The Fresh Side of White Bordeaux: Graville-Lacoste and Ducasse

Bordeaux is an obsession of mine as you might know. White Bordeaux is an almost rare experience really, and to find wines that reflect terroir and the clear value of that these two wines do is astounding. We taste at least once a year with proprietor Herve Dubourdieu, either traveling to taste Kermit Lynch’s portfolio somewhere or in Bordeaux, and he knocks it out here with Graville-Lacoste and Ducasse. Graville comes from a particularly cool microclimate in the Graves region to the south of the city of Bordeaux, is fine and linear. Ducasse, the second and dry wine offering of Sauternes property Roumieu-Lacoste (situated between Climens and Doisy-Daene) shows a rounder palate feel than Graville and shows slightly lower acid perhaps due to its fullness.

Herve Dubourdieu, proprietor of Graville-Lacoste and Ducasse.
Herve Dubourdieu, proprietor of Graville-Lacoste and Ducasse.

2011 Chateau Graville Lacoste
75% Semillon: taut and intense of the bunch. Evergreen, chalk, lean, racy and extremely long.
91 points, Rhett Beiletti, B-21

2011 Ducasse Blanc
60% semillon, subtle, towards lush but dry, earthy, mineral, mushroom, lemon, pineapple, submerged, silky.
90 points, Rhett Beiletti, B-21

“Both are of high proportions of Semillon and are striking and pure examples of the value that Bordeaux has to offer, white or red.” -RB

Beautiful 2001 from Saint-Emilion

In mid-January, Bob and I wandered through the misty mornings in Bordeaux taking the trolley from lab to lab to taste 75 wines per appointment. We go in January because it is the off season and people have the time to prepare marathon tastings so that we can take our time to find wines to buy, and sell. While 2010s are foremost in our minds (stay tuned, we are accumulating them for mass offerings soon), we also like to find wines that have already been cellared and are ready to drink. And here we are with 2001 Barde-Haut, recently released from the Chateau, this beauty charmed me in an afternoon session and really stood out. Impeccably balanced, ripe fruit upfront and folding out into earth inflected mid palate, the length fines out very nicely. The wine is drinking perfectly now too. 2001s were overlooked, not being one of those blockbuster styled vintages. For people wanting to drink wines beyond the primary this is a great find, supple, seductive and sure to please. 94/100


2001 Chateau Barde-Haut

…this beauty charmed me in an afternoon session and really stood out. Impeccably balanced, ripe fruit upfront and folding out into earth inflected mid palate, the length fines out very nicely….

Haut-Brion: Bought It, and You Should, Too!

Sitting on the southern edge of the Saint-Emilion plateau is Chateau Tertre Daugay, once considered a “first growth” by Cocks & Feret, the famous reference book of Bordeaux published since 1850. Domaine Clarence Dillon, the company named after the banker that bought Ch. Haut-Brion in 1935, bought Tertre-Daugay last year. If the owners of Haut-Brion are interested in a property so am I. Tasting this two weeks ago at our annual festival of Bordeaux flavor I understand the allure. In a vintage like ’09, where even unknown quantities make themselves known, Grand Cru Classe properties like TD really shine, and it does. Broad-shouldered, black-fruited and lustrous upfront, the mid palate unfolds with earth and spice that is washed over again with rounded fruit and polished oak that gives a bit of volume to the wine. A fusion of the old and the new, this is an estate to watch, one that Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president of Dom. Clarence Dillon, called “a sleeping beauty.” (14.5%)


2009 Chateau Tertre Daugay

Blackberry, black licorice and spices. What a nose. Full-bodied, with supervelvety tannins and a long, long finish. Wonderful texture.

Precison in Pauillac: Grand Puy Lacoste

Borie is a famous name in Bordeaux, the brothers Xavier and Eugene owning Grand Puy Lacoste and Ducu-Beaucaillou, respectively. Xavier is upping the ante at Grand Puy Lacoste now. I remember the graceful smile on his face when he poured us barrel samples of this wine in his salon, tasting it made me think what an underrated property this has been. This classic Pauillac property is building monuments to the nobility of the commune. While showing voluptuousness and dark fruit, it is precise and elegant, fresh and floral and earthy altogether, stately and harmonious. It is the best 09 I have tasted since they began arriving earlier this year. We sold out of what came in initially and a cache is coming our way at a great price, you can get in on it too! (13.5%) 96/100


2009 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

…Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by hints of spring flowers, crushed rocks, black currants, cedar and earth/underbrush. …velvety-textured, it is a beauty of finesse, balance, purity and nobility….

2010 Cambon la Pelouse – No Gamble in Macau

Situated in the heart of the Haut-Medoc, Cambon la Pelouse has always been a solid citizen. Until now. 2010 Cambon is probably its best wine ever, the best of the twenty or so vintages I have tasted, it is now in a new strata. This should be no surprise though, being in the district of Macau that abuts Margaux to the south, the vineyards sitting a few hundred yards away from the Gironde. Prime real estate. In the other left bank communes like Pauillac and Margaux, a wine of this station and quality would cost three times this. 50% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Petit Verdot, this wine is youthful, intense and pure, what I remember young Bordeaux wines being like some time back before the “bigger is better” credo began to spread — I’ve always thought it should be instead “Bordeaux is better.” A very complete wine shimmering with red and black berry fruits, spice, chocolate and earth, the acids are fresh and tannins sinewy and integrated (but there!) and the texture very fine. Wow! What a thrill it is on the palate. A collector’s dream meets the classicist’s demands. (14%)


2010 Chateau Cambon la Pelouse

…complete… shimmering with red and black berry fruits, spice, chocolate and earth, the acids are fresh and tannins sinewy and integrated (but there!) and the texture very fine. Wow! What a thrill it is on the palate….

Bordeaux’s St. Julien Impostor: Chateau Lanessan

Boy have times changed in the Bordeaux wine trade. Way back when, even the First Growths were within affordable reach of us mere mortals. Not so anymore, but this doesn’t mean one has to go without a drop of fine Claret. Chateau Lanessan and the Bouteiller family will fill our grateful glasses. Eight generations of dedication to crafting classic wine, the Bouteillers make one of my favorites. What I love about Lanessan is that it is very St.-Julien. Okay, it’s not Leoville this-or-that, but you can afford to drink it everyday. Lanessan is located in the commune of Cussac-Fort-Médoc, which is very close to Saint-Julien, explaining the similarities on the nose and palate. 2009 is a winner. Remember that 2001 Lanessan? You went crazy over it for good reason. Robert Parker calls Lanessan “a vastly under-rated, age-worthy estate.” The 2001 is holding up well, in St. Julien style. The 2009 is the same wine without the bottle age. Chateau Lanessan is a consistent, traditional, and affordable Bordeaux. That’s getting very hard to find these days.


2009 Lanessan, Haut-Médoc

Ripe black currant fruit with some cedar wood, licorice and wood spice are all present …The tannins are silky, and the overall impression is one of elegance, plumpness and beautiful intensity….

A Glorious 2000 – Lynch-Bages Other Half

93pt Pauillac

Not many people know there’s another side to Lynch-Bages. I do, and it’s cru classe too. It’s called Lynch-Moussas. I tasted it a decade ago and then retasted this January at our broker on the quais with 11 years on it. Wow! Add in the strong dollar and it’s a double wow! I’ve never been able to buy a top cru this old for this price. Lynch-Moussas was part of the famous Pauillac estate Lynch-Bages until 100 years ago. The family behind Duhart-Milon bought this half in 1919. One Casteja family member or another has run it since and the Chateau undertook a major rebuilding in 1969, steadily stemming production and arriving at a 3:1 ratio of cabernet sauvignon to merlot. It’s gotten better and better leading to the 2000. A wonderful year in Bordeaux, best of the decade, the century, the millennium. A superb vintage for Lynch-Moussas, its best ever, and Parker and Suckling agree. Now it has ten years of maturity and at a perfect place for enjoyment. This is always a wine of deep color, black fruit and fine tannins, and after careful aging this is in perfect balance and drinking easily. Let the other guys fight over the 2009s, I want a bottle to open now and another to lay down for a few more years. Y2K never did materialize, but 2000 will always be special for its Bordeaux. And at the B-21 price for collectors, the 2000 is a steal.


2000 Chateau Lynch-Moussas

…Wow! …A superb vintage for Lynch-Moussas, its best ever… a wine of deep color, black fruit and fine tannins, and after careful aging this is in perfect balance and drinking easily….

We Got The Right Bank Stuff

2005 Cassagne Haut-Canon

The 2005 Bordeaux were the best of the decade and sold at high prices with high buzz. That was then, this is now. We found even more of a special Right Bank bottling from that year that we can now sell at maturity, and at a bargain price to boot. …Remember the frenzy over 05s? While everyone else oohs and aahs about ’09s, I’ve got the elegant Cassagne Haut-Canon, a Merlot-rich ’05 that we found on the quays of Bordeaux. Our French connoisseur Rhett raves about Bordeaux every year (this one he pegs at 92).


2005 Cassagne Haut-Canon

…Ripe and supple fruit, blackberry like and some fresh spice sit right in the middle of this wine that has fine tannins and a gentle and long finish….

Start Your 2009 Cellar With Opulent Fontenil

Michel Rolland’s Fronsac, 92WA

The 2009 Bordeaux are gorgeous, and this merlot has two huge assets. First, it’s from Fronsac, a favorite hunting ground for plush Right Bank value. Second is the brilliant Michel Rolland, and not as a consultant, but as owner. Michel and wife Dany own this vineyard on clay and limestone sites. Not far from Libourne so this is his home turf and treated with love like one of his children. This wine gets top flight care from vineyard to cellar and the result wows the critics. The ’09 is full-blooded, berry-black, jammy and spicy with stony minerality underneath This is a great opener to show what the quality 2009 vintage has to offer.


2009 Chateau Fontenil

…deep bluish purple color… lots of black raspberry fruit intermixed with some blueberries and crushed rock….

Sumptuous ’09 Bordeaux, 95WA

Back in 1855, La Lagune was classified Troisième Cru (Third Growth), and it’s even better in this century. That’s because of the arrival and investments of the Frey family who put the chateau back to glory and on top of the Haut-Medoc. In 2009, that vintage of vintages, their efforts paid off big. Racy yet structured, beautifully aromatic, deep flavors of chocolate and tea, creamy texture and long, long finish. The Freys have been at La Lagune only 10 years but they set very high standards. They also own Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle included; young Caroline Frey had a world-class equestrian career before she began to make champion wines. Parker calls it spectacular, Suckling says it might evolve to 96 points. It’s an ’09 Bordeaux you must have.

2009 Chateau La Lagune

…a dense purple color as well as a beautiful perfume of blueberries, mulberries, cassis, white chocolate and subtle toasty oak. Notes of Chinese black tea, cedarwood and forest floor also make an appearance in the …aromatic and flavor profiles….

95 Points
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

Beyond Pingus: My Top Pick Is 95pt Quinta Sardonia

2009 Quinta Sardonia

Quinta Sardonia is made by Peter Sisseck, the guy behind the brilliant Pingus and Hacienda Monasterio who many in the Duero might call “Peter The Great.” This is his newest project, on the outskirts of Ribera del Duero in the Sardon. Sisseck’s love of Bordeaux encouraged him to use the fruit of the area, tinto fino, the very particular type of tempranillo, along with cabernet sauvignon and the other Bordeaux varietals. This is a dark smoking blend that layers blue and black fruits with meaty flavors and herbs into a sleek and complex beauty. And that’s straight out of the chute, this baby will last 15 or 20 years. As much as I love old vines and great traditions I love tasting something new of such high quality. Sisseck started project outside official Ribera del Duero near Valladolid l on perfect soil for vines, calcareous, chalky and rocky. Call it Duero with edge. The blending with tempranillo is his plan, too. This project is only 10 years old and I can’t wait to see it grow. You’re gonna want to be there.

Domaine Tempier, Move Over! This Summer’s Tavel Rosé Is Here! 92RAS

2010 Trinquevedel Rose Les Vignes d

This rare old-vine rosé from Chateau Trinquevedel is as good as any I’ve had. Amazingly sumptuous, with big toasty flavors besides the berries; shining crimson, not pink, and a very long pleasure. No quickie thrill here. A very special cuvee from a lovely place deep in the Rhone this winter (January is just as sunny as summer in Provence). Nothing frilly about Trinquevedel’s Les Vignes d’Eugène, but it’s still fun. The chateau is as old and classy as Bordeaux’s, but not as formal. It looked more like a Vogue fashion shoot of decadent Bohemian artists. I wanted to stay all day. The seriousness of the wine will stun any rosé skeptics. Flavors are extravagant and long. Tavel is the only apellation that makes rosé the first and only wine. It is not an afterthought here, and Eugène is one of its best. It is named for the family’s grandfather and boasts vines 60 to 80 years of age. The blend is equal parts of grenache noir and clairette finished off with syrah. Gently pressed and then kept in tank for another year before bottling, the wine shows a more developed and vinous quality on the palate than most rosé wines. Rosés of this caliber are hard to find. The production of Eugène is less than 10 percent of what the family makes, but I had to have it for you. These are the wines that made Tavel famous as far back as Louis XIV. Relax in Provencal style all summer.

Thrilling Cold Creek Buys: Washington’s 93pt Cab & 94pt Merlot

One of the dark secrets of American wine: I find some of the most classic Bordeaux-styled reds and best values come from Washington state, not Napa or Sonoma. Cabernet and merlot from Cold Creek are serious, deep in color, tightly packed, very sturdy of tannin, built for the ages, decades at least. Big but not overripe, with cherry-blackberry fruit, the Cold Creekers from Chateau Ste. Michelle are laced with exotic hints of coffee, tobacco and spice of the Orient. These are cru vineyards in Washington, old-vines planted nearly 40 years ago. That was when we looked to the Northwest for cool whites. But the Washington guys said they were on the same latitude as Bordeaux and would make great reds. Maybe it is the latitude (my bet is the poor soils and the dry summers), but the end result is that Cold Creek wines are the real deal, elegant and firm hardballers. They could easily stand on the left or right bank. You can sock away a case for the cellar and show up those French and California chauvinists for years to come.

2007 Cold Creek Merlot
2007 Cold Creek Merlot

2008 Cold Creek Cabernet
2008 Cold Creek Cabernet

Inventory Glitch! 2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou

2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou
2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou

This is a crazy business. So much wine, so much buying and selling, that miracles can happen. Like finding forgotten cases of 2001 Ducru-Beaucaillou. Yes, that Ducru which scored a 100 from Parker in 2009 among a decade of high scorers. But the ’09 is much too young to open, not here yet and will cost four times as much when it does! While I am happy to sell you futures, the 2001 I turned up is ready to drink with a lot of cranberry, black cherry and St. Julien finesse. I can sell this rare aged Bordeaux to you right now for just $100 $90. What a deal for all of us!