Expectations are the enemy: 00 Pichon Baron, 03 Armand Epeneaux, 92 Montelena, 89 Ygay

A week or so ago I totally got my bell rung by a surprise Burgundy (le bourgogne, le bourgogne... - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ). I was anticipating this weekends lineup of heavy hitters all week, and…eh.

From memory (too busy dinner-partying to take notes at the time). Everything decanted for about an hour, then consumed over 3 hours.

2000 Pichon Baron: out of the bottle, sweet burnt wood and nothing else. Opened up decently well after an hour, rich plums on the midpalate with some allspice, fruit so intense it had a caramelized/brown sugar note, smooth and plush but still had a touch of youthful stiffness on the end, significant but not overwhelming toasted oak, lots of fine tannins buried in rich velvety texture. Beginning to develop layers of expression. This is I suppose a “great wine”, it is massive and rich and clearly has at least another two decades in it. But for me (at least at this point) it lacks some lift, acidity, and zing. I found it somewhat heavy and found myself wishing for a more pronounced mineral quality on the palate, or even an herbal / vegetal touch to contrast with the heavy fruit. Something to lighten it. But it has Bdx structure and is not a mess, you can certainly drink it.

I have a half a case of this in long term storage, and I’m actually pretty happy about that. But I’ll leave it be for another five years at least to see if it adds dimensions. I preferred the 2000 Lynch Bages I had a month or so ago, it had more severe structure and a better acidity balance, very intense fruit but a lighter palate presence.

I also have half a case of 2003 Pichon Baron…if this is what they did in 2000 I’m a little apprehensive about cracking my first 03. I won’t need to buy any Cali cabs for a few years, that’s for sure.

2003 Armand Clos Des Epeneaux:Last spring had a bottle of this and it gushed pure pinot joy right from the bottle. Toward the black fruit end of the spectrum due to the hot year, beautiful and sensuous and rounded with a good supporting minerality, a very hedonistic wine. By contrast, this bottle (from the same purchase) was sullen and reluctant and just did not want to come out to play no matter how long we gave it. Started out perfectly pleasant but mostly closed. Then after a few hours the front palate developed a nice spicy fruit quality, but the back end felt like it was starting to oxidize or something – anyway had a slightly unpleasant tang to it. A proper wine but just not really performing. Caught it at a bad time I guess.

1992 Chateau Montelena Estate: Pulled this out in part because I had just seen the wonderfully cheesy “Bottle Shock”, which starred Chateau Montelena, Alan Rickman, and a variety of hot young blonde people. For a bit I thought we’d get some judgement of Paris action and it would be WOTN just based on its calm maturity. But in the end it couldn’t keep up with the powerhouse Pichon. Has that nice Cabernet touch of green, although it’s more herbal than minty now. Still has a solid vein of sweet cassis fruit. Acidity slightly prominent at times but not unpleasantly so. Just a real nice mellow aged cabernet that gives what it should. Started to decline perceptibly in the third hour. I think it still has some years left but can’t see where improvement would come from. Maybe a better wine to drink on its own to give space for contemplation, rather than paired with a powerhouse like the Pichon Baron.

1989 Castillo Ygay Marques de Murietta Grand Riserva: One of our guests was Spanish so I pushed the evening into wine overkill by pulling this guy out during appetizers. I bought a half case of this for a real good price about a decade ago but I always suspected my bottles have seen some heat damage – they’ve consistently lacked a layer of fruit, depth, and complexity that I would expect. But this was still quite good and I think fully mature. Vanilla / coconut from the American oak, real tangy cranberry fruit, zingy acidity and lots of pizzazz. Good contrast with some of the other wines.

Great dinner party but I felt just a little let down by the wine lineup. There were some excellent wines here but I might have built my expectations of the evening up too much. You can’t preschedule wine magic no matter what you pull out of the cellar. Everyone else greatly enjoyed the lineup, but of course they were just normal civilians who like good wine and are glad to have a friend who overspends on it.

Thanks for the note on the 00 Pichon. I’ll try to lay off my two btls for a few years. My wife loves CA Cabs so I’ll keep this one in mind to share with Nita.

Yes, I think it’s a great wine for a Bordeaux lover to split with someone who loves the Cali style. Will be pretty much a surefire winner with them while remaining recognizably Bordeaux. YMMV on the aging…it is getting somewhat accessible now and I don’t see it getting close to any real “full maturity stage” for 10-15 years. I don’t have enough experience to guess how my nitpick with it (heavy fruit, a certain lack of verve and dynamism) will be addressed by aging but there is nothing to lose as this is still a baby.

Have a case of the 00 Baron in my off site locker. Never tasted it. No worries, I can wait. [cheers.gif]