I just came back from Bordeaux where I spent 3 days and a half with the team of T-Edward Wines (an up-and-coming importer and distributor of fine wines from all around the world). It was great to be in France, the weather was good, the wine showed really well and the food was amazing.
We took off from JFK on Wednesday (09.17.08) in the afternoon, and arrived in Bordeaux (after a connection in Paris CDG... one of the worst airport in the world in my opinion) early morning on Thursday (09.18.08).
T-Edward team included: Tom Edward (the owner of the company), John Roesch (my rep and friend), John Coyle (another rep. and a funny guy), Chris Wilford (another rep. and also a funny guy) and Patrick Burke (Director Domestic and French Brands and also a funny guy). The T-Edward team is great, knowledgeable and they all have a good sense of humor.
The guest were: Bernie Sun (Sommelier / Wine Buyer from "Jean-Georges" Group); Michael Eigen (Wine Buyer and owner of "Premier Cru" wine retail store on Madison St., NYC) and myself (LeDom du Vin a.k.a Dominique Noël, Sommelier / Wine Buyer / Wine Director for www.HeightsChateau.com and taster, writer and editor of this blog www.ledomduvin.com).
We picked up a rental car and headed to Margaux for our first appointment of the day at Chateau Bellevue de Tayac.
Chateau Bellevue de Tayac Margaux
Chateau Bellevue de Tayac is a small property of 3 hectares bought in August 2004 by our host of the week-end: Jean-Luc Thunevin (quite a predestinate name for one of the most renown personality of the right bank, isn't it?). The property is managed by Guillaume Queron who is also managing some of the other properties of Jean-Luc Thunevin.
The vineyard is mainly planted on gravel and limestone soil offering very good drainage. It encompasses the 3 classic Bordeaux grapes varieties 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.
For the vintage 2008, the veraison started quite late, around the middle of august. And the weather has been quite bad this summer in the Medoc, with 1 day of Sun and 2 days of rain, and vice-versa until mid september. Some vineyards are suffering of mildew and botrytis, and if the weather is not better for the next 10 to 15 days, the vintage should be really bad and deceiving. On the other hand, some vineyards present healthy bunches, the fruit taste quite good and seems to develop nicely, so most winemakers in Bordeaux are hoping that the sun will remain during the next 10 to 15 days to save the vintage. If it rains, it is over, but if it stays warm during the day with slightly cool night, the crop will be small with ok to great concentration and the vintage should be saved. Let's cross fingers.
Vinification: The gapes are double-sorted in the vineyard, harvested then keep refrigerated at low temperature to concentrate aromas and fruitiness. The alcoholic fermentation happen in stainless steel tank, followed by the malolactic fermentation in oak barrel. The wine stays in barrel for at least a year before bottling. They produce around 6000 bottles.
2008 will be the 5th vintage for J-L Thunevin and Guillaume Queron, and the 2006 wine that we tasted was bright with a good acidity but fairly tight, restrain with dry tannins. To be fare, I didn't write anything about this wine, I think that the next 2 or 3 vintages (if they have good weather) should show more complexity and fruit. A property to keep an eye on.
You can read everything about Jean-Luc Thunevin on his personal site:
We left Cht. Bellevue de Tayac to go to our 2nd and last appointment in Margaux (also in the Medoc area for this trip): Chateau Marojallia
Chateau Marojallia Margaux
Chateau Marojallia is also a small property of 4-5 hectares (for Medoc standard to be more specific) bought by Jean-Luc Thunevin in 2000. The 5 hectares included 3 hectares in Margaux, 2 hectares in Arsac and 1 hectare in Soissan. The first vintage was made in 1999 in a garage in the village of Arsac and was immediately considered like and called a vin de garage, partly due to its small production. The renovation of the Chateau and other buildings surrounding it started in 2000 and came to an end in 2006. Since then this totally refurbished elegant Chateau has been used for different events, diners and also welcome important guests in its few bedrooms.
You will find much more info at:
Vinification: The cellar includes 6 reverse cone shaped, temperature controlled stainless steel tank, 1 for each parcel divided into 3 tanks for Merlot and 3 tanks for Cabernet Sauvignon. The goal is to get the maximum extraction. The consulting oenologist is Michel Rolland. The yield is roughly 35hl/hc (approximately 6 bunches of grape per vine). The malolactic fermentation is done in 100% new french oak barrel. The cellar regroups about 60 barrels from 4 different cooper with 4 different type of toast per cooper in order to maximize the complexity of the aromas coming from the toasted oak and enhance the blend. They produce about 6500 bottles of Chateau Marojallia and 1700 bottles of the 2nd wine: Clos Margalaine. The wine rest after fermentations for a period of 14-18 months in French oak barrels. There are no filtration, no fining which explain the presence of sediments and the racking is done with slow pumping. Remember that the goal is to maximize the extraction in order to get the maximum of fruit, aromas and flavors.
We tasted a few wines: Margalaine 05, Margalaine 06 and Marjollia 06
Overall, I found them very bright with delicate fruit but once again (like in Bellevue de Tayac) the fruit was a bit restrain and the tannins were quite green. Here again, there is a lot of potential in this property and the wines are worth ageing. Although the wines that we tasted had green tannins, these tannins may settle down or ripen in the bottle with time (somehow, I doubt it...but you never know, the wines may show more open fruit within the next few years).
In resume, I will say that these 2 properties showed a lot of good positive signs for the futures and that the wines should get better and better. The wines offered good quality fruit in the attack and mid-palate, only the finish disappointed me a little with too much unintegrated oak and green tannins, but the combination Thunevin-Rolland worked already quite well in the past and it is only a question of small time before these 2 estates really start to achieve great wines.
We then decided to stay in Margaux for a quick lunch at Le Pavillon de Margaux, an elegant and low key restaurant, on the road to Chateau Margaux (probably my favorite left bank Chateau).
Too early for lunch, we walked to Chateau Margaux. It was too tempting not to ask the question if we could get a quick visit, especially for some of us that never been in Bordeaux or even Margaux before and never seen or even visited Chateau Margaux. So I entered in the office, introduced myself (I come here every year for the Primeur so it was easier for me to ask). They promised us a visit around 2 pm, just the time for us to come back to the restaurant, eat quickly a nice lunch, simple but good, and return to Chateau Margaux.
We visited the different cellars, including the old cellar containing all the treasurable bottles of old vintages of Chateau Margaux (we only saw it from behind the iron gate because they rarely let people in but it was worth seeing it).
We finished the visit with a tasting of:
2004 Chateau Margaux 1st Growth Margaux
Suggested retail price $240-$260
The 2004 Chateau Margaux was subtle, elegant, extremely balanced and refined as always, just a bit tight and showing some light tannins, but overall fairly integrated for this difficult vintage and already quite pleasant. Chateau Margaux is very satisfying, even in lesser vintage, that is the beauty and the quality of a great wine.
We then left the left bank to go to Chateau Bel-Air Ouy (St. Emilion) and at our host's house in the middle of Saint-Emilion, on the right bank.
We arrived at Chateau Bel-Air Ouy which became our night house and headquarter for 4 days. After a quick shower and a bit of rest, enough to discover our new home, we drove to the heart of Saint-Emilion to Jean-Luc's house for an early dinner prepared by Murielle, Jean-Luc's wife.
Dinner at Jean-Luc Thunevin's house
Murielle, the wife of Jean-Luc Thunevin, who is by the way an excellent cook but also a very good white wine winemaker (#1 de Valandraud), prepared a nice, simple, tasty and flavorful dinner:
Jamon Iberico (as amuse bouche), followed by roasted beef black truffle complemented with a mashed potatoes with black truffle, and a piece of Reypermer cheese from Holland.
We drank some interesting wines:
1999 Chateau Cos D'estournel Saint-Estephe Bordeaux
This wine has really open up within the last 2 years and drinks beautifully now. The tannins are bit more integrated than they were in my previous tasting of this wine and the fruit seems more appearing and much more enjoyable. Lather, forest floor, mushroom, red berries are some of the character and flavors of this very interesting wines. A bit light and not as concentrated as some bigger and better vintage but very drinkable for a 1999 Bordeaux.
2001 Chateau Croix de Labrie Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux
A bit young and tight, but overall pleasant. It needs some food to compensate the tannins that are touch dry.
2004 Clos Badon Thunevin Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux
A bigger, fuller wine that the previous one, more complex with more character and oak notes. A light decanting will benefit this wine.
1998 Chateau Leoville Poyferre Saint-Julien Bordeaux (2nd growth)
Nice and easy with good fruit, although a bit light and not too long in the finish, but good acidity and texture overall. A classic in Medoc for the vintage but a light weight in character and style compare to what Leoville Poyferre has produced since the vintage 2000.
After this nice, convivial dinner, Jean-Luc sent us to bed early in order to be prepared for the next day
to be continued.....
LeDom du Vin