A Very Solid Value Play for Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Haut-Bages Libéral

Château Haut-Bages Libéral is a Fifth Growth (Cinquième Cru) Bordeaux wine estate located in the Left Bank appellation of Pauillac. Established by the Libéral family who were négociants and vineyard owners in the early 1700s, Haut-Bages Libéral is named for its position on the Bages plateau and in homage to its founding family. The Libéral family created a solid reputation for their wines, ultimately earning classification as a Fifth Growth in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Though the estate fell to a lower quality and state of somewhat disrepair during the wars and financial crises of the early 1900s, the Cruse family (owners of Château Pontet-Canet at the time) purchased Haut-Bages Libéral in 1960. The Cruse family engaged in widespread replanting of the vineyards and started to improve quality once again, though they sold the estate to the Villars-Merlaut family in 1982. Haut-Bages Libéral reached new heights under the Villars-Merlaut family, and Claire Villars-Lurton continues to run the estate today.

Today, Château Haut-Bages Libéral consists of about 30 hectares of vineyards planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. The holdings are in great company within Pauillac, with the larger vineyard area neighboring Château Latour and a smaller vineyard area neighboring Château Pichon Baron. There is a third holding situated more inland as well. Haut-Bages Libéral practices organic viticulture as they work toward certification, though they include many biodynamic practices with an eventual goal of achieving biodynamic certification as well. Château Haut-Bages Libéral produces roughly 10,000 cases of wine per vintage, including the Grand Vin and their second wine (labeled as either Le Pauillac de Haut-Bages Libéral, La Chapelle de Bages, or La Fleur de Haut-Bages Libéral).

Today’s Wine: 2005 Château Haut-Bages Libéral

70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot; 13% ABV

The 2005 Château Haut-Bages Libéral is translucent deep ruby in color, which is still rather youthful and showing absolutely no bricking at this point. After about an hour decanting, this blossomed to showcase classic Pauillac aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, redcurrant, pencil shavings, cigar box, tilled earth, mushroom, gravel, green herbs, and cedar spill. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of blackberry, crème de cassis, black cherry, tobacco, graphite, eucalyptus, black truffle, cracked pepper, and iron. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Drinks beautifully right now, but has the ability to go for at least another 5 years.

Price: $80 (paid $60 a few years ago). This was a very nice value surprise, especially having paid $60 for it a few years ago. It doesn’t have the power or depth like some of the higher-end 2005 Pauillac I’ve enjoyed, but it’s a very solid wine.

The King’s Wine

Today’s Story: Château Lafite Rothschild

Château Lafite Rothschild is a world-renowned First Growth Bordeaux wine estate located in the left bank appellation of Pauillac. Though the winemaking prowess of Lafite came centuries later, the estate traces its roots to the year 1234 under ownership of Gombaud de Lafite and is labeled as a medieval fief during the 14th century. Though vines certainly existed on the property by the 17th century, it was Jacques de Ségur who is credited with planting the vineyards in the 1670s and 1680s and setting Lafite on its way to producing highly regarded wines. By the early 18th century, Lafite’s wines found a loyal following in the London market and, during the 1730s, became a darling of Prime Minister Robert Walpole. During that time, Jacques’ son Nicolas-Alexandre de Ségur improved the winemaking process and enhanced the quality and prestige of Lafite as he marketed it in France to the court of Versailles. By the mid-1700s, Lafite became known as “the King’s Wine” and found its place among the royal and aristocratic families of France.

Though Lafite was arguably the pinnacle of Bordeaux winemaking at the time, even becoming a darling of Thomas Jefferson following a later visit in 1787, the estate experienced some difficulties with changing ownership for a number of reasons. First, Alexandre de Ségur did not have any sons so he divided his estate (which included Château Latour) amongst four daughters. His grandson, Count Nicolas Marie Alexandre de Ségur, inherited Lafite but he was forced to sell to relative Nicolas Pierre de Pichard in 1784 due to financial difficulties. This ownership, however, was also short-lived because Nicolas Pierre was executed as part of the Reign of Terror in 1794 during the French Revolution. Lafite fell into public ownership for a few years, until Dutchman Jean de Witt purchased it in 1797 and set off a string of changing ownerships until Baron James de Rothschild purchased Lafite in 1868.

Though the end of the 1800s and first half of the 1900s were quite turbulent for Lafite, the Rothschild family maintained ownership of the estate and brought it back to prominence after World War II. This period included the phylloxera and mildew crises, WWI, the Great Depression, and occupation by German forces during WWII which saw ransacking of the cellars and theft of historical bottles of Lafite. When Baron Elie de Rothschild regained control at the end of 1945, Lafite was once again on the path to greatness with fantastic vintages in 1945, 1947, and 1949. As Baron Elie restored the vineyards and buildings, improved farming methods, and opened the winery to new markets including the United States, Lafite prospered and continues to do so to this day.

The vineyards of Château Lafite Rothschild today consist of 112 hectares planted in the classic, well-draining, deep gravel soils of Pauillac (though this includes 4.5 hectares in Saint Estèphe). They are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Petit Verdot (2%) with an average vine age of 39 years. For the Grand Vin, however, they do not use fruit from vines younger than 10 years old so the average vine age for the Grand Vin is closer to 45 years. Lafite practices traditional viticulture based on strict yield control and manual harvests, and they use little to no chemical fertilizers and are transitioning to organic viticulture. Vines are typically re-planted when they reach an age of about 80 years.

In the cellar, Lafite practices traditional vinification methods and ferments their wines separately plot by plot. Some of the fermentation occurs in traditional large oak vats, while some occurs in stainless steel vats before the wines are tasted and drawn off into wine vats. Malolactic fermentation then occurs before the wine is transferred into barrels by batch. Blending occurs after the first racking of these barrels, and then the wines age for 18-20 months. The wines are fined with egg whites and then bottled.

Today’s 1st Wine: 1981 Château Lafite Rothschild

Bordeaux Blend (no details on Lafite’s website); 12% ABV

The 1981 Lafite is translucent medium to deep garnet in color. Keeping with the cellar master’s practices at Lafite, I double decanted this and served it 3 hours later. The nose is rather feminine and took some time to open up, showcasing aromas of redcurrant, licorice, cigar box, pencil shavings, tilled earth, earthy mushroom, graphite, gravel, and cedar. Meanwhile the palate is certainly still kicking, offering notes of blackcurrant, redcurrant, violets, tobacco, forest floor, black truffle, cracked black pepper, graphite, and cedar. This is very well-balanced and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, well-integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. I don’t see this improving, so drink up if you have any.

Price: $750 (though we acquired it years ago for much less). It is always a special occasion to drink a bottle of Lafite, and the pricing is certainly justifiable based on how perfectly balanced and complex these wines can be. This bottling, however, seems to be past its prime and I wouldn’t suggest spending the money on it at this point.

Today’s 2nd Wine: 1985 Château Lafite Rothschild

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc; 12% ABV

The 1985 Lafite is translucent deep garnet in color, definitely a shade deeper than the 1981. I also double decanted this 3 hours before serving and it really came alive in the glass. The nose showcases classic aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, black raspberry, lavender, cigar box, forest floor, black truffle, graphite, wet gravel, and grilled herbs. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of cassis, redcurrant, dried plum, violets, tobacco, pencil shavings, scorched earth, black truffle, graphite, underbrush, and crushed rock minerality. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Impeccably balanced with much more power than the 1981 vintage (no shock) tasted side-by-side.

Price: $985 (though we acquired it years ago for much less). This is perhaps the best vintage of Lafite I’ve tasted to date, and while the near four-digit price tag is seemingly outrageous I think it’s worth it for a special occasion.

The Winner Is…

This should come as no shock, but the 1985 absolutely steals the show here. The 1981 vintage is certainly alive and kicking, but is very feminine and I think past its peak in the plateau phase or start of the declining phase. The 1985 is showing its Comet Vintage pedigree, still offering incredible power and a structure that suggests there is still plenty of time to enjoy this bottling. Both wines are incredibly well-balanced and an absolute pleasure to drink, but the 1985 is simply the more perfectly wrapped package.

Aged Pauillac Striking up With the First Growths

Today’s Story: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

I previously (and somewhat recently) wrote about Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and have reviewed the 1966, 1986, 2003, and 2008 vintages on this blog. Though I’ve tasted a number of other vintages including 1979, 1996, 2005, and 2014, the 1989 vintage remained elusive…until today.

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: 1989 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 12.5% ABV

The 1989 Pichon Lalande is translucent deep ruby in color with deep garnet hues. There’s absolutely no bricking either, which is fantastic. We served this as a pop and pour and let it develop in the glass, with the nose showcasing aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, pencil shavings, tobacco, forest floor, cedar, graphite, green pepper, and eucalyptus. Meanwhile on the palate, I get notes of redcurrant, cassis, blackberry, black cherry, cigar box, scorched earth, green underbrush, bell pepper, gravel, and clove. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Beautifully balanced and not showing any signs of its age yet.

Price: $300 (but this was shared by a good friend). Though not nearly an inexpensive bottle of wine, if you can verify provenance and find a bottle with a great fill level, I would give this a shot. Pichon Lalande has outperformed with each of the 9 vintages I’ve tried and oftentimes these drink like the First Growths. Great value.

Another Stunning 2014 Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château Pontet-Canet

Château Pontet-Canet is a historic Bordeaux wine estate located in the Left Bank appellation of Pauillac. In 1705, Jean-François de Pontet (who was Governor of the Médoc) acquired a few acres and planted them to vine. By the 1720s, Jean-François and his descendants had expanded the estate by purchasing parcels in a place known as Canet and Château Pontet-Canet was born. For over a century, Château Pontet-Canet remained in the Pontet family hands and ultimately received classification as a Fifth Growth (Cinquième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. A decade later, in 1865, wine merchant Herman Cruse purchased Pontet-Canet and marked the first change in ownership since its establishment.

Though the Cruse family maintained ownership of Pontet-Canet for 110 years, the estate never seemed to live up to its quality potential. This began to change, however, when Cognac merchant Guy Tesseron purchased the estate in 1975 and set about replanting the vines in desperate need of repair. The family then worked on transitioning the vineyards to sustainable farming and a more “minimally invasive” philosophy of viticulture. When Alfred Tesseron took over in 1994, this ultimately spawned into a transition to organic and then biodynamic viticulture, which Pontet-Canet moved to fully by 2005 (they were certified organic and biodynamic several years later in 2010).

This minimally invasive philosophy for the vineyards transfers into the actual winemaking process as well. Beginning with harvest, all fruit is hand-sorted before being destemmed and hand-sorted again. The wine ferments with natural yeasts and minimal intervention, with maceration lasting an average of four weeks before the wine is run off with gravity. Over time, Pontet-Canet has reduced the amount of new oak they use so as to not mask the expression of place in the wine and today the Grand Vin ages in 50% new oak, 35% dolia (concrete amphorae made specifically for Pontet-Canet), and 15% 1-year-old barrels. The 2nd wine (Hauts de Pontet-Canet), meanwhile, ages in 100% 1-year-old oak barrels.

Pontet-Canet is a pretty large estate, today consisting of 120 hectares with 81 hectares planted to vine. The breakdown by variety is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. To learn more about Château Pontet-Canet, I recommend visiting their website here for, at the very least, some great pictures.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Château Pontet-Canet

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 Pontet-Canet is opaque deep ruby in color. I know this is young, but in an effort to continue my tasting of various 2014 Bordeaux wines I cracked into it early. With that in mind, I decanted this bottle for 6 hours and drank it over the following 2 hours. Once this opens up, the nose showcases classic Pauillac aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry, plum, redcurrant, lavender, cigar box, pencil shavings, loamy earth, graphite, green herbs, cedar spill, and mild oaky spice. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of crème de cassis, blackberry, plum, black cherry, violet, anise, tobacco, wet earth, dried coffee grounds, chocolate truffle, black pepper, clove, and a hint of oak. This is full-bodied with beautiful high acidity, high grippy tannins, and a long finish of 45+ seconds. This has plenty of elegance right now, though it is still pure power and should surely develop into an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Price: $120. I think this is a very nice value, as I’m finding with a lot of 2014 Left Bank Bordeaux. Particularly when overshadowed by the 2015 and 2016 vintages, wines like this provide great quality for the price and are just starting to come into their own. I highly recommend adding this Pontet-Canet to your 2014 collections.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Unbelievably Youthful Bordeaux From the 1966 Vintage

Today’s Story: Chateau Pichon Lalande

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a historic estate that traces its routes to the late 1600s and ranks as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. I previously wrote about Pichon Lalande when reviewing their 1986 vintage in Bordeaux Battle and the 2003 vintage in Decidedly Opulent Pauillac. To save myself (and yours as a reader) the hassle of reproducing (or reading) such a detailed and lengthy history, I will copy my short previous write-up below.

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: 1966 Chateau Pichon Lalande

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 1966 Pichon Lalande is medium garnet in color and moderately transparent. This wine is singing as a pop-and-pour, with the nose showcasing aromas of graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, and peppercorn followed by faint redcurrant, cranberry, dried violet, and green herbs in the background. On the palate, I get notes of pencil shavings, dried tobacco leaf, leather, black tea leaf, underbrush, gravel, and mushroom with cassis and redcurrant poking through. This is still medium-bodied with lively medium acidity, medium (-) dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Best during the first 1-1.5 hours, but honestly didn’t fall apart too much slightly beyond hour 2 (when it was gone).

Price: $350. Provenance is key here, but if proven and you can find this for sale it is absolutely worth the tag. My bottle threw almost zero sediment, the color and structure were both profound, and this drank incredibly youthful given its age. I would’ve pegged this as 1980s if I tasted it blind. Pair this with wagyu filet mignon, earthy mushrooms and/or truffle, or mild cheese.

Decidedly Opulent Pauillac

Today’s Story: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Another easy one today so I can get off to my Thanksgiving festivities here in the US (and hopefully a short read if you celebrate too). I wrote about Pichon Lalande back on October 28 in my post Bordeaux Battle, which I’d suggest checking out for a 1986 vintage comparison to Leoville Las Cases.

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. For more, check out my prior post!

Today’s Wine: 2003 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2003 Pichon Lalande is deep purple/ruby in color and moderately opaque. This certainly needed a decant, though the wine came right out of the bottle singing. Once this opened up and warmed from cellar temperature, the wine offered aromas of plum, blackcurrant, slight barnyard, forest floor, cigar box, pencil shavings, rosemary, truffle, and a hint of oak. On the palate this showcases notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, pomegranate, graphite, smokey earth, tobacco, dried underbrush, and limestone. Full-bodied and powerful, this wine has high acidity and velvety medium (+) tannins into a long, lingering finish. Overall this is very ripe and opulent, and probably one of my favorite Pichon Lalande bottlings to date. Though drinking magnificently now, I’d cellar this another 10 years and it’ll live on even decades beyond that.

Price: $180. Though not an inexpensive bottle of wine, Pichon Lalande offers incredible value next to the First Growths and is a wonderful representation of Pauillac. Give this wine a try and you will not go wrong. Pair this with veal, pork, steak, or red game meats (and any mushroom/truffle sauce is a plus).