Our 15th Anniversary Dinner

For our 15th Anniversary this past summer, Christina and I were in Seattle and kid-free, so we decided to celebrate at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Seattle called Mistral Kitchen.  We have been long time fans of William Belickis, the Chef and Owner, and have been visiting his restaurant since he opened up the original Mistral restaurant almost two decades ago.

We love French food and I have always enjoyed pairing it with our love for the French wines.  With this evening being a big anniversary, I knew I wanted to have something special.  I have always loved surprising Christina with a glass of nice mature older Bordeaux or Chateauneuf du Pape and not telling her what it is, just letting her take it in and trying to solve the riddle, “what am I?”  Christina is a very good sport with this little game I like to play.

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Celebrating fifteen amazing years of marriage. Time has flown by!

For this evening, we had the eight course Chef’s table experience and I brought in some wine to go with it.  It was great to see William again, as he got us settled in at the table, he assured us that he had a wonderful evening in store for us.  We started things off with a bottle of the 2002 Krug Brut vintage Champagne.  Krug is my absolute favorite Champagne producer above everyone else, and they are also very singular in style.  The 2002 Krug was just released about three months prior and my mouth was watering in anticipation to see what the Masters at Krug had created.  Krug releases their Champagnes when they feel they are ready, so in this case the 2003 was released before the 2002.

The 2002 Krug vintage Champagne is expressive on the nose with grilled nuts, bread crumbs, white fruit, nutmeg and lemon zest.  The color was a slightly golden yellow color, which is a little darker than I expected, but I could not sense anything amiss.  In the mouth, the white pears, toasted whole wheat bread, grilled nuts, slight baking spices and lemon peel have a playful dance together in this full bodied package.  There is a refreshing streak of acidity that keeps everything in check and lively throughout.  The 2002 Krug has a very nice long white fruit, toasted bread and lemony finish.  This is an excellent Champagne and an excellent Krug, a definite step up from the 2003.  The 2002 Krug Champagne will have a long life ahead of it and I look forward to following its evolution.  (95+pts.)

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Of course, we not only celebrated with the incredible 2002 Krug, I had to throw in a little jewelry to commemorate the occasion, courtesy of my company, Exact Gems.

The wine highlight of the evening was a bottle of 1990 Chateau Margaux.  I was excited to taste this wine, as I had never had it before.  I bought this wine on release and have been holding it, so that it would mature and we could have it for a special occasion.  This particular wine has been written up many times by various critics as one of the perfect 100 point wines of the 1990 vintage and on this night it did not disappoint.  The wine is still a dark red color and has a glorious nose of black plums, ripe red cherries and brown baking spices.  As Christina said, the nose was so captivating that we would have been totally happy just smelling it.  This is the reason why I (we) love mature Bordeaux wines.  It is the reason why we are willing to buy a bottle and hold it for 24 years before opening it.

In the mouth the wine was like a fine tapestry of different flavors all interwoven together, ripe plums, red Bing cherries, some black currants, a little damp earth, brown baking spices and with lively acidity.  The tannins are mostly resolved, but this wine has a long life ahead of it, as it is only at the beginning of the maturity plateau.  The long rich spicy dark fruit finish lasts for a minute after it is gone.  This is truly a beautiful wine and well worth the wait.  I just loved smelling the wine as it evolved and we enjoyed it over a three hour period. (100pts.)

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Wish this bottle of 1990 Chateau Margaux was bottom-less!

There isn’t anyone on this planet that I would rather share/experience a wonderful wine with than my beautiful wife.  So to Christina, Thank you for being my partner, the love of my life and soulmate for 15 wonderful years.  I so appreciate you and I look forward to creating/sharing many more experiences with you in the world of wine and beyond.  I wonder what we will have for our 20th?

 

 

2016 Fete du Bordeaux

As we head into the new year, we were stunned to realize that it’s almost time for one of our favorite wine events!  Having made our New Year’s resolution to post more, we’ll start by catching up with an update from last year’s Fete du Bordeaux.

The Fete du Bordeaux always comes around in January just after the holidays.  It is not just a chance to taste the new releases from Bordeaux, but a chance to visit with the people who represent and/or own the Chateaux, many of whom we have gotten to know over the past ten years.  It is always good to catch up with them and hear about what is going on in Bordeaux.

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Bob Watt, Christina Watt and Jean-Charles Cazes from Lynch Bages…our annual photo. Will be fun to look back on all of these one day!

 

There have been so many amazing changes that have taken place in the wineries throughout Bordeaux over the last 5 to 6 years and their wines are the better for it.  While there were many great wines produced in Bordeaux through the 80’s and 90’s, they pale in some respects to the quality that is being produced in Bordeaux today.  Today’s technology, like optical sorters and satellite imagery, were only dreams of the past.  Combine this with more rigorous vineyard management and  stricter quality standards, and the end result for consumers and collectors is consistently better wines – even in less than outstanding vintages.

This year’s Fete du Bordeaux was again held at the restaurant One Market in San Francisco and was a tasting of the new 2013 releases:

2013 Chateau Langoa Barton, St. Julien

2013 Chateau Leoville Barton, St. Julien

2013 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac

2013 Chateau Ormes de Pez, St. Estephe

2013 Chateau Figeac, St. Emilion

2013 Petit Figeac, St. Emilion

2013 Chateau La Conseillante, Pomerol

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One Market Restaurant in San Francisco.

 

Christina and I visited Bordeaux in 2013 during the harvest.  I can tell you that it was not ideal weather for the end of the growing season or harvest, with fairly frequent rain showers throughout the region.  Unfortunately, the wines of 2013 also show the difficulty of the growing season that the winemakers had to work with.  While the growing season of 2013 may have produced poor wines if they had been made in the 70’s or 80’s, today’s improved vineyard technology and winemaking practices produced some very pleasant wines.  The 2013’s are not the big blockbuster wines of 2005, 2009 or 2010, but you won’t have to wait as long for them to mature either.

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Getting started!

The wine of the flight for the 2013’s was the newcomer to the group, Chateau La Conseillante.  Michel Rolland is the consulting winemaker for Chateau La Conseillante and the wine is made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cab. Franc.  This is a very nice wine for the vintage, medium bodied, with elegant dark fruit and fairly fine tannins on the medium long finish.  (92 pts.)

As we moved into the main dining room of the restaurant, we had a nice glass of Champagne from Franck Bonville – Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV.  I have had this particular Champagne on several occasions and I have always enjoyed it.  It reminds me of Salon in style, but slightly smaller in stature.  It is creamy in texture with good acidity, white fruit, green apple, lemon and a chalky mineral streak running right through the medium-long finish.  This is definitely a great QPR champagne at $35. (90 pts.)

To start the dinner off we tasted the 2014 Blanc de Lynch Bages white Bordeaux, which is produced in small batches.  I have always enjoyed this wine throughout the years, and it is one of my wife’s favorite whites.  It is very crisp with honey dew melon, green apples, lemon and a slight stoniness on the nice clean finish.  It is a perfect wine for summer if you can find it.  (92 pts.)

To go with our grilled calamari salad and roasted duck dinner, we had two flights of four wines:

2005 Chateau Figeac, St. Emilion – Dark red/black fruit with a slight green pepper nose.  Nice dark fruit with good acidity, a hint of spice, medium bodied and a medium long dark fruit finish.  (92 pts.)

2005 Chateau La Conseillante, Pomerol – Very dark bing cherry and blackberry fruit nose.  Very dark fruit in the mouth, lively acidity, and very fine tannins.  Nice long dark cherry fruit finish.  This wine is already very elegant and still on the young side, with upside potential.  This wine has a long life ahead of it.  (95+ pts.)

2005 Chateau Langoa Barton, St. Julien – Ripe red cherries and some black fruit on the nose.  In the mouth, red cherries and black currant, decent acidity, but a little monolithic at this point on the medium long cherry fruit finish.  Maybe this just needs more time in the bottle.  (90 pts.)

2005 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac – Dark fruit and a little autumn leaves on the nose.  Nice dark bing cherry, some blackberry and a little walnut in the mouth.  Very nice acidity keeps this lively in the mouth, while the dark fruit continues on to a nice medium-long finish.  While there is still a fair amount of tannin here to work out, the wine is still young and should be good for the long haul.  (94+ pts.)

2000 Chateau Figeac, St. Emilion – Ripe dark red fruit on the nose.  In the mouth, red currants and cherries, with slightly grainy tannins and not quite as concentrated as the 2005.  Finishes with nice red cherry fruit of medium length.  (92 pts.)

2000 Chateau La Conseillante, Pomerol – Black currants and blackberries on the nose.  In the mouth a mixture of black currants and dark bing cherry/blackberry pie.  Good acidity and some spice notes starting to show up.  Again the elegance comes through on the medium-long dark fruit finish.  Still young, but this wine is starting to show a little of what it has in store for the patient collector.  (94 pts.)

1995 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac – Ripe dark red fruit and a little forest floor on the nose.  In the mouth, black cherries and red currants combine with roasted nuts and some spice.  Soft in the mouth with a little tannin still present.  Nice acidity and sweet dark fruit carry through to the medium-long finish.  (93 pts.)

1995 Chateau Leoville Barton, St. Juilen –  Nose of the night, with red and black fruit, forest floor and baking spices.  In the mouth, nice sweet dark cherries, red currants and some blackberry combine with grilled nuts and forest floor.  This has good acidity and is very silky in the mouth.  Very nice sweet dark fruit on the long finish.  (95 pts.)

For dessert, we had a pear brown butter tart and a wine to go with:

2007 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes – Nice and light melon, tangerine and a touch of honey on the nose.   Good fruit in the mouth, melon, pears  and some bees wax.  Decent acidity with a hint of spice on the medium-long sweet honey finish.  (92 pts.)

It was another wonderful evening spent with friends from afar.  While I may not be buying a large quantity of wine from the 2013 vintage, there were some good wines made that you could enjoy while you are waiting for the 05’s, 09’s and 10’s to come to maturity.

Next year, the wines of 2014 should be a noticeable step up over the 13’s.  We look forward to the next tasting in just a few short weeks!

 

 

 

 

Better Late than Never: 2015 Bordeaux Fete in San Francisco

It has been a busy year!  We are so far behind in our blog, but have every intention of making up for lost time.

To start, here’s the recap we have to add from last January’s (gasp!) Annual Bordeaux Fete.  We need to get this down for the record before next year rolls around in a few short months!

Bob Watt, Christina Watt, Jean-Charles Cazes from Lynch Bages and Nancy Rugas from Chateau Suduiraut
Bob Watt, Christina Watt, Jean-Charles Cazes from Lynch Bages and Nancy Rugas from Chateau Suduiraut.

I was very happy to be able to go this year, as I missed last year.  This year, Christina and I attended the one put on by K & L Wine Merchants and the participating Chateaux in San Francisco, since we had just moved to the Bay area. The Bordeaux Fete was at One Market Restaurant and we tasted the new 2012 releases from:

Ch. Langoa Barton, St. Julien

Ch. Leoville Barton, St. Julien

Ch. Ormes de Pez, St. Estephe

Ch. Lynch Bages, Pauillac

Petit Figeac, St. Emilion

Ch. Figeac, St. Emilion

The 2012’s while not in the same league (or price) as the 2009’s or 2010’s, they are good in their own right.  The 2012’s are medium bodied with good fruit/acid/structure and will be good to drink while you are waiting for your 2010’s to mature in your cellar.  These wines will be a pleasure to drink in the near-mid term, particularly with food.

This is always a fun event to taste the new wines and talk with the Chateaux proprietors that we have gotten to know over the years.  This year in addition to Jean-Charles Cazes from Ch. Lynch Bages and Lilian Barton-Sartorius from Ch. Leoville Barton, the event included Chateau Figeac, with proprietor Hortense Odoine Manoncourt.  We had spent some time with Hortense at Chateau Figeac on our trip to Bordeaux and it was great to see her again.

The tasting format in San Francisco is a little different than what they do in Seattle.  In San Francisco, they set up three tables with all of the new release wines being poured by the proprietors and you get to taste them over an hour time period.  After tasting the new releases, we were given a glass of non-vintage Thienot Brut Champagne as we made our way to the dinner tables.  Once at the dinner tables, the older wines were poured to enjoy with the food courses.  Here are the other wines that we tasted with the meal:

 2013 Blanc de Lynch Bages – Tangerine, lemon mineral nose.  Very nice bright clean lemony white fruit, with a little stone mixed in.  Lively acidity, smooth mouth feel, medium-light body.  Nice long lemony energetic fruit finish.  This is a very nice white Bordeaux wine that is only produced in smaller quantities, so it may not be easy to find, but is worth the effort.  I will have to track some down for the cellar.  93 pts.

2009 Figeac – Ripe black/red berry fruit nose.  This wine is lush with sweet black/red fruit, some spice and a little forest floor.  There is good acidity to the wine, medium-full bodied with lots of very fine ripe tannins (iron fist in velvet glove).  It is nice to taste a right bank right wine if a field of left banks, just for comparison.  This is a very nice wine from a great vintage.  93 pts.

2005 Langoa Barton – Subtle nose of red / black fruit.  In the mouth crunchy dark red and black berries, hints of forest floor and tobacco, with bright acidity.  Nice medium – long dark fruit finish.  91 pts.

2005 Lynch Bages – This wine has a suave nose of spicy dark cherry fruit.  In the mouth, the rich sweet dark black/red cherry fruit combines with baking spices and just a hint of leather.  The wine has very nice acidity and very fine ripe tannins.  The wine has great balance to it and a very long sweet spicy dark fruit finish.  This wine is still very young, but is just starting to show what it has in store for a very long future.  The 2005 Lynch Bages can be enjoyed now with air time, but will reward further cellaring.  It wine will gain even more complexity as it is still on the uphill climb to maturity.  Drink now or over the next three decades.  95+ pts.

2003 Figeac – Very ripe red and black fruit nose.  In the mouth, very ripe dark red bing cherry and black berries, decent acidity, with a very tannic fine grained structure.  Medium – long very ripe dark fruit finish.  Over the course of the evening, the wine seemed to lose some of it’s acidity that supported the very ripe fruit.  I would drink the 2003 sooner rather than later, over the next 10 years or so.  91 pts.

1995 Lynch Bages – Rich dark cherry fruit nose.  In the mouth, plush sweet dark red / black fruit combine with forest floor and baking spices.  This wine has good acidity, soft mostly resolved tannins and a long beautiful dark spicy fruit finish.  The wine is drinking really well now and will continue to do so over the next 10-15 years.  If you have some of the ’95 in the cellar, open one now and enjoy it.  94+ pts.

1999 Leoville Barton – Black cherry fruit and spice nose.  In the mouth, very concentrated dark black cherries, spices and a little forest floor.  Nice acidity, with some very fine grained ripe tannins still present.  The wine has a very nice sense of balance, with a very long dark sweet black fruit finish.  This wine is drinking really well right now, but I think it will continue to improve. 94+ pts.

2004 Suduiraut – Orangey-yellow in color, nose of very ripe fruit and butterscotch.  In the mouth, again very ripe tropical fruit, over ripe melon, honey and butterscotch.  This wine is too ripe for my taste, it doesn’t have the acid to back up the sweetness, so it comes across as heavy.  Medium length very sweet finish.  82 pts.

It just so happened that the same day as the dinner, the Seattle Seahawks made the finals for the SuperBowl.  Since Seattle was the next stop on the tour for our winemaker friends, we zipped into the city early to buy them a little something so they could show their support at their next dinner.

Jean-Charles Cazes of Cht. Lynch Bages, Christina Watt, and Lilian Barton-
Jean-Charles Cazes of Ch. Lynch Bages, Christina Watt, and Lilian Barton-Sartorius from Ch. Leoville Barton. They were very good sports about showing their Seahawks support!

Too bad the Seahawks didn’t pull through this year – but perhaps those hats will come in handy again next year! It will certainly be here before we know it…

18th Annual Champagne Party – ’04 Cristal Takes Top Honors

It’s truly hard to believe this was our 18th year doing the Champagne Party!  Unbelievable how time flies.  We are grateful to Jeanne and Will Hartmann, who offered up their beautiful home in Seattle to host the party this year.  Jeanne and Will have been long time Champagne Party-goers, and when they heard that we were moving to San Francisco, they said, “We’re really sorry to see you go, but what are we going to do about the Champagne Party??”  Fortunately for us, they offered to host in their house this year, so that the tradition could live on.

Champagne Party Invite, hand painted by Jeanne McKay Hartmann of idreamof.com
Champagne Party Invite, hand painted by Jeanne McKay Hartmann of idreamof.com. (Check out her blog for more pics of the party!)

The Champagne party is a double-blind tasting of generally 10 Champagnes, with a few sparkling wines from other regions of the world thrown in for comparison’s sake.  The Champagnes will range from the low-end around $15 – $20, up to the high-end of $250 – $450 per bottle.   After everyone has tasted through – and re-tasted to be sure of their choices – we take votes for the favorite and the least favorite wines of the night.  I always enjoy seeing what people like.

The beautiful table.
The beautiful table. I can never get enough of the food – I’m behind the bar all night!
But I do slave away in the kitchen (well, a little bit anyway) - the girls did most of the work!
But I do slave away in the kitchen (well, a little bit anyway) – though admittedly, the girls did most of the work!

Here is the order that we tasted the Champagnes:

Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40)

Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55)

Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110)

Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50)

Krug – Brut 2003  ($250)

Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240)

Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120)

Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40)

Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20)

Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110)

I found it much more difficult than normal year to pick out the best and rank them in order, as did the group.  Usually, there is a clear winner or two that stand out above the crowd, or something that is completely polarizing, but that was not the case this year.  This year almost all of the wines showed well, but some (Launois, Ariston & Pol Roger) could definitely use some more bottle age to show what they have to offer.

The champagnes, all ready to go.
The champagnes, all ready to go.

Here is how the group ranked the Champagnes:

1st – Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240)

2nd – Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120)

3rd – Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110)

4th – Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55)

5th – Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50)

6th – Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20)

7th – Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110)

8th – Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40)

9th – Krug – Brut 2003  ($250)

10th – Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40)

Professional taster?  Brian Flynn and Bob Watt.
Professional taster? Brian Flynn and Bob Watt.

We generally don’t repeat an exact same Champagne in multiple tastings, but we had the 2004 Roederer Cristal in the lineup last year and I included it this year as well, to test a theory.  Last year, the group put the 2004 Roederer Cristal in 9th place and I ranked it dead last in 10th place.  The Champagne was just totally out of balance, too sweet, not enough acidity with a very short unremarkable finish.  It was exactly what you don’t want for a Champagne, especially for the price.  I felt the Champagne just didn’t show well, but I really thought it should have fared better, so I decided to give it another go around.  It’s amazing what an extra year did for the wine.  The proof is in the votes, first place for the group and 3rd place for me.

If you know me, you know I’m a Krug lover, and while I did single it out as my favorite, I was still very surprised at how the 2003 Krug showed this year.  The group ranked the 2003 Krug tied for last place, so we had a run off and it barely beat the Launois.  Neither the Krug Vintage or the Multi-Vintage has ever placed below 4th position in the 18 years that we have done this tasting, so to be ranked tied for last place is unusual for this wonderful Champagne house.  I personally liked the 2003 Krug as a Champagne, but I have to say, I don’t think it will go down in history as a great Krug.  I think the 2003 Krug is the weakest vintage Krug going back through the 1985 vintage.  Even the 1998 Krug is better and neither compare to the 2000 Krug, which is, or will be, a great Krug.

You may ask why I ranked this Champagne in 1st place?  Bottle bias?  Perhaps, but in my opinion, the 2003 Krug has all of the telltale signs of what Krug is, which I absolutely love, but is just much more restrained and subdued.  Only myself and two other die-hard Krug fans picked the 2003 Krug for 1st place.  Even my wife, Christina, went a different direction, picking the 2000 Charles Heidsieck as her favorite, and she usually can pick out a Krug Champagne in the lineup if there is one.  I will be very curious to see how the MV Krug Champagne that is based on the 2003 vintage tastes in comparison to the 2003 Krug.  Being a blend of multiple vintages could be a plus in this case and give the Champagne more of the Krug character that I love.

For the record, here is how I ranked the Champagnes:

1st – Krug – Brut 2003  ($250) – (94pts)

2nd – Billecart Salmon – Cuvee Nicolas Francois Brut 1999  ($120) – (94pts)

3rd – Roederer  – Cristal Brut 2004  ($240) – (93pts)

4th – Charles Heidsieck – Brut 2000  ($110) – (92pts)

5th – Pol Roger – Brut 2004  ($110) – (91pts)

6th – Frank Bonville – Prestige Blanc de Blanc NV  ($55) – (89pts)

7th – Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut NV  ($20) – (89pts)

8th – Launois – Cuvee Reserve Blanc de Blanc NV  ($40) – (87pts)

9th – Gosset – Brut Excellence  NV  ($40) – (86pts)

10th – Ariston Aspasie – Brut 2008  ($50) – (82pts)

You're all winners in my book.
You’re all winners in my book.

The Champagne party is always a great way to kick off the Holiday season.  As many know, Champagne is a passion for me, but too many people think of Champagne as just for celebrations and special events.  It is first and foremost wine (with bubbles), that pairs great with food and is an absolute must in any cellar.  Life is too short not to drink Champagne on a regular basis!

Now, what to have for our 19th Annual Champagne Party…stay tuned!

 

 

P.S. “Like” this post?  Let us know!  If you were at the party, tell us what you thought of the Champagnes…

 

No Joke – Taste Washington Hits it Out of the Park

We’re still recovering from our food and wine coma, having attended Taste Washington over the weekend.  We’ve been several times before, as Christina worked with a wine association and used to help host media events during the show.  But this time we were attending in the media capacity to taste and review.

As food and wine experiences go, we knew the wines would be solid, but what really blew us away was the quality of the food offerings.  The participating restaurants really brought their “A game”, making the event more than worth the price of admission.  There was an oyster bar, tuna and beef nibbles at every turn, amazing cheeses and killer food trucks.  We reviewed more than 60 wines, which is a feat, when you consider the time needed to take notes on each wine, as well as to say hello to good friends and try to ferret out new discoveries (and to eat, did we mention the great food??).

Grower Dick Boushey and Christina Watt.  We headed out to taste with Dick, but he's so popular, we didn't make it far!
Grower Dick Boushey and Christina Watt. We headed out to taste with Dick, but he’s so popular, we didn’t make it far together!

People often refer to the Washington Wine scene as being in its adolescent stage of growth.  We have certainly seen the wines and the infrastructure grow in leaps and bounds over the last decade.  We continue to be impressed with the quality of the wines and the passion of the winemakers in this region and we are relieved to see that the pricing is still reasonable.  It was interesting to note that we also met several folks from California that had decided to “move on up” to Washington to try their hand making juice in the Wild West.

Over the course of the next month or so, we’ll highlight some fun new finds and tell you what to expect from our perennial favorites with their latest releases.  Next year, don’t take our word for it, come out and enjoy the event for yourself.  As Steve Warner, the President of the Washington Wine Commission said, the goal is to make it truly a Taste of Washington.  We’d say they more than succeeded!

Italian-Style Wines in Oregon Wine Country?

We took a short trip to Oregon last fall to visit my wife’s family, and decided to stop by a couple of wineries while we were there.  When we asked around, we were told to stop by a small winery called Remy Wines in McMinnville Oregon.  It’s a cute little place that’s run by Remy Drabkin, who decided in third grade that she wanted to be a winemaker because she saw how much her parents enjoyed wine and the wine lifestyle.  The winery tasting room was carved out of a part of their warehouse facility, but they’ve done a nice job of making it a kitschy-cool little hangout they call the baR (or the R Bar).  Remy Wines also serves great antipasto to go with their Italian-styled wines – bread, olive oil, cheeses, cured meats – even our kids were happy.

Christina and her sister-in-law Kerry Prather at Remy Winery on a beautiful - and windy - fall day.
Christina and her sister-in-law, Kerry Prather, at Remy Wines on a beautiful – and windy – fall day.
The kids were occupied for a little bit.
Maybe these third graders will also be interested in wine one day…?
And then the food arrived and the kids really got into it.
The kids were definitely interested in the food!

Yes – you heard me right, we were drinking Italian-styled wines in Pinot Country.  I would never have expected to find a winery in Oregon that concentrated on Italian varietal wines, but it was a refreshing change.  I really like the Italian varietals with their higher acidity – they’re great food wines.  Here are some of the wines that we tasted while at Remy:

October 2013 040

2012 Three Wives White, Pinot Gris – Nice semi-sweet white fruit wine for the summer afternoons, nice clean medium finish.

2010 Three Wives Red, Barbera and Sangiovese – Nice sweet red/black fruit that is a little earthy and with juicy acidity that keeps everything lively in the mouth.  This is an excellent food wine that has a very nice medium-long earthy red fruit finish.

2011 Ciel du Cheval Sangiovese – Nice red cherry fruit and red licorice in the mouth with decent acidity and a medium slightly dry finish.  This is a nice wine, but it doesn’t quite have the complexity that the Three Wives Red has at this point, but it is also a year younger as well.

2010 Rosebud, Barbera – Deeper, darker ripe black bing cherries with a little blackberry, red currant and dusty earth thrown into the mix.  This wine has very good juicy acidity that intermingles with the rich dark fruit keeping everything alive in the mouth.  Very nice long sweet dark fruit filled finish.  This is a really well made wine that will give the Italians a run for their money.

2010 Lagrein – Dark, slightly dry earthy fruit, with good acidity.  Medium length dry dark fruit finish.  This Italian grape varietal is apparently from the NE area of Italy.  I don’t think I have had this one before or at least I didn’t know it.  It is an interesting grape, but I do prefer the Barbera and Sangiovese based wines.

October 2013 035

Even though Remy Wines is an Oregon winery, most of the grapes come from Washington State on Red Mountain.  Remy is making some really good (and affordable) wines and they are a definite place to seek out while you are in the Oregon wine country.  I will definitely be going back next time I am down in the neighborhood.  Remy Wines is a very refreshing change to the dominant Pinot that is produced in Oregon.  Bravo Remy!  Keep up the good work.

Double-Blind Tasting – Bordeaux from 1990 and Prior

Just when you thought we were done posting about Bordeaux for a while, I thought I’d throw in a review from a couple months back when my wine group did a double-blind tasting of Bordeaux wines from 1990 and prior.  My wine group of eight guys has been meeting monthly for about nine years now.  The host picks the wine theme and most of our tastings are double-blind.  This time, our wonderful host, Bill Schallert, invited the wives to join the group, so my wife, Christina, was happy to come and taste some swill.  Since we had just returned a month prior from our two week trip to Bordeaux, we absolutely loved the idea of being able to taste some more mature Bordeaux wines, as most of the wines you get to taste at the Chateaux are on the younger side.

I have always really liked tasting blind, or better yet, double-blind.  For those that don’t know the difference between blind and double-blind:  a blind tasting is when you know the wines that are being served, but you do not know the order.  A double-blind tasting is when you don’t know what wines are being served, but they may meet a category (Bordeaux 1990 and prior), and you also don’t know the order.  I like blind tastings because I consider myself a perpetual student of wine, and I don’t want my opinion to be potentially swayed by any labels.

See? You can tell we tasted them blind by the brown wrapping still hanging on to the bottle of Palmer.
See? You can tell we tasted them blind by the brown wrapping still hanging on to the bottle of Palmer.    A good night!

Here are the wines and the order that we tasted them in:

Pre-Flight

2003 Chateau Raveneau – Monts Mains, Chablis – Nice melon fruit a little sea breeze and oyster shell minerality on the nose.  In the mouth, ripe melon, white peach and a little spice, with  limestone and oyster shells.  Good acidity for a 2003 Chablis, that keeps everything lively on the medium-long spicy white fruit and ocean air finish.  Raveneau makes some absolutely wonderful Chablis, even in a hot year like 2003.  This was a great way to start. (93 pts.)

This is always an excellent white producer.
This is such an excellent producer of Chablis.

Flight #1

1989 Chateau Pichon Lalande, St. Julien – Classic stinky feet Bordeaux nose with a little bit of Band-Aid jumps from the glass, sweet dark berry fruit, dry leaves, forest floor and baking spices.  Medium-full bodied, with good acidity, resolved tannins and a nice long dark fruit finish.  This is a classic mature Bordeaux, that is drinking very well right now.  The ’89 Pichon Lalande is on a faster track and drinking more mature than most of the other 89’s that I have had.  I would venture to say that it will not last nearly as long either.  While a lot of the 89’s will continue to improve through 2020, I will probably finish off my ’89 Pichon Lalande before 2020.  I don’t see it getting any better than where it is at present. (94 pts.)

1990 Chateau Prieure Lichine, Margaux – Darker berry nose with a little Band-Aid again.  In the mouth, darker small berry fruit, black currants, slight bit of spice, decent acidity and surprisingly assertive tannins.  Medium-full bodied and a long dark tannic fruit finish, that doesn’t have the sweetness of fruit the first wine had.  This is a big and dark wine, but it doesn’t give you the pleasure in the finish. (89 pts.)

1981 Chateau Gruaud Larose, St. Julien – Dark earthy red/black berry fruit nose, with just a hint of green bell pepper, but not in a bad way.  In the mouth, deep dark red bing cherry and earthy blackberry fruit, baking spices, slight bit of forest floor and still fairly tannic.  Full bodied and a long sweet dark tannic fruit finish.  This is a big wine that is surprisingly youthful and still drinking young.  I could not believe that it was from the ’81 vintage when it was revealed, it tasted more like a ’96.  (93 pts.)

Flight #2

1982 Chateau Palmer, Margaux -Very nice spicy dark fruit and dark chocolate nose.  Very smooth in the mouth, small ripe dark bing cherries and blackberries, lots of baking spices, slight bit of forest floor and resolved sweet tannins.  Full bodied, sweet/spicy dark red/black fruit just singing on the very long fruit filled finish.  This wine is drinking very well today and even beat the ’83 Palmer that I had about a year ago.  I don’t see this wine getting any better than it is today, so no reason to wait, but no hurry either if well stored.  (96 pts.)

1989 Chateau Angelus, St. Emilion – Very dark cherry fruit and chocolate nose.  In the mouth, ripe black bing cherries and very dark bittersweet chocolate, good acidity and with just the slightest hint of baking spices.  Full bodied and a nice long very dark chocolate fruit filled very tannic finish.  This wine was very tannic and seemed a little closed in on its self, it just was not singing.  You could see the huge potential, but it was begging for another decade in the cellar to really show its stuff.  I know the person who brought the wine bought it on release and it has been well-stored since, so maybe it just needed a lot more air and/or more years in the cellar.  (95 pts.) now with upside.

After tasting the 1989 Angelus, I mentioned to my wife “This wine tastes like a wine we just had in Bordeaux,” it just seemed so distinct.  The others at the table heard me mention this to Christina, so they asked me what I thought the wine was.  I said I didn’t know the vintage, but the characteristics of the wine reminded me of the ’05 and ’06 Chateau Angelus we had a month ago.  I was shocked to see it was an ’89 Angelus, but glad to see that my flavor memory recall was working.  I guess I learned something on that trip (and practice makes perfect, right??).  The ’05 and ’06 Angelus wines were some of the highlights of our wonderful trip.

1989 Chateau Lynch Bages, Pauillac – Dark cherry and bitter chocolate nose.  Smooth in the mouth, with dark black cherries, bitter sweet chocolate and some spice.  Good acidity and still very tannic on the long dark fruit finish.  This wine must have been resting in a very cold, dark cellar and is in need of another 5+ years to show what it has to offer.  A very nice wine, but will not give up what it has right now.  (93 pts.) with upside.

1983 Chateau Magdelaine, St. Emilion – Dark cherry fruit and spice with some dark chocolate on the nose.  Very smooth in the mouth, beautiful ripe dark bing cherries, lots of baking spices and a little forest floor adds to the wonderful complexity.  Fully resolved tannins, medium-full bodied and an absolutely beautiful long sweet dark spicy fruit finish.  This is my first time having wine from this producer and they knocked it out of the park with the ’83.  This is a gorgeous wine today, so if you own it, open a bottle.  You won’t be disappointed.  (96 pts.)

2005 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes – Sweet pineapple, some melon and honey on the nose.  Very sweet pineapple in the mouth, with some spiced honey and decent acidity.  The very sweet finish is long but the honey aspect is just a little too cloyingly sweet for my taste.  It is a nice, well-made wine, but I would prefer a little more acidity to counter the sweetness.  (92 pts.)

All in all, it was a very nice evening with a great group of guys (and girls).  Wouldn’t mind repeating it again soon…!

Day Eleven Dinner, The Last Supper: Restaurant Hostellerie de Plaisance

After our hours-long cooking class, we were wishing we could’ve stayed in St. Emilion for the night, but it would’ve put us even farther from the airport bright and early the next morning.  So instead, we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in town until a driving rain forced us into the hotel lounge two hours before dinner, where we happily played backgammon, drank cocktails and soaked up the beautiful atmosphere of the hotel (we have a running score tally on backgammon that goes back years!).

Bob making a serious move.
Making a serious move.
Christina in the beautiful lounge.
Christina in the beautiful lounge.
I took several pictures of this room...
I took several pictures of this room…Christina said her designer friends would appreciate it.
View looking back towards the bar.
View looking back towards the bar.
The view looking out onto the terrace.
The view looking out onto the terrace.

At one point, we thought we might have dinner on the spectacular terrace of the hotel in the evening, but the on-again, off-again rain that day pretty much nixed that option.  The main dining room of the hotel was quite a sumptuous and posh affair.  From our vantage point, we admit, we also had a great people-watching view.

We booked the reservation thinking we'd be eating out here on the terrace.
We booked the reservation thinking we’d be eating out here on the terrace.
It would've been great to look out over this view.
It would’ve been great to look out over this view.

But the best views were probably of the waitstaff.  Clearly, this establishment takes its service seriously – you could tell by the level of attentiveness and attention to detail.  We went easy on the wine that night – all the activities of the day and the long drive back to our hotel made that an easy decision, though somewhat bittersweet, as it was our last night of the trip.

The formal dining room.
The formal dining room.

The food was meticulously prepared and delicious, though we do have to say, it was as expected, but nothing we had that evening seemed to elevate our dining experience in any transcendent way. Bordeaux 2013 3577 Bordeaux 2013 3579 Bordeaux 2013 3582 Bordeaux 2013 3583 We had three different wines from their pairing menu with dinner:

2012 Chateau Turcaud Bordeaux Blanc – Very bright lemony white fruit that is very clean and fresh.  This is a nice dry wine with a long stony white fruit finish and brisk acidity keeping everything lively in the mouth.

2007 Chateau Milens, St. Emilion – Dark blackberries, dark chocolate and subtle minerality.  Good acidity but slightly drying tannins in the mouth.  Medium bodied and a medium length black fruit finish.  This is a good inexpensive red Bordeaux wine with a lively finish, but it just lacks the polish of the better classified Chateaux.

2009 Chateau Lyonnat, St. Emilion – Black in color with a red rim.  Deep rich dark blackberries and black currants, with a little minerality coming through.  Medium bodied and good acidity, with noticeable but very fine tannins.  Silky smooth in the mouth, with a medium-long black fruit finish and a snap of acid and tannins at the end.  This is a very nice wine that is lively in the mouth and still just a baby.  I would imagine that you could find it for a bargain of a price, especially compared to the other 2009 classified Bordeaux wines.

Turns out there were two table-side experiences offered here in a way we hadn’t seen presented before.  In addition to the ubiquitous cheese trolley, this restaurant also had the most fanciful dessert trolley with enormous lollipops and glass cylinders full of candies in every color of the rainbow – our kids would have swooned over it.  My wife wound up falling in  love with the tea trolley, however.  I can honestly say that I have never seen a tea trolley to this extent before – you could have used the trolley as a duck blind.  They offered a variety of fresh herbs, which they picked from pots on the trolley and brewed at the table.  Her lemongrass tea was pretty fantastic, I admit.

The kids would've loved this candy cart.
The kids would’ve loved this candy cart.
Christina loved this tea trolley.
Christina loved this tea trolley.

All good things must come to an end, I suppose.  So, for now, this is the end of our Bordeaux travel tales.  But of course, we have another adventure close at hand – we look forward to telling you more about it very soon!  In the meantime, there’s plenty of wine to drink and fun experiences to share here at home…

A beautiful place to spend our last evening in Bordeaux.
A beautiful place to spend our last evening in Bordeaux.

Fete du Bordeaux 2014 – Year Six

Authored by Christina

As previously noted, this was the first year I attended the annual Bordeaux dinner in Seattle alone, as my husband had to be out of town. Alas, I wasn’t entirely left to fend for myself, as good friend Bill Schallert from Young’s Market Company made a great stand-in date (thanks Bill!).

Bill Schallert from Young's Market Co., Nancy Rugus, representing Chateau Suidaraut, Jean-Charles Cazes from Chateau Lynch Bages, Christina Watt, and Damien Barton Sartorius with Chateau Leoville Barton.
Bill Schallert from Young’s Market Co., Nancy Rugus, representing Chateau Suduiraut, Jean-Charles Cazes from Chateau Lynch-Bages, Christina Watt, and Damien Barton Sartorius with Chateau Leoville-Barton.

One of the highlights of the evening is always hearing from the representatives from the various estates whose wines we’re tasting – we appreciate their efforts to be here. We were pleased to welcome Jean-Charles Cazes again from Chateau Lynch-Bages and Chateau Ormes de Pez, as well as Damien Barton Satorius, from Chateau Leoville-Baron and Chateau Langoa-Barton. The dinner was held on the day of the Seahawks Victory Parade that brought out over 700,000 fans into the streets of Seattle. Ever mischievous, Jean-Charles had a little fun with the theme, bringing Seahawks “Lynch: Beast Mode” jerseys to describe the Lynch-Bages wines.

Damien is the grandson of Anthony Barton, who has visited for dinners in the past. Damien’s mother Lillian has also joined us on a few occasions. Damien is currently finishing up his Masters Degree in International Business, and this was his first trip to the United States and second wine dinner in which he was asked to provide remarks on behalf of the estate, which he did very well. You can certainly see the resemblance to his very gracious grandfather, and we look forward to hearing more from Damien in the future.

Chateau Montrose was notably absent in representation again this year, citing ongoing construction work that kept them from attending. Here’s hoping they get that construction done soon – it’s always nice to hear from the Chateaux themselves at these events. Nancy Rugus did a nice job explaining their wines, however, and also those of the venerable Chateau Suduiraut, whom she represents and who makes exceptional Sauternes.

Just a few things to taste through...
Just a few glasses to taste through…

This was the year we tasted the 2011’s, coming off of the major hype of the ’09’s and 10’s, and even the very good year of the ’08’s.

Here was the line-up:

  • 2012 Blanc de Lynch Bages
  • 2011 Chateau Tronquoy Lalande
  • 2011 Chateau Ormes de Pez
  • 2011 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 2011 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2011 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 2011 Chateau Montrose
  • 2000 Chateau Langoa-Barton
  • 2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 2005 Chateau Montrose
  • 1990 Chateau Lynch-Bages
  • 1990 Chateau Leoville-Barton
  • 1998 Chateau Montrose
  • 2003 Chateau Suduiraut

Now let me preface my remarks by saying that in general, my wine of the night has typically always been one of the older vintages, which makes perfect sense, right? Well, in 2010, I actually prefered the 2010 Chateau Montrose as my wine of the night – there was so much potential there, but you could still get an immediate sense of the power and complexity. (I tend to prefer the 10’s to the ’09’s, though I wouldn’t turn any of them down!)

Which is my long-winded way of saying that while the 2011’s are admittedly young, honestly, I struggled to differentiate between them in any meaningful way, and to my taste, they seem to be wines to drink sooner, rather than aging for later. This was the general opinion of my tablemates as well, though we all admitted to not having a crystal ball! At the end of the day, we decided it’s not a bad idea to have a few bottles of good Bordeaux to drink now rather than later anyway. I will say that the 2011 Chateau Lynch Bages had a nice earthy nose and seemed to have some good potential, and the 2011 Chateau Montrose, though very tight, had some of the characteristic earthiness and complexity I’ve come to associate with these wines – it would be interesting to come back and taste this wine again once it gets a little age on it, as it appears to have some good structure behind it.

Chateau Leoville Barton.
1990 Chateau Leoville Barton. Was a crowd favorite.

To that end, I struggled a little with the older wines to pick a definitive wine of the night – there were some nice wines there. The 2000 Langoa-Barton particularly stood out, but perhaps especially because of the shift to a significantly older wine after the 11’s! It was a good, round, earthy wine with a great nose, and a nice pairing for the roasted loin of Ostrich we had for that course.

Chateau Lynch-Bages.
Chateau Lynch-Bages.

The final three wines of the night, the 1998 Montrose, 1990 Chateau Leoville-Barton and 1990 Chateau Lynch-Bages were all drinking well. The 1990 Lynch-Bages was probably my favorite of the evening – it was still a little tight, but the nose was dreamy – green bell pepper and barnyard – one of those that I could just sit and smell and not even drink and be happy! The 1990 Ch. Leoville-Barton was also very good – I heard several of my tablemates claim it as their favorite. Really, I wouldn’t turn any of those wines away.

The chef also did a masterful job of pairing the 2012 Blanc de Lynch Bages with a seared sea scallop dish – the wine and the briny flavors of the scallops worked really well together. Of course, I’m a huge fan of this white, and I know from this summer that it also pairs well with charcuterie and just about anything else you can think to nibble on. They’ve done a nice job with the consistency of the profile year over year, peachy, earthy, grassy – just green enough, but still a round, full wine with a crisp finish and good minerality – it’s one of my favorite whites these days. (That’s typically code for, okay, honey, you can buy more if you can find it!)

Which, at the end of the day, is always the fun of these dinners – tasting things you may have in your cellar to see how they are drinking now, and deciding what to add and age for later. Me? I’m happy that I usually have help making these decisions, but no matter, the discussion and company is always fun while you’re forming an opinion!

Looking forward to next year…

Moment of Truth – Bordeaux Dinner

Authored by Christina

Tonight is the annual Fete du Bordeaux dinner and tasting in Seattle.  This is the sixth time we’ve attended the dinner – but the first time I’ve had to go alone!  I remember the first one we went to, actually, Bob had to talk me into going for some reason…but never again.  It’s a great dinner and a great opportunity to try some very nice wines.

Alas, they moved the standing date this year, and Bob is out of town in Tucson for his annual gem show which is a bummer for both of us (diamonds or wine, diamonds or wine – such a dilemma!). I suspect he’d rather be at the dinner though.  Frankly, I’d rather have him here!

While I certainly have my opinions about what wine I like, the reason we can write up such detailed reviews on this blog is all Bob – the most you’ll likely get from me is a vote about my wine of the night (and perhaps an amusing story or two).  I guess we’ll see!

The amount of glassware is crazy - see?  It's not just me - how do I socialize ANDtake notes on all of this!
The amount of glassware is crazy – see? It’s not just me – how do I take notes on all of this?

In the meantime – here are links to the line-ups from years past:

Fete du Bordeaux 2009

Fete du Bordeaux 2010

Fete du Bordeaux 2011

Fete du Bordeaux 2012

Fete du Bordeaux 2013

Tonight we’ll taste the 2011’s.  It’ll be interesting to see how they compare to the 09 and 10’s that have gotten so much acclaim.  Must’ve been a hard act to follow for the winemakers – though my guess is, the wine will be more than just fine.

jan 2012 001
Blast from the past: Christina Watt and Nicolas Glumineau at the dinner in 2012. Nicolas was the former technical director of Chateau Montrose, and is now the head of Roederer’s Bordeaux properties, including Chateau Pichon Lalande. I believe that tonight we’ll taste the 2011’s made from just before he left.

More soon!  Well, some pictures maybe – we’ll see what I can come up with…!