Very Pleasant Surprise With an Aged Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Mouton Baronne Philippe (Château d’Armailhac)

Château Mouton Baronne Philippe, or Château d’Armailhac as it is known today, is a historic Fifth Growth Bordeaux estate located in Pauillac. Though the estate traces its roots to at least 1680 and brothers Dominique and Guilhem Armailhacq, the first solid record of vines on the property came later in 1750 and included 15 to 16 hectares of vineyards. By the end of the 1700s, the estate (called Mouton d’Armailhacq) benefited from the rapid growth of vineyards in the Médoc and grew to 52 hectares under vine, though the wines were not very highly regarded. The team spent the next several decades working tirelessly on improving the quality of the wines and were ultimately rewarded with higher prices and classification as a Fifth Growth in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Later, in 1931, Baron Philippe de Rothschild became a minority owner in the estate and took full ownership in 1933. Mouton d’Armailhacq is tightly woven together with Château Mouton Rothschild, with the former holding all technical and agricultural equipment of the latter in their outbuildings. In 1956 the estate was renamed Mouton Baron Philippe, then Mouton Baronne Philippe, and finally Château d’Armailhac in 1989 when Baroness Philippine de Rothschild elected to restore the estate’s original name.

Today, Château d’Armailhac’s vineyards total 70 hectares in northern Pauillac and they are planted to roughly 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. The estate’s vineyards are made up of the appellation’s famous deep, gravelly soil which is perfect for producing wines of character and elegance. Come harvest, the process begins when the same team of Château Mouton Rothschild deems the fruit ready and all picking is done completely by hand. Each variety and each parcel moves to the winery separately, the grapes are entirely destemmed, and young vine fruit is vinified separately from old vine fruit. The wines age in 25% new oak barrels, with some coming from the Grand Chai of Château Mouton Rothschild, and they are run off every three months until fining with egg whites. Each vintage is only bottled when the winemakers and cellar master deem the wine is ready, so there is no strict formula or timeline for barrel aging.

Today’s Wine: 1978 Château Mouton Baronne Philippe

Unknown blend; 11.5% ABV

The 1978 Château Mouton Baronne Philippe is translucent medium garnet in color with no significant signs of bricking yet. I drank this as a pop and pour, though the nose did develop in the glass to showcase aromas of worn leather, tobacco, pencil shavings, graphite, bell pepper, eucalyptus, forest floor, truffle, menthol, and cedar with a backdrop of redcurrant and dried cherry clinging on. The palate is about as complex as the nose but not as expressive, with notes of cherry, brambly strawberry, redcurrant, cigar box, sous bois, dried green herbs, dried gravel, cracked pepper, and earthy mushroom. This is holding up well with medium body, medium acidity, fully integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $75. Provenance is absolutely key here, like most older wines, and I was very lucky to get this from a wine store that sourced from the estate itself in OWC. This wine was absolutely singing and the $75 I paid for it is certainly a great value.

Great Value From a Rising Star in Gevrey-Chambertin

Today’s Story: Domaine Duroché

Domaine Duroché is a family owned and operated wine estate located in the Gevrey-Chambertin village in Burgundy. The Duroché family owns roughly 8.25 hectares of vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, producing wines that begin with both Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc before climbing through several village and 1er Cru bottlings to their Grand Cru sites of Charmes, Griottes, Latricieres, and Clos de Beze. Though the family has been bottling their wines since 1933, the quality of the domaine catapulted to new heights under the current leadership of fifth generation Pierre Duroché. Though Pierre is a relatively young winemaker in Gevrey, he refrains from being too heavy handed and seeks to create wines of elegance and finesse as compared to some of his neighbors favoring a bigger, bolder, and oakier style. Pierre and his family farm the vineyards using as few chemicals as possible (relying only on some sulfur or copper for treatments), and all fruit is hand-harvested and sorted before fermentation using only native yeasts. New oak usage varies by level of wine but always remains as minimal as possible, and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Pierre and his wife Marianne purchase fruit from her family to supply their new Vosne-Romanée Village and Echezeaux Grand Cru bottlings.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Le Clos

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Le Clos is pale to medium ruby in color and slightly translucent. I let this slow ox in the bottle for a while before letting it open up in the glass, blossoming into a nose of black cherry, dried strawberry, boysenberry, charred earth, eucalyptus, crushed rock, stony mineral, and light oak. Still fairly tight on the palate, this took some time to open up and showcase notes of cherry, stemmy strawberry, raspberry, red and blue florals, leather, rocky earth, and mineral. The wine is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Gorgeous Gevrey minerality with this one, but it does need probably at least 5 years of cellaring to come into its own.

Price: $65. I think this is a very good value red Burgundy, though I don’t necessarily think it will remain this fairly priced for long. Pierre Duroché is certainly a rising star in Gevrey-Chambertin and I would highly recommend picking some of this up if you come across it.

The Underrated 2008 Bordeaux Vintage Showing Just Fine at Pichon Lalande

Today’s Story: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

I previously wrote about Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande when I tasted the 1966, 1986, and 2003 vintages. Though I’ve had this wine many times and from vintages not written about (including 2014 which is showing very nicely now), I wanted to revisit them today for the 2008 vintage. Regularly I hear great things about the often “underrated” 2008 vintage for Bordeaux, so I figured it’s time to check for myself.

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) estate based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.

With nothing short of a somewhat tumultuous history, Pichon Lalande’s ownership changed hands over the years and earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.

With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2008 Pichon Lalande is opaque medium to deep ruby in color. After 4 hours or so in the decanter, the wine seems perfectly open and the nose showcases classic aromas of blackcurrant, redcurrant, cassis, pencil shavings, cigar box, scorched earth, gravel, cracked pepper, green herbs, and mild oak. Moving onto the palate, I get more classic notes of cassis, black cherry, plum, licorice, violet, tobacco, graphite, loamy earth, underbrush, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish. Gorgeous wine from an underrated vintage, and I think this has a very long life still ahead of it.

Price: $140 ($180 average online). Relative to vintages around this such as 2005, 2009, or 2010, this is a great value play particularly at the price I found it for. While it doesn’t have the power some of these stronger vintages possess, it is a gorgeous wine nonetheless that is really starting to come into its own.

Breathtaking 2nd Wine From a First Growth Estate

Today’s Story: Château Haut-Brion

Château Haut-Brion is a historic Bordeaux wine estate that traces back to at least 1521, and it was awarded First Growth (Premier Grand Cru) status in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. In 1533, Jean de Pontac acquired the land that would become Château Haut-Brion and he immediately set about renovating the vineyards and expanding the estate. He is also the owner who, in 1549, started building the château. Jean de Pontac was instrumental in each vintage under his ownership until he passed away in 1589 at the age of 101, though the estate remained in the Pontac family by passing to his son Arnaud II and then Arnaud II’s nephew Geoffroy. Geoffroy’s son Arnaud III took over during the early 17th century and expanded the château itself while doubling the size of the vineyards. He also used his political influence to extend the fame and reputation of Haut-Brion, particularly in England.

As the influence of Haut-Brion grew, particularly amongst nobility and the intellects of the time (including John Locke), Joseph de Fumel inherited the estate from his father in 1749. The estate’s influence took another leap when, in 1787, Thomas Jefferson visited the château and wrote with great admiration about the soils and wines of Haut-Brion. The rosiness ended during the French Revolution, however, as Joseph de Fumel was beheaded by guillotine and his holdings were divided. Over the next four decades or so, the estate changed hands several times.

In 1836, Joseph Eugène Larrieu purchased the estate and worked tirelessly to improve on the exceptional wines it was known for. His efforts were rewarded when Haut-Brion was awarded Premier Grand Cru status in 1855, though pain struck again through disease and political upheavals within the region in the latter half of the 19th century. In 1859, Amédée took over upon his father’s death and replanted the vineyards over time to deal with mildew. By 1873 when his son Eugène took over Haut-Brion, there was optimism which unfortunately proved futile when phylloxera struck with a vengeance in 1880. Eugène spearheaded a massive replanting of the vineyards yet again, this time using rootstock from North America that was resistant to the disease.

Jumping forward through multiple new ownerships, the Dillon family came into the picture during the early 1900s. The owner at the time, André Gibert, faced the need to find a proper owner for Haut-Brion with no heirs of his own. Clarence Dillon, a banker from New York, visited in 1934 and received notice on his way back to America he could buy the estate. The purchase was finalized in 1935 and the Dillon family remains the owner of Château Haut Brion to this day. This purchase by the Dillon family helped bring Haut-Brion to the modern age, with them first installing electricity, new plumbing, and renovating the cellars. Over the decades that followed leading up to current times, the family continued to improve the estate, modernized the winemaking process with a high tech vat room, and completely renovated the château with utmost attention to detail.

Château Haut-Brion today consists of 51 hectares of vineyards located in the Pessac-Léognan appellation of Bordeaux. Of the 51 hectares, 48 are planted to red varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot while the remaining 3 hectares are planted to white varieties of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Situated across from Château La Mission Haut-Brion (which I wrote about two days ago), Château Haut-Brion shares the same gravelly soil of small quartz stones above a subsoil of clay, sand, and limestone. Following the same practices of their neighbor, all fruit is harvested by hand and then sorted before transferral to temperature controlled vats for fermentation. After two weeks, the vats are drained and the wine moves to barrel where it spends 20-24 months before bottling. Château Haut-Brion produces four wines: Château Haut-Brion, Château Haut-Brion Blanc, and two 2nd wines named Le Clarence de Haut-Brion (red) and La Clarté de Haut-Brion (white).

To read more of the history of Château Haut-Brion, view images of the beautiful château, or explore vintages of wines, visit the website here (also the source of the information above).

Today’s Wine: 2014 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion

80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc; 14% ABV

The 2014 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion is medium to deep ruby in color and almost opaque. I decanted this wine for 4 hours, though it did really start opening up around the 2 hour mark and only improved from there. On the nose, this gorgeous wine showcases aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry, cigar box, violet, forest floor, gravel, graphite, and thyme. Moving to the palate, I get notes of black cherry, cassis, pomegranate, tobacco, pepper, tilled earth, crushed rock, and a hint of charred oak. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Superb effort and the best 2nd wine from the 2014 vintage I’ve had to date.

Price: $100 (though many bottles are priced closer to $130 online). Though not an inexpensive bottle of wine, I find this to be a very strong value play particularly given the vintage (often undervalued) and relative value to the Grand Vin. This has everything you want out of a great Bordeaux, punching well above its price point.

Great Value From a Historic Bordeaux 2nd Wine

Today’s Story: Château La Mission Haut-Brion

Château La Mission Haut-Brion is a highly regarded Bordeaux wine estate with history dating back to 1540. That year, merchant Arnaud de Lestonnac purchased the land that would become La Mission Haut-Brion and he married Marie, sister of Jean de Pontac of neighboring Château Haut-Brion. By the time of his death in 1548, the estate produced great wines and management fell to his son Pierre who set about enhancing the reputation further. A century later, in 1682, Pierre’s daughter Olive de Lestonnac (who had devoted her life to charitable works and had no children) gifted the estate by annuity in her will to the Lazarists of Bordeaux and La Mission became property of the Catholic Church.

The Lazarists quickly set about developing the vineyards further, with great emphasis on improving farming practices, quality of the wines, and reputation. By the early 1700s, La Mission produced 24 barrels of wine annually and, by the mid 1700s, became recognized by French nobility for the immense quality of these wines. The incredible improvement and quality under the Lazarists shifted hands, however, in 1792 when the property was confiscated by the state during the French Revolution. Businessman Martial-Victor Vaillant purchased the estate in auction, however his family’s ownership was short-lived when his daughter sold it to Célestin Coudrin-Chiapella in 1821. As its first American owner, Chiapella continued to improve La Mission and set about retiring there one day. Having come from New Orleans, the family also stressed the importance of trade and Old World/New World ties which catapulted the estate to high regard throughout France, the UK, and the US.

Château La Mission Haut-Brion shifted ownership again in 1919 when Frédéric Otto Woltner, another Bordeaux merchant, purchased it. The Woltner family helped bring the estate into the modern era, in part by implementing the use of stainless steel vats to better control fermentation and, since 1927, producing a white wine. Frédéric passed away in 1933 and passed the estate to his three children, with Henri leading management. During WWII, the family was forced to house German officers at the château but miraculously kept them from raiding the cellars by demanding respect from their “guests.” Following the war, the Woltner family regained complete control until Henri passed away in 1974.

With La Mission up for sale yet again in 1983, Domaine Clarence Dillon came in and purchased the estate through a very natural transition. The Dillon family immediately started improving the estate even further, beginning in the vineyards and progressing through renovations to construction of new buildings and cellars. Though the estate has lived through a somewhat tumultuous history due to ownership changes and wars, they released highly revered wines over the centuries known for quality and consistency that is largely unmatched anywhere in the world.

Château La Mission Haut-Brion consists of 29 hectares of vineyards in the Pessac-Léognan appellation. Situated on an elevated gravel terrace, the soil of La Mission is particularly suited for growing wine grapes with a subsoil of clay, sand, and limestone. Of the 29 hectares, 25 are planted to red varieties of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc; the remaining 4 hectares are planted to white varieties of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. All fruit is harvested by hand and sorted before fermentation in steel vats. After two weeks, the wines are drained and transferred to new oak barrels for 20-24 months before ultimately moving to bottle and aging further.

To learn more about this great estate, run through their wines over the years, or view images, I encourage you to visit the website here (also the source of the information above).

Today’s Wine: 2014 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion

45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% ABV

The 2014 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion is opaque deep ruby in color. I gave this about 3 hours to open up, and the nose showcases aromas of plum, blackcurrant, violet, tobacco, gravel, truffle, dried underbrush, pepper, and cedar. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackcurrant, black raspberry, fig, cigar box, smoke, forest floor, crushed rock, and bell pepper. The Cabernet Franc is quite evident in this one. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine grained medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $65. I think this is one of the better value Bordeaux wines, particularly for the second wine of an estate with as high stature as Château La Mission Haut-Brion. Coupled with the fact the 2014 vintage can be often overlooked, this is a very nice wine for its cost.

A Peek Into Château Latour Through Their Third Wine

Today’s Story: Château Latour

Château Latour is a First Growth wine estate located in Pauillac on the Left Bank of Bordeaux, with roots tracing back to 1331. Though not a wine estate from the outset, Château Latour gets its name from the fortified tower built there by Gaucelme de Castillon. Until the end of the 16th century, the estate was a jointly held lord’s domain rented out to farmers. Though the property was not entirely planted to vine at that time, they did produce wines and, without the necessary storage, consumed them each year. During the early 1700s, Château Latour came under ownership of Alexandre de Ségur and he (and later his son Nicolas-Alexandre) greatly expanded the family’s winegrowing holdings. By the middle of the 18th century, Château Latour actually became known for its wine and due to its quality became 20 times more expensive per bottle than the average Bordeaux wine at the time. It even became a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Over time Latour has continued to produce exceptional and long-lived wines, with the current estate producing arguably some of the greatest wines in their history.

Today Château Latour consists of 92 hectares planted to vine, with 47 hectares of the best vineyards, known as l’Enclos, surrounding the Château. The vineyards are planted to 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The deep, nutrient-poor gravel soil of the estate is perfect for forcing the vines to struggle and dig deep to a clay sublayer for water. The estate transitioned gradually to full organic farming and became certified by Ecocert, with a large percentage of l’Enclos farmed adhering to biodynamic principles as well. Château Latour produces three wines, which include the Grand Vin (typically $750-800+ per bottle), a second wine Les Forts de Latour (typically $250-300+ per bottle), and a third wine Pauillac de Latour (typically $100 per bottle).

To learn more about this historic estate and its magnificent wines, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Pauillac de Château Latour

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2014 Pauillac de Château Latour is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues. A bit funky right out of the bottle, this needed 4 hours in the decanter to really come to life and I drank it over an additional 3-4 hours. The nose showcases aromas of cassis, blackberry, redcurrant, cigar box, graphite, scorched earth, lilac, dried green herbs, gravel, and milk chocolate. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of black cherry, strawberry, plum, sweet tobacco, pencil shavings, smoke, eucalyptus, rocky earth, and a hint of bell pepper. Overall it’s somewhat medicinal in nature. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Needs some cellar time to fully come around.

Price: $100. I would love to see this priced closer to $75 from a value perspective. The $100 price tag is in a very competitive range, and there are quite frankly a number of other wines that punch above this one at that price. Maybe this will get better with bottle age, we shall see.

Delicate and Pure Entry Level Champagne

Today’s Story: Billecart-Salmon

Billecart-Salmon is a family-run Champagne house established in 1818 in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ through the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon. Nicolas François, who handled the commercial aspects of the new Champagne house, brought his brother-in-law Louis Salmon on board to make the wines. 200 years later, the 7th generation of the Billecart family manages the house with the 6th generation still very much involved. Together they cultivate 100 hectares of vineyards across 40 crus of Champagne and an area of 300 hectares, the majority of which sits around Epernay. Billecart’s signature style comes largely from their fermentation process, which is accomplished in stainless steel tanks at lower temperatures to prolong fermentation an coax out delicate aromas and purity of fruit. All vinification occurs cru by cru and variety by variety, allowing each to maintain the unique expressions of the varying terroir. The house’s wines rest in chalk cellars dating to the 17th and 19th centuries, with the NV bottlings enjoying 3-4 years in the cellar and the vintage bottlings enjoying 10 years.

Today’s Wine: Champagne Brut Réserve

40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The Champagne Brut Réserve is transparent gold in color with tiny bubbles. On the nose, I get aromas of yellow pear, golden apple, honeysuckle, toast, yeast, and chalk. There’s a delightful herbal earthiness there too. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of crisp green apple, lemon citrus, stone fruit, honey, brioche, rose petal, and cream. This is medium-bodied with great effervescence and vibrant, mouthwatering acidity into a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $45. I think this is a great “entry level” Champagne from one of the larger, more recognizable houses. You can without a doubt find better values from growers, however you can’t go wrong with Billecart-Salmon in this price-point over some of the bigger names.

Lovely Young Sauternes From a Historic Producer

Today’s Story: Château Suduiraut

Château Suduiraut traces its roots back to 1580 through the marriage of Nicole d’Allard to Léonard de Suduiraut. Though the estate was destroyed during the Fronde civil wars of the mid 1600s, the current château was rebuilt later on but still during the 17th century. During the late 18th century, the estate went to Jean Joseph Duroy, who was a nephew of the Suduiraut family, and it was renamed Cru du Roy. In 1992, AXA Millésimes acquired the estate and the company continues to focus on producing high quality Sauternes with traditional vineyard management and winemaking inspired by Suduiraut’s rich history.

The vineyards of Château Suduiraut total 91 hectares of which 90% is planted to Sémillon and 10% is planted to Sauvignon Blanc. The gravel and sandy clay composition of the soil proves poor for water retention and therefore the vines struggle, reaching deep for nutrients and focusing energy into smaller clusters of fruit. The soil acting in this way largely contributes to more concentrated and higher quality fruit. Come harvest, Château Suduiraut picks entirely by hand and sorts the grapes with great care due to noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea) as they become overripe. The great care and immense quality protocol requires up to five pickings during harvest season, oftentimes going vine by vine or bunch by bunch.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Sauternes

96% Sémillon, 4% Sauvignon Blanc; 14% ABV

The 2016 Sauternes is a beautiful, transparent deep gold in color. The captivating nose emits aromas of peach cobbler, apricot, orange marmalade, honey, savory herbs, florals, and vanilla. On the palate, I get notes of apricot, candied orange, pineapple, crème brûlée, caramel, ginger, and hazelnut. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with gorgeous medium (+) acidity and a long finish. While this drinks beautifully right now, it will certainly cellar nicely for at least another decade.

Price: $75. I think this is a pretty good value for Sauternes, and the $35 I paid for this half bottle was perfect both in price-point and for bottle size as a light after-dinner beverage. This is a gorgeous wine.

Checking in on the Outstanding 2005 Bordeaux Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Lynch-Bages

Château Lynch-Bages is a historic Bordeaux wine estate established in 1749 by Thomas Lynch and his wife Elizabeth. In actuality, Thomas inherited the property itself through his marriage to Elizabeth. The estate was passed to their son Jean-Baptiste in 1779 upon his marriage, with Lynch-Bages remaining in the family until 1824 when it was sold to Swiss merchant Sebastien Jurine. With the foundation of the Lynch family’s care and quality wine, the Jurine family continued the estate’s prowess and ultimately received classification as a Fifth Growth in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. In 1934, Jean-Charles Cazes rented the estate and lated purchased it in 1938. When Jean-Charles passed away in 1972, management largely fell to his grandson Jean-Michel Cazes and it has been in the family ever since.

To learn more about the estate, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2005 Château Lynch-Bages

72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2005 Lynch-Bages is opaque medium ruby in color with deep garnet variation. I decanted this for 3 hours (which it needed and then some) for this is still showing incredibly youthful, particularly in tannin structure. Once it does open up, the nose showcases aromas of crème de cassis, black cherry, blueberry, purple florals, cigar box, graphite, forest floor, green herbs, and a touch of oak. On the palate, I get notes of blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, cedar, tobacco leaf, dried underbrush, mild cracked pepper, dark chocolate, and coffee grounds. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish. Quite enjoyable, but not yet at its peak.

Price: $300 (but a wide range online from $200 to $400+). While no doubt a great wine from an outstanding vintage, I struggle to call it a good “value.” Getting to this price-point, it takes perfection to call a wine good value and I’d characterize this as somewhere between about right and overpriced. If you’re lucky enough to snag it closer to $200, it would be worthwhile.

Beautiful and Opulent Right Bank Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Vieux Château Certan

Vieux Château Certan (VCC) is a preeminent Bordeaux wine estate established in the mid-1700s in Pomerol on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Though the early years are somewhat murky, the estate was founded by Jean Demay de Certan and the château itself traces to around 1770. Back then, the wines were bottled under the label Sertan. VCC quickly became one of the greatest wines produced in Pomerol and remains at that stature today, with the vineyards flanked by the great Château Pétrus and a short drive from Château Lafleur and Château Le Pin.

In 1924, change occurred when Belgian wine merchant Georges Thienpont (who owned Château Troplong Mondot) purchased VCC. Though the wines remained revered under his ownership, Georges sold everything through his own negociant business and limited its international exposure by doing so. It would not be until the 1980s when VCC started selling en primeur and racking up international acclaim. Though the estate weathered great troubles during the depression of the 1930s, it remains with the Thienpont family to this day. Alexandre Thienpont took over management and has since renovated the estate in 1988 and 2003 to continue constant improvement of the quality of wine. Today, Alexandre’s son Guillaume helps manage the estate and the team remains steadfast in their dedication to traditional winemaking aided by modern technology.

VCC consists of 14 hectares of vineyards, planted to roughly 65% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The estate practices sustainable farming and come harvest often moves row by row or even vine by vine depending on fruit readiness. VCC vinifies the wine using traditional oak and stainless steel vats that are temperature controlled, with an assortment of vats to allow for parcel by parcel vinification by variety and age of the vines. Production typically caps out at 5,000 cases per year, though there is a second wine called La Gravette de Certan which was introduced during the 1980s by Alexandre.

Fun Fact: Georges Thienpont introduced the iconic pink capsules as a way to track which of his negociant business clients purchased his VCC. Not wanting to offend his clients or make them uncomfortable by asking, he used these pink capsules to quietly and easily spot his wine in his clients’ cellars…or see if it was missing.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Vieux Château Certan

80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon;

The 2014 Vieux Château Certan is opaque medium ruby in color with deep garnet variation. I let this decant for 4 hours and drank it over the following 3. Once it opens up, the nose expresses aromas of blackberry, plum, blueberry, violet, cigar box, pepper, wet slate, dried herbs, chocolate, and slight oak. Moving to the palate, the wine showcases blackcurrant, black cherry, purple and blue florals, tobacco leaf, black truffle, forest floor, green herbs, mocha, cedar, and rocky mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but velvety tannins, and a long finish. Very opulent and gorgeous wine.

Price: $200. This is a tough price-point to call a wine a good “value,” but I honestly think this fits the bill. 2014 Bordeaux is really starting to show nicely (though it has more than plenty of life left) and the pricing is much easier to stomach than more highly prized vintages around it. I would stock up on this one.