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The 2010 Château Bellegrave is something serious. Not an outright meaty wine, it's savory in more of an alluring, herbaceous, mint-and-tobacco way. An hour open reveals a nose of red fruit, flavors of dark minerals and plum, and a bracing structure of lean edges and good acidity. The crucial stuffing, the attractive, semi-plump middle, forms after three hours or so of air. At this point, the wine's aromas and flavors have expanded, too. Dashes of extra-dark cocoa and dried cherries hum under more pungent and lasting aromas of black pepper, leather and smoke. A subtle, bitter kiss of ground espresso and an even subtler peck of mint give pleasurable nuance to a palate of dates, plum, and red currants. No cellaring needed, drink this today - just open it at 5 if your meal begins at 8. David Hatzopoulos
The second label to Chateau Fonroque, the Chateau Cartier sees none of the estate's Cabernet Franc. The Merlot that goes into this wine comes from under the limestone plateau of St.-Emilion, picked from biodynamically farmed vines on the limestone-clay and silty clay soils of the slopes and bottom-slopes. All fruit is picked by hand. The wine was fermented naturally and aged in a mixture of 75% barrel and 25% concrete vats. A very impressive partner to Fonroque, mimicking the minerally character that the estate is known for. The nose delivers scents of dark flowers and rich baked fruit - strawberry, cherry, blueberry. The palate shows deep red and black cherry and plum, with accents of warm cedar and herbs. There is great minerality, which lends the wine a structure of supreme freshness, but a textural softness making the wine quite delicious now in the sunny 2018 vintage. Great wine. David Hatzopoulos
The house red if you will, Chateau Brandeau is a classically dark-fruited yet elegant and balanced Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux. Majority Merlot (80%) from slopes on clay, with old vines Cabernet Franc from clay and limestone soils. Julien feels this wine offers a true expression of the terroir of the estate, "sans artifice." Maceration is for about 4 weeks, with light extraction, some occasional punchdowns and light pumping over. Aging is for 16 months in 5000L foudres. Note, there's no new oak here, or even small second use barrels. Perhaps this is what he means by "sans artifice" as we do get a very pure expression of smooth cassis fruit from the Merlot, a lovely touch of the Cabernet Franc on limestone for mineral complexity in the finish, and the neutral aging that allowed the wine to develop slowly and preserved the fruit notes. This is, in the end, the idea for the wine, that it would show the fruit, with the subtle complexity of the aging in large foudres without the taste of wood. A great, no nonsense $20 bottle of Bordeaux!
Alice, Julien's daughter, is the inspiration for the name of this wine, which is a selection from six parcels on south facing clay/limestone slopes in the domaine, fermented and aged in used 500L barrels ("Barriques") for 16 months. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, the wine has fantastic balance and smooth integrated tannins, partly from the fruit and partly from the barrel aging, with nice subtle flavors of oak here. There's no reason not to open it now to have with a satisfying meal, but of the Chateau Brandeau wines, it is the most suited for aging over the next 5 years. As a fan of 2019 Bordeaux reds, I'll be putting some away to have when dinner calls for Bordeaux in a few years! -EL
Joue Franc Jeu is likely some play on words. Joue is play, Franc is for Cabernet Franc, but can also mean honest, Jeu is game. I'm not sure, but Julien is playing the Cabernet Franc game fantastically here with this 100% Cab Franc expression from clay and limestone soils. This is a really charming red, for fans of Cabernet Franc and for fans of easy-going wines with a bit of structure. The maceration is short here, around a week, and there was no intervention during fermentation and aging, with a very low dose of SO2 at bottling. The staff here at Chambers Street Wines were all fans of this when we opened the wines, not just because it was unexpected to have a 100% Cab Franc from Bordeaux, but also for the graceful yet still earthy and honest style.
Banzai is a tasty, pure Merlot expression from clay and limestone soils in Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux. The grapes are carefully destemmed and see a short and light maceration for 7-8 days, in what is called 'infusion style,' meaning there is no pumping over or any kind of aggressive agitation of the skins and juice, which are allowed to ferment with less extraction (less grippy tannins). It's Merlot, so it's ripe enough and has plenty of material to maintain an ideal medium-bodied expression, but it's also light in a way, not in the glass necessarily but on the palate and in terms of drinkability. For $18 it's a no-brainer as a perfect medium bodied and silky red for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, well, basically every night. No intervention during fermentation or aging, with small addition of SO2 at bottling.
Château Fonroque is a superb certified biodynamic and organic estate near Saint-Émilion. Owned by the Moueix family since 1931, the estate is a proponent of traditional wine-making techniques with hand harvesting, spontaneous yeasts, and limited use of new oak. An elegant Bordeaux with precise minerality, the wine is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) of 35-year-old vines planted on limestone soils with some portions of clay on the hillside of the vineyard. The wine is fermented with native yeast in concrete vats and then aged in oak (with 30% new), keeping the freshness of the vintage. The resulting wine is a Bordeaux with energy and tension, bright calcareous minerality, great acidity and grippy tannin. On the nose, the bouquet is complex and lively with crunchy cranberry and black cherry, tart dark berries, dried tobacco leaves, Moroccan spices, earth, purple flower and savory notes. Drinking beautifully now, pair this wine with classic fare, such a steak, roasted rack of lamb, duck breast and full-flavored cheese, or age it for an additional 15 years.
hateau Micalet, with a few hectares in the commune of Lamarque was classified "Cru Artisan" by Feret in 1893. Acquired by the Fedieu family in 1972 the estate was enlarged slightly, never using herbicides, and with a new generation the conversion to organic agriculture was started in 2006. The estate now has 10 hectares on deep beds of gravel, planted at 8,000 pieds/hectare; the normal blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot - and 7% Petit Verdot, a grape the Fedieus feel is particularly important. The grapes are harvested by hand and undergo a 3 to 4 week fermentation, the wine ages in barrique, 30% new. The nose on the Haut Medoc has dark plummy cassis fruit, with hints of vanilla and baking spice. Young leather notes and dark gravel tones as well. A little floral with dark violets and roses. The palate has deep, lush black cherry. Graphite and iron on the tongue give an earthy glimmer. Medium acid and soft tannin, but great density at its core and terriic length. Drink up - this is a sensational value for a very good Haut-Medoc!
"Chateau Ferriere was certified organic in 2015 and biodynamic in 2018. It is one of the rare Classified Growths to be biodynamic certified, not only in its vineyard, but also in the cellar. Ferriere develops its own wild yeast starter culture, avoids any input during vinification and limits the addition of sulfur to the strict minimum. 20% of the wine is aged in small ovoid concrete vats, developed by the property in 2012, and the biggest part of the ageing takes place in oak barrels. Born of this approach are wines that are more mineral, fresh and vibrant that fully express the terroir, without embellishment nor artifice." - Ferriere website "The 2016 Ferriere is a dense, full-bodied wine that will need a few years in bottle to shed some of its tannins. Old vines imbue the 2016 with a palpable sense of power and resonance that comes through in the wine's dark, somber personality. Blackberry, smoke and gravel are some of the notes that build as the 2016 opens in the glass." - Vinous 2018 The wine is drinking beautifully in 2023, but a decant is advised, or cellar and enjoy until 2040+
One half of the vineyard of Château Haut-Bages Libéral is located on the historic plateau of Bages (gravelly soil), while the other half directly overlooks the Gironde on a limestone hill. The presence of limestone in the vineyard brings a touch of freshness and minerality to the style of the wine, making it unique within the Pauillac appellation. Since the 2000s, biodiversity has been at the heart of all the viticultural practices at Château Haut-Bages Libéral. The plots are surrounded by hedges and trees of various species, and they are gradually planted in the heart of the vines. The soils are covered by permanent grassing or by seedlings (rye, mustard, clover, broad beans, lupines, etc.). The estate is certified organic since 2019 and Biodynamic since 2021. The 2019 is a gorgeous wine, complex and powerful with a more fresh and mineral character than most "modern" Bordeaux. Decant if drinking now, or cellar and enjoy until 2040+
"Blended at the same time as Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Les Hauts de Smith 2016 was crafted and aged with the same care as the estate’s Grand Vin; the entire winemaking process is exactly the same." - From the website of Smith Haut-Lafite. "The 2016 Les Hauts de Smith is pliant, racy and inviting. This Merlot-based wine offers tons of early accessibility and sheer appeal. Super-ripe red cherry, raspberry, mint, rose petal and dried flowers add grace throughout. A range of striking floral/savory Cabernet Sauvignon aromatics add complexity, while the Merlot is felt in the wine’s fleshiness." Vinous
Claire Villars-Lurton (G & C Lurton of Ferriere, Haut-Bages Liberal and Durfort-Vivens) has dramatically elevated the quality of this unknown Margaux, achieving organic certificatioin in 2016 and Biodynamic certification in 2018. The 2019 is 54% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 6% Petit-Verdot. 12 months ageing: 60% in barrels and 40% in ovoid tanks. The vintage is characterised by the elegance of the tannins, thanks to an exceptional late season where hot days alternated with cool nights. 2019 Château La Gurgue is marked by an exuberant nose of black fruits, the wine is ample with a beautiful finish and a lot of freshness. Perhaps the greatest value in Margaux!
The Chateau Micalet Haut-Medoc "Origine" is from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and 20% Petit Verdot grown on deep beds of gravel in Lamarque. The Fedieu familu created this wine to be a slightly lighter and more ready-to-drink version of their Haut-Medoc, with a shorter cuvaison and without aging in wood. The Origine has a beautiful nose, with ripe blackberries, dried blueberries and an elegant combo of orange peel and clove. On the palate, the wine is full and bold, with black pepper, dark cherry and a zesty accent of cassis and plum peel. Structurally, the wine shows just enough generous texture, a mineral zing, and medium acid. A fantastic buy at under $20! David Hatzopoulos
This year's Quintessence from the famille Hubert's estate in the Cotes de Bordeaux is composed of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from beautiful biodynamically farmed vines on clay limestone soils. The nose is dense and ripe on opening, showing ripe cassis, blackberry and raspberry, with hints of warming spice. With time open, the wine shows increasingly complex aromatic qualities, with more tobacco and earth coming through by hour 4 or 5. On the palate, the fruit is again ripe and dense, with cassis liqueur, ripe blackberry, and black cherry balanced by bristly tannins and limestone minerality on the long finish. After some time open, the palate leans more towards cacao and earth, but the ripe fruit remains dominant. A pleasure now with butter basted rib eye steak or roast beef, it will certainly improve over the next 10 to 15 years...
Didier Michaud works 1.7 hectares in the Medoc with 30 to 100 year-old vines on limestone with thin soils of clay with sand and stones. He has old vines of Merlot Queue Rouge and massale selection Cabernet Sauvignon, farmed organically with just a little compost and shallow plowing. Vinification with wild yeasts, no extraction and no added sulfur (total SO2 less than 2 mg/L). This is one of the most "natural" and deliciously old-fashioned wines of Bordeaux. In the glass, the '19 is rich and plummy in color. The nose is heady, with awesome smells of mint, fresh garden soil, graphite, and pungent dark flowers. Flavors steer towards ripe forest fruits, like blueberry, blackberry, and cassis. Anise and herbs, with crunchy minerals, add flare to the wine's fruit. Great density, a velvety texture with engaging tannins and bright acidity. Definitely a bold Bordeaux, clocking in at 15% ABV, but so delicious, well structured and drinkable. Yum! David Hatzopoulos
Sarget of Gruaud Larose: 100% of the surface is managed according to the principles of Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture. The estate is in conversion to organic production since 2019. The soils are Garonne gravel from the first quaternary, planted to 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3 % Petit Verdot. This second label of Gruaud Larose is a lovely Saint-Julien to drink now, medium bodied and supple with floral aromas and pretty red and black fruits, earth and tobacco notes - drink now or cellar and enjoy over the next ten years.
This is the twelfth vintage of the Hubert family's "Blanc Bonhomme" - the vines are now 17 years old, certified organic and Biodynamic. The grapes are hand-harvested in the early morning, pressed gently, fermented with native yeasts and the wine is aged partly in new oak, mostly in cement vats. Only about 650 cases are made. In 2020, Le Blanc is 45% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillon, and 10% Colombard, and shows elegant pear, lemon, herbal and dried flower aromas, with pear, citrus and chalky mineral flavors on the palate. At 12.5% alcohol, the 2021 is lighter and brighter than the previous 3 vintages and it really shows the terroir with crisp acidity, lovely white fruit, a hint of dried pineapple, light oak and stony flavors in the finish. Really a lovely, balanced and food-friendly wine - serve with anything from oysters to grilled fish to roast chicken.