A Taste of Pomerol's Chateau Lafleur with JJ Buckley

by Fred Swan - Guest Blogger

chateau lafleur

Chateau Lafleur

Chateau Lafleur is one of the most-coveted wines of Bordeaux. The exceptional vineyard, is located in Pomerol, next to Chateau Petrus. It’s quite small, just over 11 acres, delivering high quality but low volume. The grand vin is a complex and long-aging, 50-50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Pomerol is well-know for its clay soils, which tend to favor Merlot. Thus, the large percentage of Cabernet Franc at Chateau Lafleur is unusual and only made possible by the estate’s unique assortment of soils: sandy-clay gravel, clay gravel, and gravelly sand. The first of those soils is particularly low in fertility and water availability, leading to very small, concentrated grapes. The second is especially good for Lefleur’s old Cabernet Franc vines. Omri Ram, cellar master at Lafleur says the Cabernet Franc contributes to a leaner and more mineral palate than conventional Pomerol.

There’s more to Chateau Lafleur than its flagship red though. The chateau offers another red from the same property, plus two reds and two whites from their estate in Fronsac, Chateau Grand Village.

While Chateau Grand Village is some 25 minutes away from Chateau Lafleur, Ram says they “think of the two as being the same and do the same thing for all the wines.” He also says they “aren’t big on technology,” preferring a traditional, manual approach in both vineyards and wineries. This is all done with great care, however. Fruit is sorted twice in the vineyard and twice more on sorting tables at the wineries. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel and in concrete.

omri ram of chateau lafleur

Cellar master Omri Ram of Chateau Lafleur during the JJ Buckley tasting in SF

JJ Buckley recently hosted tastings of Chateau Lafleur wines in San Francisco at the city’s acclaimed La Folie restaurant. Cellar Master Ram was on hand to detail the producer’s vineyards, viticultural and vinification philosophies and techniques, and to introduce the wines. It was standing room only, with sommeliers, writers and consumers eager to learn.

The 2008 Chateau Lafleur is intensely aromatic now, a chorus of just-ripe red cherry, cherry blossom, red currant, cocoa and bay leaf. The palate offers medium-plus body with sophisticated tannins that are fine-grained and softish with a grippy edge. That, along with ample fruit—plum,  red currant, and red and black cherry—and notable acidity make make for a wine that’s just coming into the drinking window but will develop beautifully for more than 15 years. Only 1,000 cases, at most, of this wine are made annually.

chateau lafleur wine

The lineup from Chateau Lafleur

Les Pensées de Lafleur, the other red from Lafleur’s estate, is an even lower volume wine, less than 250 cases per vintage. Vinification is the same for Les Pensées as for Chateau Lafleur but the grapes come from a particular 2 acre swath of the vineyard with soils more typical to Pomerol. The cooler, richer soil retards ripening somewhat, but leads to a wine that is often approachable earlier in its life than the grand vin.

The 2011 Les Pensées de Lafleur is deep ruby-purple in the glass with aromas of red and black fruit, dried violets, spice and dried currant leaf. It has medium-plus body in the mouth with plenty of softish, fine- and light-grained texture. The flavors, which match the nose and add cocoa, are richly concentrated.

The vineyard at Chateau Grand Village features clay-limestone soil. The vines are predominantly Merlot, but there is also Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

Acte 6 is a limited production red from the property with 15 months of barrel aging. The 2014 s a red-fruited wine with dusty minerality, dark flowers, dry herb and oak. It’s concentration and fine structure suggest it will age nicely for a decade or so.

The Grande Village rouge is a medium-bodied wine, always consisting of at least 75% to 85% Merlot. It’s made in an easily approachable style which Ram deems appropriate for a nice, weekday lunch in Bordeaux. The 2013 offers very fine, moderate structure and good balance of red cherry fruit, floral notes and mineral with lovely orange zest highlights.

It’s somewhat rare to find white wines from the Right Bank for Bordeaux, but Grand Village offers two delightful options. Les Champs Libres is a project that only began in 2013 and volume is only about 300 cases per year. The name means “a free hand” or, essentially, “no rules.” True to its name, the approach is open-minded, looking to create a delightful white without leaning on Bordelais tradition.

The wine is fermented and aged for nine months in 100% new Burgundian(!) barrels, but shows only a kiss of oak on the nose. It’s a fresh, juicy, fruit-forward wine of grapefruit and orange pith with a hint of flint and pretty, rose petal accents.

Grand Village blanc is made from 40-year old vines and more traditionally Bordelais in style. The cépage ranges from 40% to 60% Sauvignon Blanc with the balance being Semillon. Half is  vinified in stainless steel and the rest in a mix of new and once-used barrels. Aging is all in barrel and lasts eight months. The 2015 is a lovely wine of white and yellow peach, lemon, tropical fruit pretty white flowers, dry grass and oak. It’s mouthwatering and superbly balanced with appetizing tanginess.

You may not have been able to attend the excellent Chateau Lafleur tasting, but you can still try the wines. Here's what JJ Buckley has in stock right now.

Current and past vintages of Chateau Lafleur and Les Pensées de Lafleur 

Chateau Grand Village

JJ Buckley guest blogger Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator, and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing has appeared in The Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal. Online, he writes for his own site, FredSwan.Wine (formerly NorCalWine), PlanetGrape, and GuildSomm. He teaches at the San Francisco Wine School. Fred’s certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Napa Valley Wine Educator and Level 3 WSET Educator. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. In that same year, he was inducted into the Eschansonnerie des Papes, the honorary society of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.

Chateau Lalfeur photo courtesy of the estate.