Chateau Phelan Segur Tasting

One of the big surprises of the trip were the wines at Chateau Phelan Segur.

Phelan Segur is not a classified growth, because it was not part of the 1855 classification that ranked and ordered the better wine estates of the time.  Apparently, a lot has changed over the last 158 years.  Phelan Segur easily makes wine that will compete head to head with the better classified growths of Bordeaux.  The Chateau manager and winemaker at Phelan Segur is Fabrice Bacquey whose first complete vintage at Phelan Segur was in 1996.

We started the tasting off with Frabrice with a small vertical of Chateau Phelan Segur 2008, 2009 and 2010:

  • 2008 Chateau Phelan Segur – An absolutely beautiful nose of sweet dark fruit with a little spice.  The most approachable and open of the three vintages, with sweet red/black fruit, good acid, ripe tannins and a medium-long finish.
  • 2009 Chateau Phelan Segur – A little tighter than the 2008, but the fruit is darker and bigger.  There is a lot more glycerin and smooth mouth feel to this wine.  Lots of ripe blackberry fruit, good acid and lots of fine ripe tannins that kick in on the long finish.
  • 2010 Chateau Phelan Segur – Darkest wine of the three.  A little tight, but with air the very pure dark blackberry/red current fruit comes through.  This wine has really good acid that makes it very lively in the mouth.  The complex dark fruit mixed with spices, combined with a lot of sweet ripe tannins, gives this wine a wonderfully long finish.  This wine age gracefully and will last a very long time.  You could enjoy a bottle in 10 years as a young wine or lay it down for 20+ years without even trying.

After enjoying this tasting, we moved into the salon with Fabrice, where we had a beautiful Billecart Salmon Brut champagne “palate cleanser,” and a seared foie gras appetizer (my wife was delighted by this!).

We then had three wines paired with the lunch that we had made earlier in the morning with Chef Jimmy and Eduoard.

  • 2008 Frank Phelan paired with Risotto d’epaurtre du pays de Sault, aux chataignes et epes
Aromatic mushroom risotto.  We didn't help make this - it was a nice surprise!
Aromatic mushroom risotto. We didn’t help make this – it was a nice surprise!
  • 2006 Phelan Segur paired with Tourte de tradition au canard et foie gras
I think I managed to clean my plate.  The crust was so flaky and fresh and the whole thing was so savory - and rich!
The “duck pie with foie gras” was amazing – I  think I managed to clean my plate. Christina claims she could feel her arteries hardening – but she wasn’t complaining!
  • 2004 Phelan Segur paired with the Quenelle de Chocolat Tuile a l’orange  (We were chagrined to realize that we dove right in and forgot to take pictures of this beautiful chocolate ganache!)

My tasting notes:

  • 2008 Frank Phelan – Red/black fruit, round in the mouth, very approachable with a good medium finish.  This is a nice second wine of Chateau Phelan Segur, but the Grand Vin Phelan Segur is more complex.
  • 2006 Chateau Phelan Segur – Dark red/black fruit, a little forest floor, medium acid, good mouth feel, with the sweet fruit coming through on the medium finish.  Still young, with better things to come in 5 years or so.
  • 2004 Chateau Phelan Segur – Sweet dark fruit mixed with dark chocolate, subtle spices and damp earth, with good acidity and sweet tannins on the medium-long finish.

Fabrice was a very gracious host, and we were having a great time comparing the wines back and forth and marveling at how well the food paired with the wines, when suddenly, he disappeared for a few seconds.  Before long, Eduoard appeared with a bottle of the 1996 Chateau Phelan Segur – the first vintage produced by Fabrice at the Chateau.  We were quite honored that he chose to share it with us, and the memory of that beautiful wine haunts us still.  (I have to figure out how to get my hands on some.)  Here are my notes:

  • 1996 Chateau Phelan Segur – Slight bricking at the rim, but still a very dark color.  An absolutely beautiful nose of dark fruit and spice cake.  Very smooth in the mouth, with a taste of dark blackberry pie, spices, forest floor, some mushroom, nice minerality, very good acidity and a lot of fine sweet tannins on the long fruit filled finish.  This is an absolutely beautiful wine, with still a long life ahead of it, but it can be enjoyed right now.
Bob and Fabrice at lunch.
Bob and Fabrice at lunch.

Chateau Phelan Segur, under the direction of Fabrice, is making wine that will directly compete with the bigger classified growths of Bordeaux.  Amazingly, Chateau Phelan Segur is still one of the great values for the quality in all of Bordeaux and well worth a visit.

Our sincere thanks to the team at Phelan Segur for a wonderful and meticulously planned experience. We felt thoroughly spoiled as we left with our goodie bags of canneles.  This experience started our trip off so well, we began to wonder how it could possibly get any better – and we were only halfway through our day!

Bob and Christina with Phelan Segur winemaker Fabrice Bacquey.
Bob and Christina with Phelan Segur winemaker Fabrice Bacquey.

Next up, Cos d’Estournel and Pontet-Canet…

Duck, Duck, Goose…Cooking Class at Phelan Segur

Authored by Christina Watt

Our first morning we drove up to St. Estephe to kick off the tour at Phelan Segur with a cooking class.  We pulled up at the very impressive Chateau where we were greeted outside the door by the chef, Jimmy, carrying a basket of beautiful fresh produce.  Over the course of the next two plus hours, we were treated to lessons by Chef Jimmy and translations by Edouard – oh, how we wished we had brushed up more on our French!  But we all managed to work together to produce a beautiful meal.

The Phelan Segur Crest.
The Phelan Segur Crest.

We started off by learning how to make the traditional French cannele – little carmelized cakes with a custard-like center – oh my.  They explained to us that what we had just learned to make was a very popular pastry that originated in Bordeaux – they were everywhere!  (See the kitchn for a great cannele recipe and a little history on this tasty treat.)

Getting started on the cannele.
Getting started on the cannele.
Our first cannele.
Our first batch! We have to get some of those little molds at home…

While the cannele were baking, we began working on our homemade pastry crust for our duck pie.  Turns out Bob has just the right precise and patient touch for making pastry dough.  Me?  Apparently I’m a little impatient, no surprise to those who know me well!

Bob and Jimmy working the pastry dough.
Bob and Chef Jimmy working the pastry dough.

In between turns of the dough, we prepared the duck.  We seared the breasts with chopped vegetables and cooked the legs to get two different types of meat, and created a jus (sauce) using the rest of the duck remains.  Chef Jimmy added wine to the pan to create the jus, lighting it with the flame from the stove.  And then he looked at me to try it.  I was convinced I would wind up with my hair on fire, but we managed to produce the necessary flame without incident.  (Bob was ready for it though – he actually filmed this part in anticipation.  He knows me too well.)

My first time...
Too much information?  It was definitely a first for us!
Keeping my hair away from the flame!
Keeping my hair away from the flame!
Jus in the making.
A delicious jus in the making.

My eyes about popped out of my head when Chef Jimmy plunked down a big slab of foie gras – at 11:00 am in the morning, no less!  From the smiles on our faces, he ascertained (correctly) that the we very much enjoyed foie, so he told me to cut three big slabs of it.  Thinking he’d be searing it for some sort of appetizer, I happily complied.  A short while later, I found myself placing those large slabs into the middle of our duck pies – clearly, a heart attack in the making!

I've died and gone to foie heaven.
I’ve died and gone to foie heaven.

Finally, we concocted a beautiful chocolate ganache, which I again attempted to hurry along – who knew it took so much finesse to get that chocolate to such a glossy state?

Getting there...
Getting there…
Bob concentrates on the dessert embellishments.
Bob concentrates on the dessert embellishments.

After a very informative and fun couple of hours in the kitchen, we enjoyed a tour with Edouard and a tasting with winemaker Fabrice Bacquey while Chef Jimmy put the finishing touches on our meal.

The tasting room.
The tasting room.

Next up – the final meal and the fabulous wines!

Bordeaux Bound

Next week, my wife and I head to Bordeaux, sans children – for a highly-anticipated trip of wine tasting (a big thank you to my in-laws for staying with our kids!).

Although those in the industry would call our tour a “death march,” we’re quite excited by the itinerary we have lined up.  The extraordinary team at Bordeaux Saveurs has helped us put together this remarkable tour, complete with a few cooking classes on estates, as well as numerous great meals.

Over roughly two weeks, we will visit:

  • Chateau Phelan Segur
  • Chateau Cos d’Estournel
  • Chateau Pontet Canet
  • Chateau Leoville Barton
  • Chateau Lascombes
  • Chateau Mouton Rothschild
  • Chateau Lynch Bages
  • Chateau Haut Brion
  • Chateau Pape Clement
  • Domaine de Chevalier
  • Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron
  • Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
  • Chateau Palmer
  • Chateau Suduiraut
  • Chateau Y’Qeum
  • Chateau Guiraud
  • Chateau Haut Bailly
  • Chateau Smith Haut Lafite
  • Chateau Troplong Mondot
  • Chateau Angelus
  • Chateau Figeac
  • Chateau Soutard

We will stay at the Cordeillan Bages hotel for the first part of the trip, then in a private apartment in Bordeaux proper over the weekend, and finish out our stay at les Sources de Caudalie, which friends tell us is heavenly.  A big thanks to dear friend and awesome travel agent Kelly Bonewitz at Woodside Travel for her assistance pulling things together – we can’t wait to give a full report on our adventure!

Speaking of which, we have never blogged remotely before, so we’ll have to see how it goes.  Given how much we’ve packed in, the updates will probably happen once we return, jet-lagged and happy…and dreaming of our return!