2010 Chateau Sipian Medoc
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Frederic Mehaye Left Bank Magic and A View of the The Estuary

On the night of April 21, 1991, the mercury plummeted. When the winegrowers of Bordeaux's Left and Right Bank awoke, then walked the vines to evaluate the damage, most were distraught. In just a few hours, half the crop had been destroyed, an estimated 7 billion francs lost -- the most calamitous frost damage in the last five decades.

A few Chateaux came away only partially -- or completely -- unscathed. Chateau Petrus deployed moonlight helicopters, displacing and warming the freezing air, and would thus lose just thirty percent of its Merlot crop. But, strikingly, Latour, Montrose and prized Sociando-Mallet -- all of which enjoy rare 'views of the estuary' -- were completely spared by the warming influence of the Gironde. None of this was lost on a young Frederic Mehaye, who, just two years before, had returned to his family's Chateau Sipian.

As Frederic was quick to realize after that historic frost, Latour, Montrose and Sociando-Mallet shared a common profile within their respective appellations. Latour was the Granddaddy of the First Growths, a spectacularly age-worthy Pauillac, packed with Cabernet Sauvignon muscle. In great vintages, Chateau Latour aged effortlessly for decades, its broad shoulders waiting to be filled out with black fruit filling. The 2010 would be one of the greatest in history, earning 98-100 points from The Wine Advocate, which suggested 70 years of age-worthiness.

In St. Estephe, the same could be said of Montrose, one of the most storied of the Left Bank powerhouses. Montrose was the long distance runner of St. Estephe. Popping corks too early was wine infanticide. Our recent tastings of the phenomenal 1959 and 1961 argue eloquently for more rest. In the phenomenal 2010 vintage, one that proprietor Jean Delmas believes to be one of the greatest ever for Montrose, Parker dropped a 96-99+ point score before suggesting that this herculean St. Estephe will hit full stride sometime in 2050!

As to Sociando-Mallet, Sipian's neighbor, and the top Chateau in the Haut-Medoc, the story would be much the same. "C'est la vue de l'estuaire qui explique Sociando" ("It's the view of the estuary that explains Sociando"), Mehaye told us. Rich, powerful and striking in structure, particularly in cool vintages that finish on a warm note, Sociando outpoints many Classified Growths. Such would be the case in 2010, when Parker suggested that the monumental 2010 Sociando-Mallet still has 30 years of life ahead.

By 1994, Frederic Mehaye -- now not simply aware of Chateau Sipian's propitious riverfront locale, but determined to take full advantage of it -- rolled the dice, electing to plant Petit Verdot on the gravelly, sandy soils that had always been home to Cabernet Sauvignon. The risk was considerable. Petit Verdot is the rarest, but increasingly, the most precious of Bordelais varieties, offering deep color, superb structure, and fabulous racy complexity. But, Petit Verdot also poses problems. The variety is notoriously late to ripen. Further inland, maturity is a crapshoot. But for riverview properties like Latour, Montrose, Sociando and Sipian -- particularly in great vintages -- Petit Verdot could make for Left Bank Magic.

When we asked Frederic Mehaye to rate the 2010 vintage that Wine Spectator and Parker have already called one of the greatest in the history of their respective publications, Mehaye was quick to reply. "Except for the crop size -- we were down close to 30% -- 2010 wasn't just the finest harvest in the history of Sipian, it was a perfect harvest. The summer was mild, even cool, stretching out the growing season. Then the heat came in the last few weeks. The recette is good for Merlot. Very good for Cabernet Sauvignon. But for Petit Verdot, c'est parfait."

The 2010 Chateau Sipian is deepest ruby in color. As always, just after pulling the cork, Sipian seems a little closed and back on its heels. But as collectors know all too well about the Chateaux that escaped the frost of 1991, that's the muscular beauty of Chateau Sipian.

The aromas are of crushed red fruits and pine needles, sweet herbs lightly laced with new wood cedar. Rich, yet restrained (for now) on the attack -- the Petit Verdot showing through with its muscular raciness, even as it pulls back on the reins -- the texture is suave and silken, the finish firmly structured, built for the long haul.

If you choose to drink this one now (ugh!), serve at 60 degrees. Char-grill the strip steak or ribeye, crack the black pepper, drizzle a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with gros sel. Sipian requires large stemware. If you've yet to make that investment, it's time to loosen up the purse strings.

Tasting Notes

2010 Chateau Sipian Medoc
"Deep ruby in color. Piercing aromas of crushed red fruits and pine needles, sweet herbs lightly laced with new wood cedar. The attack is rich, albeit restrained and elegantly back on its feet-- the Petit Verdot showing through with its muscular raciness, even as it pulls back on the reins. Suave and silken in texture, the finish firmly structured, built for the long haul, buttressed by the fine, dusty tannins of the Gironde. Drink now (if you must) to 2025. Serve at 60 degrees in large stemware. Dividends will be paid to the patient."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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