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Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Leoville Barton Vertical Tasting

1970
A treat to taste, and evolved significantly enough to really expose how well Barton wines stand the test of time. Still vibrant and kicking, expelling a dynamic mélange of dried flowers, rose water, orange peel, cardamom, leather and touches of dried currant from the glass. While the palate was initially sharply citric, the brightness dimmed a bit in time as the wine put on a bit of weight, still flexing some grip in its tea-like tannins. Fascinating wine & still an enjoyable experience, 85 points.

1982
One of those wines where there was undoubtedly anticipation and it performed very well in all areas, except the mid-palate. Perhaps one of the more impressive aspects of this wine was how deeply saturated the color still was, leading way to a complex display of cut cedar, pipe tobacco and cassis that seemed to penetrate to the core. Unfortunately, after the initial attack, the wine has an odd lapse in missing the boat on the palate, but picking up steam on the finish, echoing violet and loam flavors in dazzling fashion. An optimistic would say that it just ‘needed more time to fill out,’ but I am of the camp that believes some wines just aren’t a complete package, 89 points.

1985
Nearly as saturated in color as the ’82, this underdog vintage outshines its more expensive ’82 sibling from the get go. The nose offered up from the ’85 was nearly haunting, tantamount to sitting in a cigar lounge full of smoky leather, humidor, espresso and black currant notes. Richer, denser and more layered in the mouth than the ’82, stretching its legs w/ ease to an outstanding conclusion, 92 points.

1986
Believe it or not, this wine is still inky! I wonder if it has budged at all through the past couple decades? A flamboyant, youthful and exuberant nose that is full of cassis, truffles, loam, mocha, lilacs and even hints at fig in its underbelly. While the palate has a subtle decadence about itself, fashioned with layers of chocolate covered cherries, the texture becomes so overtly muscular on the finish & completely dries out the palate. I couldn’t help but think of a young Nebbiolo when I was greeted w/ the ’86 Barton’s series set of tannins. A true vin de garde, masculine to a t, 93 points. While this wine will undoubtedly hold for decades, will it ever actually evolve? Makes me think of the evolution for a Napa cab in that regard…

1989
Well, you’ve already read that Levenberg hates this wine because he found it to be too much like Chateauneuf. Personally, I didn’t get that comparison, but you all know that I drool and sweat Chateauneuf on a daily basis, so this was right in my kitchen! An extremely fungal, exotic nose that tugged at my heart immediately, dazzling notions of dried mushrooms, wild truffles, dried game, graphite and crème de cassis were so exotic and effusive that I couldn’t help but return to it several times throughout the evening. A sultry sexpot of concentration in the palate has a bit of a firm edge (a la Barton), but its flavors are so defined and divine that you almost don’t notice how tannic this wine likely is, 95 points.

1996
Reminded me of a 3 year old Bordeaux, considering the wine still had toasty, spicy oak elements in its sweet, inviting nose. Other characteristics of melted asphalt, graphite, currant, roast coffee and chocolate ganache make themselves apparent in the palate, which seems nearly precocious until the palate trails away to absolutely nowhere, making me question the wines overall quality and potential. Yet another bottle that almost tricks you into thinking it is a classic, until the true colors show, 90 points.

1997
A lighter, medium ruby shaded vintage of Leoville that has some classic Baron elements of cedar box, sweet raspberry, iron and toast, but unfortunately it is a bit too austere throughout the palate to merit an outstanding performance. For fans of early maturing, savory St. Julien, 87 points.

1998
I wasn’t ever really on board w/ this vintage as the late harvest rains seem to have taken their toll on the quality of the Cabernet crop for Barton. Extremely tight and brooding it its backward, unyielding personality from start to finish. The flavors of modest BBQ spice, smoke and currant are lacking in generosity and delineation and currently it is a wine that is marred in structure w/o the flesh, 86 points, with the optimism that this will bounce back.

2000
While the millennium vintage wasn’t exactly the most open for business, there is no denying the stature and presence that this wine possesses. A black colored, brooding and authoritatively intense wine that is loaded to the gills w/ charcoal, blackberry, melted licorice, and cassis flavors that reverberate through the spine of the taster w/ sheer power. A tremendous, heady finish pumps out concentrated, viscous Cabernet flavors for up to a minute. Should be a classic as the structure gives way a bit for better flavor definition, as its sense of penetration now is almost overwhelming, 95+ points.

2002
An opaque, flashy young Barton that had one of the more intriguing noses of the evening, showcasing vogue notions of incense, clove, sweet spice, cedar and licorice over a bed of dark, tannic fruit. The wine is very structured, w/ an immense backbone of slightly drying tannins that should hopefully give way to a bit more generosity and pleasure down the road, 89+ points.

2003
Yep, I am a slut, I dug this wine. The most extroverted, pleasurable and hedonistic effort that I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste from Leoville Barton is this byproduct of the wildly intense, sun saturated 2003 vintage. What a byproduct it is! While there is still quite a hefty dose of prime grade, creamy toast that is evident in the wine’s nose, this wine is layered and inundated with affluent, copious amounts of fruit that gush from the glass. Mammoth, overt flavors of blackberries, blueberries, crème de cassis and flowers cascade through the palate in lush, hedonistic droves. While formidably tannic, the structure is so ripe and sweet that I can’t imagine that the evolutionary phases of this wine will ever see real austerity. Should be a legendary Barton, 97+ points.

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