Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gruaud Larose v Chateau Palmer

Gruaud Larose vs Chateau Palmer - contrasting styles vintage Bordeaux

For a gala birthday dinner celebrating wife Linda's birthday with kids Ryan & Michelle, I pulled from the cellar two vintage twenty-five year old Bordeaux, Chateau Palmer and Chateau Gruaud Larose. For my bride's birthday, I know of no label that defines elegance more than the distinctive gold on black of the super second Margaux, Chateau Palmer with its smooth refined floral perfume laced fruit. And Gruaud Larose has emerged as a signature Bordeaux wine of Ryan and me as we've tasted several vintages together including our encounters with winemaker David Launay at the UGC events. What a contrast in styles with the muscular firm bold Gruaud aside the diminutive refined Palmer.

We still hold each of these wines in magnum and other large formats from each of the kids' birthyears as well as several other vintages in standard format.

At twenty-five years old from an average vintage, I was hopeful that the wines were still holding and up to the occasion. I opened and decanted them about 1:00 pm and returned them to the cellar before rebottling and recorking them for dinner. On initial opening they were both closed and withdrawn and both appeared to have lost some of the luster of their color. Even then, upon re-opening at the restaurant around 7:00 pm, over the course of the evening, it was still two hours before they really opened and started to reveal their full fruit and nuances of their breadth and depth.

Our celebration dinner took place at Cafe Absinthe in Wicker Park, Chicago, a French influenced American bistro. The picturesque trendy eatery is part Paris part Chicago with rustic brick walls revealing a faded painted billboard, high ceilings, wood floors and white tablecloths. While it sits at the high energy bustling corner of Damen, North and Milwaukee Avenues, the unconventional entrance is around the corner in the alley.

The menu is basic selection of four starters, chowder, four salads and less than a dozen entrees of beef, lamb, chicken, scallops, a risotto, salmon and breast of duck. The wine list is minimalist but they cater to BYOB interests. All the selections were imaginative, nicely presented, delicious and fairly priced.

The Palmer was a perfect complement to the Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the roasted beet salad with nuts and white pepper, and the chocolate lava cake. The Gruaud Larose was the perfect complement to my New York strip steak with red wine reduction and au gratin potatoes, the beef tenderloin and the lamb chops.

Chateau Palmer Margaux 1988

I purchased a case of this wine upon release back in the early nineties and this is the second to last bottle remaining.

Medium bodied, ruby/garnet colored, moderate acidity, the boysenberry and black raspberry fruits were accented by tones of cigar box, a whisper of eucalyptus and earthy leather, before giving way to a mouthful of bright floral perfume that lingered on the long finish of sinewy silky tannins.

RM 91 points.

Chateau Gruaud Larose St Julien 1988

We hold this wine in a dozen vintages dating back to early 80's including magnums from several vintages. We asked David Launay, winemaker about this vintage when we met him at the UGC Chicago tasting event and he advised we should start drinking it over the next few years.

Full bodied, dark garnet colored, lively acidity with firm core of black berry fruits accented by tobacco, leather and hints of cassis with moderate tannins on the finish.

RM 89 points.

More to come ....