Day Six, First Stop: Chateau Haut Brion

We tore out of our beautiful apartment on Monday morning and wound our way through town to our first destination. I was very much looking forward to visiting this Chateau, and was actually surprised to find it nestled just on the outskirts of town.

Chateau Haut Brion.
Chateau Haut Brion.
Bob and Christina Watt at Chateau Haut Brion.
Bob and Christina Watt at Chateau Haut Brion.

Out of all the First Growth Chateaux in Bordeaux, the wines of Chateau Haut Brion in Pessac-Leognan are some of my favorites.  I feel the wines of Ch. Haut Brion are more singular and unique in style than the other First Growths, it is also more geographically separated than the others as well.

We were first greeted by our wonderful hostess, Barbara, and we started things off with a short film about the history of the Chateau.  Chateau Haut Brion is the oldest of the First Growths from the 1855 classification and the vineyards were fully planted a century before the other First Growths.  Jean de Pontac married Jeanne de Bellon in 1525, from which part of the land of Haut Brion was brought in as a dowry.  Jean de Pontac bought the title to the Domaine of Haut Brion in 1533 and built the stone Chateau in 1549.  There is even evidence that the first vines planted around the property of Haut Brion date back to the first century A.D.  Chateau Haut Brion and neighboring Chateau La Mission Haut Brion are both owned by the Dillon family.  Clarence Dillon, an American financier, first purchased Ch. Haut Brion in 1935.  Today, Prince Robert of Luxembourg is President of Domaine Clarence Dillon and the fourth generation of the Dillon family to manage this First Growth Estate.

The beautiful estate.
A building on the estate.

After the film, Barbara gave us a tour around the Chateau.  Haut Brion makes great Bordeaux wines by combining the use of modern technology with their traditional winemaking.  Haut Brion uses large stainless steel vats that are split into two compartments each (one above and one below), so they can ferment two separate grape lots in one large cylindrical vat. Three generations of the Delmas family have been making the wines for the estate in turn since 1923, with Jean-Phillipe Delmas as the General Manager today.  Haut Brion is also one of the very few Chateaux that has their own fulltime cooper making French oak barrels.  This Monday morning the cooper was already hard at work making barrels and the smell of French oak filled the air.

The vats.
The beautiful vat room.
It was fun to see the cooper at work.
It was fun to see the cooper at work.
The cellar.
The cellar.

We walked around the property a bit on the way to our tasting, it was just beautiful.  The second we set foot in the orangery, Christina exclaimed that she wished she could throw a party there.  I’m certain that it has housed many a distinguished event.

Another part of the chateau.
Another part of the chateau.
The grounds.
The grounds.
More of the property.
More of the property.
I can't remember what this room was original - I think perhaps a cellar room, but it looks like it could host a killer party now.
The former orangery is used today as a tasting room and looks like it could host a great party now.
Bordeaux 2013 188
Another view of the room.
If only...
The smallest bottles are regular 750ml bottles.  I think the larger bottles would look good in my cellar!

It was a little early to start the serious tasting, but we were up for the challenge.  We were able to taste the 2007 vintages of La Mission Haut Brion and Haut Brion.  Here are my notes:

2007 La Mission Haut Brion – Absolutely beautiful floral nose of red/black fruits and spices, very delicate.  In the mouth the wine is medium-full bodied with a core of black fruit flavors complicated with baking spices.  There is very good acidity with fine tannins following through to a very nice long sweet fruit filled finish.  It is almost like lace in the way that it is very detailed and delicate.  This is a beautiful wine that is all about the subtle details.

2007 Haut Brion – Bigger, darker black fruit nose with huge spice.  Full bodied ripe blackberry fruit combined with loads of baking spices, gravel and burning embers.  The wine has very good acidity, extremely fine but noticeable tannins and a beautifully long spicy fruit finish.  This is an absolutely gorgeous wine that is drinking well now, but will age gracefully over the next decade or even two.  The 2007 Haut Brion will be a great wine to drink while you are waiting for the 2000, 2005 and 2006 vintages to come to maturity.

Next up, Chateau Pape-Clement…

3 thoughts on “Day Six, First Stop: Chateau Haut Brion

  1. Pingback: 李宗瑞

    1. Ha. I know you love Haut Brion. The 2007 was not touted as a great vintage, but both wines actually showed well. I really loved the 2007 Haut Brion – it was an absolutely beautiful wine full bodied wine, very complex. I think you would like it too -it reminded me of the 1982 Haut Brion that we have had a couple of times. In 2007, Haut Brion definitely beats out the La Mission Haut Brion. For what it’s worth, the 2007 vintage will sell at a big discount compared to the other surrounding vintages 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. The 2007 won’t hit the heights of the surrounding vintages, but it is one of the deals of the decade for Haut Brion, well worth searching for and adding to your cellar. Cheers!

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