TN: 1995 Bordeaux at Le Philosophe

OK, so I’ve been part of the “‘95s are so cranky- are they ever going to come out of their shell” crowd for a while. So when we were planning a 1995s at 20 dinner I had a little trepidation. Then recently a pretty nice Calon Segur made me feel more hopeful. Our group met in the nice downstairs room at Le Philosophe on Bond St (Noho I guess?). With some gougeres we enjoyed the NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne. Full, zesty, with cherry and citrus, very enjoyable. B+

Then on to the 1995 reds (I’ve tried to note any prep, from memory):

1995 Ch. Haut Bailly (double-decanted that afternoon)
Nice way to start. Cassis fruit tinged with mint and earth, nice fruit, balanced acids,

I had frogs legs (needed a zippier presentation, I regretted not ordering the trotter with flageolets)

St. Emilion Flight

1995 Ch. Magdelaine (double-decanted that afternoon)
Lean and elegant, classic Magdelaine, tobacco and herbs over redder fruit. I think this, Barton, and Cos were ones with biggest diverging opinions. A-

1995 Ch. Angelus (double-decanted that afternoon)
I really found this mute and tight at first, really restrained though not really tough. But with air it got a cocoa/mocha thing going and lusher fruit, I quite liked at end. I put B- down originally, changed to B+

St Julien Flight

1995 Ch. Leoville Barton (double-decanted that morning) B
This was to me one of the tightest wines of the night, initially with a metallic note to it, though that faded and I liked better at end. B

1995 Ch. Leoville las Cases (PnP)
Young but quite nice, cocoa powder and black fruits. B+/A-

1995 Ch. Leoville Poyferre (PnP)
I thought this the most open of the flight. Ripe cassis, some tobacco, tannins in background. B+/A-

I had a nice flatiron steak with Bordelaise sauce.

First Pauillac Flight

1995 Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste (double-decanted that afternoon)
Sweet and open, plenty of fruit, distinct cigarbox notes, drinking well with long future. A-/B+

1995 Ch. Lynch Bages (PnP)B/B-
Tight and a touch tough, fruit is restrained, maybe just hiding but not giving a lot. B-/B

1995 Ch. Pichon Baron (double-decanted that afternoon)
Blackcurrant, graphite, tangy. A-/B+

We got a cheese course so we wouldn’t taste these without. A French goat cheese I didn’t know, Leonora from Spain, and Tumbleweed from Pennsylvania (initial waiter when asked said it was from France- “it is a mixture of Gouda and Chantal, and those are both French cheeses”- our main waiter said it was a cheddar/chantal cross)

Pauillacs and one St Estephe
1995 Ch. Cos d’Estournel (PnP)
I don’t know what to say about this wine- some liked, but I thought thin fruit, tough, a weird green olive meets funk, and somewhat clipped. The only wine that if I served at dinner for my wife I would have drawn a replacement. C+

1995 Ch. Mouton Rothschild (double-decanted that morning)
Lovely, full and exotic, Mushrooms and spice over good cassis fruit. I’m not historically a big Mouton fan but this is really good. A-

1995 Ch. Pichon Lalande (PnP, seepage/soaked cork under capsule)
I think I ran out of steam or just talked to much by this point, didn’t write anything but grade. But this didn’t show to me as damaged, quite good, just tight. B+/B

There were assorted dessert, and also a 375 ml of 2005 Ch. Caillou that waiter very generously brought out. I dislike tiny dessert glasses, didn’t allow much on nose, this could use a bit more acid but nice flavors.

We did our usual voting- every gets 6 pts to award (no more than 3 per wine). Either someone forgot a 3rd place vote or I missed one point.
Mouton 13 pts
Haut-Bailly 7
Magdelaine 6
Pichon Baron 2
Leo Barton 2
Poyferre 1

Fun night. Pretty much everything showed as well or better than I expected except the Cos and Lynch. Much more accessible and less grumpy than my expectations.

Grade disclaimer: I’m a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C drinkable. Anything below C means I wouldn’t drink at a party where it was only choice.Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.

Great lineup. I remember thinking that 95 Angelus was awesome the few times I’d had it.

Thanks for the notes. Were the wines poured blind?


Not blind. Since no one seemed to have a lot of preconceptions (about individual wines, I think most of us had the same preconceptions re vintage) we decided to go with them open.


Are “A-/B+” and “B+/A-” distinct scores?


Yes, A-/B+ is better than B+/A-

Of course, I started using grades to get away from the false precision of numbers, but end up putting in extra gradations. I recognize the ridiculousness. There is no real difference (see disclaimer), but if I’m figuring out how to vote for WOTN, A-, A-/B+, B+/A-, B+ would be steps.

Dale nice notes.

It was a great night to look at the 95’s.
Most of the wines on a night by themselves would have been lovely and welcome.
If you have 95’s I would hold them and take a peek in 5 years at age 25. Nothing opened last night showed any sign of being in a downward trajectory.

Nice notes, Dale. Sorry I couldn’t join you guys.

I’ve had the PLL, GPL and LB, LLC in the past year or so and to my tastes, were all still pretty tough and in need of more time. Frank reported on fbook that the Mouton, Angelus, Leoville Barton, Haut Bailly and GPL were all double decanted earlier in the day. Seems like that helped.


My overall take was a very pleasant surprise that 1995 Bordeaux in general seems to finally be coming around. Yes, some still needed time (Angelus, Leoville Barton) and 2 were disappointing (Cos d’Estournel, Lynch Bages) but in general the wines tonight had entered their early drinking window and were very, very enjoyable.

I loved the Haut Bailly, the Magdelaine and the Mouton (and don’t think I’m not grumbling about the latter since, like Dale, I had never considered the wines all that impressive).
I’m very happy to have purchased a case of that 1995 Grand Puy Lacoste. Friends should expect to see it showing up at dinners over the next decade or so.

The food was mixed. My frogs legs were tasteless and the coq au vin was too sweet. The gougeres were very good, the desserts were excellent, and my taste of the trotter was very good. Also a respectable cheese plate. Room was perfect and service was very good. Company was, of course, delightful.

I’m not surprised by that showing of the Lynch Bages. I gave up on that wine a couple of years back.

Great notes Dale!

Imo, they captured the majority of the observations by the attendees, including mine. I think that the wines are just on the cusp of starting to be more approachable and a few more years would help get them into first gear. Of course, it should be noted that some bottles were nicely aided by double decanting early in the day and which were somewhat corroborated with your relatively higher scores on the decanted wines.

I’ve not much to add to the wine notes especially with the succeeding inputs by others here, but in terms of the food, I liked my stuffed trotter appetizer and that, with my entrée of Duck L’Orange, were friendly with the reds, as long as you don’t bite into a cut-up piece of orange by itself. Have to include it with the duck meat or the sautéed vegetables. I don’t order dessert often, but I do whenever I see Crepes Suzette in the menu, as it was last night, and I liked the restaurant’s version.

Of course, great wine discussions and fun banters throughout the night, as well.

I wanted to decant the Cos and LP as well but I was running late and didn’t get to it. I think it definitely would have helped the Cos. Also probably have helped the LB. Surprising that the Mouton didn’t need decanting.

The Mouton was really tight when I first opened it that morning. I let it sit in the decanter a few minutes while I was grinding my teeth after that initial taste. :wink:

The key does seem to be to let these babies benefit from a little aeration. The Angelus was extremely tight at first but evolved nicely throughout the evening. I’m sure it could have benefitted from even more time.

IMO, I don’t think the Lynch would have improved if decanted nor do I think it will necessary improve over time (although I have a 1/2 case to experiment). The wine just seemed disjointed.

Great night overall!

I thought the Mouton was not decanted. My mistake. Very good wine!

One minor additional observation. As much as I liked the GPL the nose had shut down a bit from when I first decanted about 2 hours before we drank it.

How was the food? I know the original chef left a bit back and I haven’t been since. What was their policy for the lots-of-bottles byo?

Food was not as good as with original chef. Some weird takes on coq au vin and blanquette de veau. I heard frog legs were bland. The veal was not bad but the presentation was not what I expected. People must like it though as the upstairs was packed.

I didn’t pay close attention to corkage but I think it was $15.

Bland is giving that dish too much credit.

If there is one thing I am a fan of…it’s 1995 GPL…no question it’s better than the very good '96

GPL '95 and '96 proved to be a great back-to-back effort. Same style, classics, even same pricing to date. I’ve slightly higher regard for the '95.