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).
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.
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.
In the evening, we drove into the center of Bordeaux, which takes about an hour, just to taste one wine: Château d’Yquem. This year, château director Pierre Lurton had decided to take over the beautiful Bordeaux opera house in the center of town.
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.
The nose has a characteristic cigar/tobacco aroma, suggesting the wine is at or near maturity. The palate is smooth and supple and just about ready. A delicious wine and one that reinforces the excellent reputation of the 1996 Bordeaux vintage. Drink now to 2015. Blending proportions are unknown. More wine writing by Stuart can be found on his blog, Worcester Sauce.
A bit closed on the nose though showing some cigar. Not quite ready on the palate, with some tannin to lose, though these are good and have a nice texture. This vintage of Léoville-Poyferré finishes a bit short for an $80 bottle of wine. Drink 2012–18. Blending proportions are unknown. More wine writing by Stuart can be found on his blog, Worcester Sauce.
A total of 240,000 bottles were produced from a harvest that stretched from September 30 to October 18. The nose is earthy and is already showing some cigar aromas—this wine is starting to mature. Quite a smooth texture on the palate but it lacks the richness of 2005. Drink 2012–17. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. More wine writing by Stuart can be found on his blog, Worcester Sauce.