Last year I had the pleasure (headache) of going to the Union des Grand Cru Bordeaux tasting at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. It was a pleasure to drink the wines, it was a headache dealing with all the assholes that brought clueless dates and then parked at slightly famous chateau’s tables taking pour after pour (those tables ran out much quicker that others, leaving little commie people like me who hit every single table once mad as hell).
I don’t know much about Bordeaux wine but I can recognize a wine that is so tannic and backwards it’s almost undrinkable right now (which these assholes failed to appreciate at all). It took 4-5 glasses before I could kind of tune my palate to the unbelievably tannic juice. Not that it tasted bad or anything, it just took that long to basically numb the ‘tannic’ part of my tongue and start to appreciate the subtle differences in each wine.
I arrived vastly underprepared. I took with me a coffee cup I grabbed on the way out the door, as a ‘spit cup’ so I wouldn’t get hammered after three small pours (I’m a lightweight). As I pulled up and watched everyone getting out of their cars and walking up to the event, no one was carrying a spit cup, or a bottle of water, or a notepad. Though it baffled me, my insecurity overruled my overwhelming desire to sufficiently geek out, and I left my pad and cup in the car. As soon as I got into the event of course, I realized the majority weren’t spitting, and envied the few older men armed with small backpacks with bottled water, dixie cups, and small notepads. Writing in the glossy pages of the ‘guidebook’ they gave out detailing each chateau wasn’t ideal, and leaning over the small vase they had for pouring out what you didn’t want, and gracefully spitting all over their tables (and I’m sure akwardly on a few of the guests) left me coveting that abandoned coffee cup like a dog who misplaced his bone, just out of reach.
It took pushing and shoving to get to the goods, as people just stood there savoring each wine without moving 3-4 feet back and out of the way to allow the que of 10-12 people that had amassed around each table to also enjoy each bottle. I’m pretty sure by the end of the event I stabbed a woman in the neck with a broken glass for drunkenly cutting in front of me to steal a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th) pour. Maybe I just grumbled loudly and spit on her when given the chance, I never remember things exactly right.
Here are my notes from last years’s event, with the prices at the time, more or less in order of how I liked ‘em. I didn’t bother to dig up all the ones that weren’t mentioning:
Chateau Angelus - $100 - wotn (wine of the night), balanced, beautiful finish, cherry & smoke with integrated wood
Chateau Leoville Poyferre - $65 - Marvelous, with good acid. Needs time.
Chateau Lascombes - $50 - complex & delicious, good acid, integrated tannins
Chateau Langoa Barton - $35 - great acid, bold ripe fruit, delicious. some spice, some licorice, some earth
Chateau Leoville Barton - $60 - fine tannins that are almost sticky in your mouth, dry. Balanced, with round, honed fruit. some spice.
Chateau Lynch Bages - $70 - bold ripe red fruit, slightly heavy tanins, great acid, tasty
Chateau Clinet - $90 - medium bodied, refined tanins, some earth, green at the tail of the finish. Should be good in time.
Chateau Pavie-Macquin - $50 - Sweet ripe raspberry, integrated oak & tannins. May age well. clean finish.
Chateau Larrivet-Haut-Brion - $25 - medium-full bodied; very pleasent every-day wine; cherry, balanced, not flashy, with good acid
Chateau Beauregard - $30 - Funky nose, ripe fruit, cassis, raspberry, blackberry, spice, balanced & good
Chateau Brane-Cantenac - $40 - rich fruit nose, stewed meat & prunes on nose, licorice, balanced tannins. a lot going on.
Chateau Giscours - $35 - very pleasant, integrated tannins, good fruit, good acid, great all around every day wine
Chateau Talbot - $35 - ripe fruit, round tannins, good balance, rasp tart tickles a bit on the finish
Chateau Climens - $50/375 - Pineapple wonderland. great. better than great. I could drink this every day.
Chateau Guiraud - $30/375 - very complex, will age well
A few notes on my tasting experiences:
It was at this event that I came to appreciate a balanced wine vs a unbalanced wine. Some of the wines I tried were all over the place, and found their way into the spittoon as fast as possible. Some tasted like burnt cornflakes had been mixed with syanide, which I could only guess were tannins not properly integrated (in all honesty, it tasted like bitter grapeskins, which is what they are). The best glasses I swallowed without realizing it, because the experience of sniff to swirl to swallow to super long finish that changed and changed again lit that searing passion for wine deep in my loins. UGC 2011 (09 vintage) is later tonight, new report to come.