Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, Vintage 2008 Release Tasting

What more could an oenophile desire on a cold, brisk Chicago afternoon?  Oh yes... a Bordeaux tasting at The Drake sounds warming to the soul... and the palate.  (Sorry, that was such an elitist response.)  And not just any Bordeaux tasting: the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, vintage 2008, with such names as Chateau Talbot, Chateau Carbonnieux, Chateau Leoville-Barton, and one of my favorites, Chateau Gruaud Larose.

My day's odyssey began with a train ride into the city, arriving at Union Station with enough time to spare for a quick lunch, which was a journey of its own... please see last night's post.  The Drake is synonymous with prestige and class.  Stepping into the main entrance, you feel transformed to the time of its infancy in the 1920's, with the beautiful crescendo of stairs to the main lobby, luxurious ornate carpeting of gold on blue, golden walls and crystal chandeliers, registration to your right and the Palm Court restaurant to your left, and then up, onward to the Drake and Gold Coast ballrooms, to an appropriately decor-ed atmosphere for the wine tasting: gold columns of grape vines against a green and gold background on a gold and green floor.  Oh, and shoulder to shoulder buyers and vendors too.

Lo and behold, who do I see first, but David Launay from Chateau Gruaud Larose, and reintroduced myself. He remembered our lunch in the north suburbs from last May, and was very pleased about our success with his flagship 2006 vintage, and second label, Larose de Gruaud.  I continued our conversation and asked about his winery and how 2008 was for him.  He explained that it was a good vintage, not phenomenal like 2009 or 2005, but it is very much a "restaurant" vintage, meaning it will not require a long period of time to be cellared, and is very approachable right out of the bottle.  Due to a longer, slightly warmer Autumn, the grapes were able to become very ripe, and without a large about of stress (what gives wine tannins and juice character), the bottle remains easy and enjoyable at a young age.  That is not to say the wine will not last for many years if properly stored, it just means the wine does not require a long cellaring period before the tannins will break down and give a more "round" palate and softer appeal.  In fact, David went on to say that for his taste, he would actually let the wine rest for about eight years in the bottle, when the tannins have had time to allow a balance between terroir and fruit.  Additionally, he is looking forward to 2009 vintage, and surprisingly the 2010 vintage, which he said was just as spectacular for them.  I very much enjoyed speaking with David, and very much enjoyed his 2008 vintage of his Saint Julien flagship wine.

Shaking hands with David Launay of Chateau Gruaud Larose

After speaking with David and tasting a few wines from his adjacent booths, I ran into Augie from Tenzing Wine and Spirits, my sales rep and new tasting buddy.  It was his invite to the Tenzing Bar Lab that sparked my blog in the interests of spirit and mixology enthusiasts, and also his invite that brought me to the Bordeaux tasting yesterday.  (Thanks Augie!)

We approached several Chateau representatives and had a chance to speak with most of them about their input on the 2008 vintage.  We tasted close to 35 wines, but I only (yes, only) have 28 reviews in my notebook.  I will post a couple here and there throughout the week, but I must apologize in advance that the descriptions in the last few, are, let's just say, very similar...

There comes a point where you know the palate is unique, but your hand doesn't exactly write what you're thinking... it's more along the lines of "wow... this one tastes good... so does this one..." [hiccup]... "this one's really good too."  (No, I'm exaggerating, but it made me laugh.)  When you look back and see notes like these, it's time to call a cab and hop on your train to your suburb.  And might I suggest not falling asleep.  When you suddenly hear the stop announced amidst your very odd dream, and you realize it's one stop North of yours, you get stuck in a station waiting an hour for the South-bound train, where your now very tense nerves have a chance to calm down.  Hopefully, you'll find an ice cream shop around the corner, and a Rocky Road cone may help; in these depressing situations, two scoops is acceptable.  Oh, and just be thankful you didn't wind up at the end of the train line.


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