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Up to this time, we have primarily enjoyed wines from California, Washington and Oregon. (See our favorites.)

Recently, in order to broaden our horizons, I asked Ralph Sands at K&L Wines in Redwood City to put together a starter case or two of French Bordeaux as a way to get familiarized with the wines of the region. Ralph is the Bordeaux specialist on staff. I provided Ralph with the following guidelines:

Can you suggest a sample cellar selection with a cross-section of Bordeaux. My intent is to form the foundation of a cellar that would form the basis for drinking over the next 1-5 years -- or even longer. Specific criteria include:

  1. Approximately two cases in total.
  2. Generally speaking, 2-4 bottles of each wine in order to allow for tasting at least twice during this period. Exceptions allowed if you want to break this rule.
  3. Average price should come in between $25-30 per bottle. This should allow for some flexibility to mix some higher-priced choices with less expensive choices. The lower end is better for my bank account but not at the risk of bypassing something that we really should try for the experience.
  4. We have no particular interest in any single vintage.
  5. In general, I'm looking for wines with character but not necessarily with really heavy tannins.
  6. Should be in stock now or very soon (within 1 month or so).

After a few days, Ralph came back with an interesting cross-section of wines that meet our criteria that he thought that we should try. In retrospect, the average price point that we suggested was not really too challenging but it did allow him to indulge us with a range that extended from fairly inexpensive wines that were ready to drink now together with a handful of more expensive choices that we could easily cellar for a few years. Here is the list together with his comments (almost verbatim) on each of his choices.  After we give the wines a chance to catch their breath after shipping, we'll update this page with our thoughts on how well his selections worked for us.

Year Producer Qty K&L Comments
1994 Pontet Canet, Pauillac 1 Best wine made at Pontet Canet since 1961.
1995 Meyney, St. Estephe 2 1995 vintage at a good price. This Meyney is a little softer than usual.
1995 Reserve de Comtesse, Pauillac 2 Second wine of Pichon Lalande. Second wines are a good way to get exposure to the great chateau. Also, good to contrast with the 1996 Pichon Lalande.
1995 Lynch-Bages, Pauiliac 1 "Poor man's Ch. Mouton." Dark, serious wine with lots of fruit.
1996 Les Forts de Latour, Pauillac 1 A "more classic" wine than the 1995. Powerful and will be tannic in its youth.
1996 Fiefs de Lagrange, St Julien 2 Second wine of Lagrange. Good way to get exposure to the great chateau.
1996 Greysac, Medoc 1 Good, everyday Bordeaux. Should be chunky compared to the Arnauld. Tasted 10/2000 against the la Fleur St Georges. Very tannic with mineral notes.
1997 Arnauld, Haut Medoc 1 Good, everyday Bordeaux. Should be elegant compared to the Greysac. Tasted 3/2001. More mineral notes than we expected. A surprise.
1997 St. Georges, St Emilion 2 Satellite of St. Emilion. Primarily merlot. Good drinking wine.
1997 La Bessane, Margaux 2 Satellite of Margaux. Primarily merlot. Textbook smoothness and balance. Tasted 6/2001. Smooth and elegant wine.  Good value.
1997 Vieux Fortin, St Emilion 2 New chateau, producing since 1989. Located on the line between Pomerol and St. Emilion. Good fruit.
1997 Haut Bailly, Pessac-Leognan 2 From the Graves region, this chateau is an older style of Bordeaux. Not heavily extracted and not too oaky. Interesting to compare with the Smith Haut-Lafite.
1997 Smith Haut-Lafite, Pessac-Leognan 2 This chateau recently changed ownership and has resulted in a newer style of wines. Dark purple, lots of fruit.  Good contrast with Haut Bailly.
1997 Pichon Lalande, Pauillac 1 Very elegant, classic Bordeaux with high proportion of Merlot. Should be decanted.
1997 Cos d'Estournel, St. Estephe 1 Typically a big wine, the 1997 can be drunk now. Decanting probably needed.
1997 Beaumont, Haut Medoc 1 Good, everyday Bordeaux that should be ready to drink now.

In our follow-up discussion with Ralph, we dropped the Beaumont and increased to the quantity of a couple of the choices above. We also decided to add several wines from Pomerol to ensure that we had a something from the right Bank.

1995 La Croix du Casse 2 Very rich and from a good year. Just reaching maturity now.
1996 La Fleur St. Georges, Lalande de Pomerol 2 This wine, from a satellite of Pomerol, represents a good value. Tasted 10/2000 against the Greysac. Smoother, more powerful than the Greysac.

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