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bordeaux avec mes amis — cinq

by Jon Rusciano

The second day was planned with visits in the realm of the Right Bank, so we did not have to depart so quickly with only a 15 minute drive ahead of us.  The guys (me too) needed the rest, because jet-lag was still with us.  Thus, my wake-up call was a bit later in the morning.  The ill effects of his nasal infection were becoming a challenge for Bob.  He took the medicines that we had available, but in the early morning hours, he hit the sleeping meds with full force, hoping for restful results.  They remained in-effect past the time when we were ready to leave, continuing into our first two appointments.  Nevertheless, we departed with Swiss promptness.  I run a tight ship.

Our first appointment was at 9 am. at Chateau L’Evangile.  This is the Right Bank winery owned and operated since 1990 by Baron Eric de Rothschild, the proprietor of First Growth Chateau Lafite Rothschild, on the Left Bank of La Gironde.  Our host was a pleasant woman named Corinne.  She was the same person I tried unsuccessfully to coax into staying past Friday at noontime for a visit during my first trip, on the same day William and Kate were married.  Thus, I booked this appointment as her first in the morning, not wishing to miss-out again.

The Grand Vin of L’Evangile typically consists of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.  The vineyard is currently experimenting with a program they refer to as “Sustainability” for the next two years.  This includes 50% organic farming, introducing bees for better pollination and trees for bird nests, whose occupants will patrol the grounds for harmful bugs.  Other vineyard tending practices are selective bud removals in early spring, de-leafing in August for better sun exposure to the grapes, soil tilling for aeration, green harvest as a means of separation to keep pests from hopping from cluster to cluster and tilling-in all cuttings for fertilization.  They use grapes from the younger vines for the second label (Blason d’Evangile) and the mature (10 years and older) vines for the Grand Vin.

An impressive feature of the sub-surface portion of the winery was the rotunda-like vault for barrel storage, similarly styled to the one at Lafite Rothschild, only smaller in scale.  Corinne explained that 100% new oak is utilized for the Grand Vin, with a medium toast to yield a vanilla flavoring.  The wine stays in barrel for a full 24 months.  All barrels are created by in-house coopers.

Then it was time for the tasting.  We were ushered into their impressive tasting room, with glasses already set out for us.  The only wine she had available was the 2012 vintage, which was bottled before aging as a “barrel taste” sample.  This vintage had a larger amount of Merlot than normal (93%) and the balance was Cabernet Franc.  It was in the upper range of alcohol for a Bordeaux wine (14.4%) and had a fragrance of spicy dark cherry.  The wine was rich in flavor, with soft tannins and a long finish.  Its youth was evident, but I would guess that it will rate relatively well for this troubled vintage year.

Our second stop of the day was one of my Pomerol favorites, Vieux Chateau Certan.  The weather had been cloudy for the morning and rain anointed us as we departed for this estate.  With only walking distance between the two properties, we were of course early.  I ran through the rain from the parking lot to the visitor lobby, just to see if there was a chance for the early commencement of our visit.  As I entered, there were sounds of conversations in the adjoining room.  Next a short-haired feline bolted into my presence followed by screams from the other room as if a prisoner was making the “great escape.”  Proprietor Alexandre Thienpont came rushing through the doorway, bent over with hands reaching out to capture the adventurous critter.  With his success came a sigh of relief.    Captive in hand, he looked over and gave me a glint of recognition, the kind received when someone recognizes the face but not the name.  I introduced myself again, realizing that there was no way he would recall the details of our meeting and conversations two years ago.  He joked about his captive being the newest “child” in the family and then explained that the role of winery host had been passed along to his son Guilliam (a boyish tyke of 31 years).  He invited the group to come inside and await his arrival.  Regretfully, by the time the guys entered the room, Alexandre had departed back into the residence confines of this beautiful old Chateau.

Guilliam emerged after around ten minutes, while Bob and Calvin napped in peaceful slumber on the comfortable leather couch in the office.  With his introduction, I noticed a virtual “chip off the old block.”  Mannerisms in speaking and enthusiasm for the subject matter were mirrored images of “son père.”   His duties include managing the vineyards of this property and that of his uncle Jacques, the proprietor of the legendary Chateau Le Pin, less than a kilometer away.  By the time we were all introduced, the rain halted, so we proceeded outside for a survey of the VCC property along with a very similar descriptive dialog that I heard and outlined in my earlier “Premiere Bordeaux” series.  Guilliam had paid his dues in prior years, spending a couple of years in the vineyards of family friends’ Napa area Merlot producing winery and two years in Hong Kong, gaining marketing experience.

As the sprinkles returned we shuffled into the barrel storage building, where our tasting of the wines had been staged.  We were treated to two vintages of the Grand Vin.  First was the 2006, which had a light nose of cedar, coffee and dark fruit.  The wine yielded a rich and complex dark cherry flavor.  It seemed to me to be ready for consumption.  The second vintage offered was 2009.  Still a youngster, this highest scoring wine in 60 years offered a fragrant nose of sweet spice, tobacco and spring flowers.  It was a massive wine, yielding flavors of spicy dark cherry and plumb and a very smooth long finish for a wine so early in life.  It was compelling, and one of my “futures” purchases.  I will need to quell my inclination to open early the bottles I have ordered.

Parting company with Guilliam, we drove over to the grounds of Pomerol Cathedral, which can be seen from most of the properties in this viticultural district, since it was nearby our next afternoon destination.   We stopped in its parking lot to eat our lunch, and before we could unwrap our prepared sandwiches, we could not help noticing a live passionate encounter, the likes of which would not be available back home without age verification and a charge for admission.  Watch for my continuation of the events of the afternoon.

Chateau L’Evangile
Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Vieux Chateau Certan

Chateau Le Pin
(No website available)

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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