Cabernet Franc; St. Emilion; Merlot Tasting

In part with an eye to wines in my cellar that I wanted to open, and also the composition of some of the wines, like the Chateau Jean Faure that I had sourced, the tasting was organized under somewhat complex lines in two flights. Each flight had some wines that were only Cab Franc and some St. Emilions, Merlot/Cab Franc blends. The first flight had a 100% Merlot from CA, to orient us around Merlot, and the second had 2 blends from CA one that was largely Cabernet Sauvignon, one Merlot. The first flight was conceived as having lighter bodied and possibly more traditional wines, the second flight heavier bodied and potentially more modern wines.

In the first flight, which had three wines that were wholly Cab Franc and one wholly Merlot, no one picked out the Merlot !!!, though this in part may be because it was older and came from a less ripe vintage (as well as that we just suck at blind tasting ). I thought the Faure was the Merlot. The consensus WOTF was Baudry 2010 Chinon Grezeaux; second place, though not by everyone, went to the Calluna Aux Reynauds Merlot 2011.

The wines were opened approximately 75 minutes before the first flight; 90-120 before the second. None were decanted. After the tasting we followed their evolution over dinner. Ten people for ten wines. The tasting was single blind for me and everyone else was told the cepages and appellations but not the actual wines.

Flight I

1a) Raats Cabernet Franc Family Stellenbosch South, S. Africa 2017
When first tasted, this seemed “different,” which led me to S. Africa. It wasn’t really showing its stuff during the flight, but over dinner opened up, revealing a powerful, focused cab franc, with a distinctively long finish. As with many, not so much tobacco or green olive, but earthy and almost a milky/malted milk note: intense, driven, delicious.

2a) Tercero Aberration Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara County 2016
Very distinctive mouthfeel—silky, as a couple of folks said. A little simpler than some of the others in its cohort and the midpalate seemed a little less dense. Still a very nice quaff, especially at the price.

3a) 2010 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux
A little barnyard in the nose on opening, which receded as the wine breathed up in the glass. Mouthfilling complex drink, with a little tobacco mixed in with red and blue fruits. Long finish in which most tannins are resolved. Holds one’s interest throughout.

4a) Calluna Vineyards Merlot Aux Raynauds 2011
As noted, no one called this as Merlot, but I did register that it seemed to be a different sort of wine from the previous one. It had a lot of stuffing as well nice age and was the best showing of these I’ve had. Rounded in the mouth, with blue fruits, nice density in midpalate and long finish. Could be mistaken for a Bordeaux.

5a) Château Jean-Faure St. Émilion Grand Cru
This was a pretty wine, but quieter than I expected. It had an attractive nose and pretty blue fruit in the mouth, but seemed a little linear, while in retrospect showing a somewhat intriguing hint of graphite. Perhaps overshadowed by the former two in the flight and I never had a chance to catch up with it.

Flight II

The second flight had no obvious WOTF as did the first. The 2019 Prince of Hearts, which was surprisingly ready to drink, garnered the most votes. The 2012 Canon-La- Gaffeliére was second. I agreed these appeared to be the two drinking best at the moment in the flight.

1b) Matthiasson Earthquake Cuvee 2012/13
This is a pretty poised wine; light on its feet and pleasant to drink. Shows California inflected bordeaux varietals upfront, and smooth, mid-length finish. It was overshadowed by the wines that followed but enjoyable no doubt.

2b) Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeliére St Emilion2012
Initially this seemed a little shy, but very pure in flavor. With time, it gained complexity and depth. Interesting notes of cigar box and backing spice contrast with round blue and red fruits.

3b) Bodega Aleanna ‘Gran Enemigo’ Gualtallary Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016
Unfortunately, this was closed from the get go and never opened even after it was decanted when we turned to dinner. Very young purple color, but no other signs of life. I put it back in the bottle this AM and refrigerated it—may check back in later this week.

4b) Blankiet Prince of Hearts Napa 2019 (A blend of 51% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and the rest Petit Verdot)
This stood out—a big, yet balanced blend, with smooth mouthfeel and a very long finish. Approached being over the top but never really crossed that line, maybe because Graeme MacDonald is now the winemaker. Definitely the sort of wine that would stand out in a tasting; yet it also continued to be enjoyable throughout the evening.

5b) Chateau Destieux St. Emilion 2005
Though a much-despised wine on this board, in my view, it might have nearly held its own with the Canon and the Prince were it not for a distracting bitter off note in the finish. It did start out strong with what seemed to me genuine St. Emilion character and other bottles have lacked the offending note. It does not have the purity of some of the other wines, including the Canon, but even in the dinner context it showed decently, though the harsh note remained.

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Thank you for that tour de force!

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Fantastic notes, thanks for sharing! That 2010 Baudry Grez is special stuff, as is 2005 and 2014. Buy that 2014, so classic. I need to circle back to the Raats, always a fan. My little buddy @Marc_Frontario and I jokingly call that 2005 the “De-Stew”. It’s horrid! ;).

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I know, Robert,
about the De-stew; I was referring to you when I spoke of it as a much despised wine. It’s not my favorite, but I don’t think it’s as bad as all that. You put me on to the Raats, btw, in a previous thread and I will have to look out for the 14 Grez, I have the '10 La Croix Boissee but I suspect it’s still too young.

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Thanks for the notes, like how you constructed your flights and that you ran them blind. That’s something I’ve not done in quite a bit, pre-covid. I’m taking away that I need to check in on the Baudry Grez; have not had it and it sounds like something up my alley. Just added it to my list of things to follow up on. Sounds like everyone was in for a treat and it delivered.

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I had the 2014 Grez back in July. It is very good!

In regards to the Croix Boissée i guess it depends on how many you have. If it is only one(?) I would certainly save it. But if you have more why not give it a spin? I enjoyed both the 11 and 14 recently. I guess with some air a 10 could be enjoyed now (Robert can probably tell you more about that).

I have a couple; I think of '10 as a long-lived vintage, but don’t know how it stands in respect to the now fabled '14.

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Baudry’s 2014 Croix Boissee is more taut and precise than the 2010 version. I like the mineral and cooler-climate feel of the 2014. The 2014 appers to be more on the finesse side of the needle than the 2010. I have both but expect better with the 2014 in the long run.

Love the notes on the Prince of Hearts 2019, snagged a few while visiting the Vineyard. Going to open that one up and check it out

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This, exactly. Funny how the critics migrate more to other other vintages post-2000, when 2014 is clearly the best since 2000.

Thanks, Ramon,

For filliing in on the vintages. I will definitely have to try to source some of the '14.

That 2012 Canon La Gaffeliere will just get better and better as I think it’s a way off from reaching full potential at the present. CLG is one of the deepest verticals in my cellar as I find they successfully straddled the line between too modern and traditional quite well although vintage is a big factor in which way they lean. If you shy away from big and ripe they are worth trying in the “lesser” vintages.

I might have another one hiding somewhere, Steve,
So that’s good to know!

Josh