PESSAC LEOGNAN and GRAVES (Place and Profiles)

The PLACE:
PARSING PESSAC LEOGNAN and GRAVES

map-vignoble-de-bordeaux-gravesThe CHATEAUX PROFILED:

Haut Brion and Company
Ch. Haut Brion and Ch. La Mission Haut Brion are numbers one and two in the Graves pecking order. The are located directly across the road from one another (on the “Haut Brion Plateau”) and both are owned by the Dillon family.

Ch. Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan
The first of the first growths. Has 48.35 hectares (119.5 acres) planted to red grape varieties, including 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. Until the 2009 vintage, the second wine was known as Ch. Bahans Haut Brion. Now it is “Le Clarence de Haut Brion” after Clarence Dillon who bought the estate in 1935. His heirs still own it today.

Ch. La Mission Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan
Owned since 1983 by Domaine Clarence Dillon (owners of former arch-rival Ch. Haut Brion). The plantation is 21 hectares (52 acres) with 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Franc. The 2nd wine is La Chapelle de la Mission. Neighboring Ch. La Tour Haut Brion was absorbed into La Mission beginning with the 2006 vintage.

Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac Leognan
As far back in my wine drinking life as I can remember, Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac Leognan has been a favorite producer of both red and white wines. The reds are elegant, balanced, full-flavored, and flashy. The freshly balanced whites, predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with enough Semillon for fatness, display fresh white peach, green pear, and lime fruit with hints of tropical character and a lovely fruit-mineral perfume. Owned by the Cathiard (Florence and Daniel) family who bought it in 1990 from the Eschenauer company and then began revitalizing the property. That work and investment has paid of with a property that is now considered the 3rd or 4th top wine of Pessac Leognan by many wine insiders. The 56 hectare red wine plantation is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Smith Haut Lafitte is one of the few chateau in Bordeaux with their own cooperage. The Cathiards daughters started and run les Sources de Caudalie Spa and five star Hotel (and Michelin starred restaurant) on the chateau grounds. There are two 2nd wines: “La Petit Haut Lafitte” and “Les Hauts de Smith.”

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac Leognan
Owned by the Bernard family and run by Olivier Bernard, the red plantation of Damine de Chevalier is 35 hectares of red grape varieties consisting of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2.5% Petit Verdot . The wines are known for their elegance and longevity.

Ch. Haut Bailly
Administrator Veronique Sanders (daughter of the former owners) has quietly made Ch. Haut Bailly one of the hot properties in Pessac Leognan. Producing only red wine, Haut Bailly is year-in-and-year-out one of the best new wines of the appellation. Older vintages age gracefully gaining a rich texture to go with great elegance and finesse. The fruit is mostly dark berry with some red cherry and a lovely tobacco and earth perfume. I doubt Haut Bailly will ever be trendy but it is always satisfying. The second wine is La Parde de Haut Bailly.

Ch. Carbonnieux
Owned by the very nice Perrin family, Ch. Carbonnieux makes an excellent if sometimes under-rated red wine from Pessac Leognan but is best known in the US for its reference standard white made mostly from Sauvignon Blanc. This white is all about freshness and perfume with crisply balanced bright citrus and tree fruit over minerals and acid structure, all with no discernable oak flavor. This is a year-in-year-out favorite that will sell only a few cases as futures but does very well off the shelf on release. Thomas Jefferson brought a pecan tree to Carbonnieux that is still growing there. The red plantation is 50 hectares with 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and (3%) split between Petit Verdot and Carmenere.

Ch. Clos Marsalette, Pessac Leognan
An up-and-coming Pessac Leognan estate owned by Stephen Niepperg of Ch. Canon LA Gafelliere fame. The 5.46 hectares of red wine plantation is split between 35% Merlot, 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.

Ch. Coucheroy, Graves
Another Andre Lurton property.

Ch. d’Archambeau, Graves

Ch. Fieuzal, Pessac Leognan

Ch. Haut Bailly, Pessac Leognan
Owned by American balnker Robert G. Wilmers and managed by the very capable Veronique Sanders (daughter of previous owner Daniel Sanders). The 32 hectare estate has 28 hectares (69 acres) under vine with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The second wine is La Parde de Haut Bailly.

Ch. Haut Bergey, Pessac Leognan, 2010
Owned by the Garcin Family (who also own Clos l’Eglise in Pomerol and Ch. Barde Haut in St. Emilion as well as property in Argentina). The property has 25 hectare planted to 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Merlot with an average vine age of 35 years.

Ch. Haut Vigneau, Pessac Leognan
Owned by Eric Perrin of Ch. Carbonnieux fame and planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Great bang for your buck and a fine companion at the dinner table.

La Louviere
Andre Lurton owns Ch. La Louviere. And Ch. Couhins Lurton. And Ch. Cruzeau, and Ch. Rochemorin, and Ch. Coucheroy, and Ch. Bonnet, etc. The beautifully restored La Louviere is the flagship property. La Louviere makes an earthy rich red wine with slightly rustic but still elegant, balanced feel. The white is a bit more rich than refreshing but still full of fruit flavor and subtle, supple oak over the minerals of Graves. Both are very satisfying. La Louviere is a favorite but Lurton’s other properties are all well worth a look, especially from a value standpoint. The pioneering Lurton will bottle La Louviere’s 2003s with a Stelvin (screw-cap) closure.

Ch. Les Carmes Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan
A red wine only estate planted to the unusual mix of 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, and only 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ch. Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac Leognan

Ch. Pape Clement, Pessac Leognan
Founded in 1306 by then Pope Clement and now owned by Bernard Magrez, Ch. Pape Clement is a great terroir that has been using a lot of the technigues often used to compensate for lesser terroir. This has resulted in big, extracted wines. It seems the pendulum is beginning to swing the other direction. The 30 hectare red wine plantation consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.

Ch. Rochemorin, Pessac Leognan
Owned by Andre Lurton and planted to 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot.

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