Reported by D.R. Stewart
Ian Blackburn once again gathered the Grape Groupies to another tasting at the venerable Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. April 22, Monday saw Learn About Wine’s event co-hosted by Le Cercle Rive Droite and their Bordeaux buddies, the best Chateaus the region has to offer. If the French language is a distant memory from those movies you pretended to like in college to get a shot at the art majors, lemme help you — these are wine-makers from the Bordeaux region who are based on the Right Bank (Rive Droite) of the Gironde estuary.
How do you find the gems among so many diligent winemakers? You ask the winemakers what they are drinking, if not their own. All pointed me towards Chateau Dalem. It had cool caché in that it was a one-woman operation (Brigitte Rullier-Loussert) and its 2012 had pulled a 90-93 off of Wine Spectator. Good whoosh to it, which is the only way for me to describe that French wine characteristic of not having heavy notes which stop the flow of the liquid blowing through you. But I demand more of a French wine now, and I feel that another Chateau’s wine I tasted much later was closer to admitting that the California wine aesthetic is worth replicating in small doses. Back at the Dalem station, I tried their 2010 — the true gem, as really all the Chateaux 2-tens were.
The event was intended to show-off the 2012s, but a lot of folks brought their 2-tens with them. Don’t take it from me, hear what oenologist Michael Rolland had to say: “Thanks to exceptional weather at the end of summer and into autumn, 2010 Merlot and Cabernet grapes had a flavor quality that has rarely been as good.” Rolland got the first sips from the vintage and proclaimed “The aromatic characteristics are excellent, encouraged by pH levels that bestow firm acidity, accentuating freshness. Here is a vintage we have dreamed of, given to us by nature.”
Getting back to a French wine which supports the whoosh and the berry bottom of the Cali-aesthetic — Chateau Siaurac. Their 2010 checks in at a mere $35 a bottle, which was 1/2 the price of the Le Prieure they were pouring. The Chateau Le Prieure had the coveted blast of French purity, but the Siaurac tied up the package with some California sunshine. This table was packed, and owner-manager Paul Goldschmidt was besieged by business people wanting to get on board with this bold new adventure. These wines can be found at http://www.baronneguichard.com/
California influences could also be noted in the Chateau Moulin Haut-Larogue, which dared to show some of the spice popular in our Paso old vine Zins. There will always be the two aesthetics practiced to their extremes in France and California, but this current climate of you-got-your-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate blending is exciting for the palates that are willing to risk the new.