Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Bordeaux One Night Stand

I know it's a touchy time to talk about Bordeaux, but I'm going for it anyway. I'm not trying to stoke the fires of the debate. I just want to share a recent experience I had with one bottle over a special dinner.

I thought it would be fun to open a bottle of Calon-Ségur with dinner on Valentine's Day. As you know, we don't drink a lot of Bordeaux in our house, and I thought it would be a nice change of pace. It seemed like a perfect match for the beautiful rib eye steaks we treated ourselves to. BrooklynLady feels proud when we drink good wine that's made by women, and Madame Denise Gasqueton makes this wine. But best of all - the label is perfect for Valentine's Day. It features a very sweet heart that surrounds the name Calon-Ségur and St-Estèphe. And yes, I am definitely capable of being that cheesy.

We kept it super simple - just salt and pepper on the steaks, mashed sweet potatoes, salad with a bright tarragon vinegar dressing. I read somewhere that the wines of Calon-Ségur require about 86 years of cellaring before they drink well, so I decanted almost four hours in advance and kept my fingers crossed. We drank a 2004, a vintage that might not need as much time to unwind as say, 2000, 2003, or 2005.

Side note - I cannot keep my fingers out of the cookie jar when decanting wine. I have to go take a sniff and a tiny taste every 45 minutes or so. I mean, how else can you see the evolution of the wine, see WHY you are actually decanting it? Do you do that? Don't lie, you know you do.

Anyway...We were both extremely impressed with this wine, and I say this having no idea whatsoever whether or not this is a spoofulated wine, or if 21 consultants helped to create it, or if Madame Gasqueton took the must, allowed gravity to run the juice into enamel-lined steel tanks and the oak barrels, adding nothing except a bit of SO2. Is this wine "cool" within the Bordeaux world? I have no idea. It was classified as a 3rd Growth back in 1855, if that matters.

2004 Calon-Ségur, St-Estèphe, $40 when I bought futures almost three years ago, and only a few bucks more now. This wine was powerful yet elegant and graceful. Dark cassis tones and lots of herbal character, and some bright red fruit too. A bit of spice for good measure. This stuff is well balanced and delicious and it worked great with our dinner. How nice to try a wine that is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (70% in 2004) and at merely 12.5% alcohol - it is actually refreshing. The one negative thing I can say is this: the wine doesn't have the same energy that I experience in my favorite wines from Burgundy, Beaujolais, or the Loire Valley. It's as if it sits still on the mantel, as opposed to running around with the kids, enjoying the fire. Whatever that means.


Joe Manekin said...


Calon is most definitely a more trad, oldschool style of Bdx. Not sure of the level of spoofilation here, but I can say with some some certainty that it's not near the level of Cos d'Estournel, Leoville Barton, and many other fancier, much pricier wines.

'04 is possibly the last vintage of Bdx that will be affordable to many people. Fortunately many of the wines are generally very solid, though, well-structured with good acidity and balance, and should age well. For the Burg/Loire/Beauj enthusiast, natural wine geek, or fan of wines with life ('energy' if you like), '04 is the vintage you want in Bdx.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the candor--I don't think I'm experienced enough to pick out the spoofed-up wines every time either. Sounds like you'd enjoy the "spoofed vs. natural" comparative tasting just announced on Joe Dressner's blog. I'll bet that would be informative.

peter said...

Calon is perfect for Valentine's; I'm glad it opened up in the decanter. I don't buy Bordeaux any more, for taste and price reasons, but I'm very happy that I used to and still have them lying down.

Brooklynguy said...

hey old skool - i didn't know that Barton is all spoofed out. too bad - that is one of the 6 bottles of 04 Bordeaux i bought a while ago. why wouldn't 05 have the same lively qualities as 04, by the way? more extracted?

hi anon - it's just that i know NOTHING about Bordeaux. totally ignorant. i'll go look over at Dressner now, thanks. why not use a name, by the way, so i know who you are next time? as you wish, though, of course.

peter - from the little i know of you, i bet there are some really impressive ones lying down there too. what's the next one you'll open?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the decanting process. It is a treat to taste wine as it changes. I often do wine tasting parties where I've decanted something for 2 hours and serve it back to back of the same bottle that was just opened. It's great education for wine novices. Glad you enjoyed your Bordeaux

peter said...

I don't know... I have an 1989 Conseillante in the fridge that's whispering to me...

Anonymous said...

"why not use a name, by the way, so i know who you are next time?"

Because I still can't figure out this new Blogger comment form "improvement."

Drink, Memory said...

You have reminded me of the importance of decanting. I am a very impatient person, which is one reason I don't buy many wines that would need decanting. But recently, a wine store owner gave me a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to try. It is Glass Mountain by Markham, from 2003. I hated the first glass. It was overwhelming and sweet. So, I decanted and tried to wait it out but I could only wait 30 minutes. Still, the 30 minutes made a HUGE difference. It was a totally different wine, and very tasty and pleasing to drink. I enjoyed it with duck sausages and just by itself. Maybe I do like some California Cabernets after all.

Brooklynguy said...

hi noble - welcome to the site. i must say, from the 20 minutes i just spent on your site, you are living a dream that MANY people might share. i'm so impressed. where in the willamette is your land? and however did you convince your husband to do this? so so impressed....

anon - are you steve l. ???

memoree - decanting = YES. aeration helps even an every day wine.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, I am anon. Or perhaps that should be "clueless."

I also agree that just about every red wine, at least, benefits from decanting, although I'm late to the party and only convinced myself of this within the last few months.

--Steve L.

Jeff said...

I'm always sttuggling to make the decision to decant. I feel that it might make a wine better but am afraid to miss out on the changes. So I usually don't decant - or if I do I end up tasting it all along anyway. Oh well, such is the fun of wine.

Joe said...

1) I am definitely capable of being that cheesy.
2) I have never tasted a Calon Segur, but have heard good things about it.
3) Good decant! I was worried when I saw the picture with the '04 on the label. I admit it - I definitely sniff as I decant and multiple times over the evening (unless my wife blinded me)
4) It is sometimes a great thing to get into a wine without any preconceived notions - good on you.
5) A 12.5% cab is a wonderful thing - I love them, but my wife is the real Bordeaux fan
6) I would agree with the energy part - this is a wine for retiring to the library on a cool winter day and ponder by the fire.
7) I can't think of a better pairing.
Sorry, I am just such a Bordeaux nut I couldn't hold back seeing one here!

Anonymous said...

brooklynguy ecrit
'It's as if it sits still on the mantel, as opposed to running around with the kids'
4 hours of decant does not equal 20 years in bottle.
Come back to this calon in 2024 and taste the vigour!

Edward said...

Good to see I'm not the only one who lacks patience. I have a few of these at home, again from indent, that I have been thinking about opening. (Cost me twice the price though, that's the cost of being antipodean).

Bordeaux is King, but also an easy target.

David McDuff said...

Lots of good comments here, Neil. I agree with you on the need to look at a wine regularly throughout the decanting period; in fact, I rarely ever decant -- not never, just rarely -- because I think there's often more to be missed than to be gained.

I'll also agree with the last anon comment. It might not take 20 years but more than one or two. I drank a '97 Calon Segur not long ago, wine from a supposedly "bad vintage" that was detailed, aromatic, lively and quite gorgeous. Same pairing, though with roasted potatoes rather than sweets. Good stuff, and it too was only 12.5%.

Joe Manekin said...

Neil - '04s generally have less 'baby fat' in the form of fruit and dry extract, and they are a little more classic, more mineral,with higher acidity and most importantly - affordable pricing!

I'm with McDuff on the wines needing more than just a couple years. An example - I drank a few '99s ('bad' vintage) that were showing really well last year (after 6 years in bottle): '99 Kirwan, '99 Haut Bailly, '99 Coufran and '99 Lalande Borie. And these last 2 are merely cru bourgeois, not a classed growth like Calon-Segur.

Brooklynguy said...

hi joe - listen: you have to stop letting your wife blind you like that. it has to be demoralizing. i'm glad you got excited by all this Bordeaux talk.

here's to that kind of patience anon. 24 years, even for an 04, huh. i have one bottle of the 05 and that i figure will need 20 + years. the 04 too. not sure if i can do it. we'll see what happens. but your point is duly noted.

g'day edward - if you have a few, then maybe drinking one now-ish isn't such a crime. you can hold the others.

hey david mcD - does that mean that you rarely open bottles like this when they're young, or that you prefer to experience them without the decant when you open them? maybe there's something to this "bad vintage" bordeaux thing. sounds like you had a winner.

yo old skool - i'm guessing those were popped and poured, no decant. i don't think that decanting is a substitute for aging wine either. but if you're going to open a wine when i know it's too young, i tend to decant, but drink it while it's decanting too. cause i have no patience sometimes.

David McDuff said...

It's a bit of both. I don't drink Bordeaux very often so what I do buy and have tends to get a good lay down before being opened. However, it's mainly the latter. I generally prefer to spend time with the wine in the glass. Pouring a wine into a decanter and then ignoring it for 2-3-4 hours or more is kind of the vinous equivalent to having a kid and then sleeping through the first four years of its life. So, on the rare occasions that I do decant, I'm with you, tasting and sniffing all the while.