April 8, 2009

Bordeaux trip day 4: Rive Droite

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We are leaving Bordeaux today, but would be spending the last half-day touring the Right Bank appellations of St. Emilion and Pomerol. This would turn out to be quite a contrast with the estates of the Médoc.

We left the hotel a little late, so we knew that we would not be able to make it to Angelus on time. This was a shame because they were the first to put a price on the 2008 primeur at a 40% reduction compared to 2007, and it would have been interesting to hear what they had to say.

We headed directly to our second stop – Ausone. This estate has become the new superstar of Bordeaux – some would call it the “new Petrus.” The beautiful and historic estate sits on a little hill on the edge of the town of St. Emilion. When we arrived, however, we discovered to our great dismay that Mr. Vauthier was otherwise occupied and had tried to reschedule our visit to the afternoon. This was, of course, not possible as we would have all left Bordeaux by then. So we had to settle for taking a few snaps in front of the cellar, and hope that we would have another chance to visit this famed estate.

After a quick cup of café au lait, we drove through the medieval St. Emilion town and headed for L’Evangile. The estate is owned by Barons de Rothschild, the “Lafite branch” of the family.

2008 Blason de l’Evangile – minty nose with soft fruit and very round tannins. Acidity was a bit high.

2008 L’Evangile – richer and more concentrated than the Blason, with mint notes. There were more tannins here but very soft and silky.

We headed next door to La Conseillante, where we were given a tour by the Director, Jean-Michel Laporte.

2008 Conseillante – a very soft wine with a full body. Fruity and minty nose with vanilla notes.

2004 Conseillante – sweet fruit and farmy nose with smoked meats. Lots of soft tannins and drinking very nicely right now.

2006 Conseillante – more sweet and ripe black fruits, with a bit of smoke and bacon fat. A racy and sexy wine, with soft tannins. Lovely.

Next door is Vieux Château Certan, where we were greeted by owner Alexandre Thienpont. It’s still a family-run winery and it’s clear that they really focus on making the best wine.

2008 Vieux Château Certan – beautiful with soft tannins and good acidity balance. Fruity nose with coffee and toasty oak notes. This was actually taken from a Sylvain barrel selected by me.

Next we asked Alexandre to give us another glass, this time taken from a Seguin Moreau barrel, so we could taste how the same wine develops differently according to barrel. This glass was much more open and forward, which justifies Alexandre’s choice of having 80% of barrels from Seguin Moreau.

Our last stop before lunch was the holy grail of Pomerol – Château Pétrus. We did a quick tour of the vineyard and the cellars, and finally ended up at the tasting room where we ran into Olivier Berrouet, the current winemaker whose father was responsible for many legendary vintages of Pétrus. As I explained to the others, I just could not justify spitting out Pétrus…so I drank both glasses.

2008 Pétrus – nose of red fruits and mint, with a little vanilla, forest and coffee. Very soft tannins and slightly sweet on the palate. Quite a long finish, or as the French would call it – caudal.

2006 Pétrus – Wow! What a wine! The nose was totally open, with red fruits, smoke, marmalade and mint. It was a bit sharp and alcoholic, but the tannins were so soft. A little sweet on the palate. Totally yummy, and I’m not saying this just because I know I’m drinking Petrus!

Our lunch at Cheval Blanc was hosted by Pierre Lurton, the General Manager of the estate (and Yquem, Cheval des Andes, or whatever project Bernard Arnault throws at him!) We started in the tasting room, where Pierre’s eldest child Lucy poured the wines for us. As we all know, some of the jobs in Bordeaux can be inherited…

2008 La Tour du Pin – tannins were rougher than the other wines this morning. The wine was more extracted and alcoholic. Decent acidity on finish.

2008 Le Petit Cheval – nose of ripe fruit and a bit of smoke, with a spicy finish. More concentration here and tannins were more evident.

2008 Cheval Blanc – nose was more open than the other two wines, with mint, vanilla and caramel notes. Good acidity on the palate but a very grippy finish.

We enter the château and enjoy some Champagne and canapés. Thin slices of lomo and cured salmon on toast were nice, and the shot of asparagus soup – no doubt flavored with ham broth – was a bit salty but excellent. The 2000 Dom Perignon was amazing, and better than the magnum we had at Pontet-Canet… But one would expect that the condition of the Champagne would be excellent, of course, given that Mr. Arnault is Chairman of LVMH which produces Dom Perignon… The Champagne was very fresh with lots of bubbles. Good balance between ripeness and acidity, with toasty and yeasty notes.

We continued our visit in the intimate dining room, whose setting was elegant without being over-the-top.

Œuf soufflé, aiguillettes de canard, cœur de sucrine – the egg soufflé was absolutely awesome. Once you cut open the light and airy egg whites, the liquid yolk oozes out like molten lava. The aiguillettes - part of the duck breast - were simply salted, and the gem lettuce hearts did a nice job of balancing out the meat.

Pièce de bœuf, pommes de terre ecrasées aux eclats de truffe – this should really be “hunk of beef”…simply too huge and the texture itself was a bit tough, even though the center was red and juicy. The potatoes, however, were divine. I don’t usually eat the potatoes on the side, but the addition of black truffles made this irresistible, and I found myself finishing it instead of the beef.

We were a little short on time, so I chose to skip the cheese and had the brioche caramélisée, framboises fraîches, glace mûroise instead. The raspberries were deliciously fresh with the crème fraîche, and the ice cream was sweet enough to balance the acidity of the berries.

The highlight of the lunch, of course, was the wine. Pierre was kind enough to share these wonderful wines with us:

2000 Le Petit Cheval – a really beautiful wine, with nose of smoke meats, brett, very ripe fruits and coffee. Good acidity and smooth on the palate, it’s a great wine to drink right now.

1989 Cheval Blanc – nose of green pepper, smoke, bacon, sweet red fruits and truffles. Very beautiful and open, so soft and beautiful on the palate with good acidity. Wow!

1995 Yquem – for a vintage like 1995, this was an awesome wine! Loads of honey, marmalade, acetone and sweet honeydew melon in the nose. This wine was so unctuous and sweet, yet with enough acidity to make everything balanced. Wow!

I think this was a perfect way for us to end our whirlwind, first class tour of Bordeaux. We’ve visited 22 châteaux in 7 appellations, dined at 3 First Growth châteaux, and tasted 120 wines over 4 days. I cannot imagine anyone who is remotely interested in wine not being envious of what we’ve experienced on this trip, and I must thank my fellow MNSC members (and one in particular) for making it all possible.

After dropping my friends off at Bordeaux airport - and dashing in to buy some canelés from Baillardran – I headed to Gare St. Jean to board the TGV back to Paris. Mental note: there are two stands at the train station selling Baillardran canelés

After checking into a small but well-appointed room at the Hotel Montalambert, we went out for a stroll around Boulevard St. Germain and for a bite to eat. It’s April in Paris and - you guessed it - it was drizzling. Huddling under an umbrella with your loved one in Paris has got to be one of those clichés…but it’s kinda cool.

We settled for one of the tourist traps on the Left Bank – Les Deux Magots. I never came here on my previous trips to Paris, so I guess it was time I checked it out. You don’t come here for the food, since the people-watching is the main draw here. It’s been 7 hours since lunch and I finally ordered a white truffle risotto with chicken sot-l'y-laisse. The risotto, while tasty, was probably one of the soggiest I've had in a while. Do the French not know how to make a proper risotto, or is it because the chefs at this tourist trap don't care? Anyway, the chicken oysters were really yummy and made up for everything.

I ordered a glass of kir as I normally would in Paris. I think I must have OD'd on wine, because I just didn't have the desire to even finish the glass...

With my stomach full, I strolled around back to the hotel and called it a night. I was exhausted!

1 comment:

Lin said...

such a great wine trip. welcome back to HK.

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