I hadn’t been in a wine tasting group for a few years, but ‘ve recently joined two. One is casual, we just usually eat dinner together and enjoy a few wines chosen around a particular theme. The other is a bit more serious, the wines are served blind by whoever is hosting that gathering. So I’ve been with this group since September and it was finally my turn to host. I was a little nervous, I wanted the tasting to go well and be both fun and informative, with these types of groups you always want to be sure that the wines you serve are of a similar quality to the wines others serve when it’s their turn. So I went with a theme that fits with me personally as well as something that would be explorative for the group. My theme? 2015 Whites and Reds from my favorite Bordeaux Appellation- Pessac-Leognan.
Pessac-Leognan is the southern most of the great zones of Bordeaux and is one that is equally renown for whites and reds. Dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon for reds these wines tend to be elegant, and earthy with very good acidity. Sauvignon Blanc is the primary grape for whites, the wines tend to be complex and rich with honey and gorgeous fruit like nectarine and citrus. The most famous winery here is Haut Brion, and there are many other greats of course. In my tasting I served four flights, each was of one winery serving both their red and white side-by-side and all from the vaunted 2015 vintage. All four wineries are in the town of Leognan, all within a five mile area.
Chateau Haut Bergey– This has been one of my favorite sources for pure and correct Bordeaux, the white and the red are both terrific wines for the money. 2015 Haut-Bergey Blanc ($34.99) is ripe and fresh with intense marmalade and honey, but totally dry with great acidity. Robust and very easy to drink, it will drink well for five to ten more years. 2015 Haut-Bergey Rouge ($24.99) is a dark purple color and it’s loaded with graphite, mineral and black pepper, very ripe but quite dry and with a very positive frame of tannin and acidity. This will age for another decade, but could be enjoyed now! Red- 93 points James Suckling
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere– A winery that consistently punches above its weight, Malartic is a fabulous winery that makes pure expressive whites and reds. 2015 Malartic-Lagraviere Blanc ($69.99) drier and more herbal than flight 1, lots of nectarine at first, but as the wine warmed and with swirling in the glass more classic White Bordeaux characteristics of citrus and gooseberry. White- 95 points James Suckling. 2015 Malartic-Lagraviere Rouge ($59.99) was an amazing wine and a bit of a surprise for me, I expected something a bit bigger, but the wine was elegant, very ripe, some of the discussion was that the wine might be Syrah from the Northern Rhone, so an elegant wine came to mind from blind tasting. But again with air the wine showed some classic Pessac notes of graphite and earth. It’s a fabulous wine, with aging potential of up to two decades, maybe more. Red- 96 points Vinous, 96 points James Suckling
Domaine de Chevalier– This is an iconic winery for me, I consider myself very lucky to have a favorite First-Growth and it is Haut-Brion, I am also very lucky that I can taste so many wines that I have found Domaine de Chevalier as a truly great wine that I can drink from time to time and it scratches the Haut-Brion itch without having to spend Haut-Brion money! 2015 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc ($89.99) my favorite white wine of the night, bold and with some framing oak this wine also has real class, such picture perfect balance, peach and acacia flowers highlight the wine. It needs three more years and will drink well for a long time to come! White- 98 points James Suckling, 95 points Wine Advocate 2015 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge ($74.99) is roughly two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and is a great snapshot of Pessac Rouge. Graphite, floral, spicy, earthy– amazing! It was still young obviously, seemed to be wearing a robe of cedar, but it has lots of fruit and excellent balance. Delicious, and ageworthy. Red- 97 points James Suckling, 95 points Wine Advocate.
Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte– Always among the prestigious Chateaux of Pessac-Leognan the winery vaulted to elite status after Florence and Daniel Cathiard bought the winery and began to upgrade the facilities, with an ultimate goal of making polished whites and intense reds that would be among the very best in the World, not just Bordeaux. 2015 Smith-Haut-Lafitte Blanc ($109.99) flashy and indeed polished, with a gorgeous spicy note- but spicy the way citrus can be, not a pepper type of spice. Youthful and delicious, with a frame of acidity and vanilla from the oak. I think this was most of the group’s favorite white wine of the evening. White- 97 points James Suckling, 96 Wine Advocate, 96 Decanter, 96 Wine Spectator. 2015 Smith-Haut-Lafitte Rouge ($99.99) was intense and flashy with the oak giving the wine a very attractive if young personality. Ripe and full of fruit, this will need ten more years before it will begin to show the classic Pessac characteristics. Incredible wine, some in the group even wondered if I had sprung for Haut Brion or La Mission Haut Brion- THIS WINE IS THAT GOOD! Red- 99 points James Suckling, 97 Wine Advocate, 96 Wine Spectator, 96 Decanter.
The wines showed beautifully and it was a good tasting, I was thrilled that the group seemed to enjoy it. These wines are all in stock now, but our stock on more is limited to just a couple of cases, so if any of them struck your fancy I would encourage you to buy them soon so as to avoid disappointment.