We awoke early, ready to roll at 7:00 a.m. This was to be one of our toughest appointment-packed days – over 14 Chateaux to visit by 6:15 p.m. That meant, with a nearly two-hour lunch (sorry, it’s the habit of our generous French hosts!), we had less than 35 minutes to drive to, tour and taste at each chateau. We planned our route in clusters; first Haut-Médoc and nearby Margaux. Later, we visited St. Julien and Pauillac before returning to the Haut-Médoc.
First stop, Chateau La Lagune, a classified 3rd growth of the Haut-Médoc. The front entrance look grand, kindly and somewhat quaint but the real entrance in back was super modern with a high-tech cuverie (wine-making area) and glorious chai (barrel cellar).
The wine was our first look at a 2010 classified growth. It was a tannic beast to my palate, untrained at tasting new Bordeaux fresh from barrel (Parker calls the tannins “supple”). It was ultra-dark, ultra-concentrated but I could discern a seam of dark fruit peak through the tannins. The remarkable thing was the high acidity. This is a wine to age. Robert Parker (RP) rates it 93-96 points, Decanter (D) 18 points but the Wine Spectator (WS) only 89-92 points. I’m in the 92-94 point range.
Cantemerle, a classified fifth growth near Margaux but in the Haut-Médoc, was next. Like La Lagune, Cantemerle was dark, tannic, but without the fruit concentration of La Lagune. RP is 91-93 points, D rated at 17 points.
After Cantemerle, we went to Cambon La Pelouse, an unclassified estate in the Haut-Médoc. There was no chateau here but a nice, modest contemporary building. Luckily, the staff tasted us on a vertical of four vintages from 2007 through 2010. Again, the 2010 was the dark, tannic wine far more concentrated than 2007 and the lovely 2008. The 2009 was richer, more opulent. Parker gave the 2010 89-92 points, Decanter 16.5 points.
Now a duo of classified growths as we entered 3rd Growth Chateau Giscours in Margaux and tasted their wine as well as 5th growth du Tertre – also in Margaux – owned by the same family. No time for a tour. I enjoyed the wines, although I was not impressed with the du Tertre. 2010 Giscours: 91-94 WS, 92-95 RP, 17.5 D. du Tertre: 87-89 RP, 90-93 WS, 17 D.
The beautiful Cantenac-Brown, a 3rd growth of Margaux loomed up before us as we entered its majestic gates. The grand vin was excellent with the 20120 hallmarks – deep color, high tannins, high alcohol, high acidity. 92-94+ RP, 91-94 WS, 17.5 D. We also tried the 2nd wine, Brio, which was disappointing. It’s a similar blend but with 5% Cabernet Franc which was missing from the grand vin. The Cabernet Franc did not help.
Now on to Desmirail, a third growth in Margaux. The chateau was beautiful but not on the scale of grandeur of Cantenac-Brown. Here the wine was incredibly dark but no blockbuster powerhouse. No ratings from Parker (whom the Bordelais call “beeg Bob”) but Decanter rated it 16.5 points
2010 Desmirail in the glass.
It’s lunchtime at Chateau Angludet in Margaux (17 points Decanter). The wine was lovely but we were blown away by the 2005 Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc which we sipped first. Our host was James Sichel whose family owns the estate along with a big share of Chateau Palmer which we’ll visit after lunch.