One of the greatest stories from Bordeaux in the last 20 years has to be the career of Jean-Luc Thunevin in the magically beautiful village of Saint-Émilion. Starting with a small parcel of vines and making wine in a humble garage rather than a regal château, Valandraud took the wine world by storm and pioneered the “Garagiste” movement to much controversy. Many projects have been done in the ensuing years which provided a nice opportunity for our merry band to sample an array of Thunevin’s work under the guidance of Dan Greathouse, primary Bordeaux buyer for Heidelberg Distributing in Ohio.
Vice Echanson Mike Monnin started us off with a blind tasting of a mystery white and red. These turned out to be 2006 Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, a classic 50/50 blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, and 2009 Présidial, an easy value priced wine from Thunevin. Tasty passed appetizers including latkes with smoked salmon and fried chives happily prepared us for interesting wines to come. Our first round started with 2006 Mauvais Garçon, sometimes labeled “Bad Boy” with a black sheep on the label alluding to Jean-Luc’s reputation. Indeed one can find the black sheep on signs leading to the fabled garage in Saint-Émilion. A step up was 2005 Virginie de Valandraud with a pinnacle found in a glass of 2001 Château Valandraud. Dan described this as receiving “200%” oak, where the wine is aged in a new barrel for a year and transferred to a second new oak barrel for an additional year. This was a fabulous youthful 10 year old wine.
Our next round offered 2008 La Tour du Pin, a Saint-Émilion which had fallen in stature until being purchased by the adjacent Château Cheval Blanc. Grandeur has been restored without “grand” price of Cheval! This was poured with Hauts de Pontet-Canet and Château Pontet-Canet, both from the 2008 vintage. This is one of the hottest properties not just in Pauillac but in all of Bordeaux, with each vintage gaining more acclaim. Finally we had the rare treat to sample a 1998 Château Haut-Brion, the only First Growth from Pessac-Léognan and a memorable experience to conclude our red adventure. Rather than dessert, Dan favored us with something special from his personal cellar: 1996 Château Nairac, a mysteriously complex Barsac-Sauternes that was delicate and elegant.
Chef Michael “Funky” Forgus presented a delicious buffet with choices of roasted lamb, Coho fillets, pumpkin cannelloni, and several imaginative sides. We dug in while assuring that none of the fine wines would go to waste. Our Bordeaux tournée was unanimously acclaimed a grand success by all confrères!
J.T. Mayer, Chargé de Presse Provincial Midwest