First Pair: 1994 & 1982 Château Laville Haut Brion
This wine and Château Haut Brion Blanc display the brilliance and lure of white Bordeaux. The last vintage of this wine with the name Laville Haut Brion was in 2008. It’s now called Château La Mission Haut Brion Blanc, the name it was called during the first four years it was made. Laville Haut Brion was created in the 1600s, and the Laville family maintained control of it for over 100 years. Then, it was bought and sold a bit over the years and in 1983, it was purchased by the Clarence Dillon Family, owners of Château Haut Brion, along with Château La Mission Haut Brion and Château La Tour Haut Brion. In the only classification of the Graves wines in 1959, Laville Haut Brion was one of only two Châteaux that only produced white Bordeaux from the Pessac Leognan appellation. Laville Haut Brion was planted with white grapes in 1923, as the soil was considered unsuitable for red grapes. The vineyard is only 3.5 hectares, and it’s located next to La Mission Haut Brion. It’s planted with 70% Semillon, 27% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle. These are two contrasting vintages – you have the cooler, wet vintage of 1994 restraining the Semillon and allowing the citrus notes of the Sauvignon Blanc in the blend to come through juxtaposed against the warm vintage of 1982 which brings out the rich, waxy quality from the Semillon.
Second Pair: 2012 & 1995 Weingut Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Auslese
Weingut Zilliken is a traditional German Riesling producing estate that makes the wine the same way they have for years. It was established in 1742 in the Saar, and Hanno Zilliken has been the cellarmaster since 1976 and the proprietor since 1981. All the fruit is estate owned, hand-picked and aged in neutral fuders, large barrels. Hanno believes great wine is made in the vineyard. Saarburger Rausch (10 hectares) is the most important vineyard for Zilliken as the soil quality, location of the vineyard, and the fact that the roots reach up to 10 meters deep into the grey, slate soil result in a Riesling with minerality and elegance. These are the hallmarks of Zilliken. The 2012 vintage began quite worrisome as too much rain during the spring caused poor flowering and fruit set, so the concern was the yields would be quite low. Fortunately, the summer and autumn conditions were much better enabling the yields to be average and the quality of the wine high, on par with the results achieved in 2011. The 2012 vintage is marked by exceptional aromatics. In 1995, growing conditions started out well and seemed very promising then rains came in August and continued through September. The warm weather of October helped to bring the vintage back, so the growers who delayed picking made very good wine. The 1995 vintage in the Saar is similar to the strong vintages of 1993 and 1994. The wines have vibrant acidity balanced by lively, ripe fruit.
Third Pair: 2011 & 2001 Domaine Robert Chevillon Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru ‘Les St. Georges’
Domaine Robert Chevillon is located in Nuits St. Georges and is likely the best example of the high quality Pinot Noir that can be made from this appellation. The Domaine dates back to the 1900s. It consists of eight premier crus and also makes Aligote, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Passetoutgrain (a blend of 1/3 Pinot Noir and 2/3 Gamay). The Premier Cru Les St. Georges is one of the oldest microclimates as it dates back to 1000 A.D. Domaine Robert Chevillon owns .6 hectares of this top vineyard which is being considered for Grand Cru status, and the vines are 75 years old. To make the wine, the grapes are destemmed and after slow fermentation are aged in 30% new oak barrels, depending on the vintage. The vintage 2011 was challenging in Burgundy. It started off well with flowering happening early. However, then periods of back and forth rain and hot temperatures throughout the summer made mildew a problem and required good sorting through the grapes. The resulting wines can be compared to the 2007 vintage with thicker skins yielding more structure to the wines and deeper fruit notes. The 2011 and 2001 vintages are a sharp contract to each other and the 2001 will likely outlast the 2011. Initially, reviewers gave underwhelming marks to the 2001s. The 2001 vintage was cold, cloudy and rainy. The flowering happened late, so the vintage varied from appellation. However, the strength of the vintage has far outshined those initial reviews. Nuits St. Georges produced successful wines. It’s a vintage where purity of fruit shines through, and it’s balanced by acidity. The wines speak of their terroir in 2001.
Forth Pair: 2011 & 2008 Rhys Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir
Rhys vineyards specializes in making top quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah in California. It’s owned by a Burgundy lover, Kevin Harvey, who had a successful software and finance career that enabled him to start planting Pinot Noir. The winemaker is Jeff Brinkman. The first vintage of Pinot Noir for Rhys was in 2004. The philosophy at Rhys is that great wine is made in the vineyard not in the winery, so they use practices such a foot treading and native fermentation using the natural yeasts found on the grapes when they’re brought in rather than adding any nutrients. Rhys is made up of seven estate vineyards. Six vineyards are located in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one vineyard is located in Anderson Valley. Bearwallow vineyard is located in Anderson Valley in an area referred to as the “Deep End”; it’s the coolest northwest corner of the Valley. The vineyard consists of 31 acres planted on rocky slopes. After tasting many examples of the minerally driven and elegant Pinot Noir that could be produced from the Deep End hills, Rhys purchased the Bearwallow vineyard in 2008 which already contained six acres of eight-year-old vines. Thus, the first vintage of Bearwallow was 2008. The vineyard gets its name from the predominate soil located there which is called Bearwallow-Wolfey soil series. The 2011 vintage was difficult for Rhys. Challenging weather conditions including cold weather in June, hot weather in September and rains brought the production down 60% from 2009 and 2010. Kevin Harvey even sold off some of the grapes because he didn’t believe they were up to the quality standards for a Rhys wine. In the end, Rhys made good wine because of the sorting and strict quality control of the grapes they used to produce their wine. Some winemakers equated 2011 in Anderson Valley to the years they have in Burgundy regularly. The 2011 Pinot Noir is more elegant, lighter with restraint on the alcohol but still yielding concentration in the fruit. The vintage 2008 was challenging for many producers in Anderson Valley due to the many wildfires that burned in the area that summer. Fortunately, Rhys didn’t suffer from the smoke taint problem that many winemakers faced. The year produced lighter yields than 2007 with smaller berries giving strong fruit quality. This 2008 is a concentrated and structured Pinot Noir with the minerality and spice notes distinctive of the vineyard site.
Fifth Pair: 2000 & 1990 Château Léoville Poyferré
Léoville dates back to 1638, and at that time, it was the largest domain in the Médoc. It was also a leader in vineyard management as it was one of the first to plant grape varieties that would yield smaller berries giving greater concentration to the wines. Also, they used pinewood to trellis the rows and started ageing the wine in oak barrels and using a sulfur solution to clean them. Over the years, the domain has been broken up. In 1840, Léoville Poyferré began and in 1979, Didier Cuvelier took over. Léoville Poyferré comprises 60 hectares in the commune of Saint Julien in the heart of the Médoc. The vineyards are planted with 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The quality of the wine really improved with the 1982 vintage and the influence of Didier Cuvelier’s direction. The wine is aged in 75% new French oak barrels on average for 18 months. The 2000 and 1990 vintages were both terrific vintages for Léoville Poyferré. In 2000, the growing conditions started out challenging but by July perfect weather conditions moved in. Then, come September a little rain fell, and the grapes produced wine with strong levels of tannin and concentration. The key success of the 2000 vintage in Bordeaux was that high quality wine was made across all the appellations. In 1990, the vintage was a hot one with a dry summer, but the rains came just in time in September producing grapes with good ripeness levels, sugars and potential alcohols. Two top vintages that are ten years a part. It’s not often we get to make this comparison.
|1994||Chateau Laville Haut Brion||750ml||WA94|
|1982||Chateau Laville Haut Brion||750ml||WA93|
|2012||Weingut Zilliken - Saarburger Rausch Auslese||750ml||--|
|1995||Weingut Zilliken - Saarburger Rausch Auslese||750ml||--|
|2011||Domaine Chevillon - Nuits St Georges 1er Cru 'Les St Georges'||750ml||BH92-95|
|2001||Domaine Chevillon - Nuits St Georges 1er Cru 'Les St Georges'||750ml||BH91|
|2011||Rhys Vineyards - Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir||750ml||BH91|
|2008||Rhys Vineyards - Bearwallow Vineyard Pinot Noir||750ml||BH93|
|2000||Château Léoville Poyferré||750ml||WA97|
|1990||Château Léoville Poyferré||750ml||WA97|
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