Tag Archives: Bordeaux

Tasting Note: Chateau Tayac

This is a Trader Joe’s exclusive from Bordeaux that I picked up late last year. It’s a bit early to be drinking 2014 Margaux, even from the petits chateaux, but let’s see if it’s got any potential for aging – if so, I’ll snag a case.  I’m drinking this to accompany a simple cheeseburger with sautéd onions.

Chateau Tayac (2014) Margaux, France – $17

Color: quite dark, purple on the edges and black in the center of the glass.

Aroma: black fruit, cedar, and earth notes.  Nose is a bit impenetrable right now, I’ll give it some air and check again in 30 minutes.

Taste: yes, this is young – a mix of tannins and very dark black fruit up front, then opens up slightly in the midpalate, and finishes very tannic. Aerating in the mouth yields blackberry, dark plums, cassis, and just a touch of chocolate.

40 minutes after my first tastes, I topped up the glass and gave it a good swirl.  Much softer now, I’m happy to report – still lots of blackberry fruit, and solid age-worthy tannins.  The nose is still a little tight, but that’s to be expected.

Recommended – I’m calling my local TJ’s tomorrow to order a case.


Drinking Tonight: 3 Bordeaux Negociant Wines

I’m always hunting for cheap-but-good Bordeaux, especially from the lesser-known appellations. Trader Joe’s has a negociant doing some work there, and I’ve tried a few of their wines already – both red and white. Tonight I have a big tri-tip steak on the grill, and I’m opening three bottles for some side-by-side comparisons.

Photo0307Bordeaux has approximately 40 subzones; I’m a fan of the right-bank (northeastern) subzones of Fronsac, Cotes de Castillon, and the half-dozen St. Emilion appellations, mostly because of their Cabernet Franc content. Two of the wines I’m tasting tonight come from those areas, while the other hails from farther west in the Haut-Medoc zone, where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blend. Full details on the blends are presented with each wine.

The 2011 vintage was a very weird one – the weather was all out of whack, and everyone thought it would be a sub-par year. But it turns out that most critics are now calling the 2011 better than average, and probably a very good value – that’s most likely why the negociant was able to snap up the small-appellation right-bank grapes and sell them on to the US for less than $20. The third bottle is a 2012 – it may be too young, but I thought it worthwhile to crack open at the same time, since it might make a good Christmas present for someone to cellar for 5 or 10 years.

Les Portes de Bordeaux Fronsac (2011) Fronsac, France – $13

90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc

Color: garnet red, right up to the edge, with a just a little purple in the center.

Aroma: spicy and meaty, with strong floral notes, some plum, and some toasty oak.

Taste: decent balance, but a little tight on the finish. More oak influence, definitely some vanilla and toast, and still pretty tannic on the finish. Let’s see what happens with some more air and some food.

Les Portes de Bordeaux Montagne-Saint-Emilion (2011) Montagne-Saint-Emilion, France – $13

70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon

Color: darker, purplish-red throughout.

Aroma: cherry and kirsch, with only a little spice. Develops into more plum, pomegranate, and cassis with some air.

Taste: thinner; this falls off pretty severely in the mid-palate and doesn’t recover on the finish. There’s just heat and tannin on the end. Not looking good, but again, let’s see what air and food do for this.

Les Portes de Bordeaux Haut Medoc (2012) Haut Medoc, France – $13

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot

Color: purple-red verging on garnet – just barely the darkest of the three.

Aroma: cassis right off the bat! Some sweet nutmeg spice follows, along with oaky vanilla.

Taste: yes, this is still young. There’s a burst of cherry, cassis, and plum up front, followed immediately by a strong tannic mid-palate.

OK – here’s the bottom line.  The Fronsac picks up with air and food. The Montagne-Saint-Emilion is still thin. And the Haut Medoc needs at least a couple of years in the cellar. There’s nothing in this batch that’s really outstanding – unlike the white Bordeaux that I reviewed back in September. The Fronsac is reasonable for the price, don’t buy the Montagne-St-E, and take a chance on a couple of bottles of Haut Medoc for the cellar.

Drinking Tonight: Les Portes de Bordeaux

This is the red counterpart to the white Bordeaux I tried a week ago. It’s a Trader Joe’s exclusive that I bought early in the summer and am just getting around to trying. I’m having this with a some beef and onions over Yukon gold potatoes.

Les Portes de Bordeaux (2009) Bordeaux, France – $7.50

Photo0237Color: garnet red, with a touch of purple-black in the center.

Aroma: cherry and kirsch, with cedar undertones. Maybe just a hint of black pepper in there as well.

Taste: supple and clean – cherry, dried cherry, some dry, dusty spice, and just a little oak on the finish. I wouldn’t call this an international-style wine, but it’s a very approachable Bordeaux. It has a medium body throughout, with some kirsch notes in the mid-palate and finish. A very pleasant wine for under $10.

Drinking Tonight: Les Portes de Bordeaux Blanx

White Bordeaux can be a real treat – a creamy, lush blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon that’s just the thing for steamed shellfish, a warm wheel of brie, or a summer vegetable salad. This is an inexpensive $9 bottling from Trader Joe’s that I’m enjoying with some cheese and salad tonight. Although this is labeled Sauvignon Blanc for the US market, I’m certain there’s some Semillon in it.

Les Portes de Bordeaux Blanc (2012) Bordeaux, France – $9.

Photo0235(1)Color: pale straw yellow with a touch of green.

Aroma: a nice balance of herbal and grassy notes with some soft gooseberry fruit.

Taste: thyme and basil, followed by lemongrass, citrus, and more gooseberry. The mouthfeel is creamy: this has excellent balance and is not too acidic – a challenge for inexpensive white Bordeaux. A good choice for an introductory White Bordeaux.  If you’re a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, this shows the benefits of Semillon to the blend.  It plumps out the texture and body, and rounds off the fruit flavors to make it a more versatile wine.

Drinking Tonight: 2 Bordeaux

I’m making a loaded Margherita pizza (I know that’s a contradiction in terms – please don’t go all pizza purist on me) and decided to try out 2 new Bordeaux I picked up recently from Trader Joe’s.  These may be inexpensive, but they are from sub-appellations within the general Bordeaux AOC, so they aren’t mixed-up leftovers.  Let’s try them out!

Chateau Amour (2009) Medoc, France – $10.00

Color: straightforward reddish purple, what you’d expect from left-bank Bordeaux.

Aroma: bright cherry and cedar, with some warm spice and red currant underneath.

Photo0233Taste: Hmm, a little thin, a little green. The alcohol is high on this (13.5%) so I’m afraid that’s dominating the rest of the wine. Tannins are good – not great – but the oak is too noticeable on the finish.

Chateau Mayne Guyon (2010) Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux – $10.50

Color: a darker, very purple color. This appellation (which has changed names and boundaries several times in the last 2 decades) generally produces a more ‘international’ style of wine, and I suspect that’s what is going on here.

Aroma: blueberry and black fruit, including cassis, with a little white pepper. No blending information on the bottle, but I suspect a good dollop of Cabernet Franc in this.

Taste: Starts off very promising, but is a little dumb on the mid-palate and finish. It’s opening up with some air. Notes of black fruit, anise, and oak-moderated spice, with a much fuller body.  It also has no heat, despite being higher in alcohol than the Chateau Amour.

Bottom line – the Chateau Amour is not recommended; you don’t see a lot of $10 Bordeaux, but you can certainly find things in the $14 range that are heads and shoulders better – not to mention other old-world style wines from South Africa, Spain, and even the US in that price range. The Chateau Mayne Guyon is growing on me as it opens up – it’s not good enough to go in the ‘recommended’ category, but if you’ve never had a decent Bordeaux, this would be a good way to get started. It has enough Old World style to differentiate itself from a straight California Cab, without being overly fussy.


Drinking Tonight: Trader Joe’s Reserve Chilean and Chateau Haut Blaignan

I’ve got a bacon-wrapped tenderloin and some mushroom-onion sauce cooking, I thought I’d compare these two bottles I picked up last week.

The Reserve Chilean is 60% Cabernet Franc (one of my favorite grapes) and 40% Petit Verdot (which you rarely see in Chile) from the Colchagua Valley.  Haut Blaignan is from the Medoc, so it’s going to be Cabernet Sauvignon dominated.  Let’s see how these stack up head to head.

Chateau Haut Blaignan 2011

Color: garnet red, full from center to edge.

Aroma: spicy and cedary, with red cherry and some berry fruit.

Taste: decent balance, but a little hot.  I think it needs a year or two. A straightforward Bordeaux but nothing exceptional.


Trader Joe’s Reserve Chilean 2010

Color: Purplish-red, you can see the Petit Verdot in this.

Aroma: Classic Cab Franc – pepper, leather, cedar, purple fruit.  This is promising.

Taste: A good blend – blackberry, pepper, and a good lashing of oak & tannin on the finish.  A pretty good bottle for $10.


Overall the Chilean is a better bottle.  I think the Bordeaux might be better with lamb.

Drinking Tonight: Chateau Coucy

I’ve been enjoying this for some time – it’s a Montagne Saint-Emilion, one of the little satellite appellations in Bordeaux, uphill from Libourne on the right bank.  I’ve just about consumed all my 2000s; I think I’ve got 2 bottles left after this.  It’s been drinking very nice for the last 5 years.

Color: bricky red with a little cloudiness from the suspended sediments.  Still some purple in the depths.

Aroma: very Cab Franc dominated – cedar, smoke, black pepper – plus some plummy fruit.

Taste: excellent balance: fruit and acid up front, then switching over to tannin and spice in the midpalate.  Dry tannins on the finish – but after 30 minutes or so it softens and opens up some more.

Still plenty of life in this one – another example of why 2000 Bordeaux is the vintage of the century.  And this was just $20 or so when I bought it 8-10 years ago.