A group of Bordeaux producers was in Los Angeles last week showing the trade advance samples of the 1989 Bordeaux. The red wines of that vintage were impressive, for the most part, but a few of them left me wondering whether this wasn't more of a spotty vintage than a "vintage of the century."
The most impressive 1989 I tasted at this event was from Chateau Giscours, a powerful, dense wine with marvelous richness and finish. I also liked De Fieuzal and Palmer. I was less impressed than I hoped to be with Pichon-Lalande.
However, the best values in the room were unquestionably the White Bordeaux, and heading the list were three exceptional wines:
* 1989 Chateau de Fieuzal is one of the most complex white wines of Bordeaux I have ever tasted, with a spicy richness, deep, intense flavors and layered finish.
* 1989 Chateau La Louviere, which offers more spice than the above wine, but with a citrusy lilt to the fruit.
* 1989 Chateau La Tour Martillac, with similar components and a little softer, richer taste.
All three wines should sell for $15 to $25 a bottle. All three may be hard to find, but merchants may be able to place orders for them.
* 1988 Stewart Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($11)--A lovely wine from Washington State that's just been made available in Southern California. The delicate citrus and spice aroma is not mucked up with too much oak and the taste is delicate, not as heavy-handed as a lot of today's Chardonnays. The finish is full of fruit and yet delicate, and the wine is crisp enough to go with food. Good value.
* 1989 Conn Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Late Harvest ($14/half bottle)--From grapes off high-altitude Atlas Peak after rains helped to rot the grapes, this marvelous wine has delicate varietal fruit in the aroma (new mown hay and honey) and amazingly deep concentration even though the residual sugar (9%) isn't as high as some sweet wines. A wine the equal of many Sauternes at a competitive price. Top-notch wine making.
* 1990 Charles Shaw Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau ($6)--A violet-hued wine that was in grape form less than three months ago. A generous aroma of raspberries and cranberries leads to a soft, fleshy taste. Serve chilled as an accompaniment to ham, turkey leftovers, spaghetti, hamburgers, or as a Monday night football accompaniment to pizza. Don't age it; drink it before spring.
* 1990 Robert Pecota Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau ($6)--Similar to the above wine with a trace more blue in the color and a bit more sassy black cherry aroma with a hint of black pepper. The wine is a bit gutsier than the Shaw and shouldn't be chilled quite as much as the Shaw. But it, too, would be superb with unpretentious cooking. These two wines are the American counterparts of vin de l'anee, the Beaujolais Nouveau from France that has shot up in price this year.
* 1989 J. Carey Sauvignon Blanc ($9)--Complex aromas of melon, pear and a trace of grassy/herbal notes are intriguing, and the taste is soft yet still distinctive. The finish is dry and rewarding. Unlike so many Sauvignon Blancs that are neutral these days, this wine has some flavor and pizzazz.