The SOMM Journal

April / May 2016

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Page 101 of 108

{ }  101 { bordeaux } One recent chilly night in Washington, D.C., an unassuming neighborhood restaurant welcomed a select group of 35 wine writ- ers, sommeliers and collectors for a private dinner. Organized at Ripple restaurant by writer Panos Kakaviatos, the occasion was a paired dinner with 15 vintages of Château Cos d'Estournel, owned since 2000 by Michel Reybier, who added a new gravity- flow chai. The estate's Director General, Aymeric de Gironde, provided insight into the wines, paired in flights of three with dishes from Ripple's acclaimed chef and Top Chef contestant, Marjorie Meek-Bradley. The selection of vintages, from 1982 to 2012, demonstrated a curve of winemaking styles from the estate, from the elegance and restraint of the 1980s, to the accent on new oak and longer hang-times in the 1990s, to the lower yields of the 2000s. Jennifer Knowles, Sommelier at the Jefferson Hotel in D.C., offered her take on the selections. "What struck me the strongest was the common thread of beautiful phenolic bitter - ness that is pervasive in almost every vintage we tasted. I think this component is one of the reasons Cos is such an extraordinary wine to have at the table." This hint of bitter- ness helps the wine to complement and not overpower the food. Guests started with a trio of cooler vin- tages, 2004, 2006 and 2008, paired with an amuse-bouche of lamb heart tartare. "The common thread is that when these were young, they were so austere," explained de Gironde. "But just like our weather today— when it is cold, people pile on the hats and scarfs and gloves, and you need to look beneath those layers to see who someone really is," de Gironde noted, referring to the time needed for the fruit to emerge from the layers of tannin and structure. All three vintages were drinking well, with the surprise coming from the underrated 2004. This vintage suffered from being book - ended by the warmer years of 2003 and 2005, but rewards the patient drinker with elegance and unexpected freshness. Those sun-kissed years of 2003 and 2005 were served with the 2002 and a course of glazed sweetbreads with sunchoke remou - lade. This was one of the favorite pairings of the night, with the dish bringing out the characteristic exotic spices of the wines. Both the 2003 and the 2005 had aromas of cardamom and soy, but still seemed to need some more time in the decanter to fully open, but the 2002 was singing, and complemented the dish perfectly. Wild boar ragu and potato gnocchi arrived with a flight from 1995, 1996 and a glorious 2000 that was poured from mag - num. All showed some youth and freshness, but the 1996 had a particular tightness that prompted some discussion as to whether or not it would eventually open fully. According to de Gironde, the 1995 was "the first year we used 100 percent new oak," but that they rarely use more than 75 percent new oak now. No flight brought more excitement among the guests than the oldest wines served: 1982, 1985 and 1989. The inventive plate of duck breast with foie gras grits was consumed with little regard for the pairing, as many attendees focused full attention on the wines. One might expect the highly-acclaimed 1982 to steal the show, but many felt the 1985 was holding up a little better. All three vintages exemplified classic Bordeaux, and demon - strated how having a solid balance of grippy tannins, zippy acidy and jammy fruit round out over the years into elegance depth and complexity. The exiting power of their youth has given way through time to exotic Asian spices, sweet leather and tobacco, and sweet soft cassis fruit. The night ended with a flight of recent vintages—2009, 2010 and 2012—paired with a small cheese course. By 2009, according to de Gironde, "the wine had gotten bigger than us," and that vintage's extreme concentration, while exhilarating upon release, did not hold up well against earlier selections. De Gironde is oversee - ing a return to elegance and restraint to Cos d'Estournel, backing off on the oak and harvesting a littler earlier to bring down the alcohol levels just a touch. "2010 is the best wine we've made so far. It's as simple as that," declared de Gironde to murmurs of agreement around the room. The 2009 came off as blowsy and alco - holic, but the 2010 balanced power with elegance. Knowles appreciated the 2012, saying, "The polished tannins held up in the dark bitter fruits and the vanilla notes of the judiciously-used new oak. It had all the makings of a wine that is truly both St. Estèphe and Cos d'Estournel at the same time. That balance will always inspire a smile of appreciation from me." Cos d'Estournel is imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines. Château Cos d'Estournel, with its signature pagoda towers. Back to the Future with Cos d'Estournel THE SAINT-ESTÈPHE SUPER-SECOND GROWTH SIGNALS A RETURN TO ITS CLASSIC STYLE by David D. Denton, CSS, CWE, IBWE PHOTO COURTESY OF CHATEAU COS D'ESTOURNEL

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