Poker TNs: 10 Bdx (Potensac, Branaire, P Baron, Latour, etc.) + intro to Red Hook Winery

It was Andy’s turn to once again host our poker game last month and, as usual, he put together some great food and an excellent line-up of wines for all of us to enjoy. In addition, he won the game and therefore gets to host again this month! I wonder if he’s finally catching on to our strategy of letting him win??


N.V. Paul Goerg Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut. This wine sports a light, easy and open-knit set of aromas on the nose, including meringue, soft chalk, lime pulp and graphite dust. In the mouth, it is not nearly so pretty, with a somewhat inelegant acidity giving it a squinched feel. The flavors of toasted herbs, pineapple and grapefruit are bitter-edged, a bit on the thin side and pretty simple. I figured this for some sort of QPR domestic sparkler—a disappointment, really.

2008 Red Hook Winery “The Electric” Jamesport Vineyard North Fork Long Island. Disclosure on this one: Darren, one of our poker regulars, is an assistant winemaker to Abe Schoener at Red Hook and brought this just-bottled debut wine up for us to sample. I believe it is a blend of 97% Chardonnay and 3% botrytis Riesling. The wine sports a real interesting nose already, with mysterious layers of musky lemon and toasted coconut riding beneath rich yellow fruit, baking spices and interesting hints of botrytis that really give it some fun character. In the mouth, it has a certain lushness, but also a totally live-wire acidity wonderfully integrated into the fruit. Again, there is an interesting musky quality to it and the layered and caressing mouthfeel belies its youthful tautness at times. There is a good burst of spice and a little interesting tingle on the otherwise even-keeled finish. I was impressed and would very much enjoy seeing how this evolves over the next 2-3 years.

Flight One:

2005 Château Nardou Bordeaux Côtes de Francs. We then got started on the red wines—all served double-blind. The nose on wine #1 delivers aromas of red flowers, sweet crème de cassis, rich tomato paste, tobacco leaf and bits of green pepper. In the mouth, it tastes extremely young—with chalky tannins immediately gripping onto the teeth and coating the whole mouth. Big gobs of berry fruit, dark chocolate and a bit of green pepper flavors lead to a bitter, smoke-tinged finish. To me, this is just tannin, acidity and monolithic flavor in a blocky style giving very little pleasure right now.

2004 Château Larose-Trintaudon Haut-Médoc. This wine has a mild, pleasing Old World bouquet of old leather, green coffee beans, tomato leaves, mushrooms, tobacco juice, dry dusty earth and wet cedar. It is an interesting combination that seems to be showing some age despite how obviously youthful the color of the wine is. It shows its youthful characteristics much more in the mouth, though it is nowhere near as toughly tannic or rough-hewn as the previous wine. In fact, it is full of easy-going but rich berry, dark chocolate, earth and pepper flavor. It is medium-weighted and finishes on the dry side—giving a sense that it needs a bit of short-term cellaring to fan out and hopefully put on a bit more flesh. Seems like a good QPR.

Flight Two:

2005 Château Hyot Côtes de Castillon. This wine features aromas of sweet cassis, road tar, raw leather and a little bit of green pepper. Flavors of blueberry, mocha and chocolate combine with a bit of cool earth tones on the palate, which despite showing a lot of stuffing is pretty compact and densely taut at this stage. Some furry tannins are present, but the wine has a nice little spark of acidity that should help it come of age a bit more in another 3-4 years.

2006 Château Potensac Médoc. This wine smells really concentrated and dense even though it doesn’t taste that way at all. The bouquet features aromas of thick tomato paste, crème de cassis, quince paste and cherry jam that are not quite stewed, but definitely extracted and thick. In the mouth, it shows much better balance, with bright and fresh red fruit, fine earth and tangy acidity combining nicely. More often than not it gives an impression of an open-knit, medium-bodied style of Cabernet featuring flavors of red currants, mint, cedar wood, cassis and earth that aren’t real serious or overtly substantial, but fine and easy-drinking with a nicely lifted finish. For such a young wine, it is pretty fun and accessible.

Flight Three:

2005 Château La Vieille Cure Fronsac. CORKED.

2006 Château Chasse-Spleen Moulis en Médoc. I like the bouquet here, which features pleasing aromas of cherries, currants, licorice rope, forest greens and playful bits of peppermint dust in a clean and balanced, if not yet especially complex arrangement. It is fresh and forward in the mouth, with bright currant fruit, dark berries, cedar and toasted spice flavors turning more to cherry with time. The peppermint notes grow stronger over time and really provide a consistent accompaniment to the other flavors. The wine has good cut and definition at this early stage of its life and is drinking surprisingly well already, although it should be said that the finish exhibits a youthful astringency that would benefit from a bit more short-term cellaring.

Flight Four:

1996 Château Branaire Ducru St. Julien. This wine is really interesting on the nose, featuring as it does such musky notes of sweaty leather, tobacco juice, persimmon, dark cranberries, black currants, toasted orange peel and roasted green pepper skins. I like the distinctly earthy tone of its aromatic personality. In the mouth, this wine is old-fashioned and serious, with a bit of dried blood, iron, iodine and lava rock sensibility bumping up against savory earth, animal and dark fruit bits—all carried along effortlessly and with fine flowing lines by a nice twinge of acidity. The caressing finish occasionally has to fight off some soft tannins, but that interaction actually seems rather consistent with the overall personality of the wine. I really like this wine and imagine it is getting close to its peak drinking plateau. I had it as my wine of the day.

2006 Château Branaire Ducru St. Julien. The nose of this wine is decidedly black and polished, and despite an air of silky smoothness it feels tautly-wound and only showing a fraction of its potential. Aromas of black currants, smoke, Baker’s chocolate, mint leaf and dark forest floor will continue to flesh out in the years ahead and should be really nice down the road. In the mouth, the wine is rich and sweetly fruited and shows a ton of glycerol character that makes it slide right down the gullet after filling all the corners of the mouth with its silky-textured yet decidedly full-bodied blue and black fruit. Big chalky tannins put up a valiant fight and may yet contribute to the wine shutting down in the short term, but I think either way this wine shows great promise and is one I will seek out.

Flight Five:

1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac. Although it seems like it could use more time to further uncoil, this wine just somehow smells well-bred. Aromas of pencil shavings, graphite, forest floor, leather and ripe stems combine nicely with the cool black currant and blackberry fruit to give the wine a sense of seriousness and cool aristocracy. In the mouth, the wine is deeply concentrated, but a bit ungiving, showing a certain resolve not to open up completely or share its inner secrets–staying cool, taut and a bit aloof in its refinement. Still, the fine flavors of black currants, black rocks, black licorice, leather and savory bits are packaged together in sinewy but smooth and polished way that delivers fine drinking. Overall, though, one can sense that the wine is being somewhat stingy right now relative to what it ought to be sometime later this decade.

1999 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac. This wine has a pretty yet dark and smolderingly sexy bouquet combining aromas of leather, nettles, black cherry, sweet black currant liqueur and mocha paste. The longer I stay with it, the more I like it and the more I begin to sense that it is pretty darned open for business. In the mouth, it is really juicy and succulent, with a fine feel of grip to it. It features a nice combination of fresh blue and red fruits and some fine tangy acidity. Yes, there are some chewy tannins in there, but they do not detract a whole lot from enjoying this now. Sure, it will be better with time, but this tastes real good to me as is.

Flight Six:

1999 Château Latour Pauillac. The final wine of the day provides a really distinctive nose that to me just gets better and better the longer one stays with it. It opens up slinky and sort of sexy with a black patent leather and black fruit profile that occasionally allows for glimpses of sweeter red fruit and chocolate ganache beneath. It folds in some cool classy earth and a good deal of cedar aromas with time, making it feel controlled yet classically constructed. In the mouth, it is not especially deep or dense on the palate—more sneaky intense than anything else. It has good juiciness and manageable tannins that still do coat the teeth a bit. It grows slowly and incrementally over time, bringing in some nice savory and earth tones to match up with the juicy dark fruit and making for a wine that lends itself to a good deal of introspection when all is said and done. It is a contemplative wine that will need some time. Still, my runner-up for wine of the day.

After hours:

2007 Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble Anderson Valley. At the end of the day, this bonus bottle was put into play, but I think it certainly suffered from the paradigm shift needed to assess it. Having said that, the bouquet is wide open and effusive–with wild berries galore, pomegranate and toasted stem notes blasting up and out of the glass. In the mouth, it comes across as super-sweet after a long day of Bordeaux and my notes mention something about Sweet-Tarts and sour acids, but I’m going to plead the fifth beyond that…


An interesting spread of wines and great notes as usual Michael. What exactly do you mean by patent leather or the 99 Latour? Does patent leather have a distinct scent or is it more hommage to the style?


Thanks, Faryan.

I use patent leather in my notes to convey that it is black rather than brown leather and to also to suggest a sort of “formal wear” glossy nature to it (rather than say an old beat up black leather jacket). Just the way my crazy brain works sometimes… [berserker.gif]


Thanks for the notes Michael. I just bought 06 Branaire Ducru so this is good news.

The '99 Baron is definitely some good drinking for the present! Loved the last 2 bottles I had.