bordeaux

Winery Spotlight: Chateau Latour-Martillac

LM 3The JJ Buckley wine staff recently had a chance to learn a bit more about Chateau Latour-Martillac, one of the top estates in the Pessac-Leognan appellation south of Bordeaux. Tastings with owners and their winemakers or marketing managers at our offices are always an important way to add to the knowledge we gain during our annual visits to Bordeaux. This visit, however, afforded us the chance to learn about something other than soils and varietals.

The domaine has a long history that starts with an ancient tower from the 12th Century that gives rise to the winery’s name. Vines were not planted until the middle of the 19th Century yet the quality of wine from the estate was soon recognized by Edouard Kressman, a negociant from Bordeaux. His son purchased the chateau and its 100 acres of vines in 1930 (about 80% is planted to red varieties with the rest planted to semillon and sauvignon blanc). The domaine remains in the family’s hands while members of the Kressman family still work as negociants.

The vineyards are located outside the little village of Martillac, some ten minutes southeast of the small town of Leognan that comprises part of the appellation’s name. The weather and soil composition of the two villages are quite similar but differ markedly from the Pessac wineries located next to the city limits of Bordeaux. There’s a sense of elegance and finesse found in the wines made here compared to the power and concentration found in wines from Pessac. Thanks to the heat generated by the warmth of the city, Pessac’s grapes there are picked two weeks earlier than in Martillac and Leognan.

The Latour-Martillac label and the diary that provided inspiration.

The Latour-Martillac label and the diary that provided inspiration.

2014 marks the 80th anniversary of the Kressman family’s purchase of the domaine and the creation of the winery’s distinctive label. As explained to us by Wilfrid Groizard, the estate’s Marketing Director, the label has remained unchanged since it first appeared. It was designed at the height of the Art Deco era and was based on a small diary owned by Alfred Kressman. (See photo on left) We were all quite fortunate to get a chance to examine this beautiful notebook which was carefully brought over to us directly from the winery.

But what really caught our interest lay inside the covers of this fragile journal, a detailed account of Alfred’s tastings over the years accompanied with sketches of labels and bottles. (See photo on right) It provides a fascinating insight into the wines that traveled across the tables of a top negociant during the early 1930s. In less than a month, wines from the 1864-1875 (Margaux,

Tasting notes from January and February 1932

Tasting notes from January and February 1932

Malescot and Chasse Spleen among others) were complemented by more recent wines from 1911-1920 including a Petrus from Pomerol and St. Estephe’s Tronquay. But the most intriguing entry was for a bottle of 1911 Haute Rive from “Etats Unis”, more evidence showing that wines from America made it across the Atlantic. (See upper left corner) Unfortunately, little is known about this winery or what state it came from.

While it was great to taste through their wines (including a sumptuous 2001 blanc along with a ripe and powerful 2009 rouge), it’s often stories, history and context that make wines richer. Our session certainly proved this adage to be true.

Where to Wine & Dine: Bordeaux

Grand Bar Castan: Oldest Bar in Bordeaux

Grand Bar Castan: Oldest Bar in Bordeaux

Where to Wine & Dine: Bordeaux

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 1st, 2013

For anyone traveling to the wine regions of France, it’s assumed (and rightly so), that an immersion into local cuisine should be part of the experience. After all, what is a trip to Burgundy without eating escargot or fine dining while visiting Champagne? So it goes without saying that a trip to Bordeaux will be incomplete unless you dip your toes into the local dining scene.

But the geography and the way business is conducted in Bordeaux conspire to make it difficult to indulge your appetite as thoroughly as your palate. And while the wines of Bordeaux resonate across the globe, the local cuisine has yet to achieve such recognition. A recent check through the latest Michelin Guide reveals far fewer starred establishments in Bordeaux than in Burgundy or Champagne.
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We’re off to Bordeaux for En Primeur/Better Check the Weather (in 2012!)

We’re off to Bordeaux for En Primeur/Better Check the Weather (in 2012!)

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 4th, 2013

Weather Blog1Once again, the beginning of April finds us at JJ Buckley finalizing our plans to visit Bordeaux and participate in the annual en primeur tastings. In our seventh visit to the region, we’ll do what we do best – taste the latest vintage and enable our buyers and fine wine specialists to discover first-hand how these young wines fare. Our schedule is full of visits to wineries and negociants and we’ll be adding on a day of educational seminars to get an even more in-depth understanding about Bordeaux.

You can keep up to date with our trip by subscribing to JJ Buckley’s blogs here. We’ll also be posting pictures and updates on Facebook and, for the first time, you can check us out on Twitter. Follow us at @JJBuckleyWines or use the hashtag #JJBatBDX to get the latest info on the wines we’ll be tasting.

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Where to Wine & Dine: Paris

Where to Wine & Dine: Paris

Post by Chuck Hayward | January 25th, 2013

Restaurant

Au Passage Restaurant Exterior

Here at JJ Buckley, January brings with it thoughts of Bordeaux, as the Union des Grand Crus travels the country pouring the latest releases while we make plans for attending the en primeur tastings in France. And with Bordeaux on the brain, it’s not too hard to start dreaming of Paris, the city where we land before traveling south, and where I always make sure to get in an extra day to check out the latest and greatest culinary pit-stops.

Like almost every major city these days, Paris is undergoing another seismic shift in their dining scene. With strong influences from American cuisine (including the arrival of many expat chefs), the plates arriving on today’s Parisian tables highlight bold colors, fresh ingredients and light-handed cooking techniques. In short, they are quite different from the requirements of haute cuisine, which dominated French cooking for decades. Traditional French dining once meant maintaining a large staff and paying rent in pricey neighborhoods. All of the required overhead kept prices too high at a time when diners started tightening their wallets and eating out less. At the same time, the strong traditions surrounding French cuisine and service left little room for younger chefs to innovate in the kitchen and promote a relaxed environment in the dining room. Paris was ready for change and (thankfully) that change has arrived. (more…)

Taking it from the Top: Day 1 starts at Lafite

Taking it from the Top: Day 1 Starts at Lafite

Post by Chuck Hayward | April 5th, 2011

On Monday Team JJB dove head first into in EP 2010. Racing up and down the D2, the main drag which runs the length of the Left Bank, gravel flew as our caravan tore in and out of parking lots. Like a Brooks Brothers-clad A-Team, we jumped out of vans, sprinted across impeccably manicured lawns, took steps two at a time in our suits and ties to make our appointments.

With a radically different itinerary from last year, our first intensive look at the vintage was through the prism of the Premier Grand Crus, the

Latour vista

First Growths of the upper Medoc. The “Big Five”, as they are often referred to, generally attract the most attention each year and it’s not often one gets the chance to taste these wines, either from the barrel or from the bottle. So smoothing hair and straightening jackets, we entered the quiet salon at our first stop, Chateau Lafite. Then we dashed over the hill and south to Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, followed by Chateau Latour, and on to Chateau Margaux. Visits to Cos d’Estournel, Palmer, and Leoville-Las Cases were also on the packed Day One itinerary, as well as a tasting of 2007 and 2008 Bordeaux at the warehouse of a top negoce. Before the sun hit the horizon, it was already a full day.

As might be expected, conversation among the team revolved around the favorites of the four Big Chateaux visited that day (Haut Brion would come on Tuesday). Our conversation turned to (more…)

A Date With Derenoncourt

A Date With Derenoncourt

Post by Chuck Hayward | October 27th, 2010

It was just a year ago when I left my previous job to join the staff at JJ Buckley, and I knew from the outset that I would get a quick introduction to the world of Bordeaux. I knew the basics: the blends, the properties, the appellations. And I knew the names of the major and minor players. But, did I really? One of the names frequently dropped by my JJB teammates was Stephane Derenoncourt, who I discovered was one of the top consulting winemakers in Bordeaux.

The JJ Buckley team in Bordeaux

JJ Buckley’s recent trip there to taste the 2009s in barrel was a revelation for me. Besides providing a great opportunity to learn about the vintage at an intimate level, I was also able to discern the imprint of many of the consultants who work in Bordeaux. It became clear that Michel Rolland’s wines have a certain style, wines of great power and body with luscious and full weight. When trying the wines from the properties owned by Gerard Perse, I noticed strong tannins with substantial texture. Stephane Derenoncourt’s wines stood out, particularly for the harmony of fruit and tannin. They showed an exquisite balance even in the young 09’s.

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