Neighborhood wine tasting: Tour de France

For the second year in a row, I hosted a neighborhood wine tasting in Arlington, Virginia, for family and friends. I was not sure about the theme until nearly the last minute, but a recent political attack advertisement from Newt Gingrich in the midst of the Republican presidential primaires – a Republican attack ad against candidate Mitt Romney in part because he speaks French – convinced me to stick with a previously planned Tour de France theme. Next year will certainly be another country, but I will focus on the wines I know best, French wines. Here the line up with tasting notes and some photos. Pass the Freedom Fries, Newt!

A nice lineup of reds

Wine tasting Tour de France

At the Kennedy residence in Chain Bridge Forest, Arlington VA

14 January 2012 at 6.30 p.m.

Participants: 25 people

Food was brought to accompany the wines. A lot of really tasty food, I must add. Thanks to all the participants!

The Wines



Delamotte Brut: This was a fresh blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. At $35 from MacArthur Beverages, it was a very good deal. Smooth and even delectable, albeit a tad rich, it was perhaps served just a touch warm… But a very good deal. 89/100 – Cost $35 at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC

Delamotte Blanc de Blanc 2002: Very focused and deep, yet refreshing. A 100% Chardonnay that is smooth and accessible, but with good body and length. Structure, too. A noticeable step above the previous wine, and worth the double price. 94/100 – Cost about $70 at MacArthur Beverages

Alsace Dry 
Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile Riesling 2004: Lovely smoky nose, slightly gunflint. Dry Riesling par excellence that married a subtle richness with brisk acidity. One of the participants did not like it because it was so nervous, too much acidity. Had he tasted it about two years ago, he would have probably despised this wine. Point being, this great cuvee from two grand cru vineyards is built to age. I would say that the 2004 will be better in another three to five years. 92+/100 – Cost about $40 on

Burgundy White
Paul Pernot Burgundy Chardonnay 2007: For the price, a smooth and full-bodied and somewhat simply pleasing Old World Chardonnay, coming from a vintage that has both vivacity and fat. At $15 per bottle at MacArthurs, a very good deal from a top individual producer in the Cote du Beaune.  89/100

Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2009: Surprisingly good for a 2009, I was expecting something fatter, less disciplined, but Bouchard Pere & Fils has become one of the top major houses of Burgundy and this is an example why. Most participants picked this as their favorite white in the tasting. Sample donated by Bouchard for a horizontal for wine bloggers and professionals in Washington D.C. 92/100 – Cost about $43 on


Originally, I had planned to start with two simple Southern Rhone Valley reds, but they were rather pronounced in flavor, so I went immediately to the Bordelais, since there were two older vintages, followed by a more delicate Burgundian interlude, before heading south to the heady Rhone!

A pair of heady southern Rhones and the second wine of Brane Cantenac

Baron de Brane 2008: Adequately aromatic, coming from a rather tough vintage for Margaux, but the palate shows potential for moderate aging, because the tannins are still present on a certain tight finish. Is there a hint of vegetal? Perhaps. Give it time… this is getting to be one of the better second wines to be found in the Medoc, given the challenging vintage, a good job. 87+/100  – Cost about $25 at MacArthur Beverages

Chateau Brane Cantenac 2nd Growth Margaux Medoc 2000: For some, the wine of the night, and I would easily understand why. Smooth and complex at the same time, this wine exuded fine floral aromatics one would expect from Margaux, with excellent palate texture and presence (moderate plus), with a lingering finish. Was there  a bit of “closed earthiness”? Chalk that up to perhaps its current age. This should even improve over time. For now, still, a rather high score. 94+/100 – Costs about $100 on

A flight of 2000 Bordeaux

Haut Bages Liberal 5th Growth Pauillac Medoc 2000: A disappointment! I recall trying this in the 1990, 2004 and 2007 vintages and it impressed me particularly in 1990, not far behind Grand Puy Lacoste and even Lynch Bages in that vintage. So I was hoping great things for the 2000… But there was a distinct green note on the nose that only became more pronounced as it sat in glass (and bottle). For its defense, I guess it did indeed have a Pauillac power type palate, and some participants preferred it to the Brane Cantenac 2000 because of that “stuffing” but this seems to have a ripeness issue. 85/100 – Costs about $60 on

Chateau Belair St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe 2000: This reminded me a bit of the Belair 1982 I had tried over dinner with then owner Pascal Delbeck about six years ago. For some reason, this reminded me less of a Merlot on the palate than of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Methinks we opened this 10 years too early! It was rather tight and not quite unforgiving but not quite open either. The nose however was a dead giveaway: plum, spice and chocolate. The aromatics were far different from the two preceding wines. Although I enjoyed drinking the wine, it was not quite the pleasure I was expecting from a right bank Merlot with over 11 years of age! 91/100 – Costs about $75 on

Château Belair 1976: I had purchased two bottles of this wine at an auction and was hoping that it would be great. I was hoping against reason because 1976 was a very hot vintage and although the estate picked early to retain acidity, the wine was close to dead when we tried it. OK, I initially liked it, perhaps because I wanted to so much… Was not sure how much air to give it (too much for a fragile vintage could have killed it via decanting, so it was popped and poured). I liked its older earthiness, I suppose, but I could see why more than a few participants were making unfriendly grimaces while trying this… No note to give… Cost about $45 per bottle at auction

Château Meyney Cru Bourgeois St Estephe Medoc 1989: Things came back to life with this wine. Perfect for a cru bourgeois at over 20 years of age. It tasted more youthful than its years. Not the most complex wine, but darn tasty and showing much backbone and substance! Nice job! 93/100 Costs about $65 on wine-searcher.

Burgundy Red

Beaune Clos de la Mousse Premier Cru Bouchard Pere & Fils 2009. Cherry fruit for me , lively and fresh. I could not understand the mushroom comments from some of the participants! Well, I guess I am just used to drinking more Old World wines? The thing is, this wine will also be retasted at a Bouchard 2009 horizontal for professionals and I will ask them if they detect mushrooms… In any case, a classy young Burgundy from Beaune, and a good price for the pleasure, about $45 on This bottle was donated to me by owner Henriot for the horizontal. 92/100

Fine Burgundy and fine Bandol, next to the magnum of Beaucastel

Southern Rhone Valley
Cote du Rhone Villages Perrin & Fils 2009: Decadent on the attack. Rich and ripe, but drying on the quite short finish. What do you want for $11 ? 2009 was not ideal for the southern Rhone (lesser balance than vintages like 2001, 2005, 2006). Most liked this, as did I. Not to think too much about, but a certain hedonistic pleasure to be sure. 88/100

Seigneur de Lauris Vacqueyras 2009: An improved version of the above, with a more interesting aroma, that does have the rich fruit but matched by some mineral components, cooler aspects. Still, let us not exaggerate either. This is a rich, heady Grenache based wine from a rather hot vintage, to boot. In any case, as one participant commented, “a great deal for a $15 bottle of wine.” Indeed. Available at MacArthurs in Washington D.C. 89/100
Bandol Pibarnon Red 2001: A bit too tight, this wine is still not ready to drink, thanks to the Mourvedre that seems to have more than nine lives. But I liked its palate substance. And many participants were happy to drink this, too. It certainly has more classy aromas than the preceding wines, more nuanced and complex, and the palate does pack serious punch. But it is telling the drinker today: leave me alone in your cellar for a few more years, and you will have more pleasure. 91/100 with much potential for higher score. Cost about $40 on

Chateauneuf du Pape
Chateau de Beaucastel Red 2001 from magnum: Here we have a majestic wine from the top producer – arguably – in Chateauneuf du Pape. It rivalled the Brane Cantenac for wine of the evening… but for different reasons. Yes, this is a mix grapes, primarily Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. The Grenache lends the richness, the Syrah the backbone, the Mourvedre the spice. Or something to that effect. Point being, the vintage is superb for Chateauneuf du Pape and the producer does not go for an overly rich style here. Overall impression of balance and elegance as well as palate filling pleasure: rich fruit, peppery spice, licorice and minerality. I purchased five magnums a few years ago on sale for $110 each. Today this costs close to $300… good reason because it is darn good! 95/100
Alsace Sweet
Beck Hartweg Gewurztraminer Frankstein Alsace Bas Rhin 2005. 2005 was a very good vintage for this exotically spicy grape in Alsace, and this bottle did not disappoint! Subtle in its aromatics, displaying some litchi and ginger, the palate was sweet but never cloying. Most participants loved this for its freshness and delicacy, and the touch of sweetness was a fine way to finish the series of richer reds towards the end…. How to score this? 93/100 for sure! I paid about 20 euros at the property for this bottle, which I could not seem to find on, but I am sure that an importer could get this bottle for people who want it…  

Many thanks to Barbara and Tim Kennedy for hosting this event. I was really happy to have been able to present some nice wines to the Garden Club. Hopefully we can see one another again in 2013. If anyone plans to visit France, please send me an e-mail: [email protected].

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