On the Trail

Revisiting the Past

David Driscoll

I started the morning in Hollywood, but after a quick flight from Burbank to San Jose, a thirty mile jaunt back home with a quick stop at the Redwood City store, and another two hour drive into the Central Valley, I was finally able to pop the cork on a couple of bottles I'd been wanting to try for months. I just needed the right occasion and dinner with my parents at their house in Modesto was that necessary motivation. My dad had steaks on the grill, I had the claret. He seasoned the meat, while I decanted the wine. Teamwork.

While the 2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains was in fine form, I was much more excited to dive into the Clos du Marquis because I wanted to get a sense of where the 1986 vintage was at. The harvest has always been a heralded one, but the wines were powerful and tannic in their youth and reportedly have been refusing to loosen up that grip as the decades have gone by. I haven't tasted dozens of wines from 1986 like I have with other Bordeaux vintages, so I can't personally validate that evolution, but I understand the concept. I've had a similar reaction to the wines from 2000, another outstanding vintage that stands with 2005 and 2009 as the top from the millennium's first decade. Unlike 2005 and 2009, however, I've found little enjoyment thus far from 2000. Every time we open a bottle at a K&L function, or taste another specimen as part of our ongoing education, the wines seem closed and tightly-wound. That's not to say I won't enjoy them later down the line. At some point, they should eventually come around, right? That's exactly the reputation that 1986 has going for it. It's a vintage that collectors have been waiting on patiently (or maybe not so patiently), anticipating greatness from their previous investments. Seeing that the 1986 Leoville Las Cases is widely considered one of the best wines of the vintage, I was hoping some of the property's magic might have trickled down into their Clos du Marquis label (for more info on Clos du Marquis, check out my colleague Jeff's recent article).

Luckily enough, that appears to have been the case. The wine absolutely delivered, but more importantly the tannins were fully integrated and that textbook Marquis elegance was on full display. Every sip brought with it an effortless sophistication; especially when tasted side by side with the more bombastic and fleshy 2005 Ridge. The Marquis was soft on the palate and beautifully balanced from front to back. Bordeaux critic Neal Martin recently referred to 1986 as a vintage for Bordeaux die-hards; "for those who appreciate the affect that long-term ageing has upon a wine." As someone who is asked to recommend ready-to-drink bottles on a regular basis, I'm much more confident with where the vintage is at after this experience. We have a number of options from 1986 in stock right now with pedigrees much greater than the Clos du Marquis, such as 1986 Ducru-Beaucaillou, described by the Wine Spectator as "a monster in its infancy" and a wine that "may last forever." The 1986 Domaine de Chevalier would be the insider pick, as we all know here at K&L that the château makes great wine in every vintage. I'd love to do a comparison with the Chevalier and the 1986 Pape-Clément, another beast from Pessac-Léognan that may finally have reached peak maturity. 

If the idea of long-aged Bordeaux meant for "die-hard" Bordeaux drinkers sounds exciting to you, 1986 might be worth digging deeper into. Although you might be competing with me for some of these bottles!

-David Driscoll