WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

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WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Nov 16, 2012 2:46 pm

A friend was hitting his sixtieth birthday and figured what better way to celebrate than to haul out some of those bottles we squirrel away never quite finding the right occasion to plunder.

We gathered at Le Gavroche in Vancouver for a great meal and some wonderful wines. Sadly, the first wine, a 2001 Margaux Pavillon Blanc was corked (didn’t bother me as I can’t recall ever drinking a Pavillon white I was very enthused about – the red is often decent), so we found a replacement from the restaurant cellar.

2001 Ch. de Fieuzal – fairly light colour, nice lemon rind nose with hints of lychee, creamy texture, good weight, some vanilla entering in part way through and a strong finish with excellent acidity and good length. Very nice bottle!

The first flight was right bank:

1988 Ch. Cheval Blanc – good colour but marred by a musty nose that we kicked around, waited and concluded it wasn’t corkiness, it was just – musty. Burgundian colour, pleasant supple middle some spice evident and a slight sweetness at the end of a medium length finish, with some light green steaminess also asserting itself. Lackluster.

1995 Ch. Cheval Blanc – a segue from traditional to new age Parker pleaser here, the wrong direction for yours truly, who values typicity over homogenized jamminess. Nice cherry and custard nose with a hint of green, soft tannins, bright in the mouth, not overly sweet, fairly tasty, but clearly not up to the level of other top wines in this vintage. In preference to this style, I’d take an 82, 83, 85…… Decent wine for an indecent price.

Next up was a trio of older wines:

1981 Ch. Palmer - RP must have had an off bottle of this, or was in a particularly bloody minded mood when he gave it 81 points and said it was basically over the hill when he tasted it 20 years ago. I wasn’t as hard on it as he was, although it is clearly a wine in serious decline now, but did show some decent cedar in the nose, a certain elegance in the middle, no tannins and a fairly quick fade in the glass. I should think it would have been at least decent 20 years ago.

1970 Ch. Palmer – I’ve enjoyed many bottles of this over the years, but have found that it has been getting spotty in the last 5-8 years, depending on cellar conditions and also simply because the wines are getting to that age where variability is par for the course. This one had a decent nose with cigar box (combining the cedar and tobacco descriptors, for those that don’t habitually plunge your noses into stogie repositories), and some cassis fruit. My first impression on taste was that the wine seemed to be drying out with low fruit in comparison to the present tannins, but with time it did seem to flesh out a bit. Slightly high terminal acidity and medium long finish. Not the best bottle of this I’ve had by any means, but a creditable performance and certainly the best I’ve had in the last five years. Rated second best wine of the first half. Had I known this was coming I’d have probably lobbied to bring a 1970 Montrose (which I think would have kicked butt, not because it was a better wine in youth – it wasn’t and it is more rustic – but because it is a longer lived wine that probably would have stood up well). But they wanted the next wine, so then I’d have had to bring both, so probably just as well.

1978 Ch. Margaux – this had originally been conceived as an exclusively Margaux event, but when some people lacked these wines we had broadened the scope to include other excellent producers. This was the first of our Margaux contingent, my wine, and both a delight and a dismay to me. I’d had a few bottles of this in my cellar for many years. Every previous tasting had revealed a wine that showed what myself and a couple of other knowledgeable tasters had figured was American oak, and we had on one occasion been unable to peg it as a claret! Well, it has finally snapped into focus, and damn it, this was my last bottle! As background, this property had languished through its Ginestet ownership from 1949, and the last great wine they made was the 1961, with unremitting garbage after that….until the 1978 vintage.

The Mentzelopoulos family bought the property in 1977, so the wine in the 1978 was based on the stewardship of the old guard, but influenced by the new staff including Pontallier. From that point on the wines were pretty much consistently back to first growth level.
This wine showed a lovely cedar and vanilla nose, all the dill and American oak from previous tastings (and I’m talking about maybe 3 different bottles over several years) having magically disappeared. Reasonably ripe fruit in the nose and some spice and moist earth, and on palate, it was quite full bodied and smooth, having mellowed the previously somewhat prominent tannins sufficiently to exhibit excellent balance and complexity. Very nice wine! Wish I had more….

We moved on to a comparison of two 1983 wines:

1983 Ch. Margaux – an outgoing sweet cassis nose, smooth entry into a rounded supple mouth feel, excellent structure and long lingering finish. I saved this to compare with later wines, specifically the 82. Excellent, and with a long life ahead.

1983 Ch. Palmer – the Palmer was a good match with the Margaux. Lighter weight nose with cedar and red fruit, a more elegant wine, but with good flavour concentration, smooth and long, long finish. I’d have to give the prize to the Margaux, but would be pleased to drink the Palmer any time.

Next up was:

1985 Ch. Margaux – cooked wine!!! Damn!

1982 Ch. Margaux – dark wine with lots of depth and complexity in the nose now mellow and smooth with very good length, notes of plum and road tar, more than oak, but the vanilla was there as an under current. We went back and forth trying to decide which we thought the better wine, the 82, which has come together wonderfully since I last tasted it, or the 83 which has slightly higher acidity and just as much flavour interest. The consensus was (finally) after much waffling, that the 1983 was probably going to last longer, and was possibly the better wine, contrary to some popular opinions I’ve seen on this subject. Either should give great pleasure, and my advice is not to drink great wines like this together as one always has to ‘lose’ and neither should!

On its own:

1986 Ch. Margaux – very dark with an intense nose of blackberry, cassis and vanilla. Typical 1986 hard tannins, but much developed from when I tasted this side by side with the 86 Mouton and they were so hard to judge because of the almost raw hard tannins present. Tarry wine, very tasty with great lingering finish. I have to laugh at some reports I’ve seen of this wine being too old. They either came from tasters with poor bottles or poor palates. This wine would rest undisturbed for another 10 years if it were in my cellar – there is lots to come here.

We finished with some pleasant infanticide:

2003 Ch. d’Yquem – a wax and grapefruit nose, absent eh often seen coconut that comes with maturity. Great depth in the nose for such a young wine. With air, elements of pear and honey crept in as well. It was unctuous on palate without being at all close to being cloying, as it had impeccable acidity, sweet but perfectly balanced. Overwhelming concatenation of flavours that will no doubt resolve and gain focus with time, but an over all purity that made drinking this wine at such a young age a pleasure rather than a regret for not having waited (of course I rarely feel any regret for drinking a wine prematurely as long as it came from someone else’s cellar….)
Very memorable event indeed.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Jon Peterson » Fri Nov 16, 2012 3:25 pm

I love the '83 Margauxs and was happy to see your notes on these wines especially. As I've noted before in these pages, I picked them up for a song when all the attention was on 1982.
Thanks, Bill.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Salil » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:27 pm

That '83 Margaux is a spectacular wine (when the bottles are good.) Still my favourite vintage of Margaux (well ahead of the 90 and 96 - though I can't say I've had the '82.)

Meanwhile, I also wonder how anyone can call much 1986 Bordeaux 'too young'. Some of the smaller crus like Meyney and Sociando Mallet are just starting to ease up a little after showing rather tannic recently, and the bigger wines from estates like Gruaud and Lynch Bages are built for the really long haul.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby ChaimShraga » Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:37 pm

This was really fun (and enlightening) to read. Man, just when I thought the pressure at work was going down to a level where I only have to contend with two near heart attacks a day, we get missile attacks. oddly enough, I'm fairly complacent about them. I guess I can deal with disasters more easily than screw ups I might wind up being responsible for.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:01 pm

Salil wrote:That '83 Margaux is a spectacular wine (when the bottles are good.) Still my favourite vintage of Margaux (well ahead of the 90 and 96 - though I can't say I've had the '82.)

Meanwhile, I also wonder how anyone can call much 1986 Bordeaux 'too young'. Some of the smaller crus like Meyney and Sociando Mallet are just starting to ease up a little after showing rather tannic recently, and the bigger wines from estates like Gruaud and Lynch Bages are built for the really long haul.


Not sure I understand what you are saying, Salil. Many 86s ARE too young yet. They are still maturing and the tannins haven't softened to the degree that they are in balance and at prime drinking time, hence...still too young. OTOH, I have been pleasantly suprised by a few of the more forward 86s I have tasted that I thought were farther along than I'd figured they might be.

I've had good drinkable 86s like Kirwan, La Lagune, Smith Haut Lafitte, Leoville Barton, Talbot, d’Angludet, Leoville Poyferre, and La Dominique. I'm sure several of those will be no surprise, but several others were not wines I'd have bet would drink so well this early.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Salil » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:07 pm

Er, brain fade. Meant to say that I don't know how anyone could call 86s too old, as you'd mentioned hearing that about the '86 Mgx.

There are one or two I've enjoyed recently (Beychevelle, which always seems to be on the elegant side, and Meyney), but the handful of 86s I have are going to stay buried for some time.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:19 pm

I still have most of a case of 86 Meyney (and another case of 89) that I must get into more often as you are right, they drink well now. And almost always great QPR, too. And I see some Poujeaux and Hau Bages Liberal that need tasting, and.....
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Salil » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:28 pm

Those old Meyneys are fantastic.

Have you had any 1986 Gruaud Larose recently?

Only '86 that I'm really tempted to open soon is Figeac (from a recent auction purchase.)

Though I'm quite enjoying breaking into various '83s, '85s and '88s these days.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Nov 16, 2012 7:33 pm

Salil wrote:Have you had any 1986 Gruaud Larose recently?



Here is my last note from a couple of years ago. Approaching drinkability but not as good as it will be. Probably worht another taste some time soon, hopefully of someone else's stash as I only have a half case.

1986 Ch. Gruaud Larose – also a classic nose with tons of dark fruit and sweet cassis, and huge in the middle with more than mild tannins. Great length, a very good wine in the making, but for other than oenological pedophiles, one to be left alone for several years yet.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Lou Kessler » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:31 pm

Have had two bottles of the 83 Margaux in the last couple of years and they always have pleased everyone in attendence. I've tasted the 82 on two different occasions and it was not up to the 83.
Bordeaux has become absurd in it's pricing. :( We can all thank China for that.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Mark Lipton » Fri Nov 16, 2012 11:48 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
Salil wrote:Have you had any 1986 Gruaud Larose recently?



Here is my last note from a couple of years ago. Approaching drinkability but not as good as it will be. Probably worht another taste some time soon, hopefully of someone else's stash as I only have a half case.

1986 Ch. Gruaud Larose – also a classic nose with tons of dark fruit and sweet cassis, and huge in the middle with more than mild tannins. Great length, a very good wine in the making, but for other than oenological pedophiles, one to be left alone for several years yet.


Though we have numerous older bottles in the cellar these days, the '86 Gruaud-Larose has the distinction of having been in our cellar longer than any other wine (there's an '86 Lynch-Bages that vies for the distinction, though), having been purchased at release at the North Berkeley Wine Company back when we lived out there. At the time, it was the most expensive bottle of new wine I'd ever purchased (~$53). I wish that I could still say that (well, not really). We'll have to see how much longer I can keep my hands off of it.

Mark Lipton

p.s. The '83 Margaux that I also bought upon release (for $35 :shock:) was indeed a fantastic wine when opened a few years back.
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby James Dietz » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:10 am

Too bad about the 1988 Cheval Blanc. We had this from a mag at dinner at the house a couple of years back, and it was outstanding. Here is my CT note.

  • 1988 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru (6/11/2010)

    Opened with a lot of green notes, maybe stemmy. But over the evening this just kept changing and became more elegant and refined, though a hint of green, good green, was always there. Red fruit and pencil, this was an outstanding bottle of wine. From a mag. (95 pts.)

    Image
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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Sat Nov 17, 2012 3:37 pm

A picture sent to me by another attendee

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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby David Lole » Sun Nov 18, 2012 5:48 pm

Thanks for a fantastic report, Bill!

Over the years, I've tried quite a few of these wonderful labels, and it's disappointing, but not surprising, a few didn't perform on the day (as often happens when so many older bottles are brought out of the cellar in one hit - which reminds me - your point about putting wine's such as these up against each other is duly and respectfully, noted). The '83 Margaux is one of my all time favourites but a wine I'll probably not try again, given the stratospheric purchase prices of this level of Bordeaux today. The last 1982 Margaux I tried was monolithic in every respect but that was almost a decade ago. It's good to hear this wine is finally coming around. As far as I know, the 1982 Mouton is one that hasn't quite turned the corner just yet.

The one wine I just might continue to buy that provides a semblance of reasonable QPR (if there is such a thing amongst classified growths these days) and that always has impressed greatly, is the 1985 Palmer.

Also, I just bought a single bottle of 1985 Meyney for not many dollars - is this a wine you can edify me on? TIA
Cheers,

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Re: WTN: 2 Chevals 3 Palmers 5 Margaux and an Yquem

Postby Bill Spohn » Sun Nov 18, 2012 6:19 pm

The 85 Meyney needs drinking. Decent but not any better. Should be a pleasant quaff.

The one to find is the 86 - killer QPR and no rush. I have case of that and also of the 89 stashed for those long winter evenings.
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