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July 07, 2009

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Evan - I've had a few 61s in my day, I am thrilled for you that this one lived up to the lofty reputation. What a great experience to have. Just a quick note though, this Chateau (Latour du Pin Figeac) used to be part of the Figeac property many years ago, but shouldn't be confused with Chat. Figeac, which holds an even loftier reputation as a Premier Grand Cru Classe. A Chat. Figeac '61 might have been even better, who knows? But your bottle sounds just wonderful!

Jim - A sloppy and perhaps Freudian transcription error! Thanks for catching it. This bottle was not the exalted Chateau Figeac - though I can't claim to know what that's like. That does make it all the more remarkable that it survived so beautifully! Clearly a nod to the outstanding vintage.

Bryan,

On the contrary, Catawba is one of the few native varieties that historically has received a special asterix next to its name. In the 19th-Century, before vinifera was widely planted, some American wineries in Ohio and in the Finger Lakes produced great wines with Catawba (including a sparkler at Great Western in Hammondsport that won some critical acclaim in Europe).

While I'm sure it has its limitations, Catawba is always a varietal I'm willing to approach with a very open mind. Sounds like a very interesting ice wine!

Evan,
I would have LOVED to have tasted that. A merlot based half bottle still kicking ass almost a half century later. What other region builds wines like that?! That is why 1/3 of my cellar is right bank Bordeaux:)

Dan,

The quick research I've done indicates that this estate was not far from Cheval Blanc, and I think there's some Cab Franc involved here, too. Which, for me, is all the better. But I confess that the older Bordeaux I've had bring a similar profile, and I'm not sure I could discern the Cab Franc from the Merlot at 50 years.

It's always a treat to drink those bottles - I'm blessed, no doubt.

Perhaps you can help me... I'm always hesitant to buy Bordeaux for the purpose of laying it down because I'm not confident there is real value in the $40 and less category, and if I want to drop upwards of $100 I want to be confident it's a profile I like. How do you approach it?

Bryan,

What's the retail price on that wine? Love the way you had us guessing the varietal. Catawba is, ahem, not at all what I was expecting.

Evan,
While Bordeaux is home to some of the worlds most famous and expensive wines, it has also some of the greatest values. Im serious. The majority of my Bordeaux are under 40 bucks. The classified growths of the Medoc and the Grand Cru's of St. Emillion can be quite pricey (but smart buyers can still find good values there). Pomerol can be just as bad (or worse) because of the garage style operations and limited juice. There are, however, appelations right around those famous appelations that crank out great wine at great prices. Especially in superior vintages (2000, 2003, 2005). Cote de castillon is one of my favorite sites and just east of St. Emillion. It shares the same soil, sun, etc. Many shrewd St. Emillon owners are actually investing in this region because of the huge potential. It produces excellent merlot and cab franc based wines that are affordable (20-25 bucks or less in most cases), drinkable, and ageworthy all at once. Cote de Franc and Fronsac are also great under valued regions. The left bank cru borgeois wines can also be good bang for the buck wines in great vintages if your craving a cooler climate cabernet sauv based wine. Plus, years that aren't as heralded or that follow excellent vintages (2001, 2004, 2006 come to mind) the Bordelaise have a harder time selling the wines so prices drop sharply. You just have to be knowledgeable and keep your eyes open all the time...

Back when I had some cash to waste, I bought a bunch of 2000 and 2003 Bordeaux's under the $30 mark. I relied on the opinion of shop owners who called these particular choices "good buys" and "hidden treasures." My goal is to give them 10+ years and then start enjoying them, assuming that most are built to show just a little longevity from a good vintage. Maybe one or two might last longer, but I'll be a millionaire by then, so whatever...

Dan,

Here is the extent of my current Bordeaux collection: '02 Lascombes, '05 Pouget, and '05 Croix de Beaucaillou. Your advice is heavily appreciated!

Jason,

With your line of work I am stunned that you are not already a millionaire. I say the same thing about myself, only I don't. Ever. :)

Jason and Dan are right on track. I love the value in the "off" vintages like 01 and 04. Plus I think 10 years is the right time to start drinking them.

I collect a little ditty called Chateau Beaumont ($15) which is delightful (Cab based though) and shows very well at 8,9, 10+ years old.

As a sommelier in the 90s I had occasion to drink a thousand clarets you would have called "old" at the time. (One time a flight of 53s, wow.) That 1961 of yours is the exception, not the rule.

Chances of getting greatness start to fall off rapidly past 15-20 years of age, and then precipitously at 30 years, even for the big name growths.

Jim,

Your experience matches my expectations for aged Bordeaux: I don't expect a winner every time. I recently went to a friend's house for dinner and another guest shocked everyone by showing up with two '75s: A Gruaud Larose, which was beautiful, and a Beychevelle, which was toast. We were thrilled to go one for two!

Jim,
I have a case of the 05 Beaumont. Great example of how the little guys can make great wine in a year like 2005. Got it for 14 a bottle. I cracked into a bottle and it was peaking on day 3 and even 4 which gives you a little insight into how it will age.

Evan,
The Block Three Ice Wine retails for $49.95 for 375ml

Jason,
The Great Western Sparkler you mentioned was made by the same winemaker of this wine. He also does a sparkling wine with catawba as a base at Schulze as well. That one is called Cuvee Rosé Sparkling Wine.

Bryan,

The winemaker in question must be quite up there, as the European award-winning Great Western sparkler I mentioned dates back to 1875 or so... ( ;

BUT, of course I know that you are referring to the current version of Great Western's catawba sparkler. It's cool that he has learned to find expression with this unique grape!

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