Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Touring and Tasting at Château Bonnet

The wines of Château Bonnet had been some of the first from Bordeaux that I had tried when my wine interests first began to diversify. I was very excited to visit and see from where those wines had come.

The vineyards at Château Bonnet were originally planted in the 16th century. The current owner’s grandfather took possession of the property in 1897 and began acquiring more of the surrounding land. André Lurton inherited the property in 1953 and continued his grandfather’s dream.

On our tour, I saw a large and very modern winemaking facility. Vincent Cruège, the Group Winemaking Director, showed us a winery in full action. Grapes were coming in from harvest and new wines were beginning as older wines were being bottled and boxed.

We went inside and learned about the art of blending from cellar master, Laurent Le Dez, who set up some barrel samples from different vineyards for us to blend. We also tasted the current Bordeaux Blanc and Bordeaux Rosé is their unfinished state. Christine Lurton-de Caix joined us for our tasting.

Recommended Wines to Drink Now:

Divinus de Château Bonnet 2012 - This is the chateau’s prestige cuvée made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This dry red is rich and ripe with plum and red berries, a full body, smooth tannins and a light nuttiness in the finish.

Château Bonnet Bordeaux 2012 - This 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied and dry with velvety tannins. It expresses bright cherry and blackberry notes with a slight spiciness in the finish.

Château Bonnet Bordeaux 2014 - This 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is dry, fresh and fruity with a full-body and smooth tannins. It expresses red plum and raspberry notes through the lingering finish.

Château Tour de Bonnet Bordeaux 2015 - This 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied and dry with silky tannins, bold mixed ripe dark berry aromas and flavors with a bit of spiciness in the finish.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser

I was not personally familiar with Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser until I did a tasting recently in Houston with 4th generation winemaker, Sébastien Tribaut. Though the wines are just now becoming available in my market, the maison is well-known for their house style which involves aging their reserve wines in foudres or large wooden vats made from French oak which gives the wines a rounder feel. 

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser has about 40 hectares of family owned vineyards primarily located in the communes of Romery, Cormoyeux and Fleurie-la-Rivière though they also source from other high quality sites who follow their same protocol of sustainable viticulture.

The wines:

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser Brut Origine - A blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Meunier with three years aging on the lees and only 10% reserve wine added gives this wine light, fruity notes of apricot, green apple and citrus with a fresh finish.

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser Blanc de Chardonnay - This wine is 100% Chardonnay with 20% of the grapes from old vines from Aÿ; it was aged for four years on the lees. Floral aromas of honeysuckle with toasted notes and a lingering crisp, mineral finish. 

Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser Brut Rosé - A blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Meunier with three years aging on the lees gives this wine bright aromas of raspberry and blood orange with a matched lingering taste.

Cuvée René Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser - This wine is named for the house's founder, René Schloesser. The blend is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir and contains 50% of the foudre-aged reserve wines. The cuvée is aged for 6 years on the lees prior to disgorgement. Fuller-bodied and rich with a hazelnut brioche character and a long, elegant finish.

l'Authentique Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser 2008 - Sourced from old vines in Aÿ, Romery and Écueil, this is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay wine which was aged in foudre for two years followed by five years of bottle aging on the lees before disgorgement. Sébastien Tribaut recommends decanting this wine to fully release all that it has to offer. Full-bodied, dry and intense with caramelized bakery notes through the lengthy finish.

All of the wines are recommended, I particularly enjoyed the Champagne Tribaut-Schloesser Blanc de Chardonnay which can be found on-line for about $35.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Top Texas Wines to Drink Now

Texas celebrates Texas Wine Month every year in October. After tasting more than forty of the state's vinous offerings,  here is my list of top picks that are currently available on each individual winery's website. These are not just for October drinking, most of these wines are Thanksgiving friendly and would make great gifts for wine lovers for Christmas and beyond.

The Whites:
Four different single varietal white wines that are not only food friendly offering a range of pairing compatibility but that are also delicious for anytime sipping.

Duchman Family Winery Trebbiano 2016 - Tropically refreshing with mouthwatering acidity, SRP $16.

Spicewood Vineyards Hill Country Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - Grapefruit and lime linger through the crisp, mineral-laced finish. SRP $19.99

Brennan Vineyards Reserve Viognier 2015 - Fragrant with honeysuckle and pineapple aromas, pleasantly textured with tropical flavors and a fresh citrus finish. SRP $25

Fall Creek Vineyards Certenberg Vineyards, Texas Hill Country Chardonnay 2015 - Fermented and aged sur lie in stainless steel tanks, this wine is fresh and lively with green apple and lime zest aromas and flavors with a bit of sweet nuttiness in the long slightly smoky mineral finish. SRP $25
Fall Creek also makes a limited production and more expensive version of this white which is aged in French Oak and has rich tropical flavors and bakery notes, perfect for heavier meals, SRP $50.

The Rosés:
Interestingly, these were almost the exact same deep rose color due to the high amount of pigment in the grape skins this vintage. Past versions of the Spicewood rosé have looked Provencal while this vintage looked more like a Clairet. Both of these were a bit more structured than expected and will work well with the heavier foods of fall and winter, rosé season never really ends in Texas.

Brennan Vineyards Reserve Mourvèdre Dry Rosé - Partially fermented in neutral French Oak and then blended with 25% Cinsault, the wine's strawberry, rose petals and rhubarb linger through the refreshing finish. SRP $25

Spicewood Vineyards Mourvedre Rosé 2016 - Primarily fermented in stainless steel with a portion aged in neutral oak and blended with 20% Cinsault, this wine has mixed berry aromas and flavors mingling with a light peppery note in the fresh, fruity finish. SRP $18.99

The Reds:
Four different red varietals and three unique blends round out the list. While the Tannat screams for red meat or game, the others work well with pizza, pasta, roasted poultry and more.

Duchman Family Winery Montelpulciano 2014 - Food friendly and easy-drinking with good acidity and moderate tannins, this medium body red has nuances of black plum, black cherry, baking spice and tobacco that last through the finish.

Pedernales Cellars Texas GSM Melange 2015 - A blend of 58% Mourvèdre, 36% Syrah and 6% Grenache. Raspberry and dark chocolate dominate this smooth, medium body red right through the herb-laced finish. SRP $35

Spicewood Vineyards High Plains Tempranillo 2015 - Fresh ripe mixed berry aromas and flavors, with a medium body, moderate tannins and a baking spice note that lingers through the persistantly fruity finish, SRP $23.99. My husband and I shared a bottle of this wine with dinner last month and I chose it for the list then. Last week, I had a taste of the Spicewood Vineyards Hill Country Estate Tempranillo 2014 which is also delicious but with a bigger structure, a more savory edge and a higher price tag, SRP $42.99.

Wedding Oak Winery Regency Bridge, Texas Hill Country Red Wine 2015 - This blend of 42% Graciano, 39% Tempranillo, 16% Garnacha and 3% Tannat is bold and flavorful with black cherry, mulberry and wild raspberry with a bit of pink peppercorn in the fruit-filled finish, SRP $29.

Bending Branch Mourvedre Reddy Vineyards, Texas High Plains 2014 - Energetic and fresh with ripe black currant, black pepper and eucalyptus in a medium body with smooth tannins and a slightly spicy finish, SRP $30.

Bending Branch Texas Tannat 2014 - This full bodied red has a big, bold tannic structure with mouth-filling flavors of cranberry, tobacco and black pepper with a touch of cola in the generous finish,  SRP $30.

Fall Creek Vineyards Certenberg Vineyard, Texas Hill Country Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon - Lush yet elegant with a full body and silky tannins with fresh red currant, red plum, forest floor and a bit of pencil box in the continuing finish. SRP $35.

The Lone Star State's varied terroir supports a broad mix of grapes which allows for a wide range of wines to be produced. All of the above are highly recommended wines with which to get a true taste of Texas.

Honorable Mentions - McPherson Picpoul Blanc and Messina Hof Texas Pinot Grigio 2016, these two white wines were no longer available on their winery websites though you may still see them at retail shops and restaurants. Join their email lists to be apprised of the release of the next vintage.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Château de Reignac - A Tour, Tasting and Lunch

After a tour and tasting at Planet Bordeaux, the headquarters of the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOC Winemaker's Association, our group headed to Saint-Loubès to learn more about Château de Reignac. We were greeted by export manager, Marion Bechu, who along with the vineyard manager, Benjamin Fruquiere, toured us around the estate.

Like so much of Bordeaux, Château Reignac was significantly affected by the two heavy frosts in late April causing them to lose between 70-80% of the 2017 vintage while also pushing their harvest date back, the grapes were still hanging during our visit.

The estate is located where the Dordogne and Garonne meet so the
property has both the gravelly soils of the left bank which are ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon and the chalky clay soils of the right bank which are ideal for Merlot.

The château was built in 17th century. It got a nice upgrade two hundred years later when a greenhouse created by Gustave Eiffel was added to the property. Yves and Stephanie Vatelot purchased the estate in 1990 and began a new stream of improvements including the addition of a lake, a remodel of the 16th century pigeon tower into a tasting room along with continuous environmental upgrades with the goal of becoming more sustainable and biodiverse. New measures taken range from adding a bamboo plantation to help clean winery waste to inviting local farmers to graze their sheep on the property through the winter.

Château de Reignac is very easy for wine tourists to visit as well. Their website lists multiple tasting experiences from the olfactory tour of wine aromas in the Scent Garden, to a multi-course lunch or a vertical tasting in the pigeon tower. The pigeon tower tasting room features bird's eye views of the property at the top and a high tech tasting space below complete with a mechanized bar top which carries down the wine bottles elevator style for the final reveal.

Our group ended the visit with lunch inside the château with owners, Yves and Stephanie Vatelot. We savored some of the culinary delights offered up in the estate's food and wine experiences while we tasted through the current releases.

The wines:

Reignac Bordeaux Blanc 2015 - Primarily made from Sauvignon Blanc
with some Semilon and Sauvignon Gris sourced from their 2 ha plot planted on soils with large polished gravel, this wine is fresh and inviting with citrus and honeysuckle.

Chateau de Reignac Bordeaux Supérieur 2014 - This is the second wine of the property, it is fruity, approachable and crowd pleasing.

Grand Vin de Reignac Bordeaux 2012 - The estate's premium wine is a blend of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from the estate's best terroirs. Effusive aromas of blackberry, black cherry and dark chocolate with a hint of smoke, it is dry with good tannic structure and a rich chocolate cherry finish.

Balthus 2012 - This limited production special cuvée is made from 100% Merlot sourced from 40 year old vines in a high density planted vineyard which is then fermented in new French oak barrels. Dry and fruity with ripe plum and raspberry aromas and lush flavors, silky tannins and a persistent rich chocolate-laced finish.

Grand Vin de Reignac Bordeaux 2001- This older vintage of the estate's premium wine is very expressive with cassis and leather with dark berry and espresso flavors, it is dry, with velvety tannins and a light truffled note in the lingering finish.

All of these wines are highly recommended.






Monday, October 23, 2017

A Dinner Tasting at Château Freyneau

After a very full day, we arrived a bit late to our scheduled dinner visit at Château Freyneau with owners Eric and Valérie Maulin. My jet lag starts to make its presence known here, I somehow did not take photos of Eric cooking our beef course over vines or the dish prepared on the plate. I just ate it, it was delicious as was everything that they served us that evening.

Third generation winemaker, Eric Maulin toured us through the winery while sharing tastes and stories along the way. They make about 200,000 bottles annually, most of which being red wine. The 45 hectare family estate has been sustainably grown since 1992. The soils are a mix of clay and limestone where he primarily grows Merlot but also has Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. He only has 4 hectares of white grapes, most of which is Sauvignon Blanc.

He also talked about how the landscape of his part of Bordeaux has been changing in recent years due to urban sprawl. The number of producers has significantly dropped with only a few estates left, the majority of which are fairly small.

The Dinner Tasting:

Château La Tuilerie Bordeaux Rosé 2016 - This refreshing blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has enough structure to enjoy with richer food but is also enjoyable to drink alone with its lingering red berry fruit finish.

Château La Tuilerie Bordeaux Blanc 2015 - Primarily made from Sauvignon Blanc with some Semilon and Muscadelle, this wine is fresh, citrusy aromatic with a pleasant weight and texture.

Château Freyneau Bordeaux Supérieur 2014 - This easy drinking blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is soft, red berry fruity and crowd friendly.

Château Freyneau Cuvée Traditionnelle Bordeaux Supérieur 2012 - This wine is chosen from the best tanks with a percentage aged in mostly neutral barrels for 16 months. This smooth blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec shows ripe dark plums and berries playing nicely with forest floor and cocoa through the dry, velvety finish.

Château Freyneau Cuvée Prestige Bordeaux Supérieur 2005 - This wine is only produced in exceptional years, it is sourced from the property's oldest vines and aged in new French oak barrels for a minimum of 16 months. Still surprisingly young after 12 years, this wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It is dry, rich, elegant and complex with blackberry, plum, chocolate and tobacco mingling through the smooth, lingering finish.

All of these wines are recommended.