Sunday, June 22, 2014 –
Dining Room Manager & Events Coordinator
Bailli de Chicago
“Great wine is about nuance, surprise, subtlety, expression, qualities that keep you coming back for another taste. Rejecting a wine because it is not big enough is like rejecting a book because it is not long enough, or a piece of music because it is not loud enough.”
— Kermit Lynch, Adventures on the Wine Route
Tour de Bordeaux
On June 22, 2014, Manfred Raiser, Vice Echanson, Lake Shore Bailliage, guided 36 lucky members and guests of the Chicago Société Mondiale du Vin on a virtual bicycle trip and wine tour through the Bordeaux region of France. The tasting, which took place on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Restaurant Michael in Winnetka, Illinois, just north of Chicago, provided a special opportunity to experience in three flights exceptional vintages from the 1980s that have just reached maturity.
First Flight. Donning bicycle helmets and “clipping in,” Manfred and his fellow “riders” began their journey in Pauillac. With its gravelly soil and excellent drainage, Pauillac is home to some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Pauillac wines are rich and full-bodied and have excellent ageing potential. Tasting four vintages of Château Pichon Lalande – 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1990 – allowed a “time travel” comparison of the wines. True to form and style, the wines of Madame La Comtesse were voluptuous and exhibited sensuous qualities, a reflection of the large portion of Merlot in the blend. To this writer, 1985 was the wine of the flight. It showed great concentration and balanced notes of dark berries, cassis, cedar and leather accompanied by silky soft tannins. The wine is at its peak!
Second Flight. For the next segment of the trip - a horizontal tasting of the 1989 silver anniversary vintage – the riders pedaled north to south, exploring chateaux along the left bank of the Gironde Estuary. The first pour was a Château Calon-Segur. The chateau is located in the St. Estèphe area, known for wines that stand out as being the most concentrated and having the best potential for ageing. Next stop was back in Pauillac for a Château Pichon-Baron, which had typical flavors of black currant, licorice, cedar and lead pencil. Here, the riders lingered to stage a side-by-side comparison of Monsieur Le Baron’s 1989 offering against that of Madame La Comtesse’s.
Continuing south to the St.-Julien appellation, riders tasted the 1989 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, which featured flavors of tobacco, cassis, earth, and cigar box notes. The soil in St.-Julien has a deeper bed of gravel and excellent drainage toward the Gironde. It is richer in clay than the lighter gravel soil of Margaux, resulting in more viscosity and body.
The group continued down the D2, enjoying glimpses of vineyards amid rolling hills, into the Margaux region, the largest of the Medoc’s principal communes. Many of the most charming, best-known and beloved Bordeaux wines come from Margaux. Now mature, the 1989 Château Rauzan-Ségla has flavors of black fruits, herbs, oak, and silky tannins, while the 1989 Château Margaux is rich, complex and opulent with amazing soft tannins.
Third Flight. The tour then travelled east to the Pomerol area on the right bank of the Dordogne River. The 1983 Château Trotanoy showed notes of tobacco, cloves, nutmeg, mushroom and forest floor. Wending their way southwest toward St. Emilion, guests ended their journey with the 1990 Château Ausone, which reflects the minerality from the massive limestone deposits found in the area. Wine from St. Emilion is rich, full-bodied and concentrated. This winery has some of the oldest vines in the region.
Dinner. Following the tasting, members and guests were encouraged to transfer two of their favorite pours to the private dining room of the restaurant, trading their bicycle seats for seats at the dining table.
While Chef Michael Lachowicz and his team prepared the evening’s meal, everyone enjoyed 2008 Champagne Veuve Doussot Cuvée Ernestine with passed gougères and mini fish tacos.
Dinner began with a first course of summer corn soup with a strudel of chanterelle mushrooms, foie gras and tempura french leek. The second course was a duo of pan-roasted diver scallop with pistachio-crusted oxtail croquette, a ballantine of lightly smoked lobster and king crab, and sweet carrot gelée. A 2005 Château de Reignac was paired with both courses.
The third course was a presentation of squab in the style of Jean Banchet, paired with 1979 Château Rauzan-Ségla.
Dessert was a duo of mini chocolate daquoise and “baked Alaska,” followed by chocolate truffles and coffee.
Many members and guests generously provided bottles from their own collections to share during the meal, as well. Among those brought in were: 2004 Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux, 1989 Château Rauzan-Ségla, 1989 Château Meyney, 1986 Château Latour, 1986 Château Margaux, 1982 Château Gruaud-Larose, 1982 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1975 Château Rauzan-Ségla, 2005 Château Rieussec and NV Jonata Winery La Miel de Jonata.
Bailli Mon Roldan thanked Chef Michael and presented him with a Chaîne Award of Merit. As the sun set on a lovely early summer evening, members and guests were most certainly grateful to have experienced this celebration of Bordeaux wines, and a marvelous bicycle tour (with no road rash or saddle sores) through the guidance of the very knowledgeable Team Captain, Manfred Raiser.