The Wine Council Takes the Show on the Road to Bordeaux
By Corie Maue for Day In Temecula
The greatest perk of being part of the Men's and Women's Wine Council with Linda Kissam, et al is the opportunity to share great wine, food and conversation with friends and then share my experiences with others. A fortunate few among our ranks are also members of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). For us, the perks occasionally get perkier as we get invited to special media events, trade tastings and the like.
One such invitation was extended recently to Linda Kissam and she graciously included IFTWA members Tom Plant, Roger Paige and me on her excursion. On a recent sunny Southern California day we set off for Bordeaux. Wait a minute, you ask; Bordeaux in France? Well yes, so to be more precise, Bordeaux came to us . . . at least most of the way.
The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is an association of 132 grand crus estates that is currently on tour in the US to present their 2009 vintage tasting. We were able to experience this exceptional vintage as they made their stop in Los Angeles.
Ever the planner and wisely committed to the idea of a designated driver for such excursions, Linda secured transportation for us by way of Sunset Limousine. Our driver was prompt and professional and the vehicle was roomy and well stocked with water. Sunset Limos provides wine country tours, so we were thankful that they were willing to go off the beaten path with us to LA. What could have been a tedious afternoon was spent in pleasant company with media friends while Sunset did all the work - the only way to travel!
We arrived at the stunning Fairmont Hotel in Beverly
Hills and were greeted by fresh ocean air and a gracious staff. As we entered
the tasting room, chateau owners and representative greeted us with their
cherished 2009 vintage, eager to discuss their blending process, viticulture,
chateau grounds, and anything else we cared to ask.
Photo courtesy of Roger Paige
Bordeaux is well known for its (almost overpowering) earthy or "barnyard" elements that often need time and air - and hour or so in a decanter - to mellow into the smooth, lush wine that is so coveted around the world. I confess that after trying some of the higher end wines, I quickly found my niche in the more affordably priced range. The common thread seemed to be a generous amount of Merlot in the blend which leant soft fruit to balance out the earth. Here are some of my favorites of the day:
- Chateau Ormes de Pez 2009: 52% Cab, 34% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Offered at $30 -$50 SRP, this wine got a big Yum from me. A wonderful, lush nose gave way to smooth tannins and cherry on the palate. I found it to be very approachable - better with food, but quite nice without. Travelers will also want to note that this chateau also offers charming guest rooms for those interested in enjoying the beautiful French countryside hosted by owners, the Cazes Family.
- Chateau Lynch-Bages 2009: 72% Cab, 20% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. Also owned by the Cazes Family, this chateau produces a decidedly different wine than my first pick. The more generous percentage of Cabernet produced a soft, fragrant nose with less predominant fruit. More pronounced tannins and a little wood on the finish made this a big red that needed a bit of air and food to be fully appreciated. When swirled for a bit and enjoyed with the bread, cheese and other nibbles provided, this wine quickly won my heart. $80 - $120 SRP
- Chateau Angludet 2009: 55% Cab, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. Again, the higher percentage of Merlot gave this wine a wonderful fruit forward nose, but the generous use of Petit Verdot made it a real stand out. While Petit Verdot does not contribute much to the flavor profile, its addition results in small, polished tannins, richness in color and structure. The result was a deliciously soft, drinkable wine that is currently being distributed in 30 states at around $35 - $45 SRP.
- Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte 2009: 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sauvignon Gris, 5% Semillon. This lovely white was no lightweight Sauv Blanc. With a floral nose and kiwi and honey on the palate, it was a wonderful match for the fruit and nut bread a well as a nice balance to the sharper cheese. An added note for our eco-conscious friends, Smith Haute Lafitte practices organic farming methods such as horse-drawn ploughing, homemade compost and the use of plant extracts.
- Chateau Climens Grand Vin de Sauternes 2009: 100% Semillon. Sauternes are well known as some of the best dessert wines in the world and this elegant white was a classic example of why. The expressive, floral nose and distinct honey on the palate were balanced by a good amount of acidity. Known for its purity and complexity, this sweet white was vibrant and delicious. $135 SRP
After tasting these and many more, we finally waived the white flag and our gallant Sunset Limo driver delivered us safely home. Though thoughts of visiting these Chateaus linger in my dreams, I am thankful for the opportunity to sample their impressive 2009 vintage right here in our little corner of the world.
About Corie Maue