Having a High Time at Hi-Time's Bordeaux Tasting

Categories: Wine
Hi-Time Wine Cellars hosted "A Very Special Bordeaux Tasting" Sunday afternoon, and it's unclear which of those words caused it, but the downstairs wine bar was packed.

In fact, my four-person party had to wait until other tasters left, opening up seats for us--truly SRO (Staggering Room Only). No worries. At least once, I filled my wine-bar stool after being tracked down hugging packs of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout in Hi-Time's walk-in beer frig.

All photos by Tobin Sharp/Hi-Time Wine Cellars
A full house, if by "house" you mean "wine bar" at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa.

Pouring their hearts out were owner/winemakers Veronique Barthe, of Chateau Freynelle in the heart of the Entre-Deux-Mers region of France; Karin Bernaleau, of Château Mongravey in the Margaux area; Jean-Philippe Saby, of Chateau Andre Corbin near the St. Georges and St. Emilion villages; and Paulin Calvet, of Chateau Picque Caillou in the Pessac Leognan Rouge region. Each had assorted relatives, support staff and wine connoisseaurs along for the ride. In fact, this was the final stop on a tour of America that began in Boston (and 1-degree weather).

"I don't think I could live in Texas," informed Jean, our party's well-informed pourer/host, who'd just spent three days in the Alamo State. The Frenchman is married to a Los Angelena he met in New York, and now one of their three children is studying at UC Davis. Please keep up.

Chateau La Freynelle's Veronica Barthe map quests.
For $10 a pop, each sampler received seven shots from six different wineries. Up first was La Freynelle Blanc (2009), a light little number whose nose had a lot going on, not to mention a surprisingly bold finish that . . . uh . . . aw, hell, I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know what I'm writing about. All I can say is I was so impressed I bought a bottle ($11.95) and can't wait to pair it with a nice piece of fish.

La Freynelle was also represented by a Bordeaux Rouge (2006), which, swear to God, with the first sip produced in my mind an image of a plump, deep-red grape being brought into this world from scratch. Nothing like that has happened to me since college, when I ate some 'shrooms at a house party and watched a deer come to life on a rug hung on the wall. But I digress . . . 

Both La Freynelles seemed like solid everyday table wines to this uncouth wino. Barthe explained to our party why her Bordeaux Rouge lacked the oaky flavor associated with most wines, especially reds: It is not aged in oak barrels. Her family has been growing grapes in the same vineyards for years and years, and she was the first daughter in seven generations.

More girl power came courtesy of Bernaleau, whose Château Mongravey Margaux (2007) was the event's biggest seller--or, at least, they were running out of bottles and putting names on a list for a Tuesday shipment of more cases. I managed to snag a bottle ($29.98) after I threatened to write a hard-hitting exposé on this obvious supply-demand charade. Just kidding. The dark-red color and earthy/chocolaty notes made the surprisingly mild but complex flavor very pleasing. Jeez, did I just write that, or is it the Margaux talking? The 'shrooms?

The Chateau Picque Caillou Blanc (2006), which had a the most floral nose of the bunch, would be wonderful with cheese. The robust Chateau St. Andre Corbin (2006) set off fireworks in my mouth. The sparkly red Chateau Picque Caillou Bordeaux Rouge (2006) was actually my favorite, with an excellent, seemingly handcrafted blend of smells and flavors. And while I couldn't quite get my nose around the ruby-red Chateau Fonbadet Pauillac (2006), it had a very nice flavor to go along with the highest price tag of the bunch ($31.95 per bottle). That's a steal when you consider its vineyard is in the same neighborhood as Château Lafite's.

The experience made me want to return for other events. Hi-Time has them all the time; check the schedule at hitimewine.net. You'll definitely see me at the
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout tasting.

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