On Saturday 01/19/08, I had the outstanding opportunity to attend the latest K&L Wines Bordeaux tasting, fortuitously all from the very well-regarded 2005 vintage. I have to thank Jason & Kim for the chance to attend and big shout out to my friend Spesh (WL) who first notified me of the event. It was held in the hall of the old Federal Reserve Building in San Francisco. I hopped on BART at 2pm and headed out to the first major French tasting that I’ve ever had the chance to attend.
Stepping back a little, I had a bit of confusion when I first heard about the event. I initially saw an email that said it would include all Classified Growths from Bordeaux, which was actually in error. There is an organization of Bordeaux Chateaux separate from the Bordeaux Official Classification of 1855 (Grand Crus Classes en 1855), somewhat misleadingly called Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux. It is made up of both classified and unclassified growths of Bordeaux vintners.
Regardless of my misinterpretation of which Chateaux would be pouring, I had a brilliant time tasting all of these wines, particularly the ones that I will probably never be able to afford, ever again. Bordeaux, as a regional whole, is probably the best “vintage marketing” region in the whole world. This means that they are kings and queens at seemingly declaring every couple of vintages the “vintage of the decade” or “the century.” This doesn’t mean that they’re just blowing hot air, they’ve actually had a string of outstanding vintages since the millenium, with the classic 2000 (compared qualitatively with the legendary ’82s), and good to great vintages in 2003 and 2004. 2005, however, truly might be even better than the 2000’s and Bordeaux has taken that as their rallying cry, declaring this to be a legendary vintage in the making.
What does this mean to us, the consumer, however? Does it just mean that there are yet more ethereal wines out there that have even higher prices than before? Not necessarily…in fact, it becomes quite a coup for the average consumer, even with the crappy value of the US dollar. All of those cheaper 2005 $8 – $20 Bordeaux that you see in the store right now are filled with phenomenal quality, far beyond the value ratio’s that you’d normally see from the bottom of the Bordeaux market. It’s the same purchasing situation as we saw with the 2000’s back in 2002 through 2004. As an aside, 2005 was also unusual in that it is considered a classic vintage in Burgundy, as well, allowing for the same increases in quality across the board. Go get them!
With all of this information in mind, I was very excited when the event staff finally let us file into the foyer of the old Federal Reserve Building. We each handed our own engraved Riedel Overture Red Wine glass, made of non-lead crystal. Riedel had a display right as we walked in, actually, which (embarrassingly) made me incredibly excited. Ever since I’ve become seriously into wine over the last decade, I’ve somehow become obsessed with crystal stemware and Riedel is my favorite designer and manufacturer. Later on I would have a wonderful conversation with Sylvie, the West Coast Sales Manger for Riedel Crystal of America. I found out about some of the new lines that they have coming out and why they have chosen to produce only varietally correct crystal, instead of regionally correct designs.
The people at the event were from a wide-range of wine expertise. Some were somewhat comfortably knowledgeable about wine and were clearly excited about the opportunity to greatly expand their limited high-end Bordeaux knowledge, much like myself. Others were long-time collectors and/or wine professionals, spitting their way through almost all of the 50+ Chateaus. Still others were novices, happy to be at a prestigious event and perhaps much more visibly “happy” by the end, after a whole lot of great wine!
But onto the wines! As a whole, they did fit into my preconceptions of high-end and high-quality Bordeaux. The wines were not fruit forward, except with some notable exceptions and were in a closed and monstrously tannic phase in their early lives. Incidentally, I only tasted one wine that was corked out of the 30+ that I had time to taste during the event. Black fruit abounded, without that red cherry nose mouth that I’ve come to expect from the much more fruit-forward domestic Bordeaux varietal wines that I also enjoy and of which I have a lot more experience.
I was also pleased to get a chance to appreciate the differences between the various sub-appellations of Bordeaux, as all of the Chateaux were grouped by sub-region. Some differences to note were the lack of a discernible nose in the majority of of the wines coming from Pomerol. This can be expected from these Merlot-dominated blends and it’s traditional less-fragrant nose, but I was still surprised time and again, at how little I could pick up from these wines with my (learning curve) nose. The wines from Margaux were also closed on the nose, but these Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends were just too tight right now with their powerful Cab Sauv backbone. Don’t get me wrong, however, I loved almost all of the wines that I tasted that day, but when compared to each other, these differences become clear and very interesting.
The stars of the tasting were the wines that came from Saint-Julien, Saint-Ã‰milion and the Sauternes. The two Saints were wonderfully complex with depths of red and black fruit that are still to be enjoyed when more mature. Their tannins were muscular and yet still rounded enough to try now with a nice cut of steak and red wine reduction, but as with virtually all of the wines that day, their true beauty will only be revealed after another decade, at the very earliest. The Sauternes were beautiful dessert wines, truly unique from anything I’ve ever tasted. The mouthfeel was incredibly glycerine and smooth, with a velvet elegance that was just amazing. Their light citrus notes and tastes were very compelling.
The winners for the day for me included the LÃ©oville Barton Saint-Julien (quite happily so, as I blindly bought futures from BevMo last year), the Lynch-Bages Pauillac, the Lascombes Margaux, and the Lafaurie-Peyraguey and ChÃ¢teau Guiraud Sauternes.
What an incredible day, just a really special wine experience. Please check out the reviews for all of the wines I tasted that day using the links below. I’ve tagged this group of wines with “UGCB2005” so that you can list them all at once within WineLog. Enjoy!