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…!

Day Seven Dinner: Where the Wheels Fell off the Wagon

Authored by Christina

By now you may be wondering – just how long is this Bordeaux tour??  It was 12 days, so we’re more than halfway done recapping our visits (thank goodness, right?) – and we have the fabulous town of Sauternes coming up next.

So far, all had gone remarkably well on our tour.  But we were confronted with an unusual circumstance this evening – we didn’t have dinner scheduled anywhere.

After eating so much heavy food  (I’m normally gluten and dairy-free), I really was craving something light.  We were heading in the direction of Bordeaux city as we went back to our hotel that evening, so we asked Nicolas Glumineau of Pichon Lalande at lunch that day for a dinner recommendation.  I threw out sushi, and he threw me a look – apparently that was asking for a lot in Bordeaux.

Then he remembered a Japanese restaurant in town very near where we had stayed the previous weekend.  He couldn’t remember the name, but he sketched out a little map on the back of his business card, and we thought it looked simple enough.

We made our way back to Bordeaux easily enough and found parking without fuss. As we drove through town, I saw a small restaurant on the corner very near where we had originally stayed, advertising sushi.  We decided it could be the back-up plan.

We followed the little map as best we could, but the best thing we could find was the store Badie – no sushi, but a store of all champagne – Bob thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  The concept appeared to be well done – a store with champagne on one side of the street, and another store with Bordeaux wines on the other side of the street.  We skidded to a halt in front of the well-done windows – just as they were about to close.  We decided the trip back into town was worth it just to discover this little concept.

The store-front of the Badie Champagne shop at closing time.  The Bordeaux wine shop was directly across the street.
The store-front of the Badie Champagne shop at closing time. The Badie wine shop was directly across the street.

We also discovered another engaging store-front, this time, a display of armagnacs and cognacs – which were actually very popular in the region.  Bob is always wondering why more stores and bars don”t make better use of lighting – I wish the picture was better – the whole store was glowing amber.

A cognac shop in Bordeaux.
An Armagnac & cognac shop in Bordeaux. The background appears light here, but in reality it’s a great amber color.

But try as we might, we could not discover that Japanese restaurant.  So off to Plan B.  To be honest, we knew when we walked in that we should walk out of this little restaurant, but we were so hungry, and at the very least, this place looked like it would be quick.  It was the Bordeaux version of the Japanese conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, not so far off from what I had been asking for.  The execution of the concept was so poorly done though, machine-made rolls, dried-out rice, fishy-smelling sushi – it was disappointing to settle in for a bad meal, but we were so hungry, we gave up and braved it.

Naturally, we don’t have any good wine recommendations coming out of this dinner experience, but we more than made up for it the next day in Sauternes, and we keep wondering if Seattle needs a champagne shop like Badie…

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.

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