In the early 1980s, courtesy of a charming 83-year-old wine collector, we were invited to a number of private tastings featuring back vintages of classified-growth Bordeaux. Arnie B was as charming as he was generous, and as he fell into ill health, his generosity knew no bounds.
Tastings were scheduled on Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. at a private dining room in the Four Seasons Hotel. After a friend wheeled Arnie into the room, our host, who purchased most of the Bordeaux in his cellar with Alexis Lichine, the Russian-born wine writer and owner of Château Prieuré-Lichine, offered insights on the theme of the day’s lineup. Tastings were either “horizontal or vertical,” meaning that we would be evaluating either many vintages from a single château or many wines from the same vintage. To this day, those Sunday afternoons at the Four Seasons are among the most memorable of our career.
We recall “horizontal” tastings of the 1959, 1961 (28 wines, including one of the greatest bottles of our lives, the 1961 Latour à Pomerol), 1964, 1966 (somewhat disappointing), and 1970. As to the “verticals,” Arnie proposed 10-12 vintages of Ducru-Beaucaillou, Léoville-Las Cases, and one of our favorites, Domaine de Chevalier.
Not surprisingly, when we read Robert Parker’s glowing review of the magnificent 2009 Domaine de Chevalier, which began with a short discussion of the still remarkably youthful 1970, we couldn’t help but think back to those Sunday tastings with Arnie B. The guy broke the mold.
Domaine de Chevalier is one of Pessac-Léognan’s more intellectual wines, always more a subject of elegance and age-worthiness than flamboyance. But, given the extreme ripeness brought on by one of the warmest and driest summers the history of the Gironde, this 2009 simply has it all — full body, luscious black-fruit intensity, elegance, and harmony. Delicious now, but as Parker suggests, the magnificent 2009 Domaine de Chevalier will be going strong well into the 2030s!
Overrated, and overpriced.
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