Mirabelle Restaurant Austin, Texas
Tasted Sunday, February 21, 2010 by AustinWineSalon with 862 views
The third exploration of the Austin Wine Salon into Bordeaux. The first, in 2008, was a look at classic wines from nine different Bordeaux appellations and the second, in 2009, was a 2005 Bordeaux horizontal which compared highly-regarded (and somewhat drinkable) 2005 wines with older counterparts from classic vintages (e.g., the 2005 Branaire Ducru was drunk along with a 1989 and a 1978 of same). Our 2010 salon, dubbed "Definitive Bordeaux," was superb, with 34 attendees each tasting three flights of wine, with nine flights of four wines each overall. We even had a group of Burgundians, led by visitor Peter Wasserman of Selection Becky Wasserman, provide some keen scouting for our exploration.
This salon was highlighted by some fine food accompaniments, including a Mirabelle smoked prime rib, their sliced beef tenderloin (with horseradish sauce and a salsa/zinfandel chili jam), Jack’s lamb stroganoff, Earl’s short rib appertif with mashed rutabaga, several cheddars, and James’s out-of-gas charcuterie/salad, and, finally, Peter's "grass-fed sirloin rubbed with New Mexico red chile, crushed peppercorns, and Hawaiian red sea salt, marinated in 2006 Chateau Saint-Sulpice Bordeaux, grilled rare, served chilled & thinly sliced with olive oil & capers."
In the background of the food was a wonderful selection of wines contributed by fourteen generous donors. From such, we created some compelling flight themes and helped a number of budding sommeliers and afficionadoes move along the vine trail. We were also provided, gratis, a new palate-cleansing beverage developed specifically for wine by SanTásti. This was a god-send when we were trying to distinguish between four 2000 Leovilles, the young garagiste wines, etc., but I found this aqua palate cleanser most helpful in removing food tastes that countered the wines. For instance, when that salsa/zinfandel chili jam did not work with the old bdx, the santasti was a quick rinse and an easy reproof about getting the food straight with the wine. Anyway, we appreciated and used much SanTásti’s generous donation--for info on this go to http://santasti.com/. And a quick plug for Mirabelle, which provided food, service, atmosphere gratis--they are the salon's grandest supporter, & the best wine restaurant in town, merci beaucoup.
For "Definitive Bordeaux", we first looked at the terroir through: a vertical of the oldest and most distinctive of Bordeauxs, Pape Clement; a horizontal of the largest and most varied of properties, Leoville in 2000; a horizontal from the most complex of Bordeaux soils, in Pomerol. Next we looked at winemaking via a horizontal of great “garagiste” wines of 2000 and a blind tasting of two neighboring Pauillacs from 1989 and 1990. Then we looked at the classification system, via a tasting of the super-seconds of 2000 and a blind tasting of first growth wannabe’s (plus a first growth) from 1995-6. Lastly we had a blind swipe of Cal cab versus Bordeaux via blind tasting four of the wines from the 1976 Paris tasting, 26 vintages later, and we drank some top older Bordeauxs—why not? Our youngest vintage was ten years old, our oldest 44 years, and we purposefully omitted classic vintages such as 1975, 1982, 1985, and 1986 for a future salon…… Later, as we reviewed our tasting notes, we drank some great value, younger Bordeauxs and finished with a great 1990 Fargues Sauternes. C’est le vin!
Four estates within a stone's throw of one another, and so much variation. The 1999 vintage is a great value, as all of these wines are improving and drink well. The L'Evangile and La Fleur Petrus were memorable for most tasters, and overall the great structure and balance of this appellation stood out, rather than any consistent nose or taste.
This would be an exciting theme for an older vintage, or in a future decade, but the Leovilles, even though decanted for hours, remained closed. The Clos du Marquis (and Langoa Barton) are excellent substitutes now.
The oldest and perhaps most distinct of Bordeauxs, Pape Clement was presented from three decades to twelve tasters in three groups. The consistency and age-worthiness of the wines was noted repeatedly, and, yes, graves is gravel, especially after 700 years in the vineyard.
A further confirmation that 2000 is a vintage to sit on, this flight focused on the top garagistes, minus a Mondotte which we could not find. Interestingly the 1999 Pomerol flight was more memorable than this flight, a tease for us to do this flight again in ten years. The wines were merlot fruit driven, deep and dry, challenging.
The final confirmation that 2000 Bordeaux is to await for. The Pichon Lalande and Lascombes are almost drinking well, the Ducru and Cos need a decade or more. These were the first wines out of their wooden cases from a marked 2000 bordeaux fan, merci beaucoup.
This discussion is like, who was the best basketball center, or who was the best bass player, the best Chevy...... With Bordeaux it is, who should be the next first growth, and who doesn't deserve to be a first growth........ So we had a blind tasting, and the answer is simple: in what season, in what decade, in what genre? Without a La Mission in the mix but adding into the flight a bona fide first growth, we blind tasted three great second growths, and all made a worthy claim to a raise in status, if for only a year or two.....
A blind tasting of four of the nine wines in the famed Paris tasting of Cal Cabs and Bordeauxs of 1970 and 1971: we pulled four wines 26 years later, and USA won, simply because a Bordeaux was flawed. Did such a thing happen back then? The Cal Cabs were surprisingly good, the flight fun, a three way tie that a great LLC might have won for the French. There goes the World Cup!
We might have had some older and more exotic wines here, but we thought the two 1978's would be interesting and perhaps the Leoville and Margaux surprising. Actually the 1978 Mouton was surprising, the rest a bit dull, and these wines provided a good reference for some average vintages after tasting so many top vintages.