A Magnum of Awesome Bordeaux

A Magnum of Awesome Bordeaux

Posted on Apr, 05. 2010 by

Categories: Wine

2004 Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessec Leognan (1.5 liter)
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.] $177.26 • Buy this wine!

Well a week ago yesterday it was my birthday. My wife’s parents came into town to watch Alston and give me a little birthday time off which I used to paint my house, fix the shed, put together some raised beds in my garden and repair some minor plumbing issues about the house. It is funny how having a child has made a day of chores seem like a highly coveted birthday break.

All the chores done, Lisa and I made plans to go out for a big steak dinner. This is my birthday tradition. Every year I treat myself to the largest Porterhouse steak I can fit into my belly. In years past I have custom ordered and often custom cut my own Porterhouses as I like them two inches thick which is hard to find out at a restaurant. Common wisdom calls for little more thickness than a one inch steak as a Porterhouse is difficult to grill to temp properly cooking the meat by the bone as evenly as the meat at the edges. This is my art, however, and there is little I enjoy cooking more than a monster two inch thick Porterhouse steak perfectly aged and seasoned over a wood fire in my back yard.

My routine backyard scene.

This year I was too tired out from the day to do my own cooking and so Lisa and I decided to retry one of the 4 steak houses we have here in Charlottesville. I won’t draw this story out, the steak was awful, I don’t know how people can put out a product this bad when they really only have one thing to prepare, steak. It’s not that it was cooked wrong, it was cooked as well as you can cook a thawed out piece of the lowest grade meat available in a Porterhouse cut. I painfully remembered why I cook my own steaks here in Charlottesville.

That said, the service was excellent and the wine, along with my wife’s company, was so good that it made for a wonderful evening despite the exorbitant price and the terrible steak. I was looking at the list trying to decide between Burgundy and Bordeaux. As tired as I was, I wanted something more predictably enjoyable and went for the Bordeaux. It was a 2004 Smith Haut Lafitte which is quickly becoming one of my favorite estates in Bordeaux.

It would be wrong to call Smith Haut Lafitte a second to the greatest of Graves wine Haut Brion only because of Haut Brion’s persistent sublimity which puts it in a rather Platonist ‘Form of forms’ sort of realm. But for around $60-$70 there is no Bordeaux that I have tried that can deliver so much in flavor, nuance and greatness as the Smith Haut Lafitte these days. It was the only Cru Classe (Graves) that I bought in quantity from the 2005 vintage and I have not touched one yet.

You may remember that one of my more recent e-mails was “In praise of off vintages” and was also about a 2004 Bordeaux. This, my friends, is where the off vintage really and indisputably comes in to bear.

This wine blew my mind! It is by far the best red wine I have had since dad and I opened some first growth Bordeaux around Thanksgiving. Against all the California Cab we have tasted or even offered I would hold this wine as the superior. It did not quit and was immediately recognizable as a classic. Perhaps it was because 2004 was not “Epic” but the 2004 Smith Haut Lafitte was drinking perfectly as if it had all the age it would ever want or need but still the brooding dark and velvet fruit of a full ripe year. This is Bordeaux, this is why they do it at all.

I know there is press for this wine and I bet it is middlingly complimentary, I am not even going to look it up. This is a classic example of a wine that evolves way past its original press and suffers in the market because it never gets rereviewed. Wines like these are my favorite to find. I mean think about it wines evolve, some quickly, they are going to get better or worse than they were from when the professionals rank them, that’s why they will go back and rereview certain wines. Sometimes you can find a 95 pointer in 89 clothing. That is what we strive to do here at the Guild.

The next day I called everyone who might still have this wine available in Virginia. There was nothing currently available, no one picked up much of the wine in anticipation of the 2005’s, the blackguards! Then later in the day I get an e-mail from one of the reps saying that he did have the wine in Magnums. Why not, I thought, the wine is too good not to offer if we can get it in any format and personally I love the big bottles.

To sum up, this wine is incredibly approachable and high quality Bordeaux. There is nothing but Grand Cru Classe all over it and it could truly whip the pants off of many of the second growths. For many this is likely to be the finest Bordeaux experience you have ever had. I am still working on getting in regular size bottles but these magnums are at a reasonable national price level, lower than almost anywhere else in the country. That is to say don’t miss it.

2004 Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessec Leognan (1.5 liter)
Retail price before [member discount|Our members save an average of 25% off the normal retail prices. As a courtesy to the retail wine industry we do not publish our prices.] $177.26 • Buy this wine!

Comments are closed.