On August 2, 2012, I visited Chateau Latour-Martillac in Pessac-Leognan for a tour and tasting with Tristan Kressman, one of the principals of the Chateau, the other being his brother Loic. The Kressman family has owned and operated the vineyard since the 1930’s. The Chateau first appears to be a fairly compact physical structure with the singular exception of a large “Tour” or tower at the front. From this vantage point, the interior of the Chateau grounds and production facilities are hidden from the eye. As one rounds the structure and turns into the interior courtyard , a much larger production/warehouse facility or “chais” is revealed. It is a charming spot on a slope with a nice look-out to the Pessac hills sloping toward the river.
Chateau Latour-Martillac is one of my favorite Chateau because their wines represent to me the essence of the Pessac-Leognan terroir at a reasonable price. The reds display the classic Pessac flavors of cedar, charcoal, cigar-box and powerful dark fruit. The whites are often flinty and tightly wound but are bound up in wonderful melon and fig fruit flavors and aromas. In top vintages, the whites have the structure to age up to 20 years.
The wines have not found a huge press or consumer following in the U.S. and this has helped keep the prices down to earth. It is a friendly and welcoming Chateau with a very nice visitor’s area that features the history of the Chateau and sells the wines to visitors. The wine is made under the direction of the two Kressman brothers, a full time oenologist (Valerie Vialard) and Denis Dubordieu. Dubordieu was the white wine consultant for Chateau Latour-Martillac for ten years and is now involved with the red wine as well since the 2006 vintage. Annual production of the grand vins is about 15,000 cases from 42 hectares. 80% of this production goes into the red wine and 20% into the white wine. The red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The white is usually about 65% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the wine is made with Semillon.
After the tour, we tasted a vertical of the red and the white. Below are my notes and few Parker numerical scores.
Grand Vin Rouge
2001 Chateau Latour Martillac Secondary flavors of cedar and cigar now becoming more pronounced in this wine. Ready to drink now.
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Still displaying the brute force of the vintage. Mouth tightening concentration and tannins envelope this wine in a package bound for long-term development.
2006 Chateau Latour Martillac Pleasingly concentrated and well put together for the vintage. The first vintage under Dubordieu.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Excellent freshness and concentration. A value vintage since it was released during a difficult economic environment.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac A beauty. Sweet and perfectly integrated tannins bound up in glorious fruit. A great wine from this estate and meant for long term cellaring. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Bottled in May and showing it. Has the fruit concentration of 2009 , one will have to see if the tannins and oak round out as nicely as the 2009. RP 90-92
Grand Vin Blanc
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Just coming out of its shell now.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Powerful acid and fresh fruit but less complete than the others whites.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Packed with great fruits characteristics and framed in wonderfully intense acid. Will age for a long time. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Similar to the 2009 but with perhaps a touch less fruit. Also build to age. RP 90-93.
With such a charming name, it may be hard to turn down a chilled flute of Stéphane Coquillette’s NV Carte D’Or Premier Cru Brut $45/btl. Located in Chouilly, a Grand Cru classified village in the Cote des Blancs, Champagne Coquillette is run by fourth generation winemaker Stéphane Coquillette. Stéphane’s grandparents established Champagne Saint-Charmant (see, it’s all about the charm) in 1930, which Stéphane’s father, Christian, then took over in 1950. When it came for Stéphane’s turn, his father sent him off to start his own brand, hence, Champagne Stéphane Coquillette.
To fully appreciate and understand Champagne Coquillette, it is crucial to go back to the roots…literally. The vineyards are planted in limestone soil and chalky rock, stretching tens of meters deep. This type of rock, called “roche mère” is capable of soaking up water in order to supply the vines with adequate hydration during dry spells. This particular soil is key to contributing specific aromas and flavors of the wine.
Coquillette offers several excellent champagnes, but our favorite is the NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte d’Or Premier Cru Brut, a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Pinot Noir (about two thirds) and Chardonnay (one third). This pale yellow bubbly exhibits citrus-rich aromas of lemon and grapefruit, blackberry fruit and hints of smoke and vanilla. Some of the lemon and citrus notes carry on over to the palate which brings a refreshing flavor to the taste buds. Also present are floral notes, which carry through to the energetic and pleasant finish.
The great thing about champagne is that in can be enjoyed in accompaniment with almost anything: various appetizers, desserts, cheeses, or nothing at all! For Coquillette’s Champagne, we have chosen a stellar match: crab cakes topped with a mango salsa. This duo is one you don’t want to miss out on, so check out the simple recipe above and grab yourself a bottle of NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte D’or Premier Cru Brut to charm away any dinner party!