Incredible Value in a Second Wine

Today’s Story: Château Montrose

Château Montrose is a historical Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Estèphe and established in 1815 by Etienne Théodore Dumoulin on a patch of land his family purchased from Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur but largely forgot. At the time of Etienne’s death in 1861, the estate spanned 95 hectares though his heirs sold it in 1866 to factory owner Mathieu Dollfus who quickly redeveloped and modernized the buildings and winery with the best technology of the time. One of Mathieu’s most interesting achievements, in my opinion, is the construction of a windmill to pump water aboveground and flood the estate which ultimately saved much of the vineyards from phylloxera. After Mathieu passed away in 1886, the estate fell to the Charmolüe family who, from 1896 to 2006, guided Château Montrose through wars and financial crises while crafting some of the best vintages and providing stability. Martin and Olivier Bouygues acquired the estate in 2006 and engaged in a massive renovation project, propelling Château Montrose to ever increasing heights for decades down the road. Montrose, one of fourteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, produces world-class wines and even placed third with their 1970 vintage in the Judgment of Paris in 1976.

To learn more about this great estate, check out their website here. In particular, I recommend checking out the “From Vine to Wine” section!

Today’s Wine: 2016 La Dame de Montrose

52% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% ABV

The 2016 La Dame de Montrose is opaque deep ruby and nearly black at its core with purple hues. I decanted this for 6 hours (wanted a preview of my Grand Vins still in hiding) and it needed every second of it. On the nose, I get aromas of blackberry, crème de cassis, black plum, pencil shavings, cigar box, finely crushed rock, dried earth, chocolate, black pepper, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, redcurrant, graphite, loamy soil, slate, tobacco, spice box, and toasted oak. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish. The wine is incredibly promising, and makes me excited to try the Grand Vin in 15 years.

Price: $50 (though you can find steals closer to $40). This is an absolute rockstar for value from the utterly incredible 2016 vintage, though you will have to be patient. Pair this with steak, grilled leg of lamb, or a high-end burger.

Timeless Passion in Saint-Estèphe

Today’s Story: Cos d’Estournel

Cos d’Estournel is a historic winery located in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of Bordeaux. The estate is also one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) noted in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Its founder, Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, inherited Cos in 1791 and became immediately convinced that the hill of Cos consisted of exceptional terroir. Without wasting any time, d’Estournel started purchasing neighboring vineyard land to expand his estate from 14 hectares to 45 and implemented many innovative processes to produce magnificent wines. In 1810, the estate received its current name of Cos d’Estournel.

Louis Gaspard d’Estournel was a nonconformist when it came to his vineyards and marketing his wine. For instance, he would typically travel broadly to faraway and unknown places with his wines to introduce them to the world. He even used to sign every bottle by hand to portray not only his dedication but his belief that his wines were some of the best in the world. Interestingly, any wine he didn’t sell while traveling would come back to the estate to be opened and tasted, with these bottles labeled “R” for “Retour des Indes” or “Returned from India.”

Though ownership changed multiple times over the years, the current steward of the estate shares a similar drive for innovation and dedication to d’Estournel. Michel Reybier purchased Cos d’Estournel in 2000 and I believe (based on some of his commentary) this decision was largely due to the emotional attachment he felt to the history and physical presence of the estate. Much like d’Estournel, Michel’s passion for Cos is extreme and he is incredibly active year-round at the estate and in its business dealings. Further, Michel seeks to strike a balance between innovation and tradition, many times in nonconformist manners yet again. Under his ownership, the estate invested dramatically in a complete overhaul of the winery and château by introducing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment while transitioning to a gravity flow winery. The wine I am reviewing today is the first vintage (2008) produced in the brand new winery.

Geography and production facts: Cos d’Estournel today consists of 100 hectares, though vineyard land accounts for only 70 hectares. The vineyards are broken into 30 parcels with 60% planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% to Merlot with small areas of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Annual production is typically about 32,000 cases.

Fun fact: Cos d’Estournel’s neighbor just to the south is the famous Château Lafite Rothschild, one of the original First Growths. Lafite, of course, is in the Pauillac appellation.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Cos d’Estournel

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 13.8% ABV

I’ve enjoyed several vintages of Cos d’Estournel over the years, each of them being delightful, though this is my first time trying the 2008. Cos typically blends with more Merlot, so this vintage is interesting particularly due to its high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is deep, opaque ruby in color. I let this decant because it is still quite young and certainly needed time to open up. The nose showcases aromas of black plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, graphite, pencil shaving, tobacco, black pepper, and a hint of vanilla. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, plum, granite, iron, green herbs, smoke, sweet tobacco, and oak. This Cos is full-bodied with high acidity, high yet still refined tannins, and a long finish. An interesting note is that this is the first vintage produced in the new winery facilities at Cos.

Price: $160. Compared to First Growths I think Cos consistently delivers great value if you’re looking at Bordeaux. Definitely give this one a try if you haven’t already. Pair this with steak, a burger, or an assortment of charcuterie and cheeses.