In a surreal setting — the secret library in a Sonoma mansion — many winemakers and wine enthusiasts gathered to taste a number of world-acclaimed Bordeaux wines.
The tasting, part of a series organized by Sawyer-Casale Wine Education Series, yielded some exciting results. We tasted all of the wines in a blind setting with time for a healthy discussion. All wines were from magnum (1.5-liter) format.
The wines ranged in vintages from 2013 to 2016.
2013 was one of the coldest growing seasons in decades. A tough one, to say the least, according to growers. But in spite of the adverse conditions, the wines deliver a complex story.
The 2014 was a warm Napa Valley-like lush vintage, flashy and muscular. 2015, a vintage dubbed as the best since 2010 with ideal growing conditions, yielded excellent reviews and high scores.
2016 arguably rivaled the 2015 in quality and, blessed with excellent weather, yielded iconic wines.
Here the recap of the wines tasted in ranking by popular vote from the 15 attendees.
1. 2015 Château Pape Clément, Pessac Leognan ($247.95 Magnum)
The oldest estate in Bordeaux, this winery was ranked under Grand Cru Classe in the 1959 classification. Complexity is the name of the game. Dark plum and dried cherry commingling with ferrous tones, baking spice and a pleasant sanguine mid palate, gently resolving in balanced and silky tannins.
2. 2015 Château d’Issan, Margaux ($153.95 Magnum)
Classified as a Third Growth in the 1855 classification. A chocolate powder paradise with plenty of bing cherry in the core and layers of chewy plush tannins. A true beauty that will continue to deliver for years to come.
3. 2015 Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux ($118.95 Magnum) Classified as a Fourth Growth in 1855.
At first glance, a layer of cinnamon Captain Crunch cereal with sprinkles of anise, clove and a subliminal layer of forest floor.
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4. 2014 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac ($241.95 Magnum)
Classified as a Second Growth in 1855. A beautifully dressed wine with accents of cedar and sandalwood, wild strawberries and graphite. Truly mineral driven with mystical layers.
5. 2016 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan ($191.95 Magnum)
Ranked among the Crus Classés for red and white wine in the Classification of Graves wine of 1953 and 1959. Driven by red bell pepper, dried cherry and plum buttoned up by dark chocolate, espresso grinds and a long-lasting stern finish.
6. 2016 Château Haut-Bailly, Pessac Leognan ($304.95 Magnum)
Ranked among the Crus Classés for red wine in the classification of Graves wine of 1953 and 1959. A violet-driven potpourri party with fresh cherry, forest floor with seductive tannin structure.
7. 2013 Château Léoville-Las Cases, St. Julien ($304.95 Magnum)
A Second Growth amongst St. Julien. An exotic wine with notes of tar, licorice and incense all wrapped in a layer of framboise. A wine near the top of the peak in my book with the characteristically soft tannins of the 2013 cold growing season.
8. 2016 Château Lafon-Rochet, St Estephe ($143.95 Magnum)
Classified a Fourth Growth in 1855. Raspberries and farmers market strawberries dance in between fresh red roses with a blanket of herbs tied up by bitter chocolate and firm tannins.
Overall, it was an eye-opening cross-section of producer styles, vintages and experts tasting the wines.
Thank you Chris, Keith and Don for making this tasting possible.