Amateurs party on weekends...Pros throw down Mondays with Michel Rolland
Post by Chris Caughman | Monday, March 29th
After completing our third full day of speeding recklessly down the medieval cobblestone streets of St. Emilion and chasing down every Right Bank chateau that would take us, we finally made our way up the D2 to the sprawling expanse of Bordeaux's Left Bank. Regal chateaux rise from the rocky-soil vineyards, dot the horizon and refuse to let us forget we are anywhere other than where we are.
- "And a martini. Shaken, not stirred."
An incredible string of appointments with legendary Left Bank producers, including four First Growths (don't worry, Latour. . .we'll get to you later), finally came to an end with dinner at Chateau Palmer for part of the team, while the rest of us made our way to Chateau Lascombes in the heart of the Margaux commune. And oh yeah, rock star consulting winemaker Michel Rolland happened to be there.
A tour of the Chateau with our host, Karen, revealed the details of all-things-Lascombes. Chateau Lascombes has been producing wine apparently since before anybody can remember, but took its magnificent current form when purchased by an American company, Colony Capital, in 2001. Under the direction of General Manager and the maybe nicest guy you'll ever meet, Dominique Befve, Lascombes boldly ripped up 12 hectares of cabernet sauvignon. With the guiding philosophy that terroir will dictate varieties, the vineyards were replanted with merlot, which now accounts for 50% of the vineyards, alongside 45% cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (unique to Lascombes in Margaux). Our tour led us through the cellar, where we ogled the Chateau's library collection with vintages dating back to 1892, and concluded in the tasting room for a true highlight of the trip.
- The barrel room at Ch. Lascombes doubles as a discotheque!
We were presented not only the 2009 Chateau Lascombes to taste, but first the single-variety bottlings of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot that combine to make for the final cepage. This is truly a rare and special experience from a Bordeaux producer, showing Lascombes' commitment to education and openness about winemaking . . .and obviously it's amazing to play Bordeaux winemaker and note what each variety brings to the table. Merlot for rich fruit and softness; cabernet for power and tannin; petit verdot for color, density and earthy complexity. The finished product displays deep, layered aromas of rich, but not overly ripe black fruits, mocha and earth. The palate boasts gorgeous, round velvety structure that shows balance, power, length and definite indications of a long life to come.
When we finished raving to one another about our experience ("dude. . .THAT was awesome"), we were invited to the dining room for Champagne, appetizers, and a chat with M. Rolland about the 2009 vintage. Although the term "vintage of the century" gets thrown around a lot, Michel says this time it might actually be true. He prefers 2009 to 2005, pointing towards the harmony and definition of tannin as the determining factor. The tannins are "so integrated, so silky that they're good to drink today, three years from now, and 20 years from now!" The last time Michel Rolland felt this strongly about a vintage? Yup, you guessed it: 1982.