Wednesday, January 20, 2016

15 Vintages of Cos d'Estournel

It’s not often I get to taste 15 vintages of the same wine. Actually  wait a minute  I’ve never tasted 15 vintages of the same wine at one time. Six or eight, sure, but never have I so thoroughly immersed myself into a specific producer’s wine.

Well, what a great producer to focus on with such intensity. Cos d’Estournel is an iconic Bordeaux house, located in the Left Bank appellation of St. Estèphe. The estate dates back to 1811, and was classified as a second growth in the 1855 Bordeaux classification. The wine is usually about 75% Cabernet with Merlot rounding out the blend, and the occasional shot of Petite Verdot and/or Cabernet Franc. The wine is cherished by collectors for its long cellaring potential and appreciated by wine lovers for its rich fruit and unique spice components. As such, they’re also damned expensive. I’ll leave the full summary of this heralded estate to Bordeaux guru Panos Kakaviatos, who recently profiled this St. Estèphe property on his blog, Wine Chronicles: Changes afoot at Château Cos d’Estournel.

Panos organized this stunning tasting for a bunch of DC area winos. I had an absolute blast chatting with friends old and new, not to mention Cos director Aymeric de Gironde, who was a fount of information and a really solid dude. For a man who oversees Cos d’Estournel and worked as a manager at Krug, he’s an unassuming and humble guy. 

The food from Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley was, as always, phenomenal, and paired wonderfully with the wines. If you don’t know about her awesome restaurant in DC’s Cleveland Park Neighborhood, you should really give Ripple a try. I’ve had more phenomenal wine dinners at this restaurant than I can count, and the food and service are always remarkable. Also, she’s currently kicking some ass on this season of Bravo’s Top Chef, and I’m rooting she wins the whole thing.

All the wines at this tasting were stored in the chateau’s cellars since release. A few bottles were corked, so some of the pours from particular vintages were a bit smaller. I really wish I could revisit all the wines individually, but it was exceptional to taste so many vintages in one go. All in all, a most memorable evening. My thoughts on the wines are detailed below.

Opening Champagne

N.V. Michel Reybier Champagne - France, Champagne
This is a new project named after Cos Chateau owner Michel Reybier. It’s a richer style with toasty bread, baked yellow apples, a bit of grip to it with notes of salted nuts and white flowers. (87 points)

Flight 1
This course was paired with lamb heart tartare made with pickled mustard seed, caper and sea salt. Aymeric de Gironde described these wines as belonging to the "same family of vintages," and the wines all do show a similarity in grip and power, the younger wines showing a bit more austerity. Beautiful wines, the three of them, but the 2006 and 2008 are so young, and the 2004 seems to be opening up a bit, but, still, it’s best days are ahead.

2008 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Smells of warm spices, concentrated dark fruit. Bold and rich with dense tannins but some velvety aspects sneak through. Rich earth, roasted nuts, cedar, cigar box and underlying spices layer the dark currant fruit. Very young (I’d love to retaste in 10 years), but yet shows an undeniably attractive essence and a surprisingly creamy finish. (93 points)

2006 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Very similar nose to the 2008 but a bit more earth and spice. Rich and opulent with firm, chewy tannins and light acid. Concentrated but some silkiness starting to appear. Lovely earth, eucalyptus and sweet spice accents to dark currant fruit. Promising, but still very young and primal. (93 points)

2004 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
The most accessible and exciting wine in the bunch, this shows warm, deep currant aromas with cedar, pencil shavings and complex spice tones. Pure and vibrant on the palate, structured for sure but showing some freshness and precision. Black currant fruit doused with earth, tobacco, hints of mushroom coming out. Opens up with air, things are starting to get interesting here, and this will have so much more to show with more years in the cellar. (94 points)

Flight 2
This was paired with some spectacular glazed sweetbreads. For my palate, the 2005 was as close to perfect as I can imagine. I’ve never given a wine 99 or 100 points before (perhaps I will always be wary of doing so), but it deserves any superlative you could throw at it. The 2003 was also exceptional, and one well-known wine industry professional in the crowd maintained this wine was his favorite, not only of the tasting but his favorite Bordeaux, period. That’s the great thing about Cos: palates differ, but I think everyone had a favorite wine in this tasting that ranked way up there on their list of top wines from the region.

2005 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
A textbook example of near-perfect Bordeaux, as far as I can tell. Concentrated but elegant aromas, rich black cherry and currant fruit, accented by gorgeous earth, incense, dried floral and complex spice tones. So elegant on the palate despite the firm structure. Seems perfectly balanced between acid, tannin and fruit. Black and hints of red currant, the fruit is so pure and precise, and backed up by curling waves of incense, cedar, fallen leaves, graphite, mocha and cardamom. Simply phenomenal, and I bet it’s just getting started. My wine of the night. A real treasure to taste. (98 points)

2003 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Darker aromas, richer, blacker fruit with hints strong aromas of clove, earth, vanilla. Full and rich with dark currant and jammy black cherries, a full and rich wine but boasting lots of non-fruit complexity: incense, eucalyptus, loam, coffee, charcoal, bitter chocolate. Stands out for its dark, richness, but it's a gorgeous wine. Rich but so sexy, this seems to be flashing all its goodness right now. (95 points)

2002 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Rich with dark plums and currants on the nose, along with earth, cedar, leather and pepper. Full but smooth, the smoothest wine so far in the tasting, still rich but accessible, even bright. Still plenty of solid tannic structure, some brightness from the acid, very pretty currant fruit doused in wet leaves, leather, tobacco. Silky, starting to show elegance. My least favorite vintage of the night, which is saying something, because this wine is beautiful. (91 points)

Flight 3
Paired with potato gnocci with a wild boar ragu sauce with rutabaga and apples.

2000 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
The fruit here is so juicy and dreamy, black cherries and currants, laced with complex spice, herbs and cocoa powder notes. Full and still quite tannic but it glides across the palate and shows some freshness. Bold, chewy black cherries and currants, and I get a load of cedar, leaves, rich earth, cocoa powder, coffee, hints of toasted almond. Long, rich, wonderfully structured for the long haul but showing a lot of stuff tonight. Tasted from magnums. (95 points)

1996 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
This wine shows a unique brightness, and I get some red fruit on the nose as well as roses, tobacco, roasted red pepper. Full but silky tannins, bright acid, the black currant fruit is mixed in with some red currants, juicy and delicious all around. Complex elements of roasted pepper, white pepper, mossy soil, wet leaves, bay leaf, oregano, wow, the complexity and length of flavors is stunning. So long and nuanced. Pure bliss of a wine, showing tremendously well but plenty of time left to go. (96 points)

1995 Château Cosd'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Dark and juicy black currants on the nose, intertwined with cocoa, menthol, roasted chestnut and charcoal notes. Rich, plummy, saucy, but shows plenty of elegance as well. The fruit is slathered with spiced tea, menthol, fallen leaves, roasted pepper, and some toasted almond and cedar. Bold and still so structured but full of earthy complexity. At this point in the tasting, I wish I could spend all evening with this wine to really appreciate its nuance and evolution. (94 points)

Flight 4

Served with a stunning duck breast with foie gras grits and baby turnips. I was shocked by how much I loved the 1985. I wasn’t the only one, but there was a whole lot of love for the 82 (no surprise) and the 89. All were amazing, but for my palate, the 1985 stood out just a bit more than the heralded 82 vintage.

1989 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Crazy how young this wine still is, yet its elegance is so attractive. Smells leafy and herbal with dark currants and stewing spices. Full and chewy, still so structured with a firm tannic backbone. Pure currant fruit is matched with complex earth, anise, charcoal, gravel, cedar, tobacco and coffee notes. Another beauty, but this one is built for many more years to come. (94 points)

1985 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
This wine stands out for its bright, red-fruited approach. Smells tangy and herbal with bright red currants, red apple peel, violets, bay leaf, cigar smoke, floral perfume - an incredibly complex and elegant nose on this beauty. Bright and clean on the palate, with refined tannins and fresh acid. The red currant fruit is laced with rose hips, white pepper, cardamom, floral perfume, oregano and tobacco. Long, crisp finish, full of complexity. So bright and sexy, and showing wonderfully. Not the most heralded wine in the lot, but for my palate, the freshness on this wine is so damn attractive. (97 points)

1982 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
Smells of complex red fruits and plenty of herbs, wet earth, tobacco, charcoal and roasted peppers. Smooth, vibrant, dusty, earthy, straight-up gorgeous on the palate. Dark fruits matched with a powerful mix of pepper, soy, cedar, scorched earth, roasted nuts, leaves, mushroom. The finish is like tasting the bottom of a well-stocked spice rack, full of so many complex and nuanced elements that are so fun to coax out and analyze. But it’s easy to simply sip this and become enveloped in the beauty of it all. Not my favorite wine of the night, but definitely a stunner. (96 points)

Flight 5

Served with aged gouda and date jam. These were all tiny babies, and I’d love to redo this flight in eight or ten years.

2012 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
So concentrated, intense really, this needs a decade at least but it’s a thrilling wine at this age. Smells dense and packed with currants, almost like a barrel sample, with some roasted herbs and espresso. Full-throttle and brick-like tannic structure, intense concentration. But the fruit is pure and rich, and I get lots of vanilla, coffee, toasted almond , graphite and paved road notes. I’d love to see what happens to this wine over its long life. (93 points)

2010 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
A bit "brighter" than the 2012 aromatically, but also intense and quite compact at this young age. Dense black cherries and currants on the nose along with coffee, roasted nuts and rich earth. Full and chewy with dense tannins but there’s also a vibrancy and cleanness to the wine that makes it incredibly attractive. Rich black cherries, currants, loaded with coffee, roasted nuts, gravel, cocoa, violets, pepper glaze. Long, full, incredibly long finish. Amazing aging potential here - it’s almost a shame tasting this so young, but it’s an awesome experience to taste this wine at this point in its lifespan. Ridiculously good. (97 points)

2009 Château Cos d'Estournel - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
A rich, brooding nose of black currants, even some blueberry, along with roasted almond and scorched earth. Full, rich, opulent, densely tannic and chewy on the palate. Chewy blackberry and dark currant, the rich fruit is matched with complex elements of coffee, earth, gravel, exotic spice, incense, leather. Chewy but velvety, smoky but nuanced, teeth-staining but exciting. Needs so much time in the cellar, but it’s interesting to taste this beast so young. (94 points)

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