April 3 – the First Tasting Notes

by Chuck Hayward

For now, the notes are somewhat in random order, but they will be organized by region in a couple of days. Our schedules are completely busy everyday from 7am to midnight. For now, I have included some of the notes that we took and there will be many more to follow as soon as we have a moment to transfer them from our hand written notes to the computer. Some of the notes will definitely surprise you…so stay tuned. However, of importance, I can say that this definitely seems to be the year of the second labels. The top Chateau, fairly consistently, produced great to outstanding second labels. With prices looking rather high for the most well known grand vins, I firmly believe the values will be in their second labels. The one thing to hang your hat on in ’05 is the overall quality of the fruit, no matter the varietal. When you have a vintage like this, I recommend going with the properties with the best winemaking teams as well as best locations. Look for second wines from Margaux, Montrose, Mouton, Cos d’Estournel, Latour, Ducru, and Pichon Longueville (Baron but not Lalande) to mention a few (we have only tasted the leftbank as of today, so look for the complete set of tasting notes for other recommendations).

8am – Chateau Haut Brion – Private tasting led by the vineyard manager. A few general notes and observations: Approximately 8,000 vines per hectare in Haut Brion vs 10,000 at La Mission Haut Brion. For the white wines, there was NO botrytis this year in their Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Usually one will find that a third of the grapes are removed but none this year – quite remarkable. The vineyard manager feels that the ‘05s in general had a lot of density, concentration, alcohol, tannin, and acidity. He didn’t feel that the wines were as round as the 2000 vintage which he actually prefers to the 2005. This year they did thin all their plots, including the old vines because of the dry winter. Also of note, the wines will undergo a slight filtration before going into bottle, but at this time they were unfiltered. In all, there were common characteristics in the reds of spice and pepper and most all the wines were showing tannins that were not as round or well integrated as I would have hoped for.

2005 La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion : 30% Merlot, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. This is the second wine of La Mission Haut Brion. A dark and opulent wine with deep purple hues that turn ruby on the rim. Rich caramel, warm chocolate and hints of raspberry on the nose. Palate is tight and chewy with hints of black pepper and heavy toasted oak. The finish is long and spicy but a little light on fruit. 90 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion : 35% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc. This is the second wine of Haut Brion. Dark red / purple with flecks of violet on the rim. Not a lot on the nose. Tight focus with hints of leeks. Lacks fruit on the palate too. Nice acidity, but a bit low on tannins. 84-86 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau La Tour Haut-Brion : 32% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 41% Cabernet Franc. Dark ruby / purple, thick. Hints of blueberry on the nose followed by vanilla and new, toasty oak. Large tannic structure. Very tight and a bit leathery, yet well balanced. Tart rasberries and cherries on the pallet. 86 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion : 69% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1%Cabernet Franc. Purple with blue hues on the rim. Fresh red fruit and mint on the nose. Fruit comes up over tannic notes of oak and leather. Some white pepper and sweet spice with hints of tar. Huge juicy tannins on palate. Bright red rasberry. 90-93 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Haut-Brion : 56% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Dark black purple. So thick, light almost folds into it. Cool blueberry aromas. Not much else at first. Opens to light oak, chocolate and cherry. Smokey leather, tobacco, and tar on the palate. Heavy tannins pulling at my teeth. Dark blackberry and cassis flavors are muted somewhat by heavy oak and green tannic overtones. 92-95 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Laville Haut-Brion : 78% Semillon and 22% Sauvignon Blanc. Rich hay gold color. Nose. Wow, very different. Fresh spearmint and green herbs, lemon zest. Soft entry onto the palate. Mint still present with light hints of bubblegum and lemon. Medium crisp finish. Fresh fruit falls a little short. 90 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Haut Brion Blanc : 48% Semillon and 52% Sauvignon Blanc. Light gold with flecks of green. Very similar nose to the Laville. Lots of fresh mint and sweet grapefruit. Very crisp and fresh on the palate. Full ruby red grapefruit with lively accidity and a long finish. 92-93 Pts – Mike Supple

9am – Chateau Margaux – Private tasting led by Paul Pontallier, Director of Chateau Margaux. A few general notes and observations: Cabernet did better than Merlot this year. Paul says that the year as a whole was incredibly special – the driest year on record. Only 4 inches of rain between May 1 and the beginning of harvest. The yield is smaller than in ’00 and ‘03…which turns out to be just about the only unfortunate thing about this wine. I must say there was a general buzz in the air at this Chateau and its people were very proud of what they had accomplished.

2004 Chataux Margaux: 78%Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Hints of brick in the red color. Aromas of violets and cutt grass. Very floral with underlying red fruits. On palate, cut grass and new oak give way to cherry and black pepper, leather. Full dry tanins are slightly astringent. Loses some of it’s balance on the mid palate. Finishes with a hint of creamy chocolate and coffee. 92 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Margaux: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Extremely dark purple. Thick and opulent. Deepest color they’ve ever had. Rich ripe and full aromas of rasberry cinamon, clove and cucumber with hints of green plumb. Instant chocolate covered cherries on the palate. Very full in the mouth, yet soft and sweet enough tannins to be aproachable. Fresh rasberry and blackberry with enough structure to age beautifully, but I could almost drink it now, due to it’s incredible balance. Round, well integrated tannins. Possibly the Best Wine of 2005. 99-100 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Chateau Margaux Pavillon Rouge: 48% Cabernet Sauvgnon, 48% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot. Thick glass coating of purple / red. Rich Bing cherry, chocolate, coffee, rasberry, hints of sour cherry and spice on the nose. Big, big tannins are pulling at the back of my tongue and throat. Dense, lush and full. New oak, rasberry and bitter chocolate on the palate. 93-94 Pts – Mike Supple

2005 Leoville Barton: Extremely dark, thick, inky purple color. Cassis and black fruit. Notes of coffee, chocolate as well as a slight perfume of roses and eucalyptus. Huge, ripe, juicy tannins, this is a very balanced wine with a nice, very long finish. Not overdone. 95-98 Pts – Shaun Bishop

2005 Calon Segur: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc. Fresh black berries and cassis. Very powerful and complex wine also showing notes of cocoa. The possible drawback here are the very high and somewhat harsh tannins. This one will need time…maybe 10 years before you touch it. Nevertheless, overall this was a delicious wine. 90-92 Pts – Shaun Bishop

2005 La Dame de Montrose: This is the second wine of Chateau Montrose. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot. Dark purple color. Fresh dark fruits. Very good structure for a second wine. Notes of cherries and spice. Lots of lively but not obtrusive tannins. Very long, lingering smokey plum finish. Should be a great value. 90-92 Pts – Shaun Bishop

2005 Montrose: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 3.5% Cabernet Franc, and 0.5% Petit Verdot. Black/purple in color. Aromas of perfume, violets, and lavender. Very complex wine with a long aftertaste. Cassis and vanilla on the palate. The tannins are abundant and sharp, so be forewarned, this will need some time but will probably last for 50 years. Nevertheless, a great wine that merits your attention that appears to be one of the top wines in St Estephe. 95-97 Pts – Shaun Bishop

2005 Les Pagodes de Cos: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot. Readers need to take note of this wine – the second wine of Cos d’Estournel. Aromas of cassis, tobacco and coffee – even a touch of cinnamon. Flavors of gamey meat and white pepper. Very unique…in a good way. Aged in 40% new barrels. Very nice tannic structure. This is an outstanding wine that will be well worth your money and should be purchased without a second thought. 93-96 Pts – Shaun Bishop