Day Two, First Stop: Chateau Leoville Barton

Chateau Leoville Barton is one of the Chateaux that really got me interested in Bordeaux wines more than 20 years ago. This was a time when I was drinking wines mainly from California, Washington and Australia. The Bordeaux wines were different than the new world wines – they were not so much about being bigger, stronger and in your face, as much as being more about refinement, complexity, minerality and in some cases, being truly delicate. I fell in love with the Bordeaux wines starting from the mid and late eighties and have been drinking them ever since.

In the tasting room - you can see the wooden vat room through the windows.  Regretfully, we did not get a photo of their beautiful vat room.
In the tasting room – you can see the wooden vat room through the windows. Regretfully, we did not get a photo of their beautiful vat room.

Leoville Barton is a rarity in Bordeaux – it’s one of only two large Chateau that I know of (other than Ch. Lynch Bages), in which the family that owns the Chtateau actually lives in the Chateau. We have seen Anthony Barton the last several years in Seattle when he has come for the annual Bordeaux Fete (notes for these dinners are posted earlier in the blog). Anthony Barton is always the perfect gentleman and a great ambassador for Bordeaux, they also make some really good wines as well. Unfortunately, we were not able see Anthony on this trip and we hope he is doing well.

Christina and Bob Watt with Anthony Barton at the 2013 Fete du Bordeaux in Seattle at the Columbia Tower Club.
Christina and Bob Watt with Anthony Barton at the 2013 Fete du Bordeaux in Seattle at the Columbia Tower Club.

Chateau Leoville Barton, is a very traditionally run winery in both technique and methodology. The Chateau uses large 200,000 liter wooden vats, unlike the modern stainless steel vats that you see at a lot of the other Chateaux in Bordeaux. The wines that we tasted at the Chateaux were from the 2012 vintage, Ch. Langoa Barton and Ch. Leoville Barton. Langoa Barton is not the “second wine” of Leoville Barton, but is actually a totally separate wine produced by the Chateau from different vineyard plots.

The 2012 in barrels.
The barrel room.

2012 Chateau Langoa Barton (barrel sample) – Subtle red fruit on the nose and ruby red color. Medium bodied, good acid and slightly tart red pie cherry fruit coming through in the mouth, with the slightly dry coarse tannins kicking in on the medium-short finish.

2012 Chateau Leoville Barton (barrel sample) – Darker fruit on the nose and in color than the Langoa Barton. In the mouth, black berries combined with red pie cherries and more complexity. The wine is medium-full bodied, with very good acid and strong slightly dry tannins kicking in on the medium-long finish.

Both of these wines definitely show the characteristics and challenges of the 2012 vintage. I think the wines will show better given several years in the bottle, to help the tannins integrate and come into balance. I have tasted many vintages of both Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton and I can tell you that in general, the Langoa Barton wines will be ready to drink sooner than the bigger brother Leoville Barton. The wines of Leoville Barton will age very gracefully and for a long time. I have bottles of Leoville Barton in the cellar going back to the 1970 vintage. If you want to try a more recent vintage of Leoville Barton that is drinking well, look for the 2001 or 2004 vintages.

As the family lives on the property, we didn’t venture over to take pictures of the Chateau. However, our guide did show us the beautiful gardens, complete with wandering swans.

Christina and Bob in the gardens of Chateau Leoville Barton.
Christina and Bob in the gardens of Chateau Leoville Barton.
The gardens.
The gardens.
Quite a few chateaux had orangaries - we loved seeing the orange and lemon trees.
We were surprised to see that quite a few Chateaux had orangeries to store the trees in winter – we loved seeing the orange and lemon trees.

Next up Chateau Lascombes…

Fete de Bordeaux 2013 – Year Five

This was the year to put the 2010’s to the test.  2009 vs. 2010 – the raging debate – the only thing standing between me and the final verdict was the fact that we couldn’t taste the vintages side by side.

The guests of honor this year were Jean-Charles Cazes of Chateaux Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez and Anthony Barton of Chateaux Leoville-Barton and Langoa Barton.  We were sad to miss Nicolas Glumineau, who represented Chateau Montrose in years past, because he had moved on to a roll as head of Roederer’s Bordeaux Properties including Chateau Pichon LaLande.  Herve Berland, now representing Chateau Montrose and Tronquoy Lalande had a last minute conflict and could not make the dinner, we hope to meet him next year.

The wines served were:

  • 2011 Blanc de Lynch-Bages
  • 2010 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
  • 2010 Chateau Ormes de Pez
  • 2010 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 2010 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2010 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 2010 Chateau Montrose
  • 2005 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 2003 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2000 Chateau Montrose
  • 1999 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 1995 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 1995 Chateau Montrose
  • 1997 Chateau Suduiraut

So now, the big reveal.  2009, or 2010?  Honestly, I have to be as cagey as the critics and say the proof is in the aging.  I have happily begun putting down both vintages in the anticipation of a future vintage taste-off.  My wife, however, is firmly in the 2010 camp, having declared the 2010 Montrose her Wine of the Night in an unusual twist (normally, the older the better as far as she is concerned).  She described the 2010’s as more round and approachable and having darker fruit than the 2009’s, but to be clear, she’s not saying the ’09’s are any less complex than the ’10’s – it’s just a style she prefers.  They say that the 2009’s are more of an American vintage with a little more plush fruit and the 2010’s are more of a European vintage, being slightly more tannic with blacker fruit.  If that’s the case, I’m definitely okay with her assessment – but only time will tell.

I leaned towards the  Montrose as my top pick of the 2010’s, followed closely by the Leoville-Barton and the Lynch-Bages.  My Wine of the Night was the 2000 Montrose, though I have to agree with my wife – the 2010’s were very compelling that night.

The surprise of the night was the impressive 2011 Blanc de Lynch-Bages, with strong minerality and great acid energy.  Jean-Charles said a customer once described it as a real “porch pounder.”  (He was quite pleased with that description!) It’s not exactly how I would put it, but I admit, I’d happily drink more of it!

Fete de Bordeaux 2012 – Year Four

We were very much looking forward to this year given all of the hype and press around the 2009 Bordeaux vintage and the subsequent 2010 vintage.  The 2009 wines did live up to their reputation, though I do remember wishing we could try the 2009’s and 2010’s side by side at that time.

On hand representing the estates were Jean-Charles Cazes of Chateaux Lynch-Bages and Ormes de Pez; Anthony Barton of Chateaux Leoville-Barton and Langoa Barton; and Nicolas Glumineau of Chateaux Montrose and Tronquoy Lalande.

Here are the 2009’s we tasted:

  • 2009 Blanc de Lynch-Bages
  • 2009 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
  • 2009 Chateau Ormes de Pez
  • 2009 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 2009 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2009 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 2009 Chateau Montrose
  • 2001 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2001 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 2001 Chateau Montrose
  • 1996 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 1996 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 1996 Chateau Montrose
  • 2007 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes

The 2009’s definitely lived up to the hype.  The 2009 Chateau Montrose was my first pick of the ’09’s, followed by the Lynch-Bages.  My Wine of the Night was the 2001 Montrose followed by the 1996 Langoa-Barton – both were both drinking incredibly well.  My wife was very happy to hear that we have some more of the 2001 Montrose in our cellar at home.  I hope she’ll be equally glad to hear that we’ve acquired many of the 2009 vintage releases as well!  I know it’s been said before, but I believe it’s true – the ’09 vintage is a must-purchase for any Bordeaux wine lover. I look forward to seeing how this vintage matures.

Fete de Bordeaux 2011 – Year Three

In 2011, the dinners moved back to the Columbia Tower Club, where they have been hosted since.  This was also the year we coerced a few friends into coming with us, and they’ve been back every year for more as well.

The guests for this dinner were Jean-Charles Cazes of Chateaux Lynch Bages and Ormes de Pez; Anthony Barton of Chateaux Leoville and Langoa Barton; and Nicolas Glumineau of Chateaux Montrose and Tronquoy Lalande.

The 2008 new release wines served were:

  • 2008 Blanc de Lynch Bages
  • 2008 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
  • 2008 Chateau Ormes de Pez
  • 2008 Chateau Lynch Bages
  • 2008 Chateau Leoville Barton
  • 2008 Chateau Montrose
  • 1998 Chateau Langoa Barton
  • 1998 Chateau Lynch Bages
  • 1998 Chateau Montrose
  • 1988 Chateau Lynch Bages en Magnum
  • 1988 Chateau Leoville Barton
  • 1988 Chateau Montrose en Magnum
  • 2006 Suduiraut Sauternes

I distinctly remember picking the Chateau Montrose as my favorite of the 2008 Vintage, followed by Leoville Barton, and the Lynch Bages, with the 1988 Lynch Bages from magnum as my Wine of the Night.  I also distinctly remember looking forward to tasting the celebrated 2009’s the following year.

Fete de Bordeaux 2010 – Year Two

In 2010, the Fete dinner moved to the Rainier Club, where we tasted the new 2007 vintage releases.  While I have the list of wines served thanks to our friend Bill Schallert, unfortunately, I do not have anything to actually jog my memory about the wines we drank that night.

I do recall though, that this was the year that Chateau Montrose was substituted for Cos d’Estournel on the tour, and Nicolas Glumineau joined the dinners from Chateau Montrose.  It was the first time I’d literally ever heard anyone sing for his supper – his impromptu Opera singing was very impressive indeed.

In addition to Nicolas, we were joined by Jean-Charles Cazes of Chateau Lynch Bages and Ormes de Pez, as well as Anthony Barton of Chateau Leoville Barton and Langoa Barton.  Here were the wines served:

  • Nicolas Feuillatte Brut en Magnum
  • 2007 Blanc de Lynch Bages
  • 2007 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
  • 2007 Ormes de Pez
  • 2007 Chateau Langoa Barton
  • 2007 Chateau Montrose
  • 2000 Chateau Langoa Barton
  • 2000 Chateau Lynch Bages
  • 2000 Chateau Montrose
  • 1990 Chateau Lynch Bages
  • 1990 Leoville Barton
  • 1975 Chateau Montrose
  • 1999 Chateau Suduiraut