Day Seven, Second Stop: Lunch at Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

We were looking forward to visiting Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac, because a friend of ours, Nicolas Glumineau, is the new General Manager and Winemaker.  We have gotten to know Nicolas over a six-year period from a Bordeaux dinner that is held every year in Seattle, where he represented Chateau Montrose.  In late 2012, Nicolas left Chateau Montrose, where he was Technical Director, to run Pichon Lalande.  Clearly, it is a great opportunity for him – but not without its challenges.

Nicolas Glumineau and Christina Watt at Chateau Pichon Lalande.
Nicolas Glumineau and Christina Watt at Chateau Pichon Lalande.

Upon arrival, we were surprised to see just how much work they had done on the construction project.  They were in the process of building an entirely new state-of-the-art vat room, barrel room and winemaking facility, and harvest was looming large, just as they were putting the finishing touches on things.  In fact, we had planned our trip thinking that we would be touring during harvest, but it was turning out to be a very late season this year.

The impressive new vat room.
The impressive new vat room.
The work in progress, with harvest coming any minute...
The work in progress, with harvest coming any minute…

We had to laugh as Nicolas toured us around, when we marveled at his luck with the timing of the harvest, he simply replied, “it was in the contract!”  The new vat room is an impressive site – in fact, I found it to be easily on par with Cos d’Estournel, which everyone throughout the region raved about as being a technical marvel.  It was clear that Pichon Lalande had decided to reinvest a huge amount of money into their winemaking facility, to join the ranks of the elite few Chateaux in Bordeaux that combine the world’s best technology, with the traditional wine making practices and expertise.   The build-out has been estimated at roughly $21 million –  I cannot wait to taste the future wines that will be made at Pichon Lalande.

As we walked through the construction site, we stood in a gallery off to the side of the vat room that overlooked not only the vineyards below, but looked down on Chateau Latour.  Not a bad view for the planned events that will take place in the space in the future.

An upstairs view of the vat room.  We failed to get pictures of the view out the windows from here, but it was impressive.
An upstairs view of the vat room. We failed to get pictures of the view out the windows from here, but it was impressive.

Nicolas was a very charming host, and we couldn’t have appreciated the time he spent with us any more if we tried.  In the midst of what was clearly a very busy time for him, he took the time to welcome us with a wonderful lunch, spirited conversation about the region and some really spectacular wines.

For lunch we enjoyed:

2010 Pichon Lalande – Dark blackberry fruit on the nose.  In the mouth, deep dark velvety blackberry fruit fills every millimeter of your mouth.  The wine has excellent acidity and very fine tannins that lead to a beautifully long sweet dark fruit finish that doesn’t want to end.  All I can say is, wow!  This wine has so much going on, I cannot wait to see how it evolves over the decades to come.  In ten years, once the secondary characteristics start to show, the complexity of this wine is going to be a really show-stopper.  Pichon Lalande has knocked it out of the park with their 2010 Grand Vin and I have no doubt that it will still be drinking well 40-50 years from now.  This is definitely a wine to look for.

2003 Pichon Lalande – A warm, dark fruit nose.  In the mouth, it tastes like a warm deep dark blackberry fruit pie, with just a hint of alcohol.  Decent acidity and mostly resolved fine tannins are making this wine drink well now, with a nice long dark fruit finish.  This wine will not age like the 2010, but it is a pleasure to drink now and over the next decade or so.

1996 Pichon Lalande – This is a deep dark red color with a garnet rim.  The nose of spicy red and black fruit just soars from the glass, you could smell it just sitting on the table in front of you.  In the mouth, the sweet red and black fruit flavors are very complex with baking spices, tobacco, cedar and a slight green pepper note.  The wine has very good acidity keeping everything lively in the mouth, but at the same time is very smooth.  The very fine tannins are mostly resolved and the wine has a very long complex spicy/sweet dark fruit finish.  The 1996 is an absolutely beautiful wine today and will continue to age gracefully for the next two decades.  As stunning as the 1996 Pichon Lalande is though, I think it will be ultimately surpassed by the 2010.  If I had to describe the wines of Pichon Lalande with one word, it would be elegance.

Pichon Lalande at night.
Pichon Lalande at night.

Time flew by at lunch – before we knew it, it was time to head out the door to Chateau Palmer.  The food, wine and company was so good, we were loathe to leave, though we knew that the show was far from over for Nicolas, who still had much more work to do!  We know that Nicolas will do great things at Pichon Lalande and we hope to come back to visit him again soon.

Day Seven, First Stop: Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron

Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron in Pauillac was our first stop this morning and very highly anticipated. We had driven by the estate a few times at this point, and it is by far one of the most spectacular Chateaux in the region.  We even stopped on the way back to our hotel one night after dinner to take pictures.

Chateau Pichon Baron by night.
Chateau Pichon Baron by night.
The captivating chateau.
The captivating Chateau Pichon Baron.

Pichon Baron was one of a small group of Bordeaux wines that is responsible for making me fall in love with the wines of Bordeaux.  Pichon Baron has been one of my long time favorites from Bordeaux, starting with their 1988 vintage.  Both the 1989 and 1990 wines from Pichon Baron are drinking very well at this point, with the 1989 even still being a little young in my opinion.  The wines from Pichon Baron are big, powerful Cabernet-dominant wines with big meaty fruit flavors.  The wines of Pichon Baron are not known for being feminine or delicate, but with age you will get a lot of delicate secondary flavors to go with the big masculine fruit.  I have always loved the wines of Pichon Baron and it is not by chance that we have more Pichon Baron in the cellar than any other producer in Bordeaux.

The barrel room sits beneath this structure - and the water!
The barrel room sits beneath this structure – and the water!

Our guide explained to us that Pichon Baron was once part of a larger estate, owned by Pierre de Rauzan, along with Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, the estate directly across the street. In 1850 the estate was divided into the two current Pichon estates. In 1987 the estate was purchased by French insurance company AXA. The property is currently managed by Englishman Christian Seely.

The vat room.
The vat room.

When we were in the barrel room, we saw something we had only heard about but hadn’t seen yet.  There were workers that were fining the wine in the barrels, which consists of adding egg whites in order to facilitate the removal of particles of matter from the wine.  We also saw they were cleaning empty barrels to prepare them for wine by burning sulfur in them – not a smell you want to spend a whole lot of time around, we assure you.

Bob and Christina Watt in the barrel room.
Bob and Christina Watt in the barrel room.
The laborious process of fining the wines.
The laborious process of fining the wines.
Can you see the sulfur haze?
Can you see the sulfur haze?
The wax and seal.
The wax and seal. Would’ve made a nice souvenir…

Here are the wines we tried in their tasting room:

2008 Pibran – Fruity nose, red and black fruit in the mouth, decent acid, medium-light in body and medium fruit finish.  A nice inexpensive Bordeaux red wine.

2008 Les Tourelles de Longueville – Nice nose of sweet dark fruit, well rounded in the mouth with dark red bing cherries, good acidity, nice medium-fine tannin and a medium-long dark fruit finish.  This is a very nice second wine that is drinking well now but will age very well over the next decade.

2008 Pichon Baron – Beautiful spicy sweet dark fruit nose.  In the mouth, very dark sweet blackberries with a hint of dark bing cherries combined with baking spices, very good acidity keeping everything lively.  Full bodied and lots of sweet fine tannins leading to a very nice black current and spicy blackberry long finish.  This is an absolutely beautiful wine that is starting to show some nice complexity, but is still a baby.  The 2008 Pichon Baron should start drinking well in another five years, but will age for two decades without even trying.  The prices for both the 2009 and 2010 Pichon Baron are significantly higher than the 2008 and for good reason, but the 2008 is a relative bargain by comparison of quality/price.  The 2008 Pichon Baron is a wine to look out for and I am very glad that I have it resting in my cellar.

Another view.
Another view.
And another.
And another.

It was a beautiful day, and we snapped a few more photos outside, before heading just across the street for a tour and lunch at Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande…

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!