Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"A Special Winemaker Dinner with Chateau Lafleur"

The subject dinner, held at Soho's SC Culinary Suite, was hosted by Zachys, one of the world's leading fine wine retailers and auctioneers. In addition to the storied wines of the estate, the dinner featured wines from non-Pomerol sources, all presented by the estate's Cellarmaster, Omri Ram. I had the honor of sitting next to Omri during the course of the dinner.

I have previously described the Pomerol appellation (source of the grapes for the estate wine) as well as the estate's grape-growing and winemaking environments and practices. In this post I describe the actual tasting.

SC Culinary Suite is located on the 9th Floor at 598 Broadway in New York City. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I made it up to the dining room because the entry door was miniscule and opened into a vanishingly small lobby where one waited interminably for a slow-moving elevator. I was convinced that I was in the wrong place until the elevator doors opened, revealing a more "wine-familiar" environment.

Don Zacharia, President of Zachys, opened the night's proceedings. Lafleur, he said, was a mythical wine, hard to get. This tasting, he continued, is one of his highlights of the year. At the conclusion of his brief remarks, he introduced Omri and passed the baton.

Omri thanked us all for coming. Lafleur does not do a lot of wine tastings, he said. "We are simple people with no departments and no titles." He saw Lafleur as "one of the most different wines in Bordeaux" having more of a kinship to a Mosel, Côte Rotie, or Burgundy wine rather than a Bordeaux. With deference to the attendees, who he assumed were all collectors, he held out that Lafleur was a wine that was made to be drunk.

After these opening remarks, he turned to the first three wines on offer: The 2014 Les Champs Libres, the 2010 Chateau Grand Village, and the 2014 Acte 6.

One of the surprises coming out of the Lafleur tasting (for me), was the fact that the Guinaudeau family owned property, and made wines, beyond the Pomerol estate. Chateau Grand Village, located in small commune of Mouillac between the Côtes de Bourg and Fronsac appellations, has been in family since the 1600s and is the source of the Les Champs Libres and Chateau Grand Village mentioned above. The vineyards (14 ha, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc for the Chateau Grand Village; 0.7 ha, Sauvignon Blanc for Les Champs Libres; and 2.3 ha, mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for the Chateau Grand Village Bordeaux Blanc.) are planted on hillside and plateau plots whose soils are a mix of clay, limestone, and gravel. The vineyard practices are consistent with those employed at Chateau Lafleur,

Frontenac lies between Chateau Grand Village and the Lafleur estate and has been an arena in which the Guinaudeau family is seeking to build a new label from scratch. This ongoing project has seen the family buy a number of plots on the south-facing limestone and clay slopes of the Fronsac commune for the purposes of crafting a stellar Cabernet Franc-Merlot blended wine. The plots are farmed, and the wines vinified, in the same manner as their counterparts in Mouillac and Pomerol. The name of the project is G Acte and each vintage is given a different nomenclature. The first vintage, for example, was called Acte 1 and the most recent release, Acte 6.

The 2014 Les Champs Libres was rich with a waxy nose, white peaches and smoke. Bright on the palate with rust, spice, salinity and minerality. Lengthy finish.

The 2010 Chateau Grand Village was a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. It showed ripe black fruits, earth and licorice with balancing acidity and integrated tannins. Still has a few years left. Omri sees this wine as akin to a Village wine in Burgundy and beginning to develop the capacity to age.

I thought the Acte 6 was thin, non-complex, and unbalanced towards acidity. Toasted walnut notes.

This flight was accompanied by the Farmer's Market Salad shown below.

Farmer's Market Salad

The second dish was a Cavatelli with Duck Ragu, preserved truffle, and peas. This stellar dish ably accompanied the second flight of wines: The 2011 and 2008 Lafleurs.

The 2008 showed black fruit, earth, baking spices, and tobacco on the nose. Concentrated and structured on the palate. Spice and savory notes. Will give pleasure for many years to come after coming out on the other side of this phase.

The 2011 is a blend of 53% Cabernet Franc and 43% Merlot. It had floral notes accompanying truffle, earth, spices, and red and black fruit. Red and black fruit on the palate.

The 2011 was a baby but was more expressive than the 2008. Omri thinks that the 2008 is getting into a dormancy phase, something that happens with Lafleur wines. He can't think of two more opposite vintages than these two. The 2008 had the highest alcohol of the vintage due to the cool, sunny vintage allowing the grapes to ripen fully. Conversely, 2011 was one of the hottest and driest vintages.


The third flight was comprised of the 1999 and 1995 vintages of Lafleur. The 1999 yielded a complex aroma of blackcurrant, cigar, pencil lead, earth and baking spices. Silk on the palate along with a beautiful finish. The 1995 wine, according to Omri, was the product of a hot, dry season and small berries. In his view, this wine may never be ready. Closed but with hints of the pencil lead present in its flight-mate.

Sweet Onion and Spice Crusted Sirloin

The cheese course accompanied the 1989 Chateau Lafleur. This was an outstanding wine. Cigar, dark fruit, and truffles on the nose. Delicate on the palate with persistence and a lengthy finish.

This was definitively the wine of the night. Omri described it as as being the essence of Lafleur. It is, in his estimation, one of the greatest Lafleurs ever. It is almost perfection and surprises him every time.
Selection of French and Italian Cheeses

I did not capture a picture of the Dark Chocolate Truffle which accompanied the 2009 Pensées de Lafleur. This wine had a beautiful nose with elements of truffle, earth, chocolate, baking spices, and blue fruit, Rich and concentrated on the palate. Balanced, with a lengthy finish.

The Full Monty

This was a well-organized event which had all of the right elements: A unicorn wine, an expert from the estate, spectacular food, and knowledgeable and engaged attendees. I enjoyed it immensely. As regards the wines, I thought that the performance of the Chateau Lafleur wines were uneven. I would have preferred if other wines performed closer to the level of the 1989. The peak of most of the Chateau Lafleur wines are still ahead of them.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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