Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – Part 3

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Editors Note – The following entry was submitted by Wally’s Bordeaux buyer, Geoff Pattison

Tuesday May 13, 2014

Today I tackle the rest of the Medoc making an early drive up to Pauillac to start off the day with a 9am appointment at Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste followed by Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Pontet Canet with Proprietor Alfred Tesseron, Chateau Cos d’Estournel and Chateau Montrose.

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There are two clear highlights of the morning:

2013 Chateau Pontet Canet – The nose is extremely pure with a ripe, candied framboise character.  There’s good grip here with unmistakable Pontet Canet style and good concentration for the vintage.  They clearly did the work in the vineyard to make a superlative wine in a nuanced, feminine mode.  C’est jolie!

2013 Chateau Montrose – Lovely dark fruit and violets on the nose with truly remarkable structure, power and weight.  One of the most muscular efforts of the vintage with good flesh in the mid-palate.  I ask them how they were able to achieve such ripeness and it seems the northern part of St Estephe missed some of the worst rains during harvest.  Wow.  Without a doubt this is the red of the vintage for me thus far, a classic Montrose.

Lunch today is at Chateau Phelan Segur where I am thrilled to get to taste a complete vertical from 2005 to 2013.  The best of the bunch is the 2010: deep and dark with a cool, reserved character, it smells substantial before you even taste it.  There’s excellent volume with nice ripeness and structure.  Sweet tannins.  A steal for the price.  You can really see the progress made here in recent years.

A light lunch is paired with the perfectly mature 1996 Phelan Segur and the decadent 1990 Phelan Segur.  Though there’s not really any of these wine left in the chateau’s stocks, they are spectacular for the money and a testament to their superlative terroir.  This is an estate to watch and the recent vintages are going to be huge values as they mature.

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After lunch, the afternoon’s appointments begin at Chateau Pichon Baron, followed by Chateau Leoville Poyferre with Manager Didier Cuvelier and Chateau Palmer before we end the day at Chateau Margaux with Director Paul Pontallier.  The 2013 Margaux (99% Cabernet Sauvignon) is an undeniable success, with a beautiful classic Margaux nose, an ethereal, spicy Cabernet character, velvet texture and excellent length.  I remark to Paul that it seems to me that the estates that had the most success in this vintage are the ones that naturally have an elegant, nuanced, subtle feminine style (ala Margaux, Rauzan Segla, La Conseilliante, VCC, etc…).  Paul agrees with me but he adds that we must not forget the power that can come with such a style.  And indeed I must agree, the wines that embrace the style of the vintage seem to be the most naturally balanced, powerful and effortlessly complete.

geoffffDinner tonight is at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte where I am hosted by technical director Fabien Teitgen, and owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard.  There are lots of improvements going on at the chateau (where they are building a new cooperage) as well as at their beautiful adjacent resort Les Sources de Caudalie where a few new buildings will house expansions to the hotel and spa.  Florence tells me that her daughter is now living in LA and has opened an outpost of Caudalie on Abbot Kinney in Venice which I will definitely have to check out when I return home.

Tasting the 2013s, I am impressed by the Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge which has captured a level of ripeness that I had not seen in the Medoc.  It’s actually quite a concentrated and pleasurable effort.  But most impressive of all is the 2013 Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc.  Very refined, this is extremely poised and perfectly balanced with beautiful clarity to the flavors of lime, grapefruit and chalk.  It seems quite subtle compared to some more exotic recent vintages, but then the incredibly persistent finish just goes on and on for minutes…it’s one of the most remarkable Bordeaux Blanc I have ever tasted.  An absolute showstopper and takes the crown for the best 2013 (red or white) I’ve tasted thus far.  Bravo!

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Dinner is a fun, laid back evening among friends around the kitchen table where we feast on a French Country dinner highlighted by a delicious Pot a Feu and some of the best fromages I’ve had on the trip.  The 2009 Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is broad, exotic and utterly delicious right now.  A comparative pairing of 2009 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge (100 points RP!) and the 2005 Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge is a thrill to taste and a real testament to what this chateau can achieve in remarkable vintages.  For all the richness and decadence of the 2009, I actually find the 2005 slightly more compelling.   There’s a level of tension, concentration and potential in the 2005 that is truly beguiling.  I’d love to revisit this comparison in 10 years, I think the 2005 will eventually win out.  But the 2009 is pretty damn tasty tonight…

After saying our goodbyes, it’s off to bed for the night.  I have a big morning tomorrow and need to kick that jetlag to the curb.  Bonne Nuit from Bordeaux!

To be continued…

– Geoff Pattison