St Estèphe is awash with good value Bordeaux. This most northerly appellation in the Haut-Médoc produces firm yet fleshy reds with lots of extract and tannin. Modern methods of vinification combined with the picking of tannin ripe grapes have reduced the coarseness that characterised some of the wines here a decade or so ago. Full-throttle St Estèphe always was but now there’s much more finesse to be found here. A list of affordable, good quality wines from this appellation would certainly include Château Capbern, Château Le Crock, Château Le Boscq, Château Tronquoy-Lalande and Château Beau-Site. In very top vintages these wines are of classed growth quality. There’s another tier above which includes Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Lafon-Rochet, Château Cos Labory, Château Phélan-Ségur, Château Ormes de Pez, Château de Pez and Château Meyney. At the top of the tree, classed growths Château Calon Ségur, Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Montrose often make wine of equivalent quality [in very different ways] to the neighbouring Pauillac first growths.
Posts Tagged ‘Chateau Montrose’
I’ve a real soft spot for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. An eye-opening spell there in the late 80s as a cellar rat was inspirational. The denim-clad, cool-as-hell winemakers swaggered about the stainless steel and the French barriques in their freshly minted wine cellars with an insouciant Californian air that belied their competitive ambition. The place was run with steely determination by founder Warren Winiarski, a political theorist at the University of Chicago, who moved west to become a winemaker in the mid 1960s, establishing the property in 1970. The small boutique winery became synonymous with the seismic Paris tasting of 1976, an event fictionalized in Bottle Shock [starring the late, great Alan Rickman]. The Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon, from a vines just three years old, was voted best red by a panel of French judges. In a blind tasting, the wine felled mighty Bordeaux châteaux Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, Léoville-Las-Cases and Montrose, not to mention domestic competitors Ridge and Heitz. The tasting put Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and the Napa Valley on the map.
St Estèphe has made some very good wine in 2015 but the appellation has not done as well as in 2014 in my book. This is down to the heavy rain showers in mid September, the residual effect of ‘Storm Henry,’ that arrived on the eve of the Merlot harvest, a key varietal component to many of the wines in St Estèphe. While conditions improved from mid September until early October, how estates and different terroirs responded to these conditions determined the relative levels of success. There are some top wines in the appellation – Château Cos d’Estournel, Château Montrose, Château Calon-Ségur, Château Lafon-Rochet and Château Meyney spring to mind – but there is not the uniformity here for me of 2014, nor the exciting power in the wines. Whether 2015 will claw back some of that ground during elévage remains to be seen.
Château Montrose occupies a wonderful position in St Estèphe, a single continuous vineyard that slopes gently toward the Gironde estuary. Legend has it that the name ‘Mont Rose’ derives from the pink coloured heather that used to occupy the spot before it was turned over to vine. Montrose, along with Latour and Mouton Rothschild, produces some of the boldest, most age-worthy red wine on the planet. The 2015 here is impressive. It’s a whisker off the remarkable wine made at Montrose in 2014, though quite different in style.
So what are the principal characteristics of the Bordeaux 2015 vintage? Firstly there is a real beauty to the fruit tones in the red wines this year. Time after time, especially on the Right Bank but also on the Left I kept writing ‘beautiful,’ ‘pretty,’ and ‘delicious.’ There is freshness, despite pretty high alcohols in the main. The vintage is almost a hypothetical blend of 2009 and 2010, but with less evident structure and weight than those vintages. For me it recalls 1985 in terms of that vintage’s early beauty and freshness – and ‘85 remains in great shape today. But the 2015 vintage is by no means homogeneous. In fact there is considerable variability. What is in no doubt is that ‘15 is terrific in St Emilion. There is concentration and delight in so many wines there this year. It has also been strong vintage in the surrounding Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, especially Castillon and Francs.
Day two on the primeurs trail covered the top properties in St Julien, St Estèphe and Pauillac. The brief but significant September rain on the eve of harvest here affected estates differently and there is variation in the wines. Amongst the top growths on the finest terroirs beautiful wines have been produced. Perhaps these are not quite at the very top like 2009 or 2010, or perhaps even 2005, [though in certain cases they are close] but nevertheless there is real magic and beauty in the best wines. There is an accessibility too that almost hides their power. Château Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac stood out as exceptional, along with Château Montrose and Château Cos d’Estournel in St Estèphe. Château Ducru Beaucaillou, Château Léoville-Las-Cases and Château Léoville Poyferré were all very impressive in St Julien. Ducru has made exceptionally attractive wine this year. It is a beauty – a term that is constantly turning up in my tasting notes in 2015.