the 2004 Zinfandel Port.  I have to admit that I am something of a Port snob in that I rarely find one that I like from America.  This one was made in the style that an authentic Port would be made but used Zinfandel instead of the traditional grapes.  The result is an American expression of Portuguese tradition.

I was sad to be leaving Rutherford Hill but as I lugged my box of wine (I can’t resist buying a few bottles) but was looking forward to the second part of my Terlato family adventure – my trip to Chimney Rock!