Under the Bordelais Sun? A Weather Analysis for the 2011 Vintage

Under the Bordelais Sun? A Weather Analysis for the 2011 Vintage

Post by Chuck Hayward | March 30th, 2012

If it’s March, it must be time for Bordeaux en primeur!!

And indeed it is with half of the JJ Buckley sales staff already on the ground and the rest due to arrive tomorrow. Awaiting us is a very full schedule of tastings, appointments and dinners. It promises to be an eventful trip… Indeed, we started out with a (near) bang as Shaun Bishop, our Bordeaux buyer, had a close call in the rental car lot with a major American wine critic (who was clearly in a hurry to get to work tasting the vintage)!

Vines at Bordeaux Airport

As in years past, look for pics, blog posts, and Facebook updates from us as we taste through the latest vintage. In addition to our initial thoughts on the quality of the 2011s, we want to show you what life is like during en primeur week. That’s why we brought along our friend Hardy Wallace again to put together some videos that will give you a unique perspective on what it’s like to be in Bordeaux during this exciting and intense time of year. Stay tuned for those as JJ Buckley embarks on a trip we like to call “A Hard Day’s ‘Flight’”.  And don’t forget that JJ Buckley’s annual Bordeaux report will bring you vintage analysis, hundreds of tasting notes, and articles of interest. (more…)

Trial by Jury: Aged ‘Value’ Bordeaux

Trial by Jury: Aged ‘Value’ Bordeaux

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 1st, 2011

To drink, one must pull corks

Over the course of the past few months, evidence has been put forth that Bordeaux, as Rodney Dangerfield might say, “ain’t got no respect”. It’s an observation that Matt Kramer made in a recent Wine Spectator piece as well as by Eric Asimov in the The New York Times. These articles attempt to discern the “whys” of it all. For instance, why is it that Bordeaux doesn’t get much love these days? But we aren’t asking that question at JJ Buckley, as our third annual tribute to Bordeaux sold out in record time, once again.

Each year, our tasting highlights one of Bordeaux’s frequently forgotten attributes—they are wines of incredible value. And this year, we decided to investigate another important quality of Bordeaux—the capacity of Bordeaux’s flavors and aromas to be transformed with time in the cellar. Spanning vintages from 1998-2003, with prices ranging from $25-$45 per bottle, this tasting was a great opportunity to examine the evidence firsthand.

The verdict? (more…)

It Is Easy Being Green For Helene Garcin-Leveque

It Is Easy Being Green For Helene Garcin-Leveque

Post by Andy Frieden | April 7th, 2011

It was our third day of ‘official’ en primeur activities, and I couldn’t have been more excited about our visit with the ever-lovely and always gracious Helene Garcin-Leveque, who, along with her mother Sylviane Garcin-Cathiard, are the proprietors of Chateau Barde-Haut. Built as an addition to the family home on a 17-acre natural amphitheatre, the Chateau is just a few minutes drive from center of St. Emilion village, and counts Tertre-Roteboeuf and Troplong-Mondot among its prestigious neighbors.

Andy's last run at Alpine Meadows, March 2011

Winemaking seems to be in the blood for Helene’s family. Mother Sylviane, the grande dame of Vignobles Garcin, is sister to Daniel Cathiard who owns Smith-Haut-Lafitte with wife Florence. Sylviane and Daniel’s grandfather was an Alpine wine merchant who is also noted for creating the modern day ski lift! As an avid skier myself, I was particularly interested to find out in their previous lives, Daniel and Florence Cathiard were members of the French National Ski Team with gold medalist Jean-Claude Killy. It was perhaps his influence that led the Cathiards to Bordeaux, as this celebrated skier often concluded a day of racing with a bottle of the region’s finest. (more…)

All For One, and Pomerol For All

All For One, and Pomerol For All

Post by Alex Lallos | April 7th, 2011

A simple sign, amazing wine

While in Bordeaux, a few of my colleagues and I were fortunate enough to visit one of my favorite Pomerol estates, Chateau Clinet. Quintessential Pomerol, the grapes show a high proportion of merlot (85% in 2010 from super low yielding old vines) and are hand harvested and hand sorted. This stuff should cost about as much as a small yacht by today’s standards in Pomerol, but in reality, the wines are extremely well priced.

In fact, you can purchase the 2009 Clinet (which earned 97-100, Robert Parker) for a hair over $175, whereas 2009 Petrus will cost you a few thousand for about the same size production and almost the same score (RP96-100).  The 2010 is a brilliant wine much like the 2009, super dark, super lush, and just plain sexy. It’s hard to say yet what will happen to prices for the 2010s, but one can only hope there will be enough Clinet to go around. (more…)

Closing It Down At Lascombes (Again!)

Closing It Down At Lascombes (Again!)

Post by John Perry | April 5th, 2011

Every year that I’ve been to Bordeaux, the weather has been completely unpredictable and variable.  Not this year though—seems we brought

Lascombes vintages 1881 & 1892

California with us!  With warm, clear days, and cool,comfortable evenings, I couldn’t have asked for a better scene for our visit to Chateau Lascombes. We started out with a tour of the property, and as dry as technical details can be, it’s essential to understand how the rebirth of Lascombes has taken place over recent vintages.

Under its previous ownership by brewing company Bass Charrington, this 2nd Growth was considered by most to be an unqualified underachiever. Although some improvements were made, particularly towards the end of this era, the wines were pretty forgettable and certainly unheralded. Revitalization came in 2001 when Lascombes was purchased by Capital Colony and Yves Vatelot, who hired the super-talented team of Dr. Alain Reynaud and Michel Rolland to oversee the turnaround. Various improvements were made, including the construction of a gravity-fed winery, use of optical scanners on the sorting table, a new, innovative racking system for wines resting in barrel, and the replanting of (more…)

At Pontet-Canet, Everyone Feels Like The Big Cheese

At Pontet-Canet, Everyone Feels Like The Big Cheese

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 14th, 2011

Tasting at Maison Joanne

Maison Joanne is one of leading Bordeaux negociants and a tasting there is a marathon of immense proportions. Donning Joanne’s signature bibs (to avoid staining our shirts), we sit down and rapidly evaluate some 200 to 300 barrel samples, ranging from simple Bordeaux Superieurs to grand cru classés. It’s an intense experience for anyone, even those of us who’ve logged a quarter-century of “flight-time” in the biz. A break in the action this year brought welcome respite in the form of a bottle of 2010 Chateau Pontet-Canet, which arrived to the table with JJB co-founder Shaun Bishop’s name affixed to the bottle. Ah…it’s the little things.

The Pontet-Canet personal touch

This year, as last, Pontet-Canet made more than just a statement of class, and the sample we tried left us gobsmacked as we passed the bottle around. And just like last year, even after tasting a squillion palate-challenging barrel samples, it made an impression, standing out as one of the best wines tasted and giving the First Growths a serious run for their money. When you consider the prices those wines fetch, at under $200 (for the 2009) Pontet-Canet represents a relative bargain. (more…)

Bank Shot: Kickin’ It To The Right

Bank Shot: Kickin’ It To The Right

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 13th, 2011

Following our adventures in the Medoc, the JJ Buckley team crossed the river for a crash course in the 2010 vintage from the perspective of the Right Bank, home to the famed appellations of Pomerol and St. Emilion and the ever-trendy (ahem) merlot grape. The last two vintages here have demonstrated a unique (and controversial for some) interpretation of their respective terroirs.

JJB Sale Team Up Close and Personal with Christian Moueix

JJB Sales Team Up Close and Personal with Christian Moueix (r)

First, it might bear noting that the Right Bank experience is an all-together different ball of wax to its Medoc counterpart. On the Left, the new vintages are generally poured and presented quietly, with a handful of winery personnel there for observation and information, much like docents in a museum. When the rare opportunity to speak with a chateau owner or executive presents itself, it is in hushed and reverential tones. On the other side of the Gironde, the wineries are smaller, the tastings more intimate, and conversation flows—frequently one-on-one with the proprietor or winemaker. (more…)

Ausone: JJ Buckley and the Last Crusade

Ausone: JJ Buckley and the Last Crusade

Post by Neil Mechanic | April 8th, 2011

Our Pilgrimage to Ausone

For many, Saint Emilion (and the neighboring village of Pomerol) is the “Holy Grail” for merlot and cabernet franc, as there is nowhere else these two varietals reach such levels of greatness. Saint Émilion sits on the right bank of the Dordogne River and is dotted with Romanesque churches and ruins stretching along the narrow cobblestone streets. Walking through the village, the Romans’ involvement is evident in the architecture and the limestone terraced vineyards that dot the landscape.

Thus, our visit to Château Ausone, one of two grand cru classé estates, was more than just a tasting…it was a historical and, dare I say, holy experience! In fact, the estate’s chapel (Chapelle de la Madeleine) and its underground rotunda are dedicated to Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ most infamous disciples. With so much to see, it was like being in a museum that just happens to make one of the greatest wines in the world! (more…)

When Sleep Deprived & Parched, There’s No Place Like Domaine de Chevalier

When Sleep Deprived & Parched, There’s No Place Like Domaine de Chevalier

Post by John Perry | April 8th, 2011

While my colleagues from the south may be able to cope with the temps in Bordeaux this week, 80 degrees is roasting for this northern California guy.  Couple that with tasting 50-100+ wines in a day and the insanity of Bordeaux rush hour traffic, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  Thankfully, we wound up at Domaine de Chevalier for dinner, which would turn out to be one of my most memorable experiences in Bordeaux.

Olivier Bernard: A true gentleman

With the mood set—lack of sleep, spent palate, hot weather, traffic jams, getting lost—we pulled up to Domaine de Chevalier looking something like The Bad News Bears. Outside to greet us was the owner of the property, Olivier Bernard, whose reputation had preceded him. My boss had told me that Olivier is a really intelligent and charming guy, and the negociant who drove me to the property confirmed this. But meeting him in person, I was blown away by his generosity, relaxed personality, and philosophy about wine.

Sporting a suntanned face, calloused hands, and the build of a linebacker, you immediately get the sense that he’s completely down to earth and connected to the land here, despite being the owner of one of the best properties in Pessac.  He welcomed us into the entrance of the cellars, and seemed to know that, instead of wine, what we’re really needed was a glass of water!  With our thirst quenched, rather than pouring the 2010, he offered us a tour, telling us he knew we had very likely had the wine multiple times this week (which we had) and that there was no need to strain us further when “relaxation is the only thing on the agenda.” (more…)

The Magic Number at Malescot St. Exupery

The Magic Number at Malescot St. Exupery

Post by Alex Shaw | April 7th, 2011

A handful of truly mythical numbers for Bordeaux lovers—1945, 1959, 1982, and, possibly most of all, 1961—are widely considered the greatest vintages of all time. These are legendary years that all Bordeaux lovers know but few have actually had the opportunity to experience.  I’d certainly never had the chance to taste any of them…until recently.

Relaxing in the Beautiful Garden

Along with a few of my colleagues, I attended a dinner at Chateau Malescot St. Exupery in Margaux on Tuesday night.  The weather this week has been nothing short of fantastic, and on this absolutely stunning evening, we had appetizers and vin rosé in the chateau’s luxurious back yard.  Over dinner, there was a steady upward arc in the quality of wines, the 2006 La Dame de Malescot (their second wine), followed by three vintages of Malescot out of magnum: 2004, 2000 and 1989.  Each wine was a step up in depth, complexity, nuance and overall quality, with the 1989 in the absolute prime of its drinking window.  It was the first 1989 I’d had on this trip, and it was a real treat. (more…)