A Few Great Bordeaux from the spectacular 1990 Vintage, Followed by Some Other Studs
Poured from magnum, this wine was a complete tease, all ‘show’ and no ‘go.’ The aromas were absolutely lovely, as an elegant bouquet of fresh cedar, graphite, black olive and crushed flowers weaved in and out from the glass like an easy breeze. I should have stopped at the nose because she let me down in the palate, turning medium to light bodied, yet fresh and driven, propelled by nice palate cleansing acidity that rippled through the spicy red currant fruit. While she’s a classy claret, the fact that this is a first growth in the 1990 vintage leaves its performance entirely underwhelming, 89 points.
This was the only wine that we caught during an awkward phase, as its nose of menthol, fresh berry fruit and sweet tobacco scents were smack dab in the middle of primary and evolutionary phases. The mouth-feel was disjointed, pumping out smoky, leafy flavors that struggled to gel w/ the obviously ripe fruit, leaving the large-scaled, tannic frame fully in command. While she’s got spine, she definitely needs another 5 years to grow into it, 92+ points.
La Mission Haut Brion
To me, this was an archetypal Graves and performed just like the Bordeaux literature suggests, pumping out smoky scents of dusty cassis, black currant, lead pencil and high class cigar tobacco that were so potent enough to smell all day. The palate presence reveals that this is a real powerhouse vintage for La Mission, turning savory, full-bodied and tannic, combining great structure and sweetness of fruit to keep everything in perfect symmetry, 95 points.
The ’89 and ’90 vintages from my favorite Chateau never fail to impress and will continue to stir countless arguments amongst geeks as to which one’s better. Well, on this night- the ’90 wins by process of elimination (considering the ’89 didn’t show up), and brought some full-fledged poetry to the bouquet, as dazzling notes of plum sauce, sautéed mushrooms, cocoa powder and spice box dance from the glass. This is a real showpiece in the palate, as a spicy attack unveils a savory, expansive body that turns sweet and full on the gorgeous, persistent finish. Imagining the ’05 at this juncture of its evolution is almost a frightening proposition, 96 points.
Perhaps Laurence Feraud consulted on this vintage because it smelled and tasted like a Chateauneuf du Pape inspired St. Estephe! The explosive, almost savage nose of grilled steak, hay, lilacs, spicy black currants and pepper really expanded on the monstrous, mouth-filling attack which brings new definition to the term ‘opulent Bordeaux.’ This is simply crammed to the gills w/ huge levels of glycerin, alcohol and tannin, showing very little signs of age. The lasting impression on the palate is not only that this boy is frankly muscular, but that there may be 50 more years of potential longevity in the cards. Not typical and not for everyone, but that’s the beauty of Montrose…monster vintages like the ’90 and ’03 (which is the finest young Bordeaux I’ve sampled) are certain to divide the room a bit, but there’s always the ’89 for almost everyone to agree on, 98 points.
The other side of Bordeaux, Laville Haut Brion Blanc, 1994
Every time I have a great white Bordeaux (which isn’t often) I ask myself why I don’t drink more of the stuff. Well it’s kind of a niche and kind of expensive, but when they hit their stride w/ some bottle age they can truly dazzle the senses. The ‘94 Laville shows a wonderful sense of finesse, reeking of refinement and sophistication w/ its waxy nose of lanolin, white flowers, quince, ginger and bee pollen notes that whisper from the glass. The attack opens up to a honeyed profile, putting on a chameleon-like, almost ethereal display in the mouth, lengthening up on a finish that leaves a stone-drenched-in-salt bath impression on the palate. This particular vintage doesn’t strike me as a powerful one, but it dazzles like a Chablis-meets Savennieres in a truly unique fashion that really struck a chord w/ me. Wine can’t have any more grace than this, 94 points.
Pichon Lalande 1994
Moving onwards and upwards w/ ’94 Bordeaux took us to a rouge from Pichon Lalande. Like most ‘94s I’ve tried from Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone, this is wine is currently as good as its going to get, sporting an earthy, mature nose of black truffles, cigar humidor, licorice snap and blackberry fruit that prime the palate for something friendly and inviting. The ’94 Pichon Lalande is just that, friendly and inviting, revealing good concentration and a solid core of silky, easy to understand fruit that’s dashed w/ just a bit of cocoa on the finish. Perhaps a bit short, but I liked her all the same, 89 points.
Janasse Chaupin, 2000
Guess who brought this one? Well, it was not only a Rhone wine, but it was the youngest we consumed all night…so yikes, I just sold myself out. Nevertheless, this was a classic representation of Janasse’s pure Grenache cuvee that was its typically heady-self, yet surprisingly structured for the vintage. Focused flavors of espresso roast, kirsch liqueur, melted licorice, spice box and buckwheat honey picked up a sappy texture, yet were shaped by some sturdy tannins that really enveloped the palate from start to finish. Super-ripe and beautifully proportioned, this young Chaupin may actually benefit from a couple more years in the cellar, 94+ points.