A great Bordeaux gathering with Latour, Leoville Las Cases, Figeac and much more!
January 21, 2011
Notes on a lovely evening of mainly Leoville Las Cases and Figeac – see left photo -, plus a few (very pleasant) surprises. A dinner for eight wine lovers, either with professional experience or years of steady Bordeaux tasting over at least 30 years.
Forgive me for being a bit short in my explanations but to get to the point, this was a fine gathering of Washington DC-based winos who brought some mighty fine wines to Lavandou, a southern French style restaurant, unpretentious and thoroughly welcoming: a haunt for several years in the nation’s capital for wine lovers.
The participants: Ken Brown, Randall McFarlane, Faryan Amir-Ghassemi, Chris Bublitz, Darryl Priest, Kevin Shin, Ben Giliberti and me.
Without much verbiage, here we go…
Billecart Salmon 1996 Brut Blanc de Blancs (thanks to Randy McFarlane). This wine was so crisp in its citrus expression of lime and lemon, matched by stone and mineral. This was but the nose. On the palate, a richness and liveliness that made everyone think: could this really be 14+ years old. Just lovely Champagne! I could have just gone on drinking this.. YUM!
Jacquesson Brut N 733. Thanks to Darryl for bringing this bottle and please forgive me for not recalling the cuvee in question. This was a Brut, non vintage, and just delicious. Toasty and rich.
Niellon Chassagne Montrachet Clos de la Maltroie 1er Cru 1996, thanks to Kevin. I got a whiff of wet sock, and some discussion followed about whether this wine could be lightly corked. I am not sure, but it was better on the palate than the nose. No premox here; that was not an issue. A wine with an accent on finesse and softness, on the palate. Good stuff. Perhaps slightly off, but not sure how…
Château Laville Haut Brion 1993 (white) . Thanks to Faryan for bringing this wine, which rather bowled me over. I really liked its beeswax slightly honeyed aspect, coupled with tisane and flowers. Was is just slightly oxidized? Over time, many of us got some hazelnut, but it was more buttered hazelnut. The nose certainly intrigued me. In a very good way. I liked a certain thick aspect on the palate which was yet very dry. Lovely stuff. I kept some in glass and revisited about one hour later and it was delicious. Served from a half bottle. I would love to have more of this!
Chateau Figeac 2000
How could Robert Parker have possibly downgraded this wine? He must have had an off bottle, because this was singing. A complete wine: subtle, charming and rich without ever being overbearing. A rather tannic finish augurs well for aging capacity. Indeed, this wine was YOUNG, as a friend who used to work for Chateau Canon warned me, in a Facebook message when I told her that I was bringing this wine to dinner. She said: “Such a shame that you are opening the wine so early.” What did it taste like? A combination of fruits: dark, ripe cherry, plum, cassis and cranberry. So a variation of red and dark fruit. With minerals, stone, nutmeg and cinnamon. Does that sound complex? It was indeed! And it has stuffing that is NOT in your face. Glad I have five more bottles.
Chateau Figeac 1998. Thank you Faryan for this bottle! Like the above, but with slightly less complexity and verve but more richness. This had a Port like richness but – once again – NOT over the top. Not warm or alcoholic. Some tasters – like Ben Giliberti – liked it a bit less as not typically Figeac. Others, like Darryl, if I recall correctly, pronounced this to be his wine of the night. I was very happy to drink this 1998, and wished I had some in my cellar. It is seductive and perhaps as far and away from Figeac as you can get, while remaining… Figeac.
Leoville Las Cases 1998. Ah, the first of several bottles of Leoville Las Cases, and it was a bit tighter than the Figeac 1998. There was some lovely cassis, but it was more wound up, and perhaps more voluminous (well, it is almost a Pauillac for Pete’s Sake!) than the Figeac of the same vintage. I liked this as one of the best Medoc 1998s yet tasted (in addition to Mouton, Latour and Margaux). Many thanks to Randy for this bottle.
Then came a major disappointment of the evening. I contributed the Leoville Las Cases 1990 which has so often impressed palates the world over and would have done so tonight but it was… corked. Alas!
The Leoville Las Cases 1995 – thanks to Darryl – was rather, surprisingly, open. A few years ago, in tasting several Medoc 95s, I was impressed by their overall closed nature. And if any wine would still be closed it may as well have been Leoville Las Cases. But not so in 2011! The LLC 1995 was open for business, somewhat mentholated – and just a pleasure to drink.
Then came a pair of 1979s. A lesser known vintage. Thanks be to Kevin Shin for a wine that could be close to wine of the night for me: Chateau Latour 1979. What juicy brightness! What precision! What delectable flavor and thickness, without being dense. This was a lovely wine – à point – and one that I could enjoy over and over again with a fine rack of lamb in rosemary or grilled prime rib. Wine is made to enjoy with food, and here we have something first class for your meal at well over 30 years of age. First growth and first class. And just simply … delicious!
The Leoville Las Cases 1979 promised much and delivered the goods in a way that was similar to Latour. Both wines shared a voluminous profile, with power. The LLC 1979 was perhaps less focused and bright but it brought forth fine aromatics and a good wine. Thanks to Ben for this worthy addition to the dinner! Ben also brought another fine Leoville Las Cases 1975, which was more open aromatically and a bit more complex on the palate than its younger sibling, but also showed some of the vintage’s tannic edge, at 35+ years of age!
Then we had a pair of 1982s. The Leoville Las Cases 1982 – thanks to Chris Bublitz – was so bloody young! This wine needs at least another 10 years to reach its initial plateau. I am not joking. Yes, it was full bodied and perfumed. Yes, it was long. But it was not at optimal complexity because it simply was not wanting to express itself fully as of yet, even though all of us could decipher its longer term promise: that it has some KICKASS stuff to tell us but just not yet… it was almost but not quite frustrating!
Not so the Chateau Figeac 1982, thanks to Ken Brown, perhaps the best bottle I have ever had, and that includes the 1982 I was able to bring back ex-chateau from a tasting in Germany with owner Eric d’Aramon (back in January 2005). This had the perfumed complexity of other 1982 Figeacs I have adored in recent years, including a lovely bottle Ben shared with me over dinner a couple of years ago, but it also had real volume and depth that made it rather youthful in profile. This wine impressed us all… and some thought that the 2000 is a young 1982. In short, Chateau Figeac is a (still) rather misunderstood wine that is perhaps – as Kevin Shin suggested – a most Burgundian style of Bordeaux!
Chateau d’Yquem 1986. Thanks be to Chris Bublitz. Not only did Chris bring the LLC 1982 but also this magnificent Sauternes, which was the equivalent of a fireworks display of orange custard, pear and peach, and just-starting hints of caramel atop licorice minerality, but not quite, because it is still a very youthful Sauternes. And what a wine! No wonder this was classified in 1855 above even the first growths of the Medoc. Premier Grand Cru. Tasting this wine, I understand – or at least am reminded – why!
OK, it is just half past midnight. I took some video and photos. Why? Because I was happily surrounded by true, blue wine lovers. People who have a passion and taste for wine in their own individual ways; they follow their noses and their palates and they enjoy sharing wine and talking about it. An inspirational wine gathering! Wine Geeks R Us.