WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

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WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Jenise » Mon Oct 16, 2006 11:22 am

Directed at Jim Dietz:

Jim, I know you love this wine, and you know that Leoville Barton is one of my favorite Bordeaux producers, but this wine seems to lack the essential character of both the property and the vintage. Though the fruit is more vivid now than it's been in the past, that atypical mean/green herbaceous note is still running the show. It loosens the grip just a bit with time in the glass, of course, but it never leaves and there's no earth, no minerality. Just that bitter, dissonant green. Well-paired, though, with a dinner of crusty bread, a pot of oven roasted wild mushrooms, and a watercress salad in front of the fireplace.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Dale Williams » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:05 pm

Jenise, I think I liked this wine (a couple years ago) more than you, though less than Jim. But I recognize that somewhat unusual dichotomy of a rather low-acid wine but with a green streak as not atypical of some '97 traditional Medocs.

As noted before, my problems with 1997 Bordeaux as a vintage are:

1) Price. Most of these came out at prices about the same as the much superior (for my tastes) 1996s and 1995s. I like "luncheon claret", but felt no need to pay high prices for it.

2) Storage: Because of high prices, a ton sat in pipeline too long. By the time wholesalers starting offering deals to try and move these (as 2000's rep grew) a whole lot of 1997s were fried. I'd say that 80% of the wines I've sampled from "deals" friends have gotten on 1997 Bordeaux in the last 3 years have shown prematurely old, compared to ones I bought earlier.

3) Ageability- A few others can use a couple more years (10+ in the case of Lafleur, I hope- tannic beasts now). But most are at or past peak, so better as a restaurant wine than taking up cellar space.

4) Style: while I prefer more structured vintages, I can appreciate fruit-driven low-acid wines as earlier drinkers. But for the most part 1997 seemed to be low-acid yet without really deep fruit.

All I think I have left is a Forts de Latour, 2 Pavie_Macquin, and 3 Lafleurs. I'll happily try any 1997, but temper my expectations.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby James Dietz » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:22 pm

Jenise and Dale.. Can't we all just get along??

Seriously, I have not detected any green streak at all in the two bottles I have had. And I hate that, so I think if it had been there I would have detected it. I've got a couple more bottles on the way from the same source (K&L), so I will be giving them another try very soon.

With all that they produce, is it possible there are enough different barrels with somewhat different characteristics that there is bottle variation?

I'll keep you posted. I have liked the 97 better than the 99.
Cheers, Jim
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Dan Donahue » Mon Oct 16, 2006 1:36 pm

I mostly avoided the '97s, but the reasonably priced Pichon Baron that I tried recenty performed very well. Smooth and elegant and not too soft.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Jenise » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:02 pm

Dale,

I didn't give enough thought to what I was writing when I wrote it. But your comments cause me to remember that Sociando and Gloria were also both strongly herbaceous in 97. I regretted every bottle. So, many more that I did not try might also have been. I just temporarily forgot what I had not liked in favor of what I did like so much: Cos, Leoville LC, LMHB, Lefleur, Grand Puy Lacoste, L'angelus, Le Tertre Rotebouef, Lafite, Montrose, Pavie, and the Pavie-Macquin you own (which was one of my favorites). Almost all of mine were purchased at the same source circa 2000-2001.

Another thing I should have remembered to mention: a bottle of the 97 LB in magnum, opened last March, was substantially less herbal than this one, but also lighter bodied. Just barely medium, where last night's was medium-full.

Which puts Jim's question into perspective: are his bottles like those you mention, Dale, the prematurely aged ones? Or are there lot variations in this vintage which explain wines like mine last night. I know both of your palates pretty well, and I'm sure you wouldn't have been any more forgiving of the wine we drank than I was.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby James Dietz » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:29 pm

Those 97 LBs have been right up there with some of the best Bordeaux I have tasted... so.. it's gotta be bottle variation of some kind. I can't be that far off, palate-wise. Nor you either.

I just checked, and Parker's notes on this wine do not mention any green streak.. he talks of its 'charm and character'. He last (in 2000) rated the wine an 86, which I think is too low.. but he does not find it to be a flawed wine, which is what I read in your notes, Jenise.

Like I said, the two bottles I have had came from K&L, and I have more on the way. So.. we'll see.
Cheers, Jim
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Jenise » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:46 pm

Parker didn't mention it? Then his bottles, and yours, came from different and much better barrels than mine. Has to be. There's no way he, or you or Dale would have tasted the wine we had last night (and it's sister bottle a year and a half ago, which was identically endowed) and not noted that quality first and foremost. It's the very first thing one notices. And the second....
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Covert » Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:21 pm

James Dietz wrote: I just checked, and Parker's notes on this wine do not mention any green streak.


What's Parker know? Just kidding.

I think I am one of the few people in the world who love almost all of the '97s unconditionally. That green stalk that so many folks rail against is nectar to me. Maybe I'm spending too much time in the woods with the squirrels and birds. I like plants and trees - even corks - but that's not really what I get in the '97s. I get indescribable '97-ish.

But I didn't care quite as much for the LB as most of the others. But since a lot of the '97s were herbaceous to the learned palate, that's not what's wrong with the LB to me. Meyney was terrible. Gloria wasn't great at first, but I grew to love how it evolved. Lynch Bages tasted initially like cottage cheese to me. But I can't think of any others that I didn't like a lot.

From what Dale said, I might have gotten lucky when I bought most of my '97s as futures. They might not have gotten as cooked as a lot that sat in the pipeline. But a lot of people thought it was stupid to buy them en primeur at the time. They said the smart folks would wait for the prices to drop, if they could stomach the innocuous vintage at all.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Jenise » Tue Oct 17, 2006 1:07 pm

Covert,

Two things: 1) You're responding as if I had panned herbal qualities period, rather than simply objecting to the extreme amount of it in the LB I opened the other night which bear no resemblance to the bottles that have been transporting Jim Dietz of late. Really, unlike some, I actually like some herbaceousness in wines. For gosh sakes I adore pure Cab Franc. But I'm against it when it's overwelming and out of balance, which was the case with this wine (and the young Glorias you mention). 2) I'm surprised to see you talking about loving the herbal qualities though, I've read your TN's on so many 97's and I just don't remember you praising that feature, or even calling attention to it.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Covert » Tue Oct 17, 2006 2:41 pm

Jenise wrote:Covert,

Two things: 1) You're responding as if I had panned herbal qualities period, rather than simply objecting to the extreme amount of it in the LB I opened the other night which bear no resemblance to the bottles that have been transporting Jim Dietz of late. Really, unlike some, I actually like some herbaceousness in wines. For gosh sakes I adore pure Cab Franc. But I'm against it when it's overwelming and out of balance, which was the case with this wine (and the young Glorias you mention). 2) I'm surprised to see you talking about loving the herbal qualities though, I've read your TN's on so many 97's and I just don't remember you praising that feature, or even calling attention to it.


Jenise,

I wasn't referring to you at all, or even thinking about your remarks, when I made my comments. I kind of know where you stand on taste and pretty much share your preferences. Dale reminded me of critics of '97 greenery at large.

I wasn't clear, but what I was trying to say is that I don't relate to what the critics refer to as herbaceous qualities in '97s. I recognize the aspect they are talking about, but because I like the quality, I don't think of it in negative terminology, like herbaceousness. I don't have a name for it other than '97-ish.

I've sort of stopped critiquing wine per se. You remember the old family analogy. I won't go on about it again. I pretty much love all the '97s for no really good reason other than they feel like my family.

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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Jenise » Wed Oct 18, 2006 11:01 am

Covert: "family". Understood. They just taste 'right'. It's like a gyroscopic setting for you cuz that's where you got in.

Which 97's are you still sitting on? I keep thinking you're going to run out. I don't have many: GPL, Cos and Montrose are all I think.
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Re: WTN: 97 Leoville Barton

Postby Covert » Wed Oct 18, 2006 2:48 pm

Jenise wrote:Covert: "family". Understood. They just taste 'right'. It's like a gyroscopic setting for you cuz that's where you got in.

Which 97's are you still sitting on? I keep thinking you're going to run out. I don't have many: GPL, Cos and Montrose are all I think.


I think you are right re the gyroscope.

2 B-Hauts, 1 Branaire (my favorite), 1 Canon-la-Gaffeliere, 2 C Browns, 1 d'Arm., 1 GPL, 1 Lafleur, 1 Latour, 1 Margaux, 2 Pape Clements, 1 Poujeaux, 3 St-Pierres, 1 S-H-Lafitte, and 2 Talbots. Pretty slim pickings.
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