If I get my hands on another bottle of the 2017 Chateau Lassègue Saint-Émilion Grand Cru ($60), I’m going to set it aside for a while. First, it’s plenty special for a special occasion. Second, I would love to see what it becomes. This is not to say the wine isn’t beautiful now, and indeed ready to drink; for a wine this young, it is exceptionally balanced and complete.
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But two hours after I opened it, those waves of lush fruit that had been prominent at the outset folded more thoroughly into the mouth filling, lush tannins. Minerals emerged on the long finish, decorated with warm florals. Yes, if I can get my hands on another one, I hope I can get my hands on two: I’ll share one with good friends now, and the other some time in the future.
The 2017 growing season has been described as a “vigneron vintage,” meaning if you did not know your business you were in trouble. Here’s a bit of Lassègue’s own description of the weather: “The major event affecting the 2017 growing season was the frost that hit Saint-Émilion and the surrounding Bordeaux wine-growing region in the end of April… This unusual cold spell took place between a relatively early bud-break in the first days of April, and the flowering that finished in early June for the Cabernets. After a wet May and June, the rest of the growing season was quite dry but without excessive heat.” In other words, pretty bad, but it could have been worse. Most of Lassègue’s vineyards benefit from south facing slopes, and the producer’s losses stayed mainly in the lower areas. The bottle’s handsome logo features ornate sundials, in a sense giving credit where credit is due. Good sun in the late summer and early fall saved the harvest.
The wines from this Chateau, as its own materials attest, represent “Saint-Émilion at its most opulent.” In this case, that’s a blend of 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon—dense richness married with dark aromatics and a touch of spice.
Give plenty of credit, too, to the aforementioned vigneron themselves, father and son team Pierre and Nicolas Seillan. This wine is the flagship of the estate, now owned by Jackson Family wines. (The Château was purchased in 2003 by the Seillan family, Barbara Banke, and the late Jess Jackson, from a family who had held it for about 250 years.) Clearly the operation—the only French holding in a group that includes a scattering of old world properties, Freemark Abbey and Mt. Brave in Napa, big names in Sonoma, and Penner Ash in Oregon, among numerous others—is getting what they need to produce gorgeous wine, even in a challenging year.
As the sun tilts away this time of year, and the sundial’s shadows grow longer, we all seek richer, more contemplative wines. A wine that overcame a dim year? Yes, that’s the one. Or perhaps two.