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2003 Château La Mission Haut-Brion

One of the younger 2003 Bordeaux tried in the last few months, this Graves neighbor of first-growth Chateau Haut-Brion, under the same ownership since 1983, might be one of the few 03s to keep the promise of long life expected when they were barrel-sampled and upon initial release. Tannins are still quite firm and drying. Acidity is present, too, enough to counter-balance the tannins; more time in the cellar will let everything settle down and knit together. The flavors open with blackcurrant and violets, moving next to licorice and eucalyptus, with bare hints of chocolate on the finish. The mix might have a bit of Cabernet Franc, as there is also an undercurrent of tobacco leaf in the initial attack. Finish lingers for well over thirty seconds. Drink with Black Truffle Tenderloin Steak Tartare at Bern's Steak House. Ask for Owen as a server, and tell him we sent you.
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1998 Château Sociando-Mallet – Haut Médoc, France

Just beginning to turn brick-red at the edges, but still tasting young. Secondary floral flavors, violets and dried roses are just starting to come out to play with the pencil lead, blackcurrant, and plums, all with a light background of genuine licorice. After a few hours of air it shows greater depth, with some unsweetened chocolate replacing the licorice. Tannins are soft, balanced with acids, and the finish is mid-length. This is drinking very well right now.
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Palate Press Wine of the Week – 1997 Château Haut-Brion

Tasted with 1997 Cheval Blanc, Château Margaux, and Mouton-Rothschild, the Haut-Brion clearly stood out as the most balanced and complex of this fine lot. Minerality was remarkable. Wet gravel and scorched earth formed the base for red currant, sweet wood, and smoked meat flavors. Tobacco and mint added counterpoints to the mild fruit flavors, clearly giving way to the secondary flavors of a mature Bordeaux. This is ready now and in this down ‘97 vintage unlikely to improve with additional age. If you are in New York, take it to Keen's, order the Mutton Chop, and pay the corkage fee. Don't forget to offer a taste to your waiter (and the envious wine steward).
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1997 Château Haut-Brion – Graves AOC, France

Tasted with 1997 Cheval Blanc, Château Margaux, and Mouton-Rothschild, the Haut-Brion clearly stood out as the most balanced and complex of this fine lot. Minerality was remarkable. Wet gravel and scorched earth formed the base for red currant, sweet wood, and smoked meat flavors. Tobacco and mint added counterpoints to the mild fruit flavors, clearly giving way to the secondary flavors of a mature Bordeaux. This is ready now and in this down ‘97 vintage unlikely to improve with additional age. If you are in New York, take it to Keen's, order the Mutton Chop, and pay the corkage fee. Don't forget to offer a taste to your waiter (and the envious wine steward).
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2003 Château Cambon La Pelouse – Haut-Médoc, France

Like several for the moderately-priced bottles of '03 Bordeaux I have opened recently, this is coming to life, perhaps even peaking now. A year ago it was dead, but now it is showing a pleasant balance of fruit, blackberry and some raspberry, and more aged flavors of violets and cigar box. Tannins are soft and smooth. This has matured into a very pleasant bottle of wine at a bargain price, drinking at its peak right now. Highly recommended as a bargain introduction to a great year for Bordeaux.
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Field Report: Bordeaux en Primeurs

Less than an hour out of the city of Bordeaux and we’re stopped in a little lane in the middle of a farm. “The GPS says it’s here,” the driver offers, looking around at what is obviously not the château we’re looking for. He calls headquarters. Frankly, I can’t understand how anyone finds their way around the famed regions of Sauternes and Barsac in the southern part of Bordeaux.
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Field Report: Bordeaux en Primeurs, Part 2

We arrived at the Château Figeac where the Manoncourt family has resided for centuries. A housemaid in an aproned uniform brought water, then we were left entirely alone for the better part of an hour. Until, strolling the grounds, we spied another housemaid cleaning outside, and asked her to find out what was up. It turned out our host was over at Château Cheval Blanc, having a great tasting. He arrived a few minutes later.