By Marlise Ponzo
It’s January twenty-fourth and I awake in the early morning full of excitement and anticipation for the evening that lies ahead. I go about my morning routine packed full of diaper changes, feedings, squeaky chew toys and jolly jumper time all the while daydreaming about tonight’s tasting event. How wonderful it will feel to stop multitasking for just a few sweet hours and have the luxury of focusing all my attention and senses on each little two-ounce sample of some of the world’s finest wines.
This evening I will have three hours to taste the newly released 2007 vintage of Bordeaux. Over seventy of the region’s most prestigious estates will be showcased. This is sure to be one of this year’s most exciting tasting events and as I glance at the ticket, that I’ve stuck on the fridge, I think of how lucky I feel to be able to attend.
Bordeaux is one of France’s most legendary regions and to this day retains an iconic status in the world of wine. The event, a one night Vintages exclusive engagement put on in partnership with The Union Des Grands Crus De Bordeaux (UGC), is sure to sell out as every serious collector will be there to be amongst the first to order cases for their private collections. Great Bordeaux has more longevity than almost any other wine in the world. For amateur wine enthusiasts, this is the one time where a meager seventy-five dollars will allow them to taste over 120 wines from this historic region’s most prestigious estates.
My date, Svetlana Artjukow arrives at my door around three pm and I can see it written all over her face that she is as excited as I. Svetlana and I went through the Sommelier certification process together a few years back. The two of us, and five other students, joined together to form the Sunday Crush study group. The intensity of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers certification program has really bonded our tasting group for life. What a wonderful little group of wine lovers! But enough of that for now. Time to kiss the baby good night and place him in the loving arms of his grandmother for we are off to the Four Seasons’ Regency Ballroom for a night that promises to be an oenophile’s dream..
We arrive and enter the lavish room and grab ourselves a glass. We decide to sample the 2007 Domain De Chevalier Blanc while getting our bearings. This fresh and mineraly beauty is from Pessac-Lèognan. The Domain sits on the Left Bank of the Gironde River, nestled and hidden amidst a pine forest; the vines planted in deep gravely/sandy, nutrient deficient, well drained soil that is absolutely perfect for the grape vine to produce grapes full of concentrated and nuanced flavor. Whites from this Domain are made usually with thirty percent Semillon and seventy percent Sauvignon Blanc.
2007 Domain De Chevalier Blanc, Pessac-Lèognan, $124
Beautifully balanced wine. Rich nose of toasty apple brioche and waxy pear fruit. Following through on the palate with flavours of candied lemon zest and panetone. A hint of bitter raw almond adds complexity at the finish. Crisp cleansing acidity.
As we enjoy the last lingering flavors of the Chevalier Blanc we begin to look around and take in the atmosphere of the expansive room. We look at our guides, listing all of the wines on offer and calmly and quietly try to organize ourselves. We have two and a half hours left and want to make the most of every moment to get a little more acquainted with all that this fascinating region has to share. Our tasting group has focused on Bordeaux before but with the high prices and limited availability of some of the wines of these Châteaux, we have never had the opportunity to taste so many. So many bottles of such prestige all standing proudly side-by-side for comparison, consumption and contemplation. On with the whites!
Next we decide that we simple must try The 2007 Château Carbonnieux Blanc as it gleams on a near by table catching our eye.
2007 Château Carbonnieux Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, $52
Elegant, subtle, aromatic wine. Fresh citrus on the nose with hints of white peach and ginger spice. Musky sauvignon character showing through on the palate. Lively acidity. A real nuanced beauty!
As we patiently wade our way through the river of whites we discuss how to geographically taste our way through the region to conquer the reds. We are set to start North to South on the Right and Left banks of the Gironde River. A tad overwhelmed with the vast expanse of wines before us we momentarily forget the sniff, swirl and slurp business and it’s bottoms up for some liquid courage to face the big boys ahead.
First up to bat we have Pomerols Château La Conseillante. This Château, built in 1750, historically has always fetched a high price despite periods when Pomerol’s reputation was not as good as other appellations in Bordeaux. These are lavish reds with their symphony of licorice, tobacco, chocolate covered coffee beans and plums. The wines from this estate are made mostly from the Merlot grape. Eighty percent of the blend is Merlot and the other twenty percent being Cabernet Franc (Bouchet). The wines that we are tasting, though babies in respect to their conceivably lengthy life span, promise aging potential that will develop these scents into a bouquet of truffles, game, leather and undergrowth. The suggestion these wines make to us, that they will one day be even greater than they are today by a hundred fold, is what makes us fall so head over heels in love with them.
2007 Château La Conseillante, Pomerol, $139
Show stopper! Gobs of BBQed red peppers on the nose with cigar box, black tea and vanilla. Complex palate leaves your tongue dancing with licorice, black fruit and tobacco leaves. An angular, structured wine with great aging potential.
We move into Saint-Emilion territory and are poured a glass of Château Figeac. Château Figeac uses around seventy percent Cabernet ( Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon) and thirty percent Merlot. It is often referred to as the most Medoc of Saint-Emilions. This is an angular, structured wine that is not without finesse.
2007 Château Figeac, 1er Grand Cru, Saint-Emilion, $115
Nose singing of Cedar and freshly tanned animal hide. The palate delivers similar flavours balanced with sour cherry fruit, wood resin and bergamot tea leaves.
We hop banks and move through the Medoc down though Saint Estephe and down, down, dizzyingly down past the spectacular 2007 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande that, for a few precious minutes, swishes heartily in our glasses. We stay in Pauillac for some time now for it is too lovely here to want to leave. We are in such great company with Lynch Bages at our side and d’Armailhac up ahead. What a beautiful place to be.
2007 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 2e Cru, Pauillac, $139
Like eating lightly peppered berries out of a suede pouch…if you can imagine that. Dusty mocha and wood resin dominate the nose. The palate is driven by a scent that reminds me of dense cherry and bitter chocolate pound cake. Masculine.
2007 Château Lynch Bages, 5e Cru, Pauillac, $95
Nose of horsehide and brandy soaked black fruit. Dusty cherries and light hints of coffee on the palate. Good acidity. Grippy tannins. This wine is full of vigor.
2007 Château d’Armailhac, 5e Cru, Pauillac, $54
This wine takes you by surprise. More medicinal that expected. Elevated fresh nose reminiscent of eucalyptus. Black plums poached in exotic spices and fresh mint. Crazy and unexpected. Leather and tea leaves prevalent on the palate. Mouth drying bold tannins. Brute of a wine. Good aging potential here.
We sample the Château Gruaud-Larose from Saint-Julian. It is an intoxicating kaleidoscope of Chocolate, vanilla bean and cedar chips. Oh what a wine! So much complexity from its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a little Malbec thrown in for good measure.
2007 Château Gruaud-Larose, 2e Cru, Saint-Julian, $75
Forest floor and barnyard are all accounted for here. Rustic nose of pine sap and haunting black cherry. Palate adorned with licorice root and sweet kirsch. Lengthy finish with smoky toastiness lingering in the mouth.
As we move on through Margaux and down past so many sub appellations, nearing the southern end of the great river, we land in the enchanting home of some of the world greatest most age worthy wines. The sweet, botrytis affected, liquid gold wines of Sauternes and Barsac lay before us to be discovered. We are in love! There is really nothing quite like the experience of drinking one of these lusciously oily wines. Rolling it over your tongue and feeling it tickle your palate with flavours of apricot and orange blossom…. mushroom and wildflower honey, then ending with something that can be described as nothing other than waxy elastic band or pink pencil eraser. So we stop here and try to find a place against a wall to rest. Our palates and our imaginations have had quite the feast and workout this evening. This is the time to kick back and relax, enjoying every last golden drop of the 2007 Château de Fargues that we have left to savor. The perfect end to a perfect evening.
2007 Château de Fargues, Sauternes, (Barrel Sample) $169 (750 mL)
This wine is spectacularly expressive with everything you would hope to find in a well-made bottle of Sauternes. Apricot and pear nectar abound. Honeysuckle and buttery caramel covered pecans give way to hints of rubber tree and wildflower honey. Acid here perfectly balanced with sweetness.
Marlise Ponzo, has been working in the Hospitality industry for many years and possesses experience in many different roles from fine dining server, restaurant manager, sommelier to wine/food writer most recently. She is absolutely passionate about the culinary arts and the artistry of food and wine pairing. Being married to a chef, vacations become true culinary adventures and often land her at one michelin star restaurant or another. She has been working at Crush Wine Bar for the past eight years and has used this extraordinarily successful restaurant as a springboard for learning everything she could about the wonderful world of wine. In 2008 she graduated the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers certification program with honours and accepted two awards of excellence for blind tasting from CAPS. Currently she continues to explore her passion for sensory development and wine appreciation through reading, tasting, traveling and writing.