The Bottle to Buy: Chateau Giscours’ 2004 Vintage

Originally published on Departures.comchateau-giscours

The year 2004 was an unremarkable one in Bordeaux. The season was typical, marked by slow and at times uneven ripening, cooler temperatures, and a long harvest, and the wine—a connoisseur’s vintage—easily overlooked by drinkers who prefer the lush wines of California. Sitting between the two highly collectible years of 2003 and 2005 (plush, ripe, and powerful both), the seemingly austere and tannic 2004 received little attention and was left alone in the cellar.

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Singular Terroir in Saint-Emilion

I had the great pleasure of sitting down to taste through select vintages of Château Magdelaine and Château Bélair-Monage with Christian Moueix last fall. The two adjoining estates were merged after Bélair-Monange was acquired by J.P. Moueix, so we explored past vintages, the future of the newly renamed and reclassified property, and the insight of a man as renowned for his vast expertise (he was the winemaker at Pétrus for a time) as he is for his innovations in the world of winemaking. SOMMJ DEC15-JAN16

Read more about the decision to bring these two properties in Saint-Emilion together in my most recent piece for The SOMM Journal.

Aged, Affordable Wines to Drink Now

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I love older wines, those savory notes of earth, stewed fruits, honey, spice. But space is limited in my home, and I’ve yet to get into the good collector’s habit of buying wines by the case and slowly working my way through the bottles as they evolve. Instead, I hold on for dear life to the one or two bottles I have of a wine in a vintage, never quite sure of what occasion deserves them, and I count my lucky stars when I have the opportunity to taste wines others graciously open for me, as the experience is always memorable, however large or small the occasion: a 1934 Simi Cabernet to celebrate 150 years of uninterrupted production, a 40-year-old Kopke white port alongside the Douro on a trip to Portugal, a 1986 Latour popped the first time I tasted grass-fed beef from my aunt’s farm. Continue reading

Vermont Blue Cheese Quiche & an ’81 Bordeaux

I love flipping through old notebooks and stumbling upon notes that remind you of a meal, a bottle of wine, a low-key but happy memory. That’s what happened tonight when I was going through my look-alike pile of black Moleskines to see what I should include here, toss, or file away: a few hand-scribble recipes for Julia Child’s quiche au Roquefort and pâte brisée and bottle notes on the 1981 Chateau La Tour Figeac. A happy memory of visiting the family summer home of my dear friend Anna in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom a few years ago. Continue reading

Celebrations: Being Together with Good Wine

The last time I was together with both of my parents was in February, so I was excited that we were all able to be down at the beach for a few days. My little brother Scott was too busy turning 21 to join us, and what did he miss?

 Dad in a kayak.

Aside from sea and marsh kayaking, fly-fishing on a motor boat that took us out to Cumberland Island, sea turtles, dolphins, and “The American,” he missed the opportunity to drink a wine as old as his big sister. And not just any 24-year-old wine. He missed a Latour.

Yes, that is a Premier Grand Cru Classé from 1986.

Most likely, Scott does not realize what a momentous occasion this was, at least for me. This wine, along with a few others, had been sitting at my grandmother’s beach house for who knows how long, cooking in the south Georgia sun when no one was on the premises to turn on the air-conditioning. So opening the bottle was as much of a gamble as anything. There were, however, a few factors in our favor: the ullage was high (the level of wine was above the neck) and the bottle itself seemed to be in pretty good condition. And I’d texted Stevie to know if the ’86 was drinking. Her one-word response? “Drink.”

Sniffing and tasting the newly decanted wine.

Boy were we well-rewarded. The liquid inside the bottle, a tawny color, neither smelt nor tasted of vinegar. Instead, it possessed the effect of tart, underripe blackberries — tight as the wine was first exposed to air in the decanter and in my glass — as well as notes of walnut dust, leather, and raisins. And it was immediately balanced, surprisingly so, as I’d read that many Bordeaux of that year were highly tannic. Then, the magic that I love about wine began to show itself. As we prepared dinner and let the wine breathe, it was suddenly rejuvenated: full of bright, ripe berry notes, and so incredibly smooth on the palette. No element of this wine overpowered another. I was utterly happy.

Taste-testing corn-fed beef (below) and grass-fed (above),
seasoned with smoky salt from Washington State.

The Latour proved an excellent complement for my first taste of my aunt Emily’s grass-finished beef. Life is really good sometimes.