Sharing a Bordeaux
Many of our wine club members have extensive wine collections, often with verticals of Bordeaux reds which are always best shared with someone else who also appreciates the wines.
If a member is planning a trip to Healdsburg I invite them to select a couple of old Bordeaux from their cellar and ship them ahead of time or just bring them along.
I then have our executive chef develop a specific menu with a selection of dishes to match the wines. I also select two of my own wines that I believe will be an appropriate, modern-day Californian equivalent to those old Bordeaux blends.
When we meet, we carefully open and decant the wines and enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner while evaluating and savoring the two old-world and two new-world wines.
Very civilized and tremendous fun for all at the table!
Recently, one of club member friends brought two Bordeaux for us to enjoy.
The first - a 1989 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande from Pauillac, rated 93 points by Robert Parker in 2003 and classified as one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.
The second - a 1989 Branaire-Ducru from St Julien, rated 92 points by Robert Parker in 1997 and classified as one of the ten 'Fourth Growths' in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.
Both wines are beautiful examples of old-world Bordeaux.
I countered with a triple gold medal winning 2007 Clarissa Vin Rouge and a gold medal winning 2007 Ravish Mélange.
Both the French Bordeaux had been cellared correctly and the corks extracted whole, they showed no signs of leakage or mold. To best enjoy the wines without adulteration by excessive food flavors or fats, I had asked the chef to make one of the courses a plain, grilled veal chop. All four wines were fine on their own and with the food. My personally biased notes follow:
The Pichon showed dark plum color with some brick-color browning to the meniscus. A medium body with plum, blackcurrant and a slightly metallic core in the mouth. Parker said this wine (93 points) was mature in 2003 and would remain so for 10 to 15 years. If you have this wine cellared, drink it now. We did not actually finish this wine.
The Branaire-Ducru from St Julien showed a dark garnet color at its center with an almost clear meniscus the way some older Bordeaux blends sometimes do. Again, in the mouth, a medium body with some black fruit and a little graphite at the center. In 2002 Robert Parker said this wine (92 points) should be drunk within 10 to 12 years (2012 to 2014).
This time Bob was right on the money, it had the dustiness of an old Bordeaux but the fruit, though dark, was evident and the wine was soft and round. It was not a hard task to polish off the entire bottle.
The Clarissa showed ruby to garnet color all the way across. In the mouth, there was a purity of fruit flavor, blackberry and licorice with rich substance while rather soft and caressing. It showed wonderful character, freshness and acidity with a very bright finish, as well as a great length you would expect from young new-world Bordeaux. This wine was my personal favorite with the food and it quickly became the first empty bottle.
The Ravish, like its sister Clarissa, showed a dark ruby color all the way across. In the mouth, this incredible soft yet powerful wine makes you want to take a whole mouthful. You will experience its concentrated flavors of spicy cranberry and raspberry with a touch of mineral in the center pallet and a finish of caramel coffee with just a hint of chocolate.
This was the favorite wine without food and we all agreed it shared similar characteristics to the Branaire albeit somewhat, obviously, younger. Really pleasing to me was the fact that Ravish became the second empty bottle.
My Francophile friend reluctantly concurred that he enjoyed Clarissa and Ravish and I agreed that his aged Bordeaux were obviously fine examples of terroir and old-world winemaking.
It was a privilege to have enjoyed our time together sharing these wonderful examples of terroir, winemaking, blending and age where each of us as winemakers had worked independently to create something enjoyable from our soil and toil.
If you are planning a trip to Healdsburg pick a couple of your favorite wines and let us know. We will do the rest!