2009 Bordeaux – In Boston

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

The Boston Wine Expo seems to have become my venue for exploring French wines.  Last year it was the 2007 Chateuneuf-de-Papes, and this year the Terroir of Burgundy and the 2009 Bordeaux.

2009 was a record year for Bordeaux, hence the seminar title, “2009 Bordeaux – A Record Setting Vintage.”  The weather produced near perfect conditions that year: sunny days and cool, dry nights, a warm and relatively dry July and August followed by rains at the end of the summer produced grapes that have all the hallmarks of the greatest vintages.

The seminar was led by Jean-Christophe Calvet, President of the Aquitaine Wine Company.  Jean-Christophe Calvet is a sixth-generation wine merchant, and Aquitaine Wine Company can trace its roots back to the 18th century.  Today the firm distributes in 47 states and focuses exclusively on the wines from the Bordeaux region.  In addition to the “Classified Growths,” the superstars of Bordeaux which command the highest prices and the greatest prestige, Aquitaine Wine Company also features the “Discovery Wines,” or as they refer to them on their website, the “challengers.”  Aquitaine has formed partnerships with more than a 100 families who produce quality wines at more affordable prices.  For this seminar, Calvet selected 14 Discovery Wines, the most expensive of which was only in the $40-$50 range (as compared to $1200-$1500 for the Classified Growths); most fell in the $10-$20 range.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Blanc.  50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon.  This was the only white table wine of the 14 wines presented that day.  A lovely light yellow color which sparkled among the denser reds of the other glasses, the wine had a floral, lightly fruity nose with soft notes of honeysuckle and lemon.  In the mouth the light citrus notes continue, with the sauvignon blanc providing notes of grapefruit so common to the grape, and the semillon bringing a touch of honey sweetness to balance the citrus.  The wine opens up in the mouth, with the grapefruit building slightly to a sweet/tart finish.   This wine is available now and retails around $12.99/bottle.

Château La Freynelle 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The color was a medium garnet.  The nose quite subtle.  In the mouth however, the wine was quite fruity with lovely notes of berries and plum.  Medium-bodied, the wine felt a bit young, and while nice, I would definitely cellar it for a few years to see how it develops.  Available in March, the wine should retail for $12-$14/bottle.

Château Mylord 2009, AOC Bordeaux Rouge.  70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a very drinkable, very nice wine.  Medium garnet color with a bright, very cherry nose.  In the mouth, the wine is fruit-forward with strong notes of cherry and soft tannins on the finish.  Aged in stainless steel, the wine has a clean, smooth mouth feel that is quite charming.  The wine is definitely a “drink now” wine, but should also age well for another few years.  Also available in March, the wine will retail for $12.99/bottle.

Costes du Château Feret Lambert 2009, AOC Bordeaux Supérieur.  90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet.  From St. Emilion, “Kingdom of the Merlot,” according to Calvet, as it was one of the first areas to cultivate Merlot grapes.  The region’s wine history dates back to the Romans in the 2nd century (Source: Wikipedia).   While predominately a Merlot, th ewinemakers add the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to provide acidity to the wine.  A darker, yet still medium garnet color, the nose is earthy and quite subtle.  It was a distinct difference from the first three wines which had much stronger fruit and floral notes.  In the mouth, the wine has strong notes of damp earth, some light notes of blackberry and plum, and a lightly spicy finish.  The wine is available now and retails for $10-$14/bottle.

Château Haut Colombier 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  90% Merlot, 10% Malbec.  One of my early favorites, this is a really nice wine.  The nose has rich notes of black cherry and currants, notes which carry over onto the palate as well.  The wine has charmingly sweet notes of fruit with a nice pepper finish.  This will drink well now and also should cellar well, and I made a note to buy several bottles, some for now and some to age for a few years.  The wine was released in January and retails for $10.99/bottle.

Château Roland La Garde 2009, AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye.  67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Another favorite – I have the word “gorgeous” circled next to my tasting notes – this is another lovely, very drinkable now wine.  The color is a ruby-garnet, and the nose is earthy with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is supple, rich and surprisingly robust with notes of black cherry and light notes of spice on the finish.   The tannins give the wine a nice bite of acid on the finish which gives the wine a bit of a kick that balances the velvety smoothness of the mouthfeel.  Calvet recommends bottle aging this wine an additional 3-5 years, although it is quite lovely now.  Available today and retailing for $13-$15/bottle, this is a wine that I will definitely add to the cellar.

Château Saint Andre Corbin 2009, AOC St Georges St. Emilion.  75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc.  Another favorite – this time I have three stars next to my notes, as well as notes to buy a case!  The nose is deep and rich with lovely notes of cherry.  In the mouth the wine is rich and velvety with soft tannins and rich, complex, but not sweet notes of cherry and dark berries.  The finish is soft and lingering.  The wine is produced by one of the oldest estates in Bordeaux, dating back to the 4th century.   Calvet recommends cellaring this wine for an additional 5-6 years.  The wine will be released in May 2011 and should retail for $20-$28/bottle.  Definitely one of the pricier of the wines featured this afternoon, but it is worth it.  I’m already making plans to order a half-case, if not a full case for myself.

Coming Thursday, 2.24 – the second half of the seminar wine list.

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.

Tip O’Neill Would Enjoy This!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I love local wine. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t drink wine that is made more than 100 miles away from my home. Why? Well at the moment there are only 37 wineries within that boundary and I don’t love all of them (Though I do love several that I have encountered so far). Plus, I love to explore and tasting new wine and food is like taking a little vacation from your everyday life. I call this seeming paradox the Tip O’Neill Corollary. Why? Well, Tip O’Neil once famously remarked that all politics is local. And the fact of the matter is, that all wine is too. It is local to someone. So I go ahead an enjoy those wines too and sometimes I even write about them.

This last week I tried a Crémant d’Alsace , a sparkling wine from Alsace (home of my Miller ancestors). I had tried still wines from the same House, Gustave Lorentz and had always liked them. So I was really looking forward to tasting this sparkler.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The wine was wonderful with medium sized bubbles and a dry but fruity taste. The varietals used to produce this bottle were Chardonnay 60%, Pinot Blanc 20% and Pinot Noir 20%. The winemakers feel that this provides fruity liveliness (from the Chardonnay), freshness and elegance from the Pinot Blanc and depth and persistance from the Pinot Noir.

In addition to the Crémant, the Maison Lorentz also produces still wines from traditional Alsatian variatels, including several Grand Cru Rieslings, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, several late harvest wines and Eaux-de-Vie, liqueurs and an Alsatian Marc which is a type of grappa made from the skins of Gewurztraminer grapes.

The Crémant and still wines (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris) are available at my favorite wine shop, Good Grapes. The Crémant is about $20.

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

Chono Carménère

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I might be temporarily abstaining from wine on school nights (due to lent) but that doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to talk about the wines that I have already tasted.    This wine, like the Passion Has Red Lips, also falls into the Tip O’Neil Corollary territory and I was lucky enough to get to taste it when the rep came into the store.

The Chono wines are  associated with a wine I discussed a while ago… say, in the Fall of 2008, the Palin Syrah, which are both distributed by GeoWines.  I always like Chilean Carménère because it reminds me of my wine history. Carménère is the lost grape of Bordeaux where it was used to enhance the flavors of the other noble grapes of the region, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Merlot.  After Phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards in the region, it was believed that Carménère was all but wiped out.  In 1994, an oenologist discovered that a variety of Merlot in Chile that tended to ripen faster was in fact the long, lost grape.  They were interplanted with Merlot which they resemble and accounted for a  large percentage of the grapes produced.  It turns out that Chilean winemaking owed more to France than Spain as one might have expected.

I have also learned that there were so many Carménère grapes produced that they were often used in the production of Pisco and Aguardiente.

The Carménère is produced in the Maipo River Valley of Chile which is in the heart of the most productive vineyards in the country and relatively close to Santiago. The grapes are picked in the second week of May are macerated in stainless steel and then partially aged in oak.  My first sip gave me a smokey taste of dark fruit. The second sip after a few minutes allowed the wine to open up and become smoother and fuller with more of an emphasis on black cherries and less on the smoke.  Clearly, a wine to let breathe a moment or two.

Wine From Some Young Punks

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Sin On Wheels

I don’t think it is news to anyone that I love wine. Ok. Stop laughing already. I SAID it wouldn’t be news. And as much as I love local wine, I love trying wine from all over the world. Is this inconsistent with my locapour ways? Not at all… I refer to it as the Tip O’Neil Corollary, when speaking of politics, Speaker O’Neil once famously pointed out that “All politics are local”. And I believe that the same holds true with wine. It is local to somebody.

when I got a chance to try some wine from the “local” vineyards of the Clare Valley of Australia, I naturally jumped at the chance.

The wine is produced by Some Young Punks. Already, you know that I was enjoying this. Their name alone, indicates to me that while they love their wine, they don’t take themselves too seriously. The wine was the 2007 Passion Has Red Lips which was a Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend. I thought it was earthy, almost leathery. 1500 cases were produced. The artwork was taken from an old pulp fiction novel, Sin On Wheels.

I am hoping to find more of it soon.


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Yes, that means something. Of course, 20% of the world’s population can already ready read it. It says, “Hello Chinese Wine!” How it is pronounced? Sadly, I do not know. I know that most of the time westerners think of wine China is pretty low on their list. I am sure that most people think of tea when asked to come up with a Chinese beverage.


Wine has been produced in China for thousands of years. Jars containing traces of wine made from rice, honey and fruit have been found that date to 7,000 BC. Grape wine came much later in the case of the wine that I tried Friday night at the Bottlenotes Around the World in 80 Sips event about 9,000 years later.

Dragon’s Hollow’s vineyard was originally planted in the 1990s at the foot of the Helan Mountains in Ningxia. They produce a Cabernet Sauvignon (I tasted the 2005) which was dark and smoky, tasting of tobacco with a hint of cherry. It was truly unique. It made me consider the idea of terroir. A friend of mine recently went to China and came hold and told me about the cigarettes and their distinct aroma and now I could imagine tobacco growing in fields across China…

Dragon’s Hollow also produces an Chardonnay (I tasted the 2006). This wine was more like the Chardonnays that are available all over the world. Produced and aged in stainless steel, I was disappointed not to find something uniquely Chinese about this wine but it was crisp and clean and very nice. Perfect for drinking during the heat of a warm sunny afternoon.

There is a medallion attached to each bottle of Dragon’s Hollow wine. In the shape of a Chinese coin, the medallion contains the only Chinese characters found in the packaging. A lovely addition, but a shame to hide so much of this wine’s heritage. Perhaps they will add more when the world begins to accept Chinese wine more readily.

Both of these wines are available from Bottlenotes.com and sell for $13.00.


How do these wines relate to VinoVerve? Well, we approach local wine the way Tip O’Neill (MA-D, Congressman and Speaker of the House(January 4, 1977 – January 3, 1987)) approached politics. Everything is local to someone.