April 6, 2009

Bordeaux trip: two meals in Pauillac

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We were fortunate enough to dine at two châteaux in Pauillac today - both experiences which I am unlikely to forget anytime soon.

Lunch was hosted by Alfred Tesseron, the personable owner of Pontet-Canet. He very kindly took us on a tour of his beautiful estate, showing us the oak and cement tanks where fermentation is done (Merlot goes into cement while Cabernet Sauvignon goes into oak). He also showed us the horses he has started to use to plow the fields. The ladies, of course, all wanted to take pictures with the horses...

We climb above the vats to taste the 2008 Pontet-Canet while taking in the beautiful view of the vineyards. Nose of ripe fruits and mint, with very smooth tannins to make an enjoyable wine.

We adjourn to the drawing room to have some canapés with a flute of champagne. The cubes of duck breast was a little too well-done although the accompanying aubergine was nice. The diced scallops were flavored with cumin seeds so they were pretty yummy. The 2000 Dom Perignon from magnum was beautiful.

We found ourselves seated at the beautiful and elegant dining room. Now we’re finally getting the feel of what it’s like to be in a French château

We started with the tartare de saumon, which was fresh and beautiful – perfect for a warm day like this. Worked very well with the blend of spices which wasn’t too heavy.

The gigot de lait confit, legumes façon tajine was very, very yummy. I would never say no to lamb, and the leg was a bit dry – it’s a confit, after all – but full of flavor. The juice from the lamb provided the flavor for the couscous and the veggies. Very nice.

A nice selection of cheese was presented, and I didn’t hesitate to take my share, including a nice Comté that is probably 2 years old as it still had some bounce.

The pomme en compotée was really, really nice. The rich apple sauce - that’s pretty much what it was - was enhanced with cinnamon powder and sat on a nice pie crust. A great way to finish the meal.

We enjoyed three vintages of Pontet-Canet during lunch:

2003 Pontet-Canet – nose still a bit closed, very concentrated fruit with a bit of metallic and iron rust, turning a bit alcoholic later.

2000 Pontet-Canet – nose also concentrated but more accessible than the 2003. Ripe fruit with a bit of coffee, and smoke emerging later. Nice and long finish.

1995 Pontet-Canet – very apparent sous bois, very smooth and lovely on the palate.

I really enjoyed my time with Alfred today. He is clearly very passionate about the wines, and clearly has given a lot of thoughts about how he could improve the wines. He focuses on doing everything the natural way – the estate is now biodynamic – and every step is designed to be gentle to the wine – such as using horses instead of tractors to plow the fields because the lighter weight means the soil is less compacted. He is a lovely gentleman and I am delighted to have made his acquaintance.

Our dinner was hosted by Frédéric Engerer, the Director and President of Château Latour. We started with a quick tour, and spent some time in the beautifully modern tasting room with the following wines:

2008 Pauillac – the nose of the generic production was not very open, with a bit of fruit and slightly spicy.

2008 Les Forts de Latour – a bit smoky and grilled meat notes, with a tart finish.

2008 Latour – nose was not very open and tannins were pretty grippy.

2004 Les Forts de Latour – classic Bordeaux nose with smoke and a bit of coffee. A bit sweet on the palate.

2002 Latour – again a classic Bordeaux with smoky nose. A bit acidic on the palate.

2007 Latour – nose was a bit sweet like cotton candy, and a little smoky.

2006 Latour – open nose with smoke with grilled meats, still a bit tannic.

We adjourned to the lounge for some canapés with drinks, and it gave us a clear indication of the shape of things to come. With the yummy foie gras over baguette, sautéed prawns and scallops carpaccio in olive oil, we had the following wonderful wines:

1988 Salon Le Mesnil – nose was a bit acidic, with iron rust, honey and oxidized pear notes. On the palate it was sweet and a bit metallic. I don’t get many chances to drink Salon, so this was a real treat.

1976 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc – nose of chalk, flint, lemon, a little sweet honey, oxidation and pineapple. Really wonderful stuff. Paulo’s birth vintage.

We adjourned to the dining room, which was beautifully decked out in lavender.

Cloche de langoustines à la fondue de poireaux - this was soooo beautiful. The langoustines were amazingly fresh and sweet, and the leeks were also very sweet as well.

Bar rôti entier, glace de vin rouge, légumes primeurs - the seabass was cooked whole with a veggie stuffing and red wine sauce. Very fresh fish and the flesh was very tender.

Cheese selection - naturally I tried all the different types of cheese. I find it interesting that everyone here serves Comté...

Feuillantine de gariguettes, crème de nougatine - the Gariguette strawberries were really yummy, and the brown nougat creme made a perfect match.

We were served three pairs of wines from the birth vintages of MNSC members. The theme was that one wine from each pair would be a Latour, while the other wine would be of equivalent stature (i.e. a First Growth) but selected to ensure that the Latour would be the winner of the pair… Of course all the wines are ex-château – even if they weren’t Latour, they have been lying in the château library since release – so we could not hope for better conditions.

First pair – Alex, Arnold and Julian’s birth vintage
1973 Cheval Blanc – smooth on the palate, with smoke, grilled meat notes. Orange and amber rim from the age. On the palate it was a bit watery but sweet.

1973 Latour – classic Bordeaux with smoke, lead pencil over a core of sweet fruit. Beautiful wine.

Second pair – Kevin’s birth vintage
1967 Latour – a bit of stewed fruit on the nose, with sweet grass and a little plasticky.

1967 Ausone – sweet, exotic and a bit funky nose.

Third pair – my birth vintage
1970 Latour – classic Bordeaux nose with smoke and sweet fruits. Quite a powerful wine after almost 40 years of age. I’ve had this wine a few times before – including last year – and recognized it immediately.

1970 Mouton – smoky, minty and a bit more ripe and open than the Latour. A beautiful wine. This was a surprise as I’ve had this wine a half dozen times – including last year – and I’ve never had a bottle as good as this one. This is where provenance really shows…

1953 Latour – Kevin brought this bottle for Frédéric to taste and “authenticate.” Big nose of iron, rust and minerals, with sweet fruit, orange, grassy and a bit of smoke.

1975 Yquem – golden honey color, with nose of orange marmalade, plastic and acetone from the botrytis. This wine was sooooo rich! What a great way to end the meal!

I feel very privileged to have enjoyed Frédéric's generosity tonight. I hope there is a chance for us to reciprocate in the future.

1 comment:

Monica said...

That's fabulous !

Is it easy to arrange for lunch / dinner at Chateau Latour / Chateau Pontet-Canet ? Thanks.

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