Having ogled and awed at the stenciled depiction of Château Haut-Brion on the property's wine label for so many years, I have to say it was a rather surreal feeling to finally stand within that historic house and gaze onto the vineyards below. There's something haunting and mysterious about the rather gothic illustration, much like the intricate flavors of the wine itself. My first-ever splurge on premium Bordeaux was for a bottle of 2001 Haut-Brion, to this day one of the most memorable wine experiences of my life. The wine was other-worldly; intricate and nuanced beyond words. It was a communion of sorts. Everything became clear at that moment. I instantly understood why people pay top dollar for wines of that stature, anxiously awaiting the release of each new vintage. It's a feeling of luxury that is difficult to describe, comprehensible only to those who have also felt it. Today, we're finally getting a look at where the first-growths will flesh out in 2015 with the release of the incredible and dynamic 2015 Haut-Brion at $539.99 per bottle—a wine that absolutely knocked our socks off when we tasted at the château. It's not just about the seamless fruit or sensual texture at Haut-Brion, it's the mineral notes, the smoke, the hint of black olive. It's a symphony of complexity.
Ralph sat across from me in the Haut-Brion tasting parlor, concentrating on his tasting notes. The difficultly in tasting at Haut-Brion this year was trying to decide which Haut-Brion was better: the first-growth namesake or grand vin from the neighbor La Mission Haut-Brion which released at $409.99. Both were just incredible and so far both have received 100 point scores from different critics. We were all torn (not that we had to pick one, we just enjoy comparing and contrasting). Trey was quite smitten with the La Mission, writing: "Densely concentrated fruit with hints of graphite, minerals and spice, the 2015 La Mission is very rich and sweet in the mouth yet still shows amazing freshness and purity. Could be a pick for wine of the vintage!" We all thought Pessac-Leognan as an appellation was right there with Margaux in 2015. There were so many great wines from Smith-Haut-Laffite, to Haut Bailly, to Pape Clément and Domaine de la Chevalier. The pair of Haut-Brions was like a cherry on top of the outstanding Graves vintage.
Over on the Right Bank, we're beginning to see where top growth producers are valuing their own outstanding 2015 wines. We visited the Angelus estate during out stay in St. Emilion, meeting with château manager Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal, the daughter of former director Hubert de Boüard. We had previously asked Stéphanie about returning home to manage the prestigious family property, and now we were finally getting the chance to taste her vision for the future. The 2015 Angelus which came out at $349.99 was lush and concentrated on the palate, showcasing the famous fruit for which the property is known. Ralph was particularly taken aback, saying to me: "This wine shows you exactly why Angelus was elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classe A." It's loaded with raspberries and structure for the long term. We thought it was right there with Canon and Pavie in terms of quality, as did critic James Suckling who gave all three wines perfect scores.
When it comes to Château Leoville Las Cases, we look forward to every vintage with equal relish. The heralded St. Julien estate is one of the strongest performers in Bordeaux on a regular basis and—in our opinion—makes one of the strongest cases for ascension to first-growth status due to both its supreme quality and its proximity to Latour (separated only by the Juillac tributary). The 2015 Leoville Las Cases which just released at $189.99 was everything we hoped it would be and a representation of everything we love about the wine: dense fruit, minerality, firm and powerful tannins, earth and smoke, violets and precision. It's a focused wine, a tribute to the great wines of the commune, and a reminder (especially among this crowd) that great wine is available in Bordeaux for a fraction of what many top growths are charging. The big releases of Bordeaux are coming fast and furiously right now. It's an exciting time for us in the wine business.