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The World of Fine Wine


  • By Stephen Tanzer
    May/June 2006, IWC Issue #126, (See more on Vinous...)

    (Chateau Montrose Saint Estephe) Login and sign up and see review text.

Vintage Tastings


  • By Stephen Tanzer
    May/June 2005, IWC Issue #120, (See more on Vinous...)

    (Chateau Montrose Saint Estephe) Login and sign up and see review text.


  • By Stephen Tanzer
    May/June 2004, IWC Issue #114, (See more on Vinous...)

    (Chateau Montrose Saint Estephe) Login and sign up and see review text.


  • By Jon Rimmerman
    7/23/2007, (See more on Garagiste...)

    (Montrose) UPDATE: Will the real Montrose please stand up? Slim Shady aside, never has the American wine buying methodology been so on stage than this week. First Neal Martin’s proclamation that the 1982 Le Conseillante was the second coming had the market in a complete tizzy. I probably had 4-5 dozen inquiries about my ability to source this wine at any cost (I’m sure many retailers around the country were in the same boat). Time was spent, hair pulled out, deals went back and forth - conditions questioned, confirmed and contracted for...and then Robert Parker tasted the same wine in his Hedonist’s Gazette last night and gave it a mere “93pts” - I laughed this morning as the same people that gave me a blank check to find this wine suddenly refused to return phone calls and emails or “I’ve run into a bad way and need to cancel my order” (since Thursday, you’ve suddenly become destitute?) or “if you have anyone else that wants the wine, I’ll give mine you have any 2003 Montrose?”. What was once the wine of the century now is another 93pt has-been - all in a matter of three days. The 2003 Montrose. One of the great carnival rides of the New Wine Buying Generation (NWBG) has finally had its day with Parker’s new “100pt” rating. Like the “Shot heard round the world”, the 2003 Montrose finally has its 100pts. With so many rooting for it, the Montrose has come of age like Joey Chestnut bringing the Hot Dog eating title back home. This wine rode the rickety Cooney Island rollercoaster like none other and there is an argument that it has been a microcosm of capitalism in general and the American market ideal. Get ready, you are going to have to brace an endless series of 2003 Montrose offers this week from a cavalcade of retailers around the world touting the new score (don’t worry, we won’t be one of them). First praised by Parker in his original barrel review as a “96-100pt” wine, it sent the market into a complete shock and it is basically responsible for the increased pricing of Bordeaux after the 2002 vintage. It was Montrose that decided to take a gamble and substantially increase their release price of the 2003 with no real rhyme or reason - except the prospect of 100pts. Without the 2003 Montrose, the market would not have been as excited for the 2003s and the other Chateau followed pricing suit - it’s that simple. 100pts gets people out of their wicker chair like nothing else in the wine business but (in this case) it was a “potential” 100ts and nothing was set in stone. So, we waited... Parker’s subsequent barrel review the next year further propped up its considerable clout as the review inched closer to the mythical and all-consuming three digit rating, Parker gave his second look at the 2003 Montrose “97-100pts” and the pundits were smiling at home - parties were thrown, slaps on the back were heard and investors slept soundly back on Main St as they were quite sure their life savings spent on 2003 Montrose futures would come back as massive windfalls at auction and at the dinner table once it was released.... ...and then the bottle score came out a year later - “97pts”. 97pts? This was not supposed to be? What happened? “What am I supposed to do with 20 cases of a 97pt wine?” (I heard a phrase similar to that over and over”). The dump was on, the market went into another tizzy as the price for 2003 Montrose became stagnant to the point of discounting and you basically couldn’t give the stuff away. Consumers even refused to taste the wine they were so incensed (one wonders if the original barrel ratings had been 94-96pts and the final bottle score was the exact same 97pts if the reaction would have been the same from the public?). Many had gambled and lost, futures orders were torn up like a 4th place Kentucky Derby ticket. The auction windfall hoped for by so many never materialized and consumers tried anything to get out of their orders - I mean, who would want a 97pt wine anyway? While the final bottle rating for the 2003 Montrose may not have been solely responsible for the economic downturn in the US and a crash in the housing market, it was a significant event in the wine trade. In the end, I allowed every one of our customers to return the wine. Why? The wine was great and I was happy to keep it all for myself and our employees (and their heirs). The problem and dichotomy with this story is that Americans want here and now - looking beyond our own two feet is not a strength of the American ethic (if we have to wait 5 minutes in the check-out line at the grocery store we start getting annoyed) but isn’t this the antithesis of wine collecting, where we must defer our gratification for some undetermined future date when the wine will be at peak? The same holds true for initial bottle ratings - isn’t there the possibility the wine will mature into something even grander than the original rating (or certainly the opposite)? This morning I had no less than 30 emails from the same people that canceled their 2003 Montrose orders last year (after the 97pt score) asking for it back. One person even had the gall to say he was on Ambien when he sent me the cancellation email last year and didn’t know what he was doing (hmmm, it’s taken a year for him to figure that out...and a new 100pt rating of course - a new low in my book)? In the end, I will allow you to make your own assessment regarding the above but it seems to me a long look in the wine-buying mirror is on tap for all of us. Maybe the 100pt scoring system will be abandoned someday in favor of actually caring about the wine and not the two (or maybe three?) digits that will adorn it. As Parker created the 100pt system, he would have to be the one that abandons it with a “sorry folks, I actually want you to read the reviews from now on and make up your own mind if it sounds good”. The animal has grown too big for the cage it was housed in and it needs to be let out to pasture. As it stands, the printed numerals may actually be more important to most consumers than the work and effort by the winemaker. Isn’t the reason we buy wine for the ultimate enjoyment that the wine itself will bring to your important gathering down the wine road? Don’t the memories that ensue create the true importance of a wine, whether it’s a simple Tuesday night with leftovers or a daughter’s wedding day? I surely hope so. Jon Rimmerman

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