Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tour du Vin de France Part 1 by Shannon

Some big things happening in France this month: Bastille Day, the Tour de France…etc. But, even bigger and more importantly, my trip to Bordeaux!!! I believe my jet-lag has sufficiently receded leaving me feeling ready to recount for you the magnificent trip I took to France last week.

In a whirlwind 2 day trip, my mother, sister and I, (that’s right, all ladies!) managed to fit in 5 estate and tours, 2 amazing lunches, an overnight stay to top the charts, and Bordeaux-city exploration. Oh yeah, did I mention we tasted some of the best wines in the world? Look for some of the highlights over the next few days…

Tasting/Tour/Lunch at Cos d’Estournel.
Leaving Bordeaux early in the morning we made our way north towards Pauillac. To arrive at Cos, we had to drive through Margaux, St. Julien and Pauillac, until we reached the border between Pauillac and St. Estephe, which is exactly where
Cos lies. Sitting at the top of a shallow hill,(cos literally means hill of pebbles)we were immediately stunned at the regal stature of the chateau, but more importantly, how unique it was. The original owner, Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel, had a passion and love for Indian culture, and manifested this in his building of the chateau. Rounded curves, steepled window frames and a huge, intricately carved wooden door, along with the image of elephants everywhere, give this place a truly exotic feeling. Our tour was given by the head winemaker, which was quite an honor, Dominique Arangoits. We were led into the chateau, which he explained to us was always a palace for the wine, with all of the winemaking taking place inside, instead of being used as a residence. The interior had recently been renovated, and although it was beautiful and modern, it hadn’t lost its traditional feel. While walking through the wine-making process with Dominique, we were in awe of the sheer size of the undertaking and the quality that was being produced right in front of our eyes. The stainless steel tank room( they had 40), and the barrel room containing 2008 Cos looked like beautiful works of architecture themselves, and we could tell Dominique was quite proud of their modern appearance. We witnessed some of the racking process happening in barrel, which he explained would happen two or three times. I just kept thinking about the 2008 vintage that was sitting in barrel(all new French oak) right in front of me, and how we wouldn’t see that wine in that states for another two years! However, Dominique informed us that all of the 2008 vintage was already sold, due to pre-sells around the world.
After our tour, it was time to taste some wine!
Goulee Medoc 2008. The third label for the estate, the first vintage of this wine was 2003. The grapes for this wine come from north of the medoc, where the vines take root in deep layers of gravel. Because of this select terroir, this wine is vinified by the team at Cos like it is a grand cru, and that attention to detail certainly comes through in the finished result. Here are my notes: 80% Cab, 20%Merlot. Fuschia color on the rim, almost new world on the palate. Still, tannins are present without being overtly so. Licorice finish. (Special note: I was so taken with this wine that I bought a bottle of the original 2003…can’t wait to try it out at home!)

Cos d’Estournel 2008. A barrel tasting! As Dominique explained to us 2008 proved to be a roller coaster of a year. The first half of the year was cold, the summer was overly dry. At this point they thought they had a disastrous vintage on their hands, until September came in and saved the vintage with perfect weather. Yields were the lowest every since 1991. Dominque called this vintage a ‘fighting vintage’. My notes: 85% Cab, 13% Merlot, 2%Cab Franc. Nose of tar and leather. I think the palate is shy, showing that this wine is still a baby. Finish of nuts. (My sister said nutella!)

After trying these outstanding wines we continued to a lunch where were served excellent wines throughout the meal, including Cos d’Estournel blanc 2006, which I thought was excellent(a grassy, herb-like sauvignon blanc/Semillon), Cos d’Estournel 2001 (Dominique’s first vintage at the estate) and finally Cos d’Estournel 1995. The 1995 was absolutely singing!! It had a gorgeous, plush mouthfeel, with little to no tannin present, just the complexity of charater that they had left behind. Cinnamon and earth were the key components. A wine and an experience I won’t soon forget!

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