The wines of Bordeaux's Right Bank (of the Gironde River) are, like their Left Bank (Médoc) cousins, blends of different grapes. But where the wines of the Left Bank are mainly dominated by cabernet sauvignon, merlot is usually the major part of most of the wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion, the two Right Bank communes.

The wines of Graves are more akin to the wines of the Médoc in composition, but are distinguished by the particular geography of the region. I have no idea what that means, but it came from a book and it sounds good.

Château d'Aighuile Côtes de Castillon 2003 ($30) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Dark garnet color. Smells very tarry-spicy, pitch and tar and other dark spicy things--baker's chocolate, graphite and plum-cassis. Quite fleshy, dark and weighty and substantial wine, with medium low acidity, just enough to not be ponderous. It's meaty wine, but there's a looseness in the middle that gives it a bit of lift, avoids the motor oil/reduced quality some larger '03s. Tangy and medium-long, it's overblown but not absurdly so. Aggressive glassy tannins clamp down, shutting down the finish, but there's oodles of toasty-spicy cassis-blackfruit in there as well. A bit of a sport, but a hopeful one, has the feel of an offbeat Santa Cruz mountains wine from a garage producer. (11/06)

Château L'Angelus St. Emilion 1984: Translucent ruby with a tinge of orange. Musky nose of earth, leather, trace of madeira. Tasted blind, this smelled to me like a slightly funky old Burgundy, an impression that was abetted by the extreme lightness and pale tea-like color. Light-bodied, very little on the midpalate, Chianti-like body with slight tomatoey note, somewhat hollow, with sharp tannins on the finish. It seems ghostlike, but also like it must have always been very much lighter than I would expect a Bordeaux to be. (1/12/99)

Château L'Angelus St. Emilion 1990 (Sleeping Cats): Smells at first of tomato sauce and red currants; with air, cedar, tobacco and oregano hints emerge above, a pleasant graphite earthiness below. Lovely and complex nosality here, a pleasure to smell. I take a slug, and the first pieholic impression is warm red-earthy fruit with a dark espresso-licorice seam, tight and focused at the core, spreading out languidly at the edges. It's a big, rich wine, but it's light on its feet and comes across as confident and supple. As it heads into the finish there's a flash of slightly bitter coffee grounds, then some fine glassy tannins kick in. This wine has a chameleonic aspect, surprising me with different facets every time I come back to it, sometimes coming across as herbal, sometimes minerally-graphitey, sometimes meatily redfruity, a Lon Chaney wine. (9/17/02)

Château L'Angelus St. Emilion 1994 ($99): Dark, deep color; smoky, rich nose, touch of barny earthiness, tomatoey & herbaceous notes; in the mouth rich, but very tight--burst of smooth muted smoky cassis/tobacco/coffee fruit leaps out, then is snuffed under a mess o'tannins. Needs lots of time. (6/8/99)

Château L'Arrosée St. Emilion 1983 ($10): Medium-dark ruby with slight browning around the rim--smooth, round, velvety nose, coffee, black raspberry, leather, smoky meaty aromas. Round and rich in the mouth, smooth, meaty feel, with herb-tinged cassis flavors, a rich mouthful with nice supporting acidity keeping it crisp. Some firm, slightly sandy tannins and a long smoky/fruity finish. Tasted blind, it seemed Rhônish to me. My last bottle, and it's drinking very well now, but still has plenty of life. Very nice indeed. (7/15/99)

Château L'Arrosée St. Emilion 1985 (New Value Region): and it smells good, O Best Beloved, very good indeed, sweetly raspberried with flecks of coffee and cedar. First sippage brings a silky thrust of meaty medium-dark red berry fruit, layered and rich, turning slightly rough as the midpalate flows into a chewy-smoky finish. The wine is nicely developed with good layering but is also somewhat less cohesive (especially towards the finish) than the past few bottles I've tried. Still, that's a quibble, as it's a fine wine in the peak of life and I jump off the bottle circuit briefly to savor it. Drink 'em up, kiddies. (12/22/01)

Château L'Arrosée St. Emilion 1986 (Impostors):is quite a different animal. If the Conseillante was a purebred afghan hound, this wine is a boxer-shepherd mix, barrel-chested and thickset, with ears that beg for scratching. I've always had a fondness for this house's wines, and this is no exception, exhibitizing a dark nose of coffee and muted cassis, hints of tar and graphite. A taste, and it's just like it smells, rough and rich and dense, coffee-accented red fruit, hints of tomato in a meaty, chewy mouthfeel, with some firm rough tannins. It will do better with some more time, but I find its roughness appealing. (11/4/00)

Château L'Arrosée St. Emilion 1990 ($50) (Fridge): Here's a young studmuffin--dark black raspberry nose laced with coffee, cinnamon and smoke. First sippage brings a rush of hard, chewy smoky-berry fruit, then the midpalate unclenches and turns meaty and rich, more dark berry underpinned with graphite and rocks. Coiled and smug, flashes of potential amidst the primary smoky-redness, with a long, lingering espresso-laced finish. Rich, impressive. (5/12/02)

Château l'Arrosée St. Emilion 1990($50) (Oddball Grapes): Apart from the pronounced cinnamon streak it has dark espresso-and-redfruit aromatics. Tastes young and rough, stony undertones emerge with air. Rich and firm and fully-packed, it's pretty darn good wine. I'm just about to give cabernet sauvignon the benefit of the doubt when I check the program and read that this is actually mostly merlot. Oh well, it's still good, albeit a few years away from where it's going. (7/27/03)

Château l'Arrosée St. Emilion 1996 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Medium dark garnet color. Funky and disjointed aromatics at first, with a sour milk and burnt toast streak suffusing the dark redfruit. With about an hour of air it's much better, cinnamon-laced berry-cassis, light oregano and a hint of graphite minerality. Tastes tightly wrapped, hard and rough-edged, still basically shut down, not giving much. There's middling acidity wrapping around the cinnamonstony fruit, rough tannins on the finish, which is lipsmackingly long. A well focused wine, substantive, with good heft, but too young now. Good wine, although perhaps off the quality of many of the delightfully rough-edged l'Arrosées of the '80s that so warmed my cockles before the turn of the century. (7/06)

Château Bourgneuf Pomerol 1995 ($30)(Robin in the Big City): Medium-dark garnet. Tangy smoky-cherry-coffee nose, slight oregano hint. A big wine, a bit chunky now with wood sticking out at odd places and the flavors not melding well, but lots of tight dark red fruit. Give it a few years. (2/7/00)

Château Canon St. Emilion 1983 (VS Eats at Joe's): Faded brick color; interesting menthol note on the nose, hints of cooked tomato and tobacco swirl about. A soft and earthy wine, pleasant and complex, but on a fairly small scale. Some faded tangy cherryfruit, bit of a leafy pondwater quality, not too bad. Someone wonders if it's over the hill, at which point Victor declares in a voice of thunder that he's had it up to here with people (ESPECIALLY Americans) who sit around with stopwatches waiting for the precise 18-second interval in the life of a wine in which it is neither 'too young' nor 'over the hill.' Just enjoy the wine for what it is when you drink it, he booms. We salute, and do so. And we like it. (11/7/99)

Château Canon St. Emilion 1990(Bordeaux Bash): Smells nice, some rich graphite and cedar over pleasant coffee-limned red fruit, a very decent wine that for some reason has other people doing backflips. I go back to it again and find it once more a very decent, pleasant wine that is right down the middle of the road in terms of complexity and depth; rich, but not dense; deep, but not profound. Some well-integrated oak, rich fruit. A very nice wine that is very well balanced and quite correct in every detail--this one has all its T's crossed and I's dotted, but I can only look on impassively at the gushing that it seems to inspire in others. (12/11/00)

Château Carbonnieux Péssac-Léognan 1990 (Premier Cru Jeebus): Medium dark ruby color with slight ambering at the rim, smells of sweet, ripe cassis underlaid with graphite. The taste follows the nose, rich and ripe but still bright in the piehole, very nice balance for such a creamy rich wine. Doesn't have the tangy grabbiness of the Margaux, but is fuller and richer, with more minerals and less perfuminess. Better, really. (9/31/00)

Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion Péssac-Léognan 1986 (Bastard): Medium-dark red. Dark and smoky smelling, with a streak of burnt caramel that seems to indicate storage issues. Light hints of tobacco, oregano in a base of muted toasty-cassis, but there's that odd caramelized note again. Good balance, on the slender side, but doesn't seem like an intact bottle to me. (11/23/03)

x La Chapelle de la Mission Haut-Brion Graves 1996 ($35)(Prodigal Hawaiians): A deeply-colored young wine, with a smoky, stony, redfruity nose with dollops of vivid cassis, round and soft-smelling. Soft and rich in the mouth, smooth and tongue-coating, until some strong tannins kick in. A bit low-acid, maybe a touch fat, but pleasantly so, and there's some good rich fruit here, drinking pretty well right now, but it might be a bit too soft to age for a long time. (1/12/00.)

Château Cheval Blanc St. Emilion 1964(The Longest Night): The fill is a little low, and Andrew is concerned because his last bottle didn't show well, but when he eases the cork out and takes a sniff, a wide smile breaks out on his leathery visage. A pour, and it's a medium ruby color at its heart, ambering and slightly brown at the rim, smells big and spicy, brick-red fruit that has spread and feathered but remains strikingly sweet-smelling and lush at the core. Hints of earth, tea, fruitcake spiciness and the long-unused bowl of a pipe that you find on the mantle of an old, old house. At first taste there's a muted tart cherry-earth foray and the wine feels rather lean, a bit thin and worn, but as it proceeds on its way it fills out, turning more towards earthiness and gaining weight until the quiet finish is like the sustain on a concert grand piano. I smell it some more and think of old burnished mahogany. Just great. (12/31/00)

Château Cheval Blanc St. Emilion 1995 ($200): Ruby-brownish-brick cast; this nose is richer & different--sweeter, kind of a honey/brown sugar note... is that oak? Slight buttery quality--tangy dark cassis/cherry/cranberry fruit. Rich and fairly ripe, with nice smoky notes, but seems a bit reserved still. (6/8/99)

Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Léognan 1988 (I Get the Shakes): Medium garnet. Gravelly cassis fruit, hints of smoke, bit watery in the midpalate, rallies on the finish with a nice mineral-blackfruit wave. Seems nice, doesn't make much of an impression. (6/6/00)

Château Le Clos Daviaud Montagne Saint-Emilion Cuvée de la Trilogie 2000 ($13) (Boatloads VI): Smells graphitey, dark minerals, plum and blackfruit with a touch of smoky cedar. Firm and composed, medium-lightweight wine with middling acidity, flicker of licorice on the finish. On the lean side, more minerally than frooty, there are some abrasive tannins but all in all a nice little everyday kind of claret. [Buy again? Sure.] (12/05)

Château La Commanderie St. Emilion 1994 ($14.95): Medium-to-dark ruby in the glass. Cedary, tobaccoey aromas with a touch of mint. Fairly full-bodied muted cassis flavors, with an undercurrent of dark chocolatey/espresso tang. Lean and fairly crisp, with nice integration and character. Light, smooth tannins emerge on the pleasant finish. Juicy & fun to drink, a good QPR Bordeaux. (1/11/99)

Château La Conseillante Pomerol 1982 (Impostors): A delicate, rich nose, pretty and lush and feminine, with hints of oregano and slightly darker graphite notes over sweet-smelling silky-velvety red fruit. Oh brother this is good; balanced impeccably, rich and silky to taste, nimble, beautifully sculpted, lightly tannic. This wine is delicate and beguiling, pretty and curvaceous. The feel of a favorite old silk scarf against your neck, light and soft but oh so deep and right. This wine touches off a chain of emotional reactions: I find it strikingly pretty, almost perfect in fact, but something stops it from touching me deeply. This wine is Catherine Deneuve in 'Belle du Jour,' strikingly well put together and alluring, but perhaps a bit cold about the heart. Maybe .sasha was right, perhaps a wine, like Cindy Crawford, needs a mole to seem human, to be accessible. Is this too perfect? I don't know, I don't know. This is not, however, a wine to be ignored. (11/4/00)

Château La Croix Chaigneau Lalande de Pomerol 2000 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): The murmurs run down the table, "Ooh, ripe." "Yow, ripe." "Jheees, ripe." Kane looks cross: "You guys are so used to drinking green shit you've forgotten what real wine is!" Real ripe wine, anyway. Not that ripeness is always a flaw, of course (cf. The Wit and Wisdom of Jay Miller, Volume III). There's a little bit of graphite, a little bit of fresh-spaded sod, but mostly a warm blanket of plummy-soft redfruit, low acidity, creamy texture and a hollow core. Perfect for those who like their Bordeaux in the mode of Sonoma merlot, but not really my kind of wine. (5/05)

Château Curé Bon La Madeleine St. Emilion 1979 (All CNN Wines): Medium muddy ruby color. Light, layered nose, hints of soft mint, tobacco and black olive over soft redfruit that has faded into smelling like dirt. Tastes brownish-red, somewhat thin and faded but still hanging in gamely, finishing with a coppery-earthy hum. An old soldier on its last campaign; drink up. (11/11/01)

Château du Domaine de L'Eglise Pomerol 1998 (New Value Region): A light matchsticky sulfurous streak blows off with air to leave a warm pool of red berry-cassis aromas behind, calm and satiny-smelling. Tastes vague and a little diffuse, ripe and smooth but generic and unimpressive. (12/22/01)

Château La Dominique St. Emilion 1989 (Bordeaux Bash): A much fleshier, friendlier wine to my tastes, this has ripe tangy fruit set in a meaty, chewy base that says "Drink me down, sailor, there's more where that came from." Much closer to jamminess than its younger sibling, this doesn't have quite the balance or structure but is more pleasurable to drink right now; a slatternly little tart of a wine that I enjoy very much. Matches up lasciviously with hot buttered snails. (12/11/00)

Château La Dominique St. Emilion 1990 (Bordeaux Bash): Another quiet nose, but more complexity here; red fruit, graphite and cedar, hints of oregano. A sip, and it's a racy wine, pleasantly layered but ungiving, with reserved herby-cassis-graphite notes in a rather closed-seeming body. There's lots of stuff going on here strength and density-wise, but the wine isn't terribly friendly and the pleasure is more intellectual than sensual. (12/11/00)

Château l'Evangile Pomerol 1988 (Backlash!): Gently ripe aromatics--pipe tobacco, cassis & smoke, interesting chalky undertone. Equally soft and gentle in the piehole, a calm wash of velvety tobacco-laced redness that wavers and recedes a bit in the middle, then lolls sedately as it slowly drains away, a fat stripey cat on a Flokati rug. Understructured and somewhat lifeless after the initial surge, there's nevertheless a pleasant warmth to the easily complex redfruit that I find rather charming. Not bad for merlot, and a nice match with my roast sparrow. (9/05)

Château Faugères St. Emilion 1993 ($20) Nice surprise from an off year in Bordeaux. Big nose of heavy fruit, cassis, currant & black pepper, with traces of earth and perhaps licorice to boot. Full-bodied and quite delicious. Two days later we had the 1995, which was less gushing and quite a bit tighter, with much more of a tannic bite to it, but had the same basic profile (although even denser); all the materials were there--I'm going to hold on to my stash of this stuff for a few years. (10/3/98)

Château Faugères St. Emilion 1996 ($23) (New Value Region): This wine smells of dark cherry-berry fruit and dark spicy oak. There's a certain hardness in the center, although the fruit is full and the wine's sinew is apparent. A tight core but a little harsh and closed now, especially on the tannic, smoked-wood finish. Upon release I thought this was the best wine they'd yet made, since then the '98 has eclipsed it and it has gone into a deep winter's nap. Leave it alone for five years, drink the 93s and 97s while you wait. (12/22/01)

Château Faugères St. Emilion 1997 ($25) (New Value Region): Minerally dark black cherry-berry fruit, stonier than the '96 but not as concentrated, the aromas spread evenly and lightly. A sip, and it's a friendlier, more loosely knit wine, without the density of its older sibling. The middle is a little vague, but the finish is smoother and gentler, caressing rather than going down roughly. The 1997 is the more pleasurable wine tonight, but the '96 will be dancing at its funeral. (12/22/01)

Château de Fieuzal Pessac-Léognan 1989(Oddball Grapes): Medium ruby color. A good whiff of barnyard hangs over the dark blackberry-earthy nose. Tastes supple and soothing, warm and dark, with a deep undercurrent of minerality. Rather monolithic at its heart, but seems to be softening at the edges, the hard core feathering out into a lightly velvety skin. A small wine but an interesting one, with a lot of potential well down the road. Hold, baby, hold. (7/27/03)

Château de Fieuzal Pessac-Léognan 1990 (15 Fox Place): Smells strange, oddly herbal and piney, along with sour milk and dark cassis. Seems damaged somehow, something bacterial? Would that SFJoe were here to explain it to us.... (3/22/04)

Château Figeac St. Emilion 1994 (The New Year, With Bordeaux): Smells quite green-herby, oregano and bell pepper mingling with tobacco and canned tomato. Much more angular than the Las Cases, medium-crisp acidity, not nearly as fleshy. With air it grows even more green-peppery, distractingly so. There's an understuffed quality to this wine; were one to free associate one might call the word 'scrawny' to mind. At any rate, it isn't terrible, but there's not much going on here that charms me. (12/31/05)

Château Le Gay Pomerol 1982 (Recluse Convention): Medium garnet color, bricking at the edges. Sweet and velvety aromatics, warm blackberry-cassis, pipe tobacco and old leather, all mixing smoothly. Tastes equally warm and welcoming, a plush wine with a dark ripe core that feathers out in earthy layers of red and black fruit. Ripe, yes, but there's structure and complexity that isn't overwhelmed by plushness. Pleasantly developed but with a youthful heart, this is in a very good place right now, an expressive and friendly Pomerol. Simply heavenly with tiny cut-up baby sheep parts. (11/22/02)

Château La Grave Figeac St. Emilion 1983 ($10)(Iron Winegeeks): Matte, slightly muddy medium ruby, fading to brown-amber just off the rim. Beguiling tomato-cherry-raspberry compote nose, with the volume turned way down and faded to a muted red hum, soft and earthy, with a distinctive band-aidy high note above it all. In the mouth it's crisp and the fruit has turned feathery at the edges, layering and fading but with a still-lively core and a nice soft finish. This wine may have already crested, but it's drinking very well indeed now. (2/19/00)

Châteaux Haut-Bailly Graves 1979 (Return to Kane Manor): Medium-dark ruby color. Smells muted and smoky, hints of ripe red cassis-berry fruit that has faded (especially around the edges) to a warm red hum, mixed with toast and earth. Fairly low in acidity, a bit fleshy, but rich and warm and friendly. Soft and pleasant drinking now, still youthful and jolly at heart but showing a few well-placed wrinkles. (6/10/00)

Château Les Haut-Conseillants Lalande de Pomerol 1995 ($10/375 ml.): Medium garnet, aromatically tight, light plum notes, slight oak... that's about it on the nose. In the mouth denser than the nose would indicate--medium-bodied, notes of plum & coffee, fairly sweet forward plummy fruit segues into darker tar/coffee notes. Low acidity, light dry smooth tannins. Not bad, but not too complex or beguiling either, and very stingy on the nose. (3/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1953 (Haut-Brion Ambush):This looks younger than the other '50s wines, slightly faded, but still a nice deep red color, with only a slight orangy hint at the rim; beautiful cassis-plum-clove-earth nose, velvety and rich-smelling. I like this. I like it a lot. Hard to believe this wine is forty-six years old. Tastes smoky and rich, beautifully balanced fruit and acidity, concentrated flavors, yet extremely elegant and restrained. This wine has real sustain--a long and rich flavor-hum that lasts long after the wine is swallowed. (12/4/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1954 (Haut-Brion Ambush): Medium-dark, faded to a bricky-brownish color; the nose is interesting, very muted leafy and tobaccoey, earthy and brown-smelling, kind of promising. A sip, then another: it's got some nice tang, good mouthfeel, but all that's left of the fruit is a soft red-brown hum, and the flavors die quickly in the midpalate, pausing for a moment of nothing at all, then a slightly bitter burnt-rubber tang asserts itself and takes over on the finish. (Soft fruit. Pause. Bitter tang.) Bit sharp, bit tannic, much better to smell than to taste. I find it more curious than pleasurable. (12/4/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1955 (Haut-Brion Ambush): Another young-looking wine, with just a hint of amber at the rim; mmm, another beauty, in the mold of the '53 but perhaps not quite so lush. Spreads softly over the palate with rich, lingering flavors. Nevertheless, it's another delightful wine, a real pleasure to linger over, and linger over it I do, smelling deep and sipping small. (12/4/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1957 (Haut-Brion Ambush): A bit less brown in color, more brick-red with browning at the rim; not quite as lush a nose as the '54, but redder-smelling, earth and cassis and stewed tomato, still fairly muted, but opens up a bit with some swirling. A crisp wine, a bit softer than the last, but the fruit is full enough to carry through to the finish, and the tang that rises at the end is tarry instead of burnt-rubbery. Medium-bodied and gravelly-tasting. (12/4/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1964 (Haut-Brion Ambush): Not quite as dark as the '62, but still richly-colored and youthful. Okay, here's a sweet-smelling nose, lush earthy cassisfruit aromas, it smells riper and redder than the ones before it. A taste, and it's a soft, fleshier wine, lower in acidity, earthy and stony still, but with richer fruit and light tannins. Very nice. (12/4/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1966 (Cab Francfest+): Oh, what a nice nose--rich, lush nose of plum, smoky redfruit, violets, not big, but interesting & a pleasure to smell. In the mouth a bit simpler than the nose would indicate, but no slouch. Rich & smooth; round cassis & tar flavors, nice acidity, almost no tannins to speak of. Sweet long finish. (6/8/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1975: His color tends a bit towards orange, he's just a bit faded, but there's a lot of depth to his hue. We swirl a bit, and it's clear that, although he may have lost a step, there's some mighty crafty footwork here. He's got some velvety-smooth tobaccoey/cedar hints right on top, and underneath that there's muted red fruit, hinting towards cooked tomato, and, if you go even farther down under that there's still more, a wet-leaf earthiness, and suffused throughout is a kind of baked carrot/pumpkin spicyness. Quite a riveting series of combinations. (10/22/99)

Château Haut-Brion Graves 1975 (Five Jews): Medium-dark rich garnet color, only very faint signs of fading at the rim. I'd guess it was from the early to mid-80s if the two conspirators weren't oohing and aahing over how young it looked, causing me to mentally push my guess back ten years. Beautiful rich velvety nose with a lot going on--blackcurrants, tobacco, graphite & minerals, sweet and ripe-smelling, best nose of the night. When the bag is yanked it is revealed as the 75 Haut-Brion. Surprising to me, since we had this one over at Oleg's about two months ago, and it seemed more diffuse and not as youthful as this specimen, although still wonderfully rich and tasty. Go figure. (12/12/99)

I swirl and inhale for a good ten minutes before I have the inclination to sip. When I finally do, there's a wine with a certain softness. The red fruit is turning earthy and starting to spread out, achieving a nice depth but losing a bit of focus. Fairly lush and crisp, it's a wine that seems a bit younger than it is, but not by much. With some more time and air a smokiness emerges that wasn't evident right away, and we sit and enjoy the layers of flavor as one by one our wineglasses empty.

Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1992 (Farewell My Lovely): Smells decent-- quiet red cherry-berry fruit hanging out shyly in the foyer, more forward aromas of sod and an ethereal spicy toastiness. Tastes less decent, an initial soft red overture slides quickly into a watery midpalate and dissolves in a flurry of gritty tannins. Others enjoy it more than I do, positing that it's in an awkward stage now; seems to me like there's just not much there. (6/01)

Château Haut Selve Graves 1998 (New Value Region): Not much of a nose, light oak and wan red fruit. Watery, thin and tart, then dryingly tannic. An overcropped little runt of a wine, not good in any sense that I can conjure. (12/22/01)

Château Latour à Pomerol 1985 (Bordeaux Bash): A quiet, almost spectral nose, soft hints of redness, earth. Tastes quiet right off the bat, then turns lean and tired and leafy. Some gritty tannins are the strongest impression this one leaves on me. Past its best days. (12/11/00)

Château Lauriol Bordeaux Côtes de Francs 2003 ($10) (Boatloads IX): Smoky tar-laced cassis, round juicy aromatics, blackcurrant jam and licorice, touch of graphite minerality. Tastes round and blowsy, Californiaish, with medium acidity. Pleasantly ripe, middleweight redfruity wine, I don't know the varietal composition, but I'd guess mostly merlot, as it's smooth and plush and berry-cassised without many edges. As things go it's not unappealing, ripe and plush and upfront fruity, but there's an unpleasant astringency on the finish, a sourness I find distracting, along with some aggressive gritty tannins. [Buy again? Nope.] (11/06)

Château Leydet-Figeac St. Emilion 1995 ($20): Earthy, cassis nose--fairly light with slight tomato note--peppery--soft & fleshy body, light-to-medium bodied, smooth & balanced, very muted fruit. Silky, with firm tannins and a fairly short finish. (1/12/99)

Château La Louviere Pessac-Leognan 1990 (Cellar Gems): Slightly more muted nose, actually seems a bit tight after the fleshier Tertre-Roteboeuf, smaller in scale. Still nice, though, redfruit, tobacco, earth, slight herbiness. Nice balance, some firm tannins in evidence. More time? (10/14/99)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Graves 1964 (McNetta 2002): Dark muddy ruby-black color, ambering at the rim, with lots of sediment flecks. Sweet cedary nose, tobacco, muted blackberry and gravel. Crisp but surprisingly meaty tasting, snappy tangy muted fruit that flows into a long, sweetly layered finish that fights off a late surge of gritty tannins. I guess mid '70s Lafite. Wrong. Only .sasha nails it as La Miss; he is off by a mere thirty-seven years but points out that the '27, the '64 and the 2001 are numerological brothers under the skin and thus essentially the same wine and neatly ties it all in with my being thirty-seven years old. Or something. (6/02)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1977 (Nonoffensive Notes): Medium ruby, with brown-amber at the rim. Nice nose of tobacco, oregano and very muted red fruit. Nice initial rush of earthy soft red fruit fades and turns dilute in the midpalate and then goes into a free fall and simply stops. Pity, as there's nice ash-like layered fruit at first. Not a good showing for this La Miss. (3/20/00)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Graves 1979 (Magnum): Rich medium-dark ruby red, with only a tiny hint of brick at the rim, this is a surprisingly young-looking wine. Soft, velvety nose, complex and beguiling--rich cassis, violets, graphite, oregano, smoke. Medium-weight mouthfeel, a bit soft, flavors are a medium-light silky stream flowing down my gullet. This wine is truly ready to drink, and it's a pleasure to do so. (9/99)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Graves 1981 ($125) (Party House): Warm, sweetly velvety nose, a dark soft mix of worn cedar, moist pipe tobacco, muted plummy red fruit and quiet stoniness. The wine smells slightly worn, all the edges are smooth and rounded and the various smellies flow easily into and around one another. Muted but sweetly ripe feathery fruit wells up in the midpalate. Well resolved, in a great spot right now, very few tannins left. Long velvety dark finish, all is smooth and easy and thoughtful. A lovely match with Kane's lamb, makes me smile and whisper small happy things to myself under my breath. (1/5/02)

Château la Mission Haut-Brion Graves 1981 ($125) (Passages): At first sniffage there's a certain tiredness that I haven't seen in this wine before, the dark redfruit very muted, leaving pipe tobacco and gravel notes jarringly dominant. But with an hour of air the wine plumps out and finds itself, red and blackfruit welling up to fill the cracks in the facade, gradually firing on all cylinders and acquiring a kind of quiet glory. Quintessential Graves in a minor key.(4/06)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1985 (Cellar Gems): Slightly brown around the rim... fleshy dark smoky nose, dark muted redfruit, hints of herb and earth, a meaty texture... could this be a St. Emilion? Is there a bit of merlot in that nose? I guess an '85 St. Emilion, so I have to be content with being right only on the year, just squeaking past Bassman, who had picked '86. (10/14/99)

Château La Mission Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 1988 (Bordeaux Bash): Some swirling brings up a quiet but rich proboscis, nice hints of tobacco, gravel, earth and cedar in a tight red-black base. Not a biggie, this seems rather reserved when I pour some into my piehole but with some time and air it opens up, turning silkier and richer, smooth and dark in the midpalate with some stern young tannins taking over in the aftertaste. Rich and balanced, a wine with elegance and restraint, too young now. (12/11/00)

Château Monbousquet St. Emilion 1995 (Island Jeeb): Smells smoky, toasty--judiciously wooded, then just as judiciously overwooded, then wooded some more, just for good measure, then put in small high-toast barrels, then put into even smaller high-toast barrels, and finally ladled into tiny high-toast snuffboxes. There's glossy candied red-black fruit underneath the carpentry, traces of graphite and pipe tobacco and cedar. It smells oafish, but not appalling. But it's the taste that brings this wine firmly into agent-of-vengeance territory. After an initial innocuous glossyfruity rush, weird charred, black-rubbery flavors emerge in the middle and persist, dominating the finish. Frankly, it tastes like there was a tire fire in the vineyard while the grapes were being harvested. I'm not spitting tonight, but for this I can make an exception. Boy, this was a pretty ugly wine on release, but it's gone solidly downhill in a fairly short time. Viniferacide. (3/23/03)

Château Pape-Clément Graves 1975 (Football Fever!): Light oregano and mushroom hints at first, resolving into muted bricky-cassis and cedar, touch of stewed tomato. A sip, and it's rather soft and vague, but still bright and fresh. The tannins seem pretty much resolved, so I'd drink sooner rather than later; it's no knockout, just a small loose claret that's doing yeoman's work tonight, pleasant and smooth and a fine match with Jay's lamb. (1/05)

Château Pape-Clément Graves 1981 (Scheduling): Medium ruby color, bricking out to amber at the rim. Pleasantly decayed aromas, stewed tomato, muted red fruit, hot rocks, old cedar and earth. In the piehole it's a little thin and obviously well past its prime, but there's earthy-leafy red fruit still clinging to the crisp core of acidity. Not a gob in sight, it's a thoughtful little wine but there's pleasure to be had in its twilight days. (12/18/02)

Château Pape-Clément Graves 1990 (Rejeebus): Hey, smells luscious--lightly herbal nose, flecks of tobacco leaf and oregano over warmly aromatic pools of red cassis, a sylvan glen with blackcurrant stream. Richly flavored and on the soft side, it's a meaty-warm wine with an easygoing fleshiness and prettily unangular layers of flavor that come to a sweetly fruited finish. The rare wine that brings both the Goblovers and Sodsuckers to agreement; just low-acid and fleshily ripe enough for the Kane crowd, elegant and layered enough for the right-thinking folks. (7/21/02)

Château Pavie-Maquin St. Emilion 1996 (Bordeaux Bash: Medium dark garnet. Smells young and creamy-red, plenty of nice red cassis fruit. Tastes fairly robust, more smoky red fruit, bit of diffuseness in the midpalate. I dunno. Undistinguished, not bad. (12/11/))

Château Pétrus Pomerol 1948 ($2500) (Best Wife): . Medium to medium-dark ruby color, browning lightly at the rim. Smells reserved, quietly muted blackberry-plum-cassis over a rich gravelly-graphite background. Tastes richer and riper than the Mouton, meatier in texture, the firm acidity lurking in the background of dark layered fruit, intense and vivid, a wine with a deep sense of self. The finish is long, strong and stony, the dark fruit flickering out just before the gravelly minerality. "Any guesses?" she asks. I waffle a bit, but I've got this one pegged as a Graves, a ripe, rich one. I write "'70 La Miss?" in my notebook, but as I'm starting to say it aloud it occurs to me that the last wine was a '70 and that this must be younger, so I say "'75 La Mission Haut-Brion?" She smiles, just a little too gleefully. She says "What year did you say? 1975?" She laughs a little laugh. I am momentarily discomfited. She pulls out the bottle, and I am startled. (9/03)

Château Plince Pomerol 1995 (St. Andrew): Medium-dark ruby color; not too much life in the nose--quiet, smoky-oaky muted herby cassis & graphite aromas. Tastes a bit thin and fruitless, lotsa toast and coal tones, a bit fleshy, not a lot of character. Disappointing. (1/15/00)

Château La Pointe Pomerol 1995 (Summer Mishmash): Medium-dark garnet color. Smells of oregano and cedar over a blackfruity base. Nice dark red-black fruit up front, subtle and reserved in the middle with a dark velvety skin. Crisp acidity but overall feels rather shy; finishes quietly but nevertheless has enough give to be slyly pleasing. A wine that's not showing its hand yet, it's easy to drink right now but has enough left to warrant some more aging. Nice, easy merlot with a dollop of gravitas. (4/03)

Château Proms-Bellevue Graves 2005 ($10) (Boatloads IX): Aromatically shy, quiet hints of fruit-punchy cassis with a touch of smokiness. Tastes soft and watery, ripe but wan and hollowish, with some juicyfruitiness bit little else. Seems a bit like Bordeaux Nouveau. [Buy again? Nah.] (11/06)

Châteaux du Seuil Graves 1995 (Return to Kane Manor): looks to be medium garnet in color, smells fairly straightforward and decent, some dark cassis, smokytoast and light oregano herbiness. Smells generously wooded, but there's some nice decent young fruit to support it. The wine tastes a bit soft and round, a fleshy style, straightforward but not simple, with some acidity and plush fruit and toasty wood. Quite decent, not of one mind. (6/10/00)

Château Siaurac Lalande de Pomerol 1982 (Bordeaux Bash): It's a youngish-looking medium ruby color but a good swirl coaxes little out of the glass except some muted smoky redfruit hints. A sip, and there's a first wave of pleasantly muted red fruit that slowly drains away throughout the midpalate with a whimper. Rallies a bit on the denoument, turning pleasantly smoky, but basically seems rather hollow and past its best years. (12/11/00)

Château Simard St. Emilion 1988 ($20): This wine has suddenly popped up all around town, which was a little puzzling until it was explained to me that they hang onto their wine until they deem it "ready to drink," so this year's release is the 1988. Interesting nose of light cassis, licorice & tar, along with asparagus & metallic notes. Crisp, medium-bodied, reserved cassis flavors & light, gritty tannins. Vegetal notes take over more as the wine sits. Not bad, but no great shakes, and I do have a low tolerance for veggie wine. Lisa liked it more than I, and thought it very "wet", which to me meant juicy and tongue-coating, as well as easy on the tannins. (1/8/99)

Château Simard St. Emilion 1990 ($30) (Rivers of Liquid Gold I): Medium ruby color, bricking slightly at the rim. Lightly herba-metal nose, flashes of oregano and quonset hut over muted cedar-cherry redfruit. Seems a bit watery, but decent enough, if on the lean side. A day of air turns it into a slightly more respectable figure of a wine. It's acquired a bit more heft, the greenmetal notes have faded well into the background, altogether more cohesive. Still nothing much to write home about, though. (11/05)

Château Smith-Haut-Lafite Pessac-Léognan 1989(Bordeaux Bash): Smells lightly herby, oregano and gravelly fruit. Tastes decent, medium-rich pencilly redfruit that doesn't seem to have developed much yet. Young and rather hard, somewhat difficult for me to pass a ringingly definitive judgment. (12/11/00)

Château du Seuil Graves 1995(Return to Kane Manor): Medium garnet, smells fairly straightforward and decent, some dark cassis, smokytoast and light oregano herbiness. Smells generously wooded, but there's some nice decent young fruit to support it. The wine tastes a bit soft and round, a fleshy style, straightforward but not simple, with some acidity and plush fruit and toasty wood. Quite decent, not of one mind. (6/10/00)

Château La Tertre-Roteboeuf St. Emilion 1985 (Cellar Gems): Another lovely nose; funky, beefy rump-roast hints over dark rich redfruit & hints of herbs. Meaty-rich nose, and tastes damn good too, fleshy and darkly fruity, impeccably balanced, rich and smoky and tangy, a wine in the prime of life that flows ever so smoothly, with a long, rich finish. Hmmm. That's only four uses of the word 'rich.' This deserves another. A (rich) pleasure, and my (rich) wine of the night so far. (10/14/99)

Château Troplong-Mondot St. Emilion 1979(Horrifying the Newbies): Smells of faded cassis, earth and smoke. A lean, light wine that has interesting tart, muted fruit that has feathered out pleasantly at the edges. Bit of an herbal streak running alongside the red-brown fruit. Best at first, fades slowly into disjointedness in the glass. (3/3/01)

Château Trotanoy Pomerol 1975 (Bordeaux Bash): Whoofahoola, this has a lot going on in the glass. Earth, herbs, graphite & stones in a base of fluid young-seeming fruit, smoothly integrated yet distinct and expressive. I sip it, and the flavors bloom in my mouth, a deep rich wine with a patina of age that just picks up power as it flows through my face and into my guts like barium. The warm red crushed-brick fruit is there like a sustained hum, the stony-earthy spine underneath, the layers of spice above, the licorice notes, the light herbiness, blossoming in the midpalate and flowing like a wave into a stony-rich swallowecho that doesn't so much end as slowly ebb away. (12/11/00)

Château Trotanoy Pomerol 1997 (September 15, 2001): Smells of bright red gravelly fruit, cedar, touches of oregano. Tastes meaty and structured, a firm, assertive young wine with a bit of an attitude that turns towards silkiness, then firms back up again on the finish in a flurry of glassy tannins. Nice, young. (9/15/01)

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