This beauty from Bordeaux’s Canon-Fronsac is a dead ringer for great St.-Emillon. In fact, at just 15 km from St.-Emilion and Pomerol, Canon-Fronsac is a geological continuation of the St.-Emilion limestone plateau with clay soils that Merlot just loves, producing supple and sophisticated wines that keep me coming back for more. Gaby is so good and such a solid bargin that 90% of it is consumed in Europe! When I tasted it, I had to get it for you. When you pop this one, everyone will gab about just how unbelievably good it is. With plush, smooth tannins swimming in a core of Merlot-driven plums and hint of Cabernet herbs and the ability to age gracefully, 2009 Gaby is a show-stopping steal.
2009 Chateau du Gaby
A broad, fleshy, smoky style, with dark plum, currant paste, braised fig and baker’s chocolate notes that hang on the muscular finish. A gutsy style, but should be tamed a bit by cellaring…. 91 points, Wine Spectator
Michel and Dany Rolland produce one of the top wines of Fronsac at their home estate of Fontenil. Note that it is both of them that we mention here and not just Michel, Fontenil being about their love of winemaking and the estate they came to own and live and make wine together at in the mid 1980s. Yes Michel jets around consulting the rich and famous but at Fontenil it is a family affair and truly a labor of love. In 2010 I tasted all the wines of the family with Dany and she really lit up when we tasted and talked about Fontenil. It is the slopes of the village of Saillans as well as the talents and hearts of the Rollands that the wine comes from. Yes, and from 2009 also, a vintage of Fontenil Michel calls “grandiose with power and harmony.” Enough said. (14.5%) 92/100.
2009 Chateau Fontenil
…relatively hefty alcohol at 14.5%, but it is not noticeable in this full-bodied, layered, opulent wine, with lots of black raspberry fruit intermixed with some blueberries and crushed rock…. 92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
Haut-Bergey proprietor Hélène Garcin just visited B-21 in April, the second time in a year, and Bob and I were unable to join her for dinner in January due to a travel mishap. Call it a home and away series. You recognize her since we promote her wines, Barde-Haut, Clos L’Eglise, Branon and Poesia in Argentina, and Haut-Bergey here. Haut-Bergey is her bargain deluxe in the heart of Pessac-Leognan. The style is more lush than is common in Pessac, a modern classic so to speak. I’ve not tasted it again since from barrel in 2011, it just arrived last week, but remember it being very similar to 2009, just as voluptuous if not a bit more amplified and “ripped.” (14%)
…displays classic tobacco leaf and smoky barbecue notes along with rich black currants and crushed rocks in a medium to full-bodied, seductive, attractively up-front style. …It is a sleeper of the vintage.
A pure classic and one of the top Bordeaux wines of its price, 2009 Lafon-Rochet is a stunner. Their neighbors, Lafite and Cos D’Estournel, probably wonder why they charge so little. Let’s go with it! Tasting barrel samples, I remember it was one of the standouts then, and tasting it for the first time from bottle confirmed it. For my money, in fact, St-Estephe was the top commune of the vintage from top to bottom. Initially sinewy, the dark and fine flavors are deep, a bit linear and considerably structured. Lafon-Rochet is straight-laced, stately and excellent. 94 points. (14%)
Remarkably situated along the Gironde River on the north shore of the Medoc, and impeccably run by Bernard Magrez, Les Grands Chênes shows the magical value quotient of the Medoc. A 50/40/10ish split between merlot and cab and cab franc, Les Grands Chenês comes by its polish honestly, being consulted by Michel Rolland. Winner of a Medaille D’or in 2011, that’s the gold, at the Concours General Agricole in Paris, LGC shows rich and dark fruit and opulent texture with fresh acids too, and value: a wine like this from Napa Valley would cost $50. Drinks beautifully now and will continue to evolve for 10 years, easily. Snare your non-Bordeaux drinking friends in your wine web with this one. 90 points. (14%)
…loads of espresso roast, black chocolate, creme de cassis, forest floor and tobacco leaf in a full-bodied, opulent, and flamboyant style. Dense, rich and deep in fruit, it exhibits the plush, silky tannins…
We dig Fronsac wines at B-21, the commune is the right bank’s seminal source of outsized value wines. Chateau Arnauton, sitting at one of the high points of the Gironde, delivers Bordeaux deluxe with its Cuvee Grand Sol of the 2009 vintage. In keeping with the style of the vintage, Grand Sol, made of about 80% merlot, 15% cab franc on a southern facing slope, is lush and ripe, leaning to the modern style without any over extraction; rich with plush texture, dark and floral, and a clean and lengthy finish give this delicious deliverance. Ready to drink right now as well, it is a wine to bring many drinkers steering to the right bank of Bordeaux. 92 points. (14.5%)
…fruits interwoven again with some crushed chalk and spring flowers make for some complex aromatics. Add some raspberry notes in the fruit flavor profile in the mid-palate, in addition to the full-bodied finish…
As the “great” vintages go by and prices go up on them, certain “classic” vintages become more and more attractive. 2008 is one those vintages delivering wines with balance and character that have been passed over for blockbusters and critics raves. Seeing the last prices of a hot property like Smith Haut Lafitte in sought after vintages like 2009 and 2010 ($150 and $129, respectively) makes wines like this one considerable; especially with a chateau like Smith Haut Lafitte and experienced buyers that like a property, know what it tastes like and like it for that reason. The Cathiard family, you recognize the name if you are a snow skier from the Olympics, has continued to further the reputation of this classified growth (for red wine only) and we have it here for the smart money.
In early 2012, following the path of the famous importer Kermit Lynch, I looked forward to meeting many of his great discoveries, especially Philippe Bernède. He’s the master of Malbec, the famous “black” wine of Cahors up in the rugged terrain above Toulouse. This is where Malbec was born, in an old Roman town east of Bordeaux. You don’t know Malbec until you’ve had it from the source, no matter how much from Argentina you’ve drunk. Bernède is quite modest about it although his family has tended malbec for six generations and Clos la Coutale is the most famous label in the region. It’s an old favorite of Kermit, and mine too. Finally got to meet him when he joined us for a seaside feast of shellfish straight from the Mediterranean. Too bad we couldn’t have had cassoulet to go with his Coutale; it’s made for duck fat. Maybe next time – I will return. Bernède’s a quiet and charming guy with many talents, on the side he invented a new kind of corkscrew with a double hinge. His wines have set the standard for Malbec, a robust “red” that truly is nearly black. Full of blackberries and very dark fruit, and silkier than you expect, maybe because of the dollop of Merlot or his careful barrel aging (in Seguin-Moreau barrels just like the high-priced guys). Still the 2010 is definitely big and built for the long haul. ’10 was a terrific year for Bordeaux and it delivered the same goodness in Cahors.
…a robust “red” that truly is nearly black. Full of blackberries and very dark fruit, and silkier than you expect, maybe because of the dollop of Merlot or his careful barrel aging… big and built for the long haul….
Over the last few weeks I have been revealing what I believe to be the top values in 2010 Bordeaux vintage, and in countdown fashion I have reached the summit this week: 2010 Chateau Le Pey.
This Medoc wine has been on my radar since the 2000 vintage and this, the 2010, is the best vintage I have tasted. Finally moving to over half cab (55%), the balance merlot, I think the Chateau has reached the point of perfection. To expect more out of $15 wine is to set up all those $30-$40 wines for failure. This is medium weight, supple, shows fine tannins and is authentic Bordeaux with structure to develop for 10 years while having the finesse to drink early. I tasted this while visiting Bordeaux in January and it was the single best value of the trip. 92/100. (13.5%)
A historical gem has been restored. Over the last 25 years Cantemerle has once again taken its place among the top Chateaux of Bordeaux, a stature it achieved in the 1855 Classification of the Wines of the Gironde. Classic and collectible Bordeaux, Cantemerle sits close to the banks where the Garonne River breaks off the Gironde . This is a wine that will reward patience, and a wine that stands out among others its price around the world. Buy it by the case because you can drink it now to see just how good it is and hold for a good long time to reap the benefits of just what a wine of its kind can become. You’ll be happy that did!
…Stunningly deep ruby/purple, with a beautiful nose of spring flowers intermixed with perfumed raspberry and blueberry notes, it exhibits a sort of cool-climate character. Broad, rich and intense on the palate…
Power, power, power! And to think that it is 82% Merlot, the balance cab s, take that and rewind it back, it will astound anyone ever thinking that merlot doesn’t have the deepness of cab. This is a WOW! wine that is rich with dark berry fruit, wet earth, soy and chocolate, very resonant, dark and long. Saint-Estephe was maybe the most overachieving commune of the vintage and Montrose, the parent unit of Dame, was one of the best wines made in 2009. This is the best version of the dame yet. So perfectly ripe and so meticulously crafted that the tannins are layered and add complexity only, and while the wine is youthful it does not taste young. Bold and big, this wine is very open to drink now and I do not see it closing down at all, it is so perfectly balanced. One of the best 2nd wines I have tasted. 93/100. (13.5%)
We tasted this treat last week, and it is one of the most successful under $20 wines of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. Broad and juicy, bursting with black cherry and glints of savory red fruits too, it pushes the ripe button but has no overripe qualities at all. Some chocolate and smoky meat tones fill the mid palate and resonate after the initial swell of vibrant fruit, the finish pure with fresh mineral touches. This modern-styled Bordeaux will please the Aussie and CA drinker for sure. Big, supple and fresh at the same time, made of mostly merlot from the slopes of the north bank of the Dordogne river, the cabernet franc gives it the verve that keeps it distinctively right bank! 90/100. (14.5%)
…juicy, bursting with black cherry and glints of savory red fruits too… Some chocolate and smoky meat tones fill the mid palate and resonate after the initial swell of vibrant fruit, the finish pure with fresh mineral touches….
Chateau Villars is within the premier district of Fronsac, where Charlemagne also once camped famously. Not quite as historic, the current ownership of the Chateau dates back to the French revolution and the First Empire so you may say it is established as a traditional house. While its modern era began in the 1970s, its surge to becoming one of the reference point estates of the commune began in the mid 90s with the leadership of Thierry Gaudrie, the current proprietor. Seeing the expansion of other European countries inspired him to, utilizing modern technology to fully express the terroir and tradition of Fronsac. The style of Villars is resolutely authentic and shuns fashion. Straightforward with fresh and bright fruit initially, the mid palate shows expansivess and volume due to its use of 1/3 new oak. Oak does not imbue the palate but gives it roundness to accentuate the dark berry fruit and stony undertones. This is a purely pleasurable example of textbook Fronsac. (14%) 90/100.
…resolutely authentic and shuns fashion. …bright fruit initially, the mid palate shows expansivess… Oak does not imbue the palate but gives it roundness to accentuate the dark berry fruit and stony undertones….
“It would have been nonsense not to acquire such a great neighbouring vineyard.”
- Baron Eric de Rothschild
Duhart Milon has an involved history, from being owned by Bordeaux behemoths, the Castejas, to being acquired by banking magnates, the Rothschilds, in 1962. Consensus is that this parcel, situated on the south flank of first growth Lafite, shows real breed and has long been recognized as a place of distinction among the mavens. Elegance is often the result of refinement, and the formula here is simple: cabernet and merlot and subtle use of oak, enough to increase volume but not mark the wine. Get in on the sophistication now at the top price in the country and taste a piece of history with this Pauillac Cru.
…sweet nose of creme de cassis, forest floor, licorice, lead pencil, cedar and subtle barrique smells…. it is the most concentrated and broadest example of this cuvee I have tasted in over three decades….