The Count of Canon La Gaffeliere

by Chuck Hayward

The Count of Canon La Gaffeliere

Post by Eddie Wolowski | April 4th, 2012

Count Stephan von Neipperg at "work"

My invitation to a tasting and dinner with Count Stephan von Neipperg at Canon La Gaffeliere was a sort of homecoming for me.

For the past decade, I’ve been a huge fan of the Count’s wines, especially Chateau d’Aiguilhe. The success of d’Aiguilhe is credited with putting Cotes de Castillon on the map, and indeed the wine drinks like its St. Emilion neighbors. Its beautiful, distinctive nose alone would give it away in any blind tasting lineup and it always displays inky black fruit, followed by a lifted mineral quality towards the finish. A big wine for the buck, it was my go-to bottle when I was a struggling artist on a limited budget.

I first met Count Stephan von Neipperg roughly four years ago, at a tasting in New York. Then, I was just a fan of Bordeaux, and I found myself confronted with a perilous lack of spittoons. As I tried to find one, I noticed a friendly gentleman with a moustache, a bright orange sweater tied over his shoulders, holding an instantly recognizable bottle.  I blurted something that, by that point in the evening, bore only distant linguistic similarity to “d’Aiguilhe?!” Count Stephan replied animatedly, “So, you know d’Aiguilhe?” The bottle turned out to be his similarly labeled Canon La Gaffeliere, and served as a wonderful introduction to Neipperg’s other wines. We shared a lively conversation, and despite my state, he extended an invitation to tour d’Aiguilhe.

Chateau d’Aiguilhe

Four years, and a few convivial stateside Neipperg reunions later, I was thrilled to finally take that short trip down the road from St. Emilion to meet the Count on his turf, at Canon La Gaffeliere.

We were greeted with a lineup of 2011 samples from of Neipperg’s portfolio. The most impressive were Clos De L’Oratoire, Canon La Gaffeliere, La Mondotte, and of course, Chateau d’Aiguilhe. Both the red and white from Clos Marsalette were some of the best 2011s from Pessac-Leognan, and Chateau Guirard blanc sec proved it will be a great value wine. The JJ Buckley team agreed that Neipperg’s lineup might be the best stable of 2011 wines with regard to consistency and quality.

Many of the wines include quite a bit of cabernet franc in the blend, a grape which excelled in the 2011 vintage. The extra attention paid to the variety only added to the lush, sensational quality of Neipperg’s wines that he describes as ranging from “intellectual to sexy,” while handsomely reflecting their terroir.

2011 Neipperg "still life"

After the tasting we dined at the Chateau, which doubles as the Neipperg’s residence. The menu of quail and baked beef with potato-carrot cheese fondue was paired with 2003 d’Aiguilhe, the 1998 Clos De L'Oratoire, a 2000 Canon La Gaffeliere, and the 2001 La Mondotte. All were exquisite, showing very well. As a special treat during dinner, we were served a wine from a decanter and asked to guess the vintage. Most of the staff settled on the early 1980s, due to the wine’s freshness and balance, but were all floored when Count Stephan revealed it to be a Canon La Gaffeliere from 1950!

Following dessert, we continued our way upstairs to the living room, where we shared some Cuban cigars and a few games of billiards. The artist in me was particularly enthused by the paintings done by Count Stephan’s lovely wife, Sigweis Grafin. We topped the night off with coffee and more conversation, until we realized it was about 12:30am and the end of a special evening. The whole night, Neipperg showed us the same warmth and charm I witnessed all those years ago in New York. It is no surprise his charisma has made him, and his wines, a Right Bank legend.

Croustillant de Boeuf de Bazas, Blinis Fondant aux Carottes