Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 4

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Wednesday April 15th 2015

Another early morning today as Christian, Michael and I head out to the Right Bank for the first time in this vintage. The reports around Bordeaux are that this vintage is stronger in the Left Bank than the right. More substantial rainfall in Pomerol and Saint Emilion coupled with the fact that Merlot did not benefit from as much of the Indian summer mean that things are supposedly less uniform on this side of the Gironde. Today we will see for ourselves if these wines can match the stunning 2014s we’ve tasted thus far in the Medoc.


Our first appointment is 9:15 am at one of our favorite properties in the world: Vieux Chateau Certan. This is a magical terroir is located directly adjacent to Chateau Petrus and one could make a case that they have surpassed their neighbor in several recent vintages. We are welcomed warmly by our old friend Alexandre Thienpont who has shepherded VCC since he took over for his father in 1986. There is only one wine to taste:

2014 Vieux Chateau Certan
-Pure, deep, soft red fruit on the nose. There is a lovely purity to the red fruit and fine mineral driven flavors here. Good weight on the palate with a powerful, structured, building finish. A muscular VCC with amazing depth and great precision, this has to be one of the top wines of the vintage.

Leaving VCC we head to the offices of JP Moueix in nearby Libourne. This legendary negociant firm is headed by Christian Moueix, proprietor of Chateau Petrus. Today we will be meeting with Christian’s son Edouard who is in the process of taking over the reins of the family business. Edouard leads us into their drawing room where their illustrious stable of wines are laid out for us to taste at our own pace. Leaving us to taste in private we now get to try the 2014s from some of the greatest terroirs in the right bank. The highlights include:

2014 Chateau Plince
-Lovely, harmonious nose of berry fruit with complex herbal tones. There’s a current of sweet tobacco running through the silkly, elegant palate that displays nice volume and texture. A very good Plince, best since 2009.

2014 Chateau Bourgneuf
-A fairly ripe, deep nose of red fruit with mocha tones. Muscular and tannic with nice length and good persistence of the mocha-driven flavor profile which follows through on the palate. Recommended.

2014 Chateau Gazin
-Dark Chocolate and blackberry fruit on the nose. This has a sweet balanced palate with a vein of minerality running through. Nice power.

2014 Chateau Latour A Pomerol
-A complex, resonant, spicy nose leads into a balanced ripe berry fruit driven palate with hints of truffle and spice in the background. Great texture and a long, nicely integrated finish. Harmonious and seamless. Not a big wine but totally complete and well-balanced.


2014 Chateau Lafleur
-Complex, powerful, class nose. Deep. Sweet silky flavors of pure red berries with nice weight and texture. Elegant and feminine but keeps pumping through on the finish with serious muscle and length. Textbook Lafleur. Excellent.

2014 Chateau La Fleur Petrus
-Wow, this has a gorgeous polished nose of high toned plum and raspberry. Merlot driven. Great texture, medium bodied, good structure. Harmonious and long.

2014 Chateau Trotanoy
-Smoky and spicy with lovely plum fruit and truffles on the nose. Long, powerful and buttoned up. There’s something aristocratic about this Trotanoy’s personality. The palate is seamless and supple with great purity and depth. Excellent.

2014 Chateau Belair-Monange
-Expressive, powerful nose that leaps out of the glass with ripe herbal toned dark fruit. Slightly more modern than the Pomerol stable tasted before. Nice structure, good balance and freshness. Finishes long with pepper and dark chocolate tones. We are just starting to see what this property can do with the addition of the former Magdelaine vineyards. A fascinating estate to watch that could one day be one of the top estates in Saint Emilion.

After concluding the tasting, we head to Saint Emilion with Edouard to tour the vineyards of Chateau Belair-Monange. Since the Moueix family took over this historic estate in 2008 they have vastly upgraded the chateau and vineyards. There is currently a massive effort underway to replant several large parcels and we are struck by how many hectares are fallow at the moment. For Edouard this is a lifelong project, it will be decades before we really see what this well situated terroir is truly capable of.


Edouard leads us down into the limestone quarry beneath the vineyard. This labyrinth of caves, carved out over hundreds of years, just completed a retrofit to strengthen and stabilize the limestone. It’s a reminder of the history of the place (much of the limestone harvested was used to build the town’s buildings, streets and walls) as well as the truly ideal soil composition here in Saint Emilion.

Leaving Saint Emilion we head to Pomerol and Chateau La Fleur Petrus where we enjoy a wonderful lunch paired with the beautifully mature 1989 La Fleur Petrus and an absolutely delicious magnum of 2000 Trotanoy (just entering maturity, full bodied, plush and deep). Saying our goodbyes, it’s a long journey back across the Gironde to some afternoon appointments in Pessac-Leognan.

Highlights of the afternoon visits include:

2012 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Deep, dark fruit on the nose with a lactic element. The palate is midweight and beautifully silky. Soft, plush and very accessible early.


2014 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge
-Reticent nose, wow this is very tannic and muscular. Slightly austere but with amazing structure, one for the cellar.

2014 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
-A gorgeous nose of citrus, pure mineral and melon. Very expressive aromatically. Rich on the palate but with plenty of racy acidity, finishes very long.

2014 Chateau Le Thil
-Primary red fruit and floral notes, very sweet on the attack, port-like. Pure Merlot. Finishes smoky and decadent.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge
-Dark fruit and the essence of stones. A touch of blackberry leaf. This is tannic, but midweight with excellent volume, rock solid midpalate. Finishes with nice freshness that balances the considerable fruit here. An excellent Smith Haut Lafitte that will likely be one of the best values of the vintage.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc
-Reticent nose, soft on the entry but the acid pumps through on the end, very good for the vintage, but not at the level of the stunning 2013. A very nice, midweight vintage of SHL Blanc.

2014 Le Dragon de Quintus
-Ripe, well defined red fruit on the nose. Punchy, intense flavors, primary, slightly jammy and exotic but with nice tension. A very attractive second wine, well done.

2014 Chateau Quintus
-Lovely nose of plum compote, sexy and liqueur-like on the palate but balanced and with good tension. Very well made, can’t wait to see where this property goes over the next 5-10 years under Haut Brion’s ownership.

2014 Le Clarence de Haut Brion
-Very pretty blackcurrant pastille with hints of scorched earth. Black fruit and incense. This is substantial but expertly balanced. A great second wine with lots of Haut Brion character, this should be more accessibly priced this year and is recommended.

2014 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion
-Slightly closed nose with graphite and herbaceous notes. Sweet and silky on the attack with blackcurrant and licorice, finishing with persistent flavor and lots of freshness.

2014 Chateau Haut Brion
-Deep and opaque with dark fruit, tobacco and spice. Palate is pretty with a strong notion of scorched earth. Midweight with good acid and a strong tannic backbone.

2014 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
-Gorgeous white flowers, lanolin and pure grassy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc fruit. Incredibly focused with laser sharp acid on the attack, midweight and seamless. Very fine.


Dinner tonight is at Chateau Haut Brion with Director Jean-Philippe Delmas. After a long day of tasting we relax over Champagne in the chateau’s beautifully appointed drawing room while talking of the campaign, the recent rise in popularity of La Mission Haut Brion and Wally’s plans for growth. Dinner is elegant and beautifully paired with 2011 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (Astonishingly precise with beautiful minerality, salinity and laser like acidity), 2003 La Mission Haut Brion (very youthful for an 03, definitely showing the decadence of the vintage but with plenty of room to age) and 1999 Chateau Haut Brion (In a great place for drinking, substantial but with resolved tannins, this is a pure Haut Brion with lots of incense, licorice and truffle). Being presented with a humidor full of Habanos is tempting after dinner but we decide we’ll have to pass if we are going to make it through tomorrow morning’s comprehensive tasting of nearly 100 wines! Heading back to the hotel we marvel at the incredible day we have just had…from lunch with a Moueix to dinner at a First Growth. Just one more day to go!

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 3

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 3

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Tuesday, April 14th


Another early start today, heading out of Bordeaux at 7:45am to return to the Medoc. Today we will visit the rest of the major Left Bank chateaux, beginning with morning appointments at Leoville Barton, Montrose, Calon Segur, Latour, Leoville Poyferre and Rauzan Segla. Highlights of this morning’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Langoa Barton
-A complete, deep, open knit nose of dark red fruit with hints of spice box. This is medium bodied but classic Langoa with accessible exuberant fruit for a St Julien. Very nice.

2014 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
-A somewhat reticent dark fruit and dusty stone driven nose. Really good weight and richness on the powerful palate, tannic. This is a more muscular Tronquoy Lalande, really shows the quality of St. Estephe in this vintage, clearly their best since the 2010.

2014 Chateau Montrose
-A lovely beguiling nose. Pure, fine dark fruit and crushed stones, sensual on the seamless palate. Velvety with very good weight, but not overly heavy. Gorgeous texture, the tannin and oak are well integrated. Powerful, terroir-driven and polished. Montrose has really gone to another level over the past few years and this is nearly as good as the 100 point 2010. Clearly one of the wines of the vintage, it’s astonishing the way Montrose has been able to make substantial improvements while retaining an un-erring purity of character. Bravo!


2014 Chateau Calon Segur
-Expressive dark berry fruit and kirsch on the nose, nice texture, but very tannic at this stage. Good freshness, this has a somewhat perfumed, feminine profile but with power. Marked by a more modern style than in years past. We are starting to see the new direction of the new ownership and it appears they are taking their stylistic cues more from Cos than Montrose. Rather flamboyant with little of the rusticity of the old regime.

IMG_4602 IMG_4605


2014 Chateau Latour
-Reticent with hints of iron, cassis and gravel. Nice fruit on the attack. Powerful, muscular and tannic. Midweight and somewhat austere at this point, but the finish is very long. Not offered en Primeur.

2003 Chateau Latour
-Sexy, musky, truffles and sous bois. Decadent oak tones, walnuts, leather, cigar box on the nose. Sweet on the attack, nicely mature at this stage. Finishes soft, but well wrapped up with good length. A rather exotic, hedonistic Latour but certainly providing a lot of pleasure right now.

2014 Chateau Leoville Poyferre
-Dark color, sexy, crème de cassis on the nose. Plush and ripe. Nice mid-palate weight with a good amount of fat along a tannic backbone. Forward, round and charming. This is very generous and seems somewhat atypical for the vintage. A lot of sweet tannin and rather low in acid. This will likely drink well relatively early.

2014 Chateau Rauzan Segla
-Sweet and earthy on the nose, lovely silky palate with excellent volume and a strong tannic backbone. Medium plus body. This has a floral red fruit character on the palate that is classic Margaux, but its serious and long.

Lunch today is at Rauzan Segla with the chateau’s longtime Director John Kolasa. This will be John’s final vintage at Rauzan as he is retiring later in the year. Joining us for lunch is new winemaker and director Nicolas Audebert who was previously the winemaker at Cheval des Andes in Mendoza. We have a fun lunch discussing the history of Rauzan Segla and the new direction of the estate. Nicolas’ sensibilities are very closely aligned with John’s so it seems the chateau’s trademark style will remain elegant and classical. Lunch is accompanied by some treats from the cellar. 2001 Segla (a nice mature vintage of Rauzan Segla’s second wine, tannins are completely resolved and this is drinking really well 13 years after release), 1998 Chateau Canon (barely an adolescent, this shows the fantastic quality of ‘98 in the right bank. Earthy and powerful but very elegant), 1983 Chateau Rauzan Segla (beautifully mature, another sleeper vintage that is legendary in Margaux. Drinking perfectly right now.) and 1966 La Lagune from magnum (a real treat, completely resolved but this shows no signs of fading, delicate with fine fruit from the warm ’66 vintage.)

After saying our goodbyes we head back up to Pauillac to continue our appointments. Highlights of the afternoon’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild
-87% Cabernet Sauvignon. A dark opaque color, this is dense and inky with that classic Lafite graphite and gravel buried under black and blue fruit and toasty oak. Very concentrated and muscular, this is somewhat austere at the moment but with lots of potential. Should be long-lived.

2014 Chateau Pichon Baron
-80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot. Pretty, ripe dark fruit with cedar and pencil lead on the nose. Classic Pauillac. Excellent volume in the mouth, good concentration. Nice tannic structure and good freshness in a midweight style. A very zen expression of Pichon Baron, the muscle is there, it’s like 2010 just with the volume turned down a bit. Like so many in this vintage, it’s like a welterweight fighter as opposed to a heavyweight.

geoffff2014 Chateau Palmer
-Very dark, plums, earth, mineral and animal on the nose. Delicate and silky in the mouth but finishes with substantial structure. Fresh with crisp acid. Lots of length, chewy and taut on the finish. A dark, muscular, masculine expression of Palmer, should be quite age-worthy.

Dinner tonight is at the brand new La Grande Maison Joel Robuchon with Frederic Engerer, Director of Chateau Latour. Walking in it’s clear this is the finest restaurant in Bordeaux aiming squarely at three Michelin Stars. The stunning tasting menu is an intricate parade of Robuchon’s trademark dishes with beautiful presentation and the highest level technique. Service is at the highest level of professionalism and attentiveness. A bottle of 2008 Domaine d’Eugenie Clos Vougeot is showing beautifully, just beginning to shed its tannin with lovely fruit, displaying the pure, transparent character of the 2008 vintage. The 2000 Chateau Latour on the other hand is unbelievably youthful. Guessing blind I’d almost peg it as the 2005 it’s so primary and tightly wound. A massive wine, it will need another 10 years before thinking about touching it, but it’s fun to check in on its evolution tonight.

After an absolutely flawless dinner it’s time to head home and get some rest before we head for the right bank and Pessac-Leognan tomorrow. I can’t help but marvel at what Robuchon has done here in Bordeaux. La Grande Maison is truly as good as any 3-Star in Paris. Wow!

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 2

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 2

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Monday, April 13th

8:15am…Christian and I head out from the center of Bordeaux up the D2 toward the storied chateaux of the Medoc.  This morning we are in Pauillac and Saint Estephe with appointments at some of the most famous estates in the world:  Grand Puy Lacoste, Lynch Bages, Pichon Lalande, Cos d’Estournel, Mouton Rothschild and Pontet Canet.  Highlights of the morning’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste

-A deep, classic Pauillac nose of gravel, fine leather and pure cassis fruit.  Sleek and balanced in the mouth, satin textured with excellent freshness.  Medium bodied.  Lovely.


2014 Chateau Ormes de Pez

-A round, seductively spicy nose of earthy dark fruit.  Good volume on the palate, this is big with a lot of dry extract.  A great Saint Estephe.  This chateau gets better every year and is really delivering well above its asking price.

2014 Chateau Lynch Bages

-A classy, polished nose of ripe cassis.  Suave on the palate, huge tannic structure as usual.  This is generally one of the more backward wines to taste en Primeur, but it has really nice texture this year with unusually silky tannins.  A classic vintage of Lynch Bages.

2014 Chateau Pichon Lalande

-65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot.  Slightly reductive and muted on the nose.  With some coaxing, some soft plum and cassis fruit with floral notes in the background.  Silky and elegant in the mouth, medium bodied.  This wine was often made in too light a style in the mid to late ‘00s, but they have really come back strong under the direction of new director Nicolas Glumineau.  This has beautiful texture and excellent weight in the mid palate.  A complete and effortlessly beautiful expression of Pichon Lalande, clearly their best since 2010.


2014 Chateau Mouton Rothschild

-81% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose is pure class with cassis, subtle spice and vanilla.  The palate is seamless and silky with nice texture and volume in the mouth.  There’s good weight here but still a sense of delicateness with excellent balance.  Claret styled.  Finishes long and complex with spice box notes.


2014 Chateau Pontet Canet

-Gorgeous, striking, exuberant cassis, blackberry, Darjeeling tea and exotic spice leap from the glass.  Wow, what a knockout nose.  Dense on the palate with intense flavors.  Middleweight but very fruit forward and dynamic in the mouth.  Excellently judged acidity and good length.  As usual this is an exotic style but there is incredible raw material here.  Best since the 100-point 2010.


It’s early, but we can start to get a sense of the vintage.  The spring of 2014 was extremely promising with warm, dry conditions leading to early flowering and the look of an early harvest.  But then July and August brought unusually cool, overcast, humid weather.  Around the end of August many exasperated vignerons thought this vintage could be even worse than 2013.  Given the coolness of the summer, there seemed very little chance that the grapes would ever achieve full ripeness.  But then, miraculously, the weather turned.  September and October were exceptionally warm and dry.  An “Indian Summer” that allowed the grapes to ripen late into the season and be harvested under absolutely ideal conditions.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the northern Medoc, Saint Estephe, Pauillac and Saint Julien. Cabernet Sauvignon was especially comfortable with the late ripening season and the vineyards on gravel relished in the late season warmth.



Lunch today is at Chateau Pontet Canet with our good friend Alfred Tesseron who has managed the ascent of this incredible terroir since the 1994 vintage.  Alfred has pulled some amazing bottles from the cellar to share including 2010 Haut Brion Blanc (one hell of an aperitif, majestic and powerful but completely seamless, intensely packed with flavor but impeccably refined.  In a perfect place for youthful drinking, clearly a 100 point wine), 2005 Pontet Canet (muscular, brooding and already showing some secondary character) and 1958 Pontet Canet (a real treat, fully mature but still completely alive and not fading at all, lovely mature Pauillac).  It’s hard to pass up the offer of some Tesseron Cognac as a digestif, but we’ve got a whole afternoon of appointments lined up, so we unfortunately have to head out.

Bidding a fond farewell to Alfred we continue on to Ducru Beaucaillou, Leoville Las Cases, Branaire Ducru, Malescot St Exupery and Chateau Margaux.  Highlights of the afternoon’s tastings:

2014 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou

-A sweet, dark, dense nose leads into big, muscular, concentrated dark fruits that are tightly wound for the moment.  This has good grip.  Very well balanced, this benefits from the midweight character of the vintage.  In some bigger vintages you could argue that Ducru can be almost overwhelming with its bombastic style, but this 2014 seems just right, everything in proportion.  A platonic ideal of Ducru Beaucaillou?

2014 Chateau Leoville Las Cases

-The nose on this is full of pencil lead and very red fruit driven, different from LLC’s usual jet black fruit profile.  On the palate this is fairly soft, finessed, already approachable dare I say pleasurable.  The tannins are ripe giving this a lot of charm.  Beautiful midweight balance.  An atypical Las Cases but very well made and should be approachable relatively early.

2014 Chateau Branaire Ducru

-Earthy, spicy red fruit on the primary nose.  65% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Sweet and silky on the attack.  Juicy, pretty, nice structure.  This is a very pure Branaire with nice density.  An excellent expression with almost zen-like balance.

2014 Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux

-Very pretty white flowers on the nose, demure and understated.  Fresh and clean with lots of acid pumping through on the long finish.  Excellent.

2014 Chateau Margaux

-90% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Gorgeous, understated, elegant nose of mineral driven red fruit.  Pure, silky, complete and seamless on the palate.  Extraordinary balance.  An utterly beautiful, ethereal expression of Margaux.  Pure class, this has to be one of the wines of the vintage.

Dinner tonight is at local hotspot L’Univerre which boasts one of the best wine lists in the city with a focus on Burgundy.  A delicious country French menu is paired with Champagne Roses de Jeanne, 2002 Brenot Batard-Montrachet and 2001 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne Romanee Les Suchots .  A fantastic meal that’s a brief break from a week of Bordeaux.  Off to bed, tomorrow we hit the rest of the Medoc!

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Read up on previous dispatches from Bordeaux:
Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 1

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2014 Dispatches from Bordeaux – Part 1

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It’s morning in Paris.  Once again I’m headed to Bordeaux to taste the brand new 2014 vintage with Wally’s President Christian Navarro.  Christian has been making this trip since 1991.  This will be my ninth year having started tasting en Primeur in 2007.  It’s always a thrilling prospect to be among the first to taste the new vintage and 2014 has had some major buzz with early word that this is the best vintage since 2010 and may stand among the best vintages of the past few decades.  A week from now we will know for ourselves.

A scheduling snafu has us staring down a four-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle, an airport with a serious dearth of options for killing four hours.  Christian and I commiserate over our situation.  A four-hour layover…you could drive to Bordeaux in five!  This gets us thinking and a few minutes later we decide, to hell with it, let’s rent a car.  We can be there roughly around the time our connecting flight would leave and we can have lunch in the Loire and a great story to tell.



Off we go speeding down the E5 in a Citroen Picasso, headed for Orleans.  The Paris suburbs give way to open countryside and a few hours later we are flying by highway exits bearing the names of the famous Loire chateaux: Cheverny, Chaumont, Amboise, Chambord.  Using far too much of my data roaming package, I pull up the details of a Michelin One Star restaurant that looks like a good bet for lunch.  La Maison d’A Cote sits in the center of the small town of Montlivault, a place neither of us would likely ever have visited had it not been for that fateful layover.


Lunch is fantastic, Chef Cristophe Hay’s cuisine is inventive and modern but thoroughly takes advantage of the beautiful produce from the region known as “the garden of France.”  A little local Pouilly Fume and Chinon really hit the spot with our three-course prix fixe.  Back in the car we continue south and a few hours later we arrive in the center of Bordeaux.

We check in to the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux, the recently restored five-star hotel directly across from the Bordeaux Opera House. Dinner tonight is a low-key Sunday supper at the home of Basile Tesseron, proprietor of Chateau Lafon Rochet.  Basile welcomes us with a glass of homemade Lillet Blanc.  We have a great night discussing the vintage and dine on some of the best Duck Confit I have ever had.  The 2000 Lafon Rochet is showing beautifully tonight, broad shouldered and full of ripe fruit just getting into its plateau of maturity.

After a whirlwind day it’s off to bed, our schedule starts tomorrow with some major names in the Left Bank including Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet and Margaux.

-Written by Geoff Pattison, Director of Imports

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – The Conclusion

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

Thursday May 15, 2014

Today is thankfully a slightly later start. After an energizing breakfast I head out to Libourne to meet with Christian and Edouard Moueix at their offices. I love tasting here as they always leave you in a room to taste alone. At most appointments you have the winemaker watching you taste, eager to read your expression, so it’s sort of refreshing to get to taste and make notes in solitude. After a short meeting with Edouard we head to the home of Christian and Cherise Moueix. A beautiful spot on the banks of the Dordogne, we enjoy Champagne in the garden while I tell them about Wally’s upcoming store in Beverly Hills. Lunch is a supremely civilized affair and we spend much of the time discussing current events in Napa Valley, home of Christian’s Dominus. Wines for lunch include 1989 Chateau Magdelaine (a beautiful, elegant, mature St. Emilion drinking perfectly right now) and a pristine half bottle of 1950 La Fleur Petrus (Deep and still very much alive with notes of dried plums, black tea, iron and sandalwood). Very special indeed. After lunch I head back to Pessac-Leognan and meet up with Veronique Sanders at Chateau Haut Bailly. Then it’s on to Domaine de Chevalier, Chateau Pape Clement and Chateau Les Carmes Haut-Brion.

Highlights of the afternoons tastings include:

2013 Chateau Haut Bailly
-A very pretty nose with nice fruit, notes of blackcurrant pastille and fresh ground coffee. This is bright but everything is well integrated already. A very admirable effort for the vintage.

2013 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
-A very fresh nose with a rich, focused, powerful current of acid running all the way through. This is impressively muscular and reminds me of Dagueneau’s Silex. There’s a very long life ahead of this one. What a vintage for Bordeaux Blanc!

2013 Les Carmes Haut Brion
-The new direction of this house is amazing and completely unique. Majority Cabernet Franc, stem inclusion, Rhone inspired winemaking techniques, bold stuff in Pessac-Leognan. This has a ripe, plush, silky, mouthfilling tannic structure with good volume. The nose is almost kinky with spicy strawberry and licorice. This is definitely an estate to watch with lots of buzz in Bordeaux at the moment. Buyers would be smart to get in on this early before the price rises.

Dinner tonight is at Chateau Haut Brion. Arriving at the chateau I have the opportunity to sample their 2013s. Chateau Quintus (St. Emilion) is the newest property in the Haut Brion stable having been acquired just a few years ago. This used to be Chateau Tertre Daugay, Haut Brion has put considerable effort into upgrading the vineyard and chateau to the highest level. The 2013 Quintus sports a plush nose of pure red fruit, juicy on the attack with bright, punchy flavors of raspberry coulis and turned earth. The 2013 La Mission Haut Brion is reticent, but with coaxing hints of leather and crushed stones waft forth. This is medium bodied with a bright, muscular personality.

The 2013 Haut Brion is the class of the reds. Rich, round, smoky, with a plush, velvety palate. Nice texture, excellent length. Very good concentration of the classic Haut Brion character, elegant and bright. A real winner in this vintage.

Now the Blancs. The 2013 La Clarte Haut Brion is a blend of lots deselected from Haut Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion Blanc. At a fairly reasonable pricepoint you really get a sense of the Grand Vin Blancs, undoubtedly some of the finest white wines in the world. The La Clarte is creamy with a rich soft entry, flavors of lemon sorbet with a powerful acid spine. It lacks the length of its older siblings but this is definitely the best La Clarte yet. Stunning stuff.

The 2013 La Mission Haut Brion Blanc has a soft, herbal, flinty mineral character on the nose with pure mineral and gravel flavors. An essence of white raspberry builds on the palate and goes on and on with excellent persistence. There’s loads of acid structure here but it comes across as rather subtle and integrated.

The 2013 Haut Brion Blanc has a rich, ripe, soft nose that is pure class. I don’t think Sauvignon Blanc gets any better than this, the nose is perfect with an understated elegance about it. Delicious and extremely balanced on the palate, seamless. The acid is extremely well hidden, this almost whispers to you despite its obvious power. There’s a crystalline beauty to the subtle fruit and a pure soft clean texture like fine fabric. Absolutely jawdropping Bordeaux Blanc. We retire to the parlor for Champagne before sitting down to a fantastic dinner. Vicysssoise de Homard is paired with a heavyweight bout between 2010 Haut Brion Blanc vs. 2010 Laville Haut Brion. The Haut Brion Blanc comes out a nose ahead for me, but the comparison is almost moot. These are both legend candidates. Absolutely flawless young Bordeaux Blancs from a great vintage. The main course of Carre de Veau is paired with a couple of library selections, 1998 La Mission Haut Brion and 1988 Chateau Haut Brion.

The spectacular 1998 La Mission is just hitting maturity, still very fresh and structured. This is somewhat of a secret vintage in Pessac, most people know about the quality of 1998 right banks, but you can see here just how much better Pessac fared than the Medoc. This is a 98 point Parker wine and it’s every bit that good. This has to be the wine of the vintage, on par with the best right bank 98s. The 1988 Haut Brion is a real pleasure. Beautifully mature and absolutely classic Haut Brion with lots of cigar box, truffles and scorched earth. It has a slight austerity in the character of the vintage that keeps this a buttoned up affair but it doesn’t detract, this is drinking really well tonight.

After saying our goodbyes I head back to my hotel and toast another fantastic trip to Bordeaux. Despite the challenging vintage, I found a lot of very good wines and the people were as wonderful as ever. I’ll always remember this trip fondly and look forward to the next time I return.

Friday May 16, 2014

Today is a travel day as I head up to Paris to meet up with Wally’s Burgundy Champagne Buyer Manuel Bronson. After checking out of my hotel I head to the train station to catch the TGV. As the French countryside whizzes by I have time to reflect on my tastings and offer a retrospective look at the best buys of the vintage.

What to buy in 2013:

The First Growths: Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Haut Brion &

-In a vintage where terroir is of utmost importance, all of these storied properties produced very good wines in 2013. They are truly a cut above in terms of concentration and balance and while they are not blockbusters, they remain very true examples of these rarefied terroirs. Most important, pricing is back at accessible levels. At $465 for Lafite and $349 for Margaux, Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild, this is likely to be the most affordable opportunity to acquire these wines for the foreseeable future. The First Growths are increasingly looking like they will be reserved solely for the $500+ market, I can’t really see them going any lower. For those who have been waiting for the firsts to return to the prices of yesteryear, this is the year. Don’t hesitate to put some quality first growths in your cellar at value-oriented prices. I think they’re likely a smart investment as well given strong performance of vintages like 2004 and 2008 in the market.

The Overachievers: Montrose, Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, Pavie Macquin

-These are the wines I believe to be the overachievers in this vintage. Most likely to be upgraded and perform at a level above their attractive price-points.

The 2013 Montrose is a stunning wine and by far the best wine in St Estephe. Situated in a rare sector of the Northern Medoc that did not suffer from many of the rains around harvest, this is a major sleeper and looks to be better than both the 2012 and 2011. This historic estate just keeps improving, I would not be surprised to see Montrose move up towards the pricing of Palmer, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Cos within a few years time. The quality is certainly there. Buy this for under $100 while you still can.

Vieux Chateau Certan’s 2013 is a gorgeous, delicate, stylish affair that embraces the character of the vintage. It’s perfect balance, depth and seamlessness are a testament to this gifted terroir. VCC fans will love this wine. Do not miss it.

The 2013 La Conseillante is similarly beautiful in a feminine style. It takes the soft, delicate character of the vintage and turns it into a strength. Highly perfumed with that classic violet character. A very pretty wine that should drink fantastically in the mid-term.

Pavie Macquin has been on a roll the past decade, often producing attractive wines in difficult vintages. They’ve clearly done it again in 2013 and despite all the accolades they’ve been collecting over the past decade, this remains very affordable. At $53, this is such a great value, better than many wines asking double the price.

Bordeaux Blanc: Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc, Domaine de Chevalier Blanc

I’m going to go on record saying that Smith Haut Lafitte has produced their best white ever in this vintage. It’s a truly stunning Bordeaux Blanc with a level of finesse and length that takes them to the next level. For under $100, this is a transcendent wine experience easily on par with many Grand Cru White Burgundies.

Over the past decade Domaine de Chevalier Blanc has established itself as the finest Bordeaux Blanc outside of the Haut Brion/LMHB family. The 2013 is no exception, this is a massively concentrated, powerful wine with a racy acid spine. At under $90, this really delivers and while I believe Smith has bettered them in this vintage, we’re still talking about one of the top four white wines in Bordeaux, rarefied air, not far off the quality of the $600+ Haut Brion Blanc.

Sauternes & Barsac: Doisy Daene, Guiraud

Year after year, Doisy Daene produces one of the finest values in all of Bordeaux. For under $50 this is an extremely well made, exemplary Barsac from a great vintage. Bursting with the pure essence of crème brulee, this is better than many Sauternes at twice the price, a true steal for anyone who enjoys sweet wines.

Chateau Guiraud has gone from strength to strength recently and their 2013 is a knockout. Decadent and spicy with excellent balance. This generally approaches the $100 range, but in 2013 the futures price is under $50. Grab this top vintage, pedigreed name at a discount price while you can.

– Geoff Pattison

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – Part 4

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

Wednesday May 14, 2014

This in many ways is the most daunting morning of the trip.  I have a 9am appointment with a Bordeaux negociant to taste through barrel samples from nearly 100 different chateaux.  Though I try to make an effort to visit as many properties as possible, ultimately it’s necessary to have at least one of these sorts of laundry list tastings to get a complete picture of the vintage.  It’s an exercise that tests the limits of your palate and system.  Though I won’t be drinking a drop, the presence of all that alcohol on your palate over a course of a few hours does work its way in and then there’s about a dozen Sauternes to put a sugar rush on top of it all.  Brace yourselves folks, this is intense professional wine tasting at its finest.

Arriving at the negociant’s warehouse I am given a smock and list of wines to be tasted.  Then a parade of half bottle samples begin to arrive at the table, all sent from their respective chateaux within the last 24 hours.  Spending about 30 seconds on each wine, I spend the morning tasting, spitting and taking notes.  The overall impression I get is that in a challenging vintage the top terroirs really won out.  This is the most heterogeneous vintage I have tasted in my career and the difference between the top crus classes and lesser appellations is stark.  But there are some undeniable winners, especially in Blanc and Sauternes.

The standout wines of the tasting are:

2013 Chateau Fleur Cardinale – This has nice ripeness in a more modern style.  Round and fruit driven, the acid is nicely integrated and there’s some good structure here.  A real success for the vintage and a good value at $37.

2013 Chateau La Croix St Georges – Situated directly adjacent to Le Pin, this is has a classic Pomerol nose with some nice spice and complexity.  There is subtle fruit and good balance to the palate with a seamless feel.  This estate can often be inconsistent, but they clearly overachieved in 2013.  A brilliant effort and a relative bargain at $46.

2013 Chateau Le Gay – Some real depth to the nose with a cool, refined floral element and crushed red plum fruit.  The quality of the terroir shines through here with a solid midpalate and fine silky tannins.  Pure class.

2013 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc – On the rise the past few years this may be their best effort to date.  Exuberant grapefruit and white flowers meld with a distinct flinty gunpowder note.  The 55% Semillon lends some nice flesh to the vintage’s characteristic acid backbone.  Very good and at $33 a real value.

2013 Chateau Doisy Daene – The refined nose is pure crème brulee with spicy botrytis.  Very concentrated with good volume and excellent acid balance, this is a knockout Sauternes and clearly the best value among the sweet wines this year.  Bravo!

2013 Chateau Guiraud – This has a decadent honeyed nose with subtle ginger and pain d’epices.  Spicy on the palate this has a rich, plush texture but with enough acid to keep things lively.  Highly recommended.

With my fingers and tongue stained deep purple I make sure to brush my teeth before heading out to St Emilion for lunch at Chateau Pavie Macquin with Managers Nicolas & Cyrille Thienpont and their team from the chateau.  Nicolas is also the man behind Larcis Ducasse and Beausejour Duffau-Lagarrosse which have been some of the most exciting wines in St Emilion over the past decade.  His 2013s are uniformly excellent for the vintage, capturing fine ripeness, beautiful aromatics and a really distinct sense of each terroir.  Larcis is aromatic and perfumed, Pavie Macquin is beguilingly satin textured with a deep mocha character.  And Beausejour Duffau towers above them all with great structure and broad shoulders as usual.


Sitting in their newly constructed reception building overlooking the vineyard, lunch is fantastic, highlighted by some ridiculously good Poulet in a rich cream sauce with Fresh Morels. Cyrille asks me whether I would prefer to drink the 2000 or 2001 Pavie Macquin.  While I think the 2001s are lovely wines, I decide to opt for the landmark 2000 vintage.  “Ah…you are Americain” quips Cyrille.  The 2000 is excellent, still very youthful with a massive, plush palate with deep, rich tones of plums, mocha and earth that go on and on.  When the cheese course arrives they decide to pull the cork on the bottle of 2001 Pavie Macquin as well.  Where the 2000 is barely an adolescent, the 2001 is fully mature exploding with complex secondary notes of truffle, tobacco and animale.  It has good concentration, supple texture and excellent balance.  I must admit, today, the 2001 is hands down the better wine.  It will be fun to revisit the 2000 down the road as it matures.

After lunch it’s a full afternoon of visits in the right bank: Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, Chateau Ausone, Chateau Figeac (with a complete vertical tasting back to 2007), Chateau La Conseillante, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Vieux Chateau Certan.


The standouts of the afternoon:

2013 Chateau Figeac – Cabernet Franc driven as usual with spicy herbal chocolate and berry fruit on the nose.  There’s a luxuriousness to the silky polished palate, acid and tannin are in fine balance.  Fine dark chocolate on the long finish.

2010 Chateau Figeac – An extremely deep, dark nose of cocoa, licorice and blueberries.  The palate is like a skyscraper, broad with excellent fruit and huge concentration.  I am in awe of the scale and power of this wine.  A towering achievement, this is bound to be a legend.

2009 Chateau Figeac – The nose is beautifully ripe and opulent with lots of exuberant mixed berry fruit and espresso.  But there’s lots of structure here too, nearly as big and muscular as the 2010.  Complex flavors of chocolate, cigar box, ripe berries and earth.  A massive, muscular 2009 that will run neck and neck with the 2010 for years.

2013 Chateau La Conseillante – Unmistakably La Conseillante with the classic violets, lots of perfume to this.  There’s good volume and depth, nice freshness with very well integrated acidity.  The fruit shines all the way through from start to finish.  They really did well with the subtle, demure style of the vintage.  A very pretty wine that whispers to you.

2013 Vieux Chateau Certan – Floral and classically delicate.  Wild strawberries on the palate, this is so soft and silky in the mouth.  Like cashmere.  Demure.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as this is all classic VCC, but no other estate captures such a profound sense of grace and delicateness and it’s on full display in the character of the vintage.  Still this is serious old vine stuff and there is a fine mid palate, with density and plenty of ripe fruit.  One of my favorite wines of the vintage.

Tonight’s dinner is with a historic negociant at one of the hottest new restaurants in Bordeaux called L’Univerre.  Strangely enough L’Univerre is actually focused on the wines of Burgundy and the Rhone, but it’s a welcome change of pace in the middle of a week of only Bordeaux.  Everyone I have talked to says it has one of the savviest wine lists in town and indeed, the selection of wines from small, sought after boutique producers is fantastic.  Over the course of a few hours we enjoy Vouette & Sorbee Champagne Blanc d’Argile (Rich and mineral with a decadent toasty, leesy character), 2006 Domaine Fourrier Les Cherbaudes (stunningly pure with beautiful fruit and an extremely complex nose of cherry, raspberry, floral perfume, musk and sous bois) and 2007 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard (rich and opulent with concentrated blackberry, smoke, earth and espresso tones). After a fun dinner it’s a short walk back to my hotel through Bordeaux’s bustling city center.  Time to get some sleep, tomorrow is my last day of tastings.  This is the home stretch!


To be continued…

– Geoff Pattison

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.


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.


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!

photo 1[1]

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

Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – Part 2

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Editors Note – The following entry was submitted by Wally’s Bordeaux buyer, Geoff Pattison
Monday, May 12, 2014 
An early start this cold, grey morning.  After a quick breakfast I leave my hotel at 8am for a drive up the Medoc to St Julien.  This morning’s tasting appointments include Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou with proprietor Bruno Borie, Chateau Pichon Lalande with director Nicholas Glumineau, Chateau Latour with Frederic Engerer and Chateau Lafite Rothschild with Director Charles Chevallier.




The standout wines of this morning’s tastings are:

2013 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou – Sporting a fragrant, pure, fresh nose of crème de cassis and herb tinged blackberry fruit, this has nice texture, good length and admirable density.  A softer more feminine expression of Ducru.

2011 Chateau Pichon Lalande – It’s refreshing to get another look at this just released vintage which is already drinking incredibly well.  The nose is deep with ripe dark fruits, truffle and a classic Pauillac gravelly mineral character.  The palate is supple and savory with fine balance and energy.

2013 Les Forts de Latour – The nose is pure class with a complex and refined bouquet of mineral, plush fruit and leather.  This is much more open at this stage than the Grand Vin and while it lacks some of the muscle of the big brother it has beautiful texture, good freshness and nice density.  This wine gets better and better every year and it’s a real surprise in this vintage.

2013 Chateau Lafite Rothschild – Deeply pitched with lots of cassis fruit, tobacco and leather.  This has excellent volume and texture for the vintage and while it lacks the intense minerality you usually see here, the pedigree is clear and there is an unmistakable sense of mid-palate vigor that comes straight from the terroir.

After Lafite it’s off to lunch at the very popular Café Lavinal in Bages with a local Bordeaux negociant.  We discuss the vintage over a light bistro lunch that refreshes my palate for another round of tastings in the afternoon.

After lunch I head up through the windswept plains of St Estephe to Chateau Calon Segur.  This beloved estate is under new ownership and beginning a very ambitious renovation that will see a complete overhaul of their winemaking facilities as well as replantings of some major vineyard parcels.  It’s a major project that will take the better part of a decade to complete.  Heading back down the Medoc I stop at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Leoville Las Cases, Chateau Leoville Barton and Chateau Giscours.

The standout wines of the afternoon:

 2013 Aile d’Argent – Mouton’s Bordeaux Blanc features an explosive bouquet of toasty coconut, pineapple and white floral notes.  The palate is generously weighty but with a lot of power lying in its acidic backbone.  This is a bold style of Bordeaux Blanc and very compelling for the price.

2012 Chateau Langoa Barton – This is a real sleeper of the vintage offering a precocious nose of exotic red fruit (strawberry?).  This is a stylishly sexy Langoa that will drink well early with beautiful integration and a sense of voluptuousness with effortless balance.  A steal at under $50, buy this wine on futures now.

2013 Chateau Giscours – A flamboyant, complex nose of leather, wood spice, red fruit and floral perfume leads into a lithely textured, silky palate.  This is well focused with admirable structure for the vintage.

Dinner tonight is at Chateau Rauzan Segla a second growth jewel that has reached new heights under the leadership of John Kolasa who previously ran Chateau Latour for many years.  I have an opportunity to taste the 2013 Rauzan Segla before dinner and it is a striking success for the vintage.  Beautifully balanced, this Rauzan has managed to capture the feminine, elegant spirit of the vintage with plenty of floral red fruit character and a real sense of charm and grace.  It’s one of the best ‘13s I’ve tasted thus far.

Dinner is an elegant affair with the standout pairings being a delicious Mushroom Stuffed Chicken paired with 2001 Chateau Rauzan Segla (now beautifully mature, this understated vintage is providing so much pleasure right now.  Exquisitely balanced and displaying lovely secondary notes of tobacco and truffles).  Second and perhaps most memorable, a selection of cheeses is paired with the very fine 1988 Chateau Canon (deeply pitched with mature, musky notes of dried plums, mocha and cigarbox).  John is a gentleman and a scholar, full of insight into the current state of Bordeaux seen through a very sharp lens that comes with a career of experience in the business.  His honest comments about the past, present and future of Bordeaux are refreshing and inspiring to hear.  Off to bed now, another full day in the Medoc looms tomorrow.

To be continued…

– Geoff Pattison


Wally’s Bordeaux Blog – Vintage 2013 Dispatches – Part 1 – from Wally’s Bordeaux Buyer, Geoff Pattison

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wally’s Bordeaux Buyer, Geoff Pattison

There are worse fates than a long layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.  It’s massive two story concourses are packed to the gills with diversions of all sorts.  The typical duty free shops and luxury boutiques are interspersed with cafes, massage spas, oxygen bars, a casino, a Virtual Reality Formula One experience, a Bols Genever museum and a truly spectacular Champagne/Seafood bar.  It’s the sort of terminal that makes you feel like LAX has really got to get it’s act together.

On this grey afternoon, I opt for the Grand Café Het Palais, a high ceilinged, wood paneled bar/café that recalls the old smoke stained cafes of Amsterdam (in the days when smoking was still allowed in such places).  There’s plenty of room to open my laptop and Dutch beer on tap.  A lovely place to start this blog.

I am on my way to Bordeaux again.  Though this is my fifth time on this familiar trip, it’s decidedly different as it’s my first jaunt without Wally’s President, Christian Navarro.  Preparations for our second outpost in Beverly Hills have kept him in LA and left me with the sole responsibility of judging this vintage for our customers.  It’s not one that I take lightly and I feel a great sense of pride in this being my first official vintage as Bordeaux Buyer for Wally’s.  Though I’ll be seeing a lot of familiar faces, there is undoubtedly a certain loneliness that comes with a week of solo business travel.  So I hope that you, dear reader, will be my companion as I return once again to the terroirs of Bordeaux.

Those who have read the press that has come out thus far will know that 2013 was a very challenging vintage in Bordeaux.  In terms of the weather, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did.  A cool, wet spring led to problems with mildew and poor flowering.  The early summer saw extremely uneven weather with everything from wind battered deluges, to heat spikes to hail storms.  July and August were mercifully warm and rather tranquil, offering a glimmer of hope before September rains put a damper on the harvest.  With many parcels struggling to achieve full maturity and the risk of rot a very real danger, vignerons found themselves between a rock and a hard place deciding when to pick.

This is in all honesty the worst Mother Nature has handed Bordeaux since the early nineties.  But this being the modern age, the classified growths have great means at their disposal in the vineyard and the chateau to make the necessary adjustments to produce good wines in even the most difficult of vintages.  It will be very interesting to see which properties were able to make the right choices to produce grand vins that defy expectations. Pricing has come out at the lowest levels since 2008, meaning there is certainly a potential for values.  Most of the First Growths are around $250 and many rarefied terroirs that crossed the $100 mark in recent vintages can be had for half the price.

While I expect the reds to be a mixed bag, this looks to be a banner year for Bordeaux Blanc and Sauternes, among the greatest in the past few decades.  So there should be some definite high spots to discover as I taste through the vintage.  My aim is to help you find the wines that are worthy of a place in your cellar, from an honest and value oriented perspective.

Arriving in Bordeaux, I am greeted by my trusty driver Jurgen.  His thick German accent belies his many years spent in living in Bordeaux after marrying a French woman.  He knows the region like the back of his hand and is always quick with a joke.

I check into Le Boutique Hotel de Bordeaux and after getting settled, head out for a short walk to the home of Alexander Von Beek and Veronique Sanders, proprietors of Chateau Giscours and Haut Bailly. Both of them have had great success improving their respective chateaux over the past decade, but more importantly they are genuinely wonderful people and excellent hosts for a casual dinner on my first night in Bordeaux. We dine on a home-cooked meal of fresh Asperges Blanc and Herb Roasted Poulet paired with the excellent, still very youthful 2005 Chateau Giscours (Cool, muscular, well-structured and driven by dark fruit, it will be fun to watch this as it matures) and the adolescent 2004 Chateau Haut-Bailly (just turning the corner towards maturity, driven by a classic Pessac nose with smoky mineral notes, this value vintage is better than initially thought and is starting to drink very well).  After a fun night with friends I head back to my hotel for a good night’s rest. To be continued…

– Geoff Pattison


Manuel’s Wine Travels – Burgundy and Champagne Part 1

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Editors Note – The following entry was submitted by Wally’s Burgundy and Champagne buyer, Manuel Bronson, who is currently abroad in France. 

photo4I am headed off to France to see how the current vintages of Burgundy and Champagne are doing. First, a stop in Paris to see friends and enjoy some of the cities best cuisine. On Friday night I meet our import director/Bordeaux buyer Geoff Pattison, who is heading home from a week of previewing the 2013 vintage. Per Geoff’s suggestion, we decide to try L’ami Jean, a “nouveau” bistro with gastronomic twists. The chef’s tasting menu is classic yet playful. The poached fish in mushroom broth is perfectly cooked and subtle. The sweetbreads with morels are some of the best I’ve ever had. We select a 2010 Arbois Pupillin from Renardiere as our opening wine; a bright, balanced white from the Jura. We follow with a 2010 Antonin Guyon Chambolle Musigny, which rewards us with bright red fruit, balance and great acidity…. another fantastic wine for the flavorful, impeccably-prepared food.

On Saturday I wake up to another glorious sorting day in Paris. We are headed to lunch to see our old friend Eric Beaumard, the wine director at the George V, located in the Four Seasons. We are treated to a phenomenal 6 course lunch paired with wines. The George V has really stepped up its game in the last few years. photo1Geoff and I have little doubt it is getting very close to reaching its lofty Michelin goals. After a leisurely stroll though Paris and a small repose, we head to the incoming L’ami Louis for to enjoy some incredible classic French bistro dishes for dinner. Stepping into L’ami Louis is a step into the past. Although difficult to secure reservations, it is well worth the effort.

On Sunday morning Geoff headed home while I was off to Burgundy. It has been two years since my last visit, and ten years since I worked at Domaine de La Romanee Conti.  I am always excited to see old friends and visit new people when I  am in Burgundy. This trip I have decided to focus on specific villages to gauge how the 2012 has developed in bottle and the 2013 in barrel.

As many people know Burgundy has gone through a few difficult vintages of late. For the most part quantities have steadily been declining since 2009, thus, with a worldwide appetite for Burgundies on the rise,  it has become a paradoxical situation: demand is far exceeding supply.The good news is, there seems to be a new generation of grower/producers that are emerging, making very intriguing wines.

For this trip, I have decided to stay at Le Montrachet hotel in Puligny-Montrachet.  This wonderful hotel – with a great restaurant – is owned by Jean-Pierre Faraut, who is a great friend of Wally’s.  I highly recommend those planning a visit to Burgundy to book a room at Le Montrachet!

Day one will focus on the villages of Chambolle, Gevrey and Marsannay. I have set up appointments to visit both classic producers as well as some “up and comers.”

My first tasting is at Domaine Duroche in Gevrey Chambertin. In recent vintages I have heard the wines of this domaine have steadily improved to the point where they have become one of the most talked about producers in the area. I was met by Pierre Duroche, Managing Director of the domaine. Pierre has implemented his vision for the winery since 2005. I must say, after tasting the wines, the hype is true. I was taken aback by the purity and preciseness of the wines. We taste the full range from the winery – from its Bourgogne to its Gevrey 1er cru and finally Duroche’s grand cru, Clos de Beze, Latricieres Chambertin and Charmes- Chambertin. The 2013s in barrel are going through malolactic fermentation (as are most wines in Burgundy), and therefore are difficult to taste, yet the underlying core of pure fruit, soft tannins and structure is highly evident. Duroche is not to be missed,  I am very confident that consumers will be very happy with Côte d’Or 2012 and 2013.

After Duroche, I travel to one of my favorite producers in Burgundy, Domaine Armand Rousseau. As I walk into these half-full hollowed cellars it is obvious the yields in the last few years are significantly  down.  And, since the global appetite for Rousseau’s wines has skyrocketed, it’s easy to see why the prices for his wines over the last few vintages has followed suit.  Rousseau to me is the perfect example of a producer who is great year in and out. It is producers like him that affirm my belief to choose producer over vintage. The 2012 and 2013 are fantastic top to bottom. The 2012s are oddly approachable for a young vintage, yet the examples I tasted still maintain fantastic structure and aging potential. It will be great to follow these wines over many years!

Following the epic tasting at Rousseau, I head down the road to our good friend Jean-Marie Fourrier. In recent years Fourrier has become a producer whose demand has risen considerably. So much so, that JM decided to start a negociant branch just to satisfy demand. If you are lucky to find any of these wines outside of auctions, they are not to be missed.

After Fourrier I head to lunch with hyper charismatic Jacques Marchand of Domaine Marchand Grillot. I am treated to a fantastic repast prepared by Jacques himself.  We enjoy white asparagus, a rabbit terrine, and a selection of local cheeses accompanied by the 2012 wines. These are a set of fantastic Burgundies, especially from Grillot’s 100-year-old vineyard in Gevrey. In a word, the wines are awesome!

Continuing my day I head to Comte Vogue in Chambolle Musigny. Out of all the wines I have tasted, these seem to be the most reserved and difficult to assess.  Yet I sense intuitively that the underlying potential for development of these revered wines is beyond doubt.  I am certain these wines will evolve into modern days classics.
Upon finishing Vogue I head north to the town of Marsannay to visit Domaine Sylvan Pataille. I truly believe that Pataille and Bruno Clair will elevate certain appellations to premier cru level based on recent results. Both the reds and the whites are electric and still fairly priced. Definitely a winery to keep your eye on!

photo5After a long day of tasting I’m ready for a nice dinner. I am graciously invited to Domaine Bouchard with Luc  Bouchard. Walking through the old cellars under the medieval castle in Beaune is a walk into history. Bouchard has probably the deepest personal cellar in all of Burgundy, with wines going back to the 1850s. For dinner, Luc opens a few very special wines: a 2009 Chavalier Montracher and a 1961 Corton Grand Crus. Both wines are fantastic, but the 1961 steals the show, and shines the brightest.

That concludes Day 1. Stay tuned for the rest of my adventures in Burgundy and Champagne!

Manuel Bronson