Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tête-à-tête Dinner with Henri Lurton, Owner of Château Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855 in Margaux, at CityZen in Washington DC, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Henri Lurton at CityZen in Washington DC

Henri Lurton of Château Brane-Cantenac was in town (Washington DC) for 24 hours and invited a small group of wine writers/bloggers/officials to have dinner with him at CityZen: Karen Taylor (France Magazine), Michael Besche (Commanderie de Bordeaux), and Lou Marmon (GrapeLines), Aaron Nix-Gomez (Hogshead) and myself.

See also Aaron Nix-Gomez for his posting on the evening: “Quantity being sacrificed to quality”: A Dinner with Henri Lurton of Château Brane-Cantenac

Henri Lurton and the Lurton Family

Château Brane-Cantenac is a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855 in Margaux. In 1922, it was acquired by the Lurton family. In 1992, control passed to the current owner Henri Lurton.

The Lurtons are one of Bordeaux's great wine dynasties. With more than 1,000 hectares in the region, they are collectively Bordeaux's largest holder of wine-producing land. The family members own more than 20 châteaux and manage several well-known properties. They are also active in the New World and the South of France.

Pictures: Henri Lurton

The Lurton family is not some centuries-old French aristocratic dynasty. They are new-comers. It all began in the 1920s with Léonce Récapet, who was a prosperous distiller and vineyard owner in the Entre Deux Mers region. His daughter married François Lurton. Their 4 children Andre, Dominique, Lucien and Simone took wine making seriously and between them began to build an empire. Lucien and André, in particular, acquired châteaux that were in a bad shape and brought them back on track. André is still running his business, while Lucien has handed over the 11 estates that he had gradually acquired to his 10 children, including Château Brane-Cantenac to Henri Lurton.

See also:
Château Brane-Cantenac, Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Margaux – A Profile, France
Henri Lurton and his Chateau Brane Cantenac Wines
Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) on North America Tour in Washington DC - Schiller’s Favorites
An Afternoon with Owner Henri Lurton at Château Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, in Margaux, France

Château Brane Cantenac

Originally known as Chateau Gorce, Château Brane Cantenac was one of most venerated Left Bank estates in the 1700s and 1800s. During the Gorce family’s 100-year tenure, the wines fetched prices similar to those for Chateau Brane Mouton – the precursor to Mouton Rothschild.

Château Brane Mouton owner Baron Hector de Brane sold Brane Mouton in 1833 to purchase Château Gorce and renamed it Château Brane Cantenac. In 1920, the Société des Grands Crus de France purchased Château Brane Cantenac and 5 years later, M. Récapet and his son-in-law, François Lurton, took over Château Margaux along with Château Brane Cantenac.  Lucien Lurton inherited Château Brane-Cantenac in 1956. He passed it on to Henri Lurton in 1992.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Annette Schiller, ombiasy wine tours, with Henri Lurton at In the Cellar with Henri Lurton at Château Brane-Cantenac

See more: "An Afternoon with Owner Henri Lurton at Château Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, in Margaux, France". This was part of a trip organized by ombiasy wine tours and led by Annette Schiller. See more: "Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France". For the forthcoming wine tour to Bordeaux, which again will include a visit of  Château Brane-Cantenac, see: "Bordeaux Wine Tour September 2013"

Château Brane-Cantenac’s vineyard totals 94 hectares. The grape varieties are 62.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 0.5 Carmenère.

Château Brane Cantenac makes 4 wines (36.000 cases in total): The Grand Vin, the second wine Baron de Brane, an additional label named Château Notton using grapes from the Notton vineyard, a plot acquired from Château d'Angludet, and a generic Margaux wine.

Winemaking at Château Brane Cantenac

During the dinner, we talked a bit about vineyard management, vinification and aging of the Château Brane Cantenac wines.

In terms of vineyard management at Château Brane-Cantenac, important aspects include: alternating between traditional working of the soil and top soil ploughing, good canopy management, which helps to keep yields low, de-leafing at setting and three weeks before the harvest, as well as crop thinning.

Pictures: At the dinner table with Henri Lurton

Henri Lurton: “For full ripening, it is essential to do the phenolic and other tests before harvest but it is also important to actually taste the grapes to decide if they are fully ripe. My father taught me this process years ago before many people in Bordeaux made this a routine. Now, I can pretty much taste grapes from different parts of the vineyard and tell if it is fully ripe.”

In terms of grape varieties: “Like in the rest of Medoc, we rely on Cabernet Sauvignon. We are aiming at increasing the share of Cabernet Sauvignon to 70%. We are experimenting with Carmenére in a half hectare of plot, so we use about 0.5% in the blend.”

Starting with the 2010 vintage, Brane Cantenac began to use the Vistalys Optical Sorting Machine. Brane Cantenac also began employing the Air Tec Wine System, which is aimed at preventing crushing of the grapes and premature oxidation of the fruit.

Henri explained that the optical sorting line analyzes berries in real-time sorting the good from the bad using air jets based on programmable criteria. The optical sorter not only shortens the sorting time but improves the quality of the fruit in both bad and good vintages.  As an example, in the 2010 vintage the destemmer let some Merlot berries with green stems through but the optical sorter was able to remove them.  It helped moved things along by sorting through the large numbers of grapes in the 2011 vintage.  It would have been helpful in the 1999 vintage when there were green berries in the center of some clusters which made it through.  The optical sorter cannot eliminate the necessity of field sorting for it is important to leave any botrytis affected fruit in the vineyard.

Pictures: At CityZen

The fruit is fermented in a mixture of wooden, concrete, and stainless steel vats.  Typically, the Cabernet Sauvignon is fermented in wood and concrete, the Cabernet Franc in wood, and the young vines in stainless steel.  Henri Lurton employs vats of various sizes.  These he can match to parcel sizes as well as to separate very small sections of a vineyard which have unique soil characteristics.  These he marks with flags.  With such an array of vats he can aim to maximize the balance of each vat.

The wine is aged in an average of 60% new, French oak for 18 months. After 18 months in barrels, the wine is racked into oak vats for fining with fresh egg whites.

Chef Eric Ziebold, Sommelier Andrew Myers and CityZen

CityZen is one of the best restaurants in town. The Washingtonian: “Some chefs can't resist seeing themselves in a magazine or on TV and are content to be faces for their restaurants instead of constant presences in the kitchen. Eric Ziebold, the chef at this sleekly plush dining room, isn't one of those publicity seekers. Every night the quietly intense Ziebold, who came up at California's French Laundry, is at work in the open kitchen. His obsession with detail means plates are gorgeous, and his creative drive means the menu changes every few months and rarely repeats; the only constant is the wooden box of Parker House rolls that arrives with main courses. Service is nearly always perfect--when you get up from the table, the hostess will likely be holding your coat.”

Pictures: Chef  Eric Ziebold, Henri Lurton and Christian G.E. Schiller

Andrew Myers' sommelier career began at The Inn at Little Washington in 1997. He later returned to Washington to manage the wait staff and the wine department of Restaurant Nora. Five years later, he joined the team at CityZen. At 40 plus now, Andrew Myers remains obsessed with metal. He plays the drums in a Heavy Metal Group and is covered in tattoos that would make most head bangers proud. But that obsession is rivaled by his passion for wine.

Pictures: Sommelier Andrew Myers and Henri Lurton

Chef's Tasting Menu

For our dinner, we had the five-course tasting menu.  There was also an amuse-bouche upon settling down and a sorbet as well as chocolates to finish off the evening. Three-course menu: $75. Five-course tasting menu: $110. Three-course bar menu: $50.

CityZen Scrapple and Darden Ham Emulsion

Savoy Cabbage Ribbons, Braised Rhubarb, and Dijon Mustard Broth

English Pea Tapenade, Julienne Snow Peas, Pea Shoot Tempura and Paloise Aïoli

Spring Garlic Stuffed Crêpe, Red Wine and Rosemary Panade


The Wines 

2012 Château Brane-Cantenac, Echantillon, Margaux

68% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Merlot. Alcohol 13%.

Henri Lurton: The Merlot was excellent in the 2012 vintage.  Harvest was rushed for fear of dilution and botrytis but the later did not occur.  The Cabernet Franc was unusually late, it typically comes in between the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  As a result it was not included in the Grand Vin.  The Carmenere was not ripe enough so it was excluded as well.

Robert Parker: A beauty from Henri Lurton, the 2012 Brane Cantenac exhibits classic notes of spring flowers intermixed with black raspberries, black currants and damp forest floor. This medium-bodied, sweet, ripe, quintessentially elegant, medium-bodied Margaux is nicely concentrated as well as sexy. Enjoy it over the next 10-12 years. 90 to 92 points.

2008 Baron de Brane, Margaux

Wine Searcher Average Price: US$ 28

58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, which was aged for 12 months in 30% new French oak. Second vin.

Notes of pepper and strawberries on the nose, medium bodied wine, good structure, black fruits with roasted coffee on the palate, nice finish.

2010 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux

Wine Searcher Average Price: US$ 93

Blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.
Flower, black raspberry, and earth notes on the nose, silky tannins on the palate, ending with long, ripe, dark berry aromas.

2006 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux

Wine Searcher Average Price: 70

Blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 18 months in 60% new French oak.

Notes of spices, pepper and sandalwood on the nose, a full bodied wine, good structure, soft, round, creamy on the palate, with cassis and blackcurrant, has a well balanced character, lingering finish.

2005 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux

Blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 18 months in 60% new French oak.

Wine Searcher Average Price: US$ 107

Aaron Nix-Gomez: The nose was lovely with perfume and youthful aromas.  In the mouth the wine was finely textured with some structure evident in the middle.  The cool acidity caused salivation at the end followed by grip in the back of the throat.  It showed a good concentration of flavors.

2000 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux

55% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Cabernet Franc which was aged for 18 months in 60% new French oak.

Wine-searcher average price: US$ 144

Lots of tobacco, truffle, cassis and earthy scents on the nose, good structure, an elegant wine with well integrated tannins and a sweet cherry and cassis filled finish.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Château Brane-Cantenac, Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Margaux – A Profile, France

Henri Lurton and his Chateau Brane Cantenac Wines

Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB) on North America Tour in Washington DC - Schiller’s Favorites

An Afternoon with Owner Henri Lurton at Château Brane-Cantenac, a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, in Margaux, France

Germany Wine and Culture Tour August 2013

Bordeaux Wine Tour September 2013

Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France

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