2005 Larrivet Haut Brion

Waiting. It can be frustrating. It builds tension. Tension that is released when what we’re waiting for finally arrives. It’s kind of like the crescendo in a great song that builds and builds until the final chorus bursts forth and knocks all of that tension to the four corners of existence. So, in spite of a little tension, good things come to those who wait.

Ever since I first walked through the doors as a Wine House employee, not a day has gone by without some mention of 2005 red Bordeaux. I likened it to talking about the lives of celebrities. What’s the point? They’re not here. Out of sight, out of mind. So, why bother talking about them? Yet unlike the prospect of Natalie Imbruglia meeting me for lunch, I knew in the back of my mind that someday these wines would arrive. So I listened. And talked. And waited. Did I mention that Bordeaux is what makes me tick? The foundation of why I love the wines of France? The reason why I’m sitting here in The Wine House typing this right now? Yes, it is all because of Bordeaux.

The first 2005 we received and tasted was the Mylord, then the Croix de la Roche, Potensac, and Mont Perat. Then I got to taste a handful of bigger names before the recent Sauternes tasting I attended. I must say that I sit in humble agreement with all who use the term legendary when discussing the vintage.

In front of me now are seventeen different 2005s in half bottle. I am waiting no longer. A week ago Wednesday, I happened to grab one as I went off to do my Wednesday thing. You see, I have Thursdays off, so for the past several months, Wednesday evenings for me are often spent with my friends at Wellington’s Wine Bar in Sausalito. It is a very comfortable room run by nice people who happen to know a thing or two about wine and offer an array of selections from around the wine world in various sized portions. After cooling off with a couple glasses of white wine off the list, I thought I’d mention to Jeremy, the proprietor, that I had a half bottle of 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion in the car. He chuckled and told me to fix that problem. I fetched the half bottle, we popped it and decanted it. After around 45 minutes or so, we decided to pour a few glasses out. Of course it was youthful, yet was rounded and bursting with fruit. Time passed; everyone involved was blown away by the complexity (mineral, spice, earth, forest floor) that kept popping up as the young wine took a few breaths.


I came in to the shop on Friday morning with high praise for the 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion. Such high praise, I might add, that I convinced Ben to take a half bottle home. He usually shakes his head when he hears me talk up a young Bordeaux. Not only did he take it home … per my recommendation, he decanted it for two hours. He came in on Tuesday gushing (yes gushing) with enthusiasm. “Three thumbs up”, he said. I’ve never heard him say that about any wine.

Waiting. It’s a cruel trick to wait for two years for a bottle that demands we wait another five to ten years to drink it! Though destined to be a classic with a decade of proper storage, if you decant for around two hours, you can take a peek at what we’re on about here. In the film “Big Jake”, John Wayne said, “Waiting’s good for them and bad for us.” In the case of 2005 Larrivet Haut Brion, we feel the opposite, whoever they are. – Peter Zavialoff

Tasting Notes

Immediately after we opened the bottle, we poured it into a decanter and it was pointed out to me that the aroma was much like buttered popcorn. It was. Ben suspects it experienced malo in barrel (which appears to be a trend though no one really speaks of it). It would need time for that toasty new oakiness to blow off and to let the fruit emerge. After 45 minutes or so, when it was time for that first sip, I found the aromatics to scream of spicy, dark berry fruit. On the palate, it was rich in fruit, yet showed elegant restraint; not going “over the top.”  The tannins held up their end in silky fashion without taking center stage. More time in the glass only began to reveal the true makeup of this wine. We were all in agreement that every time we went back for another sip, another nuance would present itself. We found forest floor, spicy mineral, pencil lead, leather, and earth, all held together by the high-toned structure. Needless to say, a mere half bottle didn’t stand a chance with us. We were begging for more when it came up dry. Jeremy took the empty bottle and said, “Hall of Fame”, then put it up with the rest of the trophy bottles that line Wellington’s windows.

Email me with any questions or comments regarding waiting, Bordeaux, lunch with Natalie Imbruglia, or which Wednesday evenings I might be at Wellington’s: peter.winehouse@sbcglobal.net