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Château Latour…the epitome of claret

Some have said that once you have tasted Château Latour, the way you experience wine changes forever. I’m not so sure about that, but my visit to Château Latour certainly had me wishing I had more opportunities to drink this incredible wine and more income to be able to afford the habit.

As described by Frederic Engerer, Latour’s Managing Director, Château Latour’s greatness comes from its perfect intersection of geography, geology and climate. Latour is situated just far enough north in Bordeaux that it can soak up the region’s ample heat, sun and cool nights but still experience the necessary stress on the vines required to make great wine. These conditions, combined with an unparalleled rigorousness in the vineyard, contribute to make Château Latour one of the most powerful and long-lived wines in the world. I actually had the privilege to be at the château on the first day of the 2011 harvest and saw this attention to detail in action. I watched as 10 people hovered over a sorting table removing any bruised or sub-par fruit from the young Merlot that had just been hand picked from the vineyard. It is this precision and meticulous detail that truly makes Château Latour one of the best wines in the world.

Yet the fruit alone is only half the story. The personal connection that the team at Latour exhibit is something I have never seen before. Many of Latour’s employees have been with the Chateau for 25 years or more. This sense of family has afforded Latour the luxury of having an intimate understanding of not only the vineyards, but also how to best vinify each individual vintage into the best possible product.

In 2000, the Chateau completed a multi-million dollar renovation of its wine making and wine storage facility. This initiative not only brought Latour to the cutting edge of wine making and quality control, but also introduced some incredibly innovative concepts to the wine making process. One example (that blew my mind) was that Latour now has the capacity to blend an entire vintage worth of wine in a single blending vat. (Sonia Guerlou, Château Latour’s Reception and Tours Manager, gave me a little context by comparing the size of the blending vat to the size of 3 good sized swimming pools stacked on top of each other.) Exacting this type of control over its end product ensures that every bottle of Latour is as magnificent as the last.

The highlight of my visit to Château was the opportunity to taste a sample of all three of Latour’s wines. Le Pauillac de Château Latour, Les Forts de Latour and of course Le Grand Vin. The 2009 Le Pauillac de Château Latour is Latour’s 3rd wine made for the grapes that don’t quite make the cut. For most other wineries, grapes that don’t make the “cut” get sold on the bulk juice market. For Château Latour, they make a “baby” Latour for the budget conscious. The Pauillac was a fresh wine with fruit forward aromas of blackberries, black plum and blackberries. The refreshing nature of this wine came from its excellent acidity. Out of the three wines I tasted at Château Latour, the Pauillac was the one that surprised me the most. I never thought that a Château with the prestige of Latour would spend much thought on a wine that only represents 15% of their production and is not made every year.

Château Latour’s second wine, Les Forts de Latour quite frankly is better that most Grand Vins that I have tasted. The 2006 vintage that I tried was absolutely delicious. It had complex aromas of black fruit, spice, smoke, oak and that classic minerality that tells you are in the Premier Cru. This wine is by no means a second wine. In fact, if you can get your hands on Les Forts I highly recommend that you buy it. I have seen with my own eyes that Château Latour puts as much effort into Les Forts de Latour as they do Le Grand Vin. Consider it a steal for the price.

Finally, the top of the house! The 2004 Grand Vin de Château Latour. Despite coming from a more difficult vintage, this wine was incredible! It was deep, intense and layered flavours of black fruit, sweet spice, leather, oak graphite. This wine still had firm tannins, but has the acidity to keep this wine fresh even with long aging. This wine will last 25 to 30 years at least. It’s amazing that you can get all this complexity from a wine made in what has been called an “off” vintage.

Visiting Château Latour was definitely the highlight of my visit to Bordeaux. Regardless of your opinion on the ever rising price of the Premier Crus, the attention to detail and passion that goes into creating every vintage of Château Latour is the benchmark that all wine producers should strive for. As Sonia Guerlou so eloquently stated, “there are no shortcuts in making a wine of this quality, history and importance.” I have to agree. Thank you to all at Château Latour for opening your doors and allowing me in, if only for a moment. I will savour my time at Château Latour and the unmistakable flavour of your wines long in my memory.

Just one more post from my visit to France…tasting the 2010 barrel samples from Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Clerc Melon and Château d’Armailhac.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in France

 

The Grand Experiment of Château Pontet-Canet

Château Pontet-Canet is something of an oddity in Bordeaux. Traditionally considered a “Super 2nd” this 5th growth has seen its fortunes rise and fall and rise again over the past 300 years. Once considered to be one of the best that Bordeaux has to offer, a combination of poor decisions, poor winemaking and poor finances conspired to bring this great winery to its knees.

Enter Guy Tesseron. Pontet-Canet’s knight in shining armour. This well financed and savy producer of Tesseron Cognac purchased the winery in 1975 and immediately set out to revitalize the château with new facilities, new winemaking equipment and a new attention to the quality of the grapes growing in its vineyards. The most important new direction that the Tesseron family put in place at Pontet-Canet is the introduction of biodynamic farming practices in its (very large for Bordeaux) 80 hectare vineyard. This included the use of horses (instead of tractors) in the vineyard as a method of reducing soil compaction.

While the rest of Bordeaux is patiently waiting to see the results of what has been termed Pontet-Canet’s grand experiment, I can tell you that the 2006 vintage that I tasted had depth and complexity well deserving of it place as a “super 2nd”. Even critics like Parker and James Suckling agree that the quality of Château Pontet-Canet has improved dramatically since the Tesseron family took over. The 2006 Château Pontet-Canet was incredibly deep ruby in colour with aromas of blackcurrants, plum, blackberries, cedar, cigar box, spice and anise. Not surprisingly, a lot of these flavours carry themselves on the palette and last long into the finish.

Château Pontet-Canet was an amazing place and hopefully will be held up as an example of sound vineyard and winemaking practices for the rest of Bordeaux. In fact, even Chateau Latour has set aside a small plot to conduct their own biodynamic experiment. In Bordeaux it’s one small step at a time.

Stay tuned….next stop Château Latour for the first day of harvest.

I am in full Twitter mode while in France. If you’re not following me yet you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in France

 

A Visit to Château Lynch-Bages

The first stop of Adam’s Wine of the Week in Bordeaux was Château Lynch-Bages in the beautiful little village of Bages in Pauillac. Lynch-Bages is the jewel of the Cazes family wine empire. Purchased by the late Jean-Charles Cazes, the château is currently under the watch of Jean-Charles’ grandson Jean-Michel and his great-grandson Jean-Charles II. According to the Classification of 1855 Lynch-Bages is a 5th Growth. Despite this, the wines have long been considered by lovers of Bordeaux a “Super 2nd” consistently punching above its weight. In addition to owning Château Lynch-Bages and most of the Village of Bages, the Cazes family also owns Château Ormes de Pez in Saint-Estephe just north of Pauillac.

The cool thing about Lynch-Bages, beside the rows upon rows of barrels of their 2010 vintage in their cellars, is the fact that they have retained a number of the older oak fermentation vats used from the early 1900’s until 1975. It’s amazing that such an expensive and prestigious wine could have been made using such rustic tools for so long. For example, to control the fermentation temperature of the old oak vats the winery workers used to use hot embers placed under the vat to heat up the must or wrap the vats in mattresses soaked in cold water to cool them down. While the thought of doing that today is completely insane, remember that this was the method of choice only 36 years ago!

Lynch-Bages produces 125,000 bottles in an average vintage split between its first wine Château Lynch-Bages and its second wine Château Haut-Bages Averous (made from vines that are too young to be used for the first wine). The second wine has been thankfully renamed Echo de Lynch-Bages. The Cazes’ felt that Château Haut-Bages Averous was a bit of a mouthful.

The tour and tasting was an excellent experience. Our group was lead through the sorting, de-steming, and crushing areas then directed into the fermentation room with its seemingly endless rows of stainless steel vats. The highlight (besides the tasting) was the barrel room. Before me sat thousands of barrels filled with the 2010 vintage which has been already considered an epic vintage by all who have tasted it.

For our tasting we were treated to the 2005 Château Haut-Bages Averous and the 2007 Château Lynch-Bages. The Château Haut-Bages Averous was deep ruby in colour with dark fruity notes of blackberry, blueberry and black currant on the nose. This wine, which is made with an even blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is designed to be more accessible in its youth. Despite coming from the traditionally tannic and long-living 2005 vintage, the Château Haut-Bages Averous had bright fruit flavours and was an amazing look into what the 2005 Château Lynch-Bages would taste like in another 15 years.

The 2007 Château Lynch-Bages was a good example of a well made wine from a very difficult vintage where rain almost washed out the entire harvest. It is in these years that only the best winemakers are able to produce good wine. The 2007 Château Lynch-Bages was very deep ruby in colour and exhibited the same black fruit notes plus the added aromas of licorice, spice, cedar, leather and oak. All of these flavours were present in the palette, while the smooth tannins held the wine together beautifully. It’s a shame that the 2007’s are considered to be a “lesser” vintage. In my opinion this is a great vintage to try the best of Bordeaux. They are drinking well now and much less expensive that the 2005, 2008, and now 2009 vintages…but that’s just my opinion.

Stay tuned for my next post from my visit to Château Pontet-Canet.

I am in full Twitter mode while in France. If you’re not following me yet you can find me at@adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in France

 

Paris in 671 steps and the art of steak frites

Just a quick post tonight….because frankly drinking and blogging is never a good combination.

Paris has yet to disappoint. I have quickly begun to realize that over here wine is not placed on the same pedestal that many of us back in Canada tend to do. Wine is just part of an everyday existence like eating and breathing. I assume in France it and an exposure to art are considered one of Maslow’s basic physiological needs…but that’s just my opinion.

So today I was satisfying my physiological needs with art by Rodin, breathing enhanced by climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and wine courtesy of Relais de L’Entrecote.

Stay tuned…

ps: I am in full Twitter mode while in France. If you’re not following me yet you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in France

 

La Belle Ville

I had no idea that any city could be as beautiful and full of life as Paris. This place…this city has completely overwhelmed me visually, mentally, emotionally and (of course) alcoholically. It has literally enveloped me in a warm and welcoming embrace. I can already see myself spending a lot more time here.

While I would love to report that I have been spending my days and nights drinking the grand wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and points beyond, to be honest I have been smitten by the nameless reds and whites being poured from cask to glass in the seemingly countless number of cafés, bistros and brasseries that line the winding streets of this beautiful city. I assume many of these wine are blended from grapes grown in the Languedoc and Roussillon. They are simple, inexpensive and surprisingly refreshing. These wines pair well with everything and often times help bridge the divide turning a stranger at the next table into a friend…but that’s just my opinion.

More to come from France. Stay tuned…

I am in full Twitter mode while in France. If you’re not following me yet you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in France

 

Make summer last forever…drink Beaujolais!

2009 Mommessin Domaine de Champ de Cour, Moulin-A-Vent, Beaujolais, France LCBO# 430876 $19.95

I really can’t stand August. It’s the meanest of months. August is a constant reminder that a sudden and much unwelcome end to summer is right around the corner. I will do anything in my power to deny this sad reality. I’ll wear shorts and flip-flops all the time (even when August sometime becomes bitingly cold). I’ll use the outdoor BBQ for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ll meticulously prepare my white pants for post-Labour Day wearing…and I’ll drink a lot of Beaujolais. For me, Beaujolais is the quintessential red wine for summer. It’s fruity, fresh, full of acidity and light on tannins. It’s a shame that more people don’t drink it regularly. I guess you can partially blame the marketing genius of Beaujolais Nouveau, but this underappreciated region is so much more than that.

This week’s wine comes from Moulin-A-Vent, one of the 10 villages (or Crus) within Beaujolais that are legally allowed to be denoted on the label. This (generally) means that you are getting the best of Beaujolais. Thankfully, this wine lives up to the task. The 2009 Mommessin Domaine de Champ de Cour is an amazingly fresh red made 100% from the Gamay grape. It has intense flavours of strawberry, red cherries and raspberries. It also has a well integrated spice notes, smooth soft tannins and great acidity. The trick to getting the most out of this wine is to put it in ice bucket for 20 minutes. Chilled Beaujolais is always better than one at room temperature! I would recommend pairing this wine with pastrami, beef stir-fry or chicken lo-mien. As for cheese, I would recommend trying it with a mild cheese like a gouda.

At $19.95, the 2009 Mommessin Domaine de Champ de Cour is a steal. This is another beautiful wine from another underappreciated region…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

Finally…I have something very special planned for September for all of you. Adam’s Wine of the Week is going on a road trip! Stay tuned for more details in next week’s post.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in France, Gamay, Red Wine

 

Over the garden wall in Saint Joseph

2007 Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph Rhône, France LCBO# 194928 $22.15

Wine prices in the classic regions of France such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône are, to put it simply, gone totally insane! Even the lesser known Chateaux and Domaines have literally priced themselves out of the market for all but the most well-healed wine drinker. So what are the rest of us who yearn for good French wine to do? Simple! It’s all about geography. Some of the best values coming out of these classic regions of France are being produced in the lesser known sub-regions that surround them. Its funny how people think that a wine from a classic region like Côte-Rôtie is automatically better than one from a lesser known region of the Rhone when most times the only thing dividing them is a stone wall and a name. This week’s wine is a prefect example of the great wines you can find when you look over the stone wall.

2007 Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph is an exceptionally crafted red wine. This full bodied powerful wine made from 100% Syrah has flavours of blackberries, black cherry, plum, spices and oak. It also has a well integrated seam of white and black pepper that is typical of well made red wines from the Northern Rhône. This wine is guaranteed to improve if allowed to age for another three to five years. I would recommend pairing the Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph with a grilled flank steak, homemade hamburgers or (for the more adventurous) venison. As for cheese, I would recommend trying it with a Manchego.

At $22.95, I highly recommend searching out the 2007 Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph. This is a beautiful wine from an under appreciated region…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in France, Red Wine, Syrah

 
 
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