As I stated in a previous email, it was around this time last year that the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeauxcame to San Francisco to pour the newly bottled 2006 vintage. They were scheduled to do it again at the end of January, but decided to cut their junket short and skip us altogether. On relative short notice, I scrambled my way down to LA to attend the UGC tasting in Hollywood.Remembering how the wines tasted out of barrel back in March/April 2008, I was ready to taste them now that they’ve been bottled. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise.

 

Flash back to the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux in 2008. As we headed north through the Medoc on morning one, we had no idea how the wines would show. Rumors were swirling (sorry, I can’t help it) in regard to the Indian Summer that supposedly saved what would have been a lackluster vintage whose growing season was marked by murky weather at best. What I found very interestingwas the fact that because the summer weather was not hot and sunny, the hang time of the grapes was much longer than usual allowing them to fully ripen physiologically. Just hearing this made me think classic in regard to the vintage; meaning wines that were not necessarily “showy” in their youth, but wines that would gain in complexity each year stored in my cellar. The barrel tastings were highly educational. The top chateaux presented some outstanding samples (go figure, right?). Of course, they were able to afford to severely limit yields sending scores of workers into the vineyards all season. Well, it paid off. There were some other fine samples presented by lesser growth chateaux, but it was hit or miss at those levels. On the right bank, it was hit or miss again. As far as the red wines went, it is the type of vintage where one would need some guidance. The white wines, both dry and sweet, were another story. More on that later.

Back to the present. After a lengthy flight delay, I made it to the tasting … a little late … well, it was right when I snapped this photo. As you can see, it was in full swing. The beauty of it was that the mob was in the larger room on the right, so Pessac, St. Emilion, and Pomerol were easy access straight away. As I tasted through the Pessac-Leognan reds, it was not a surprise that I thought highly of the Haut-Bailly, Pape Clement, and Smith Haut-Lafitte. But with many of the others, I picked up more than a hint of what I like to call “Old School Bordeaux Funk”.

Switching gears completely, I was in St. Emilion and was taken by the Chateau Canon quickly. It was “delicate” and “elegant” (if I can read my own handwriting). All in all, the St. Emilions showed very well. The Pomerols showed great power and intensity … these will age well. Then it was the Margaux appellation, which was a little spotty. That left bank “funkiness” was back. St. Julien was similar; Pauillac had a few standouts. Lynch Bages and Pontet Canet showed very well, but leave it to Pichon Lalande to win the honor of best red!

I finally caught up to the mob. Where were they? Sauternes and Barsac. These wines are an absolute treat! It was another stellar vintage for the Noble Rot; the wines that were harmonious and well balanced out of barrel have taken on an extra dimension now that they are in bottle. I’m not going back on my claim that 2005 was the best Sauternes vintage of the decade, but in one case a 2007 trumps its 2005 counterpart. When I got to Chateau Climens, I had to fight my way through what I considered to be a Hollywood “see and be seen” party, complete with film crew. Well, the wine was stellar! So good, mind you, that we sold out of the tag ends we had left the very next day. One guess as to the general geographic area of all of the buyers … southern Cal, of course. There was much praise on ERobertParker.com’s bulletin board as well, and I will go on the record here … now … time stamp it. This will be one of those wines. You know what I’m on about here. It seems very likely to me that it will get 100 points from Robert Parker and/or The Wine Spectator. I was so impressed with the 2007 Climens that it would not surprise me at all if one day the phones started lighting up and the whole country needed to own this wine! So in preparation, we were able to secure an additional allocation of this soon to be trophy wine!

I took a victory lap back to Pessac-Leognan to taste whichever dry whites remained, no surprise, it was Pape Clement and Smith Haut-Lafitte again! I landed at SHL and decided to stop spitting as I was finished. Always one captivated by all things musical, I spyed the Capitol Records building in the distance and snapped this here parting shot before the sun set. 

 

My conclusion is unfortunately similar to the consensus (that’s not usually how I roll); it was a trying vintage for the red wines on the left bank (save the few mentioned here and the atavistic “Old School Funky” ones, and I’m sure the top growth who don’t pour at these events … sadly). The right bank reds showed panache and verve without being overdone, and I applaud the efforts there. The dry whites were very well balanced with zippy acidity. And finally, the Sauternes … Ah, the Sauternes. Oh yeah, the de Fargues was sensational also; but there can only be one winner, and that would be the Climens … hands down!Peter Zavialoff