This is the type of tasting format I feel I should participate in a lot more often. Pick an appellation, bring a wine from said appellation, blind the wines….best bottle has their dinner paid for by the losers of the evening. Think about it. Even if your bottle gets dusted, you’ll happily pay a bit extra for your buddy who one-upped you. Everyone drinks well, and the winner not only earns the bragging rights, but the invaluable gift of a guilt free cab ride home, their wallet as bloated as their liver inflamed.
Pomerol was a small enough appellation to keep the tasting format focused. The wines were all mostly Merlot (unfortunately no affluent soul anteed up for the Cab Franc heavy La Fleur), and the dichotomy of styles set the stage for the group’s typically disagreeable discourse throughout the evening. We didn’t safeguard against bottle duplication (I was convinced we’d all arrive w/ ’90 Petrus’ in paper bags), but luckily the format’s one flaw proved to be a positive, as the 2nd bottle of ’82 L’Evangile ended up replacing a grossly under-performing version, and the 2 bottles of ’00 La Conseillante bore little in common outside of their labels (my bottle, of course, was the superior of the two).
Things commenced w/ a volatile, hard red, which smelled of stewed prunes and tasted worse. Its sour hints of battery acid elucidated the wine’s identity immediately, as well pegged the ’82 L’Evangile almost in unison. I’m sure the aptitude of our guesswork was mildly enhanced by Izzy furiously tearing off the bag of his malodorous bottle, but I won’t bother w/ the minute details of the story, they’ll only cloud the facts. We proceeded to a pair of whites, both from unknown origins, procured by Ben Goldberg generously. Considering the source, we all pegged them as Fevres before even sticking our noses in the glasses. The first of the pair must have been an eccentric vintage at best if it was indeed Chez Fevre, as the nose had an exposed quality to it. The oxidative, nutty notes then shifted to a drier, chalky disposition in the palate. The wine was quirky, w/ potential provenance issues, yet still possessed a sense of class that made the ’94 Pape Clement Blanc uniquely likable, in spite of its imperfections. The latter of the two whites had such a blatant coconut oil characteristic that I found it difficult get past at first. Thankfully, the suntan lotion from the beach blew off in the breeze, as the Semillon-driven lime, green tea and ginger flavors turned focused and pebbly, whispering over the palate to a honeyed, persistent finish. While this bottle of ’94 Laville Haut Brion Blanc was a leaner, less compelling sample than I’ve had in the past, a bit of airtime let its breed shine through lucidly.
The Pomerol flights started off strong, as the beautifully rendered, classy aromas of the first wine filled the room. The pure rose petal, cedar, black truffle and cherry scents hooked us all like fresh water rainbows to a fly. The attack was lithe, carrying its energy through to the round, supple flavors that caressed the palate like cashmere. The 1990 L’Evangile seemed emblematic of just about all I search for in Pomerol, refined, yet flirty. This was followed up by a wine we almost all agreed was a 2000, though a few unhappy palates reproached it w/ the dreaded ‘2003’ moniker (I’m noticing that these types of comparisons tend to happen when you toss an ’00 after a mature vintage of whatever). The nose had a roasted element to it that was more along the lines of espresso than burned fruit, w/ melted licorice, spicy oak and a deep core of black fruits lurking underneath. In spite of its youthful exuberance, the palate proved to be closed, yet its suave integration of oak and rich fruit led me to confidently believe that the ’00 Bon Pasteur was going places. The third wine of the group, ’82 L’Evangile (initially a gratuitous second sampling, but a savior in final analysis), had a savage brute of a nose, slathering rust, wild fungal essences, cold steel and currant notes up and down the stem. The chewy entry funneled juicy bits of savory fruit from the attack to the back end, leaving a resolved, tertiary impression on the palate. Our one gripe was that the finish ebbed a tad too quickly, lacking the follow through of the truly great ones.
We steamed on, as the fourth wine exhibited the most sour, citric flavors, w/ mouth-puckering cranberry and cherry notes narrowing to an angular, somewhat unformed finish. Its youth was astounding, yet the ’70 VCC demands a salty dish to neutralize some of its vigorously acidic backbone. Mr. Hyde followed as number 5, immediately convincing us that we’d struck the ringer bell. The brooding, opaque color saturation intimidated its neighbors, as did the profanity muttered from its nose. The scents of iodine, salt, sweet oak, warm ganache and cassis stuck out like splintered thumbs, yet the wine’s characteristics were not w/o charm. The Blankiet Paradise Hills Vineyard ’02 is an outstanding wine in its own right. It’s a heady, powerful Merlot, but has a succulent, gorgeous belly of fruit that is best tasted w/ its peers (or alone, for that matter). Wines like this show a tad hot and aloof when compared to lower voltage Bordeaux, and their inherent irregularity skews the overall impression of the wines unfavorably.
We swam back to Pomerol, with the sappy, sweet berry driven bouquet of the sixth wine leading us back across the Gironde. The middle weight frame submerged whatever tannin it had left, fanning out caramelized strawberry fruit flavors to a fine spackle over the palate. The ’82 Petit Village
took a walk on the kinky side, demonstrating the many gears of the Pomerol
chassis. I motored over to the seventh wine, stopping abruptly once my nostrils caught the tantalizing wave of scents seeping from the glass. A pure rush of cherry liqueur, freshly picked herbs, Asian spices and menthol flowed immaculately, rushing through the senses in a primal torrent. Once the juice hit my lips I seemed to experience it fragmentally; layer upon layer, w/ its flawlessly polished texture, exotic depth and a finish that hummed along like a purring kitten. While the ’90 La Fleur de Gay
is a small production cuvee and scarcely seen on retail shelves, it is a treasure worth the trek, that is if our bottle was any indication of the wine’s actual quality.
The last 3 wines were all spawn from the 2000 vintage, w/ the first leaving me immediately seduced (though I was on a bit of an island in that regard). Its decadent, subtly sweet bouquet of toffee, crème de cassis, caramel and damp earth notes were divine. The palate brought forth a velvety rush of pure pleasure. While the ’00 La Fleur Petrus currently tips the hedonism scales in the middle weight section, I imagine it will provide ethereal bliss in the decades to come. The last two wines happened to be the same wine, though no one’s palate seemed to get the memo until it was far too late to recant. The first, easily the superior wine (perhaps because it was the one I brought), was a seamless package of stubborn youth, w/ a dollop of chocolaty toast atop its cassis and plum fruit that were still neonatal, yet pure and richly textured. The second bottle of ’00 La Conseillante seemed a touch more top-heavy, w/ a pronounced cola note to the aforementioned profile of the first bottle. While this performance appeared to be a bit gassed in competition, my chicken-scratched notes blurb ‘needs time’ on two occasions for this bottle. Perhaps Izzy didn’t decant his bottle as long as I?
Either way, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’d be remiss to not dole out kudos to Ben Goldberg for donating the two white Bordeaux...and, eh-hem, bringing our unanimous wine of the night, the ’90 La Fleur de Gay. The least we could do was buy the guy dinner in return Perhaps the format for the next tasting will punish the loser instead of awarding the winner. What do you guys think of the loser buying everyone's dinner?
1994 Pape Clement Blanc 86 points
1994 Laville Haut Brion Blanc 90 points
1990 L'Evangile 94 points
2000 La Bon Pasteur 93+ points
1982 L'Evangile 93 points
1970 VCC 84 points
2002 Blankiet Paradise Hills 91+ points
1982 Petit Village 92 points
1990 La Fleur de Gay 98 points
2000 La Fleur Petrus 96 points
2000 La Conseillante 95 points, 92+ points (second bottle)
*Image from vins-Bordeaux.fr