“This past Thursday, Mallory and I had the pleasure of attending a Winemaker's Tasting at Bin 604 Wine Sellers in Harbor East. The winemaker whose wares were being featured that evening? None other than Jonathan Maltus of Château Teyssier and World's End.
Maltus had quite a busy few days in the Baltimore area, with a wine dinner scheduled at Farmstead Grill and tastings at both Bin 604 and Bin 201 Wine Sellers
in Annapolis. But it seemed the real reason he was in town was to visit Robert Parker at his Monkton home, bottles of his newest releases in tow.
That aside, the experience with Jon Maltus was the most informative I've been fortunate enough to take part of at Bin 604, and without a doubt the best set of wines I've ever tasted through at the shop. Cheers to the folks at The Bin who were able to bring him in.
2010 "If Six Was Nine" Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 "Wavelength" Sugarloaf Mountain Proprietary Red
2010 "Good Times, Bad Times" Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
2010 Château Laforge Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2010 Vieux Château Mazerat Saint Emilion Grand Cru
2010 "Le Dôme" Saint Emilion Grand Cru
The evening began with Maltus telling us his background and how he got into the wine industry. A Nigerian educated in the United Kingdom (and self-referred to as British), Maltus started in the oil and gas industry before taking his leave and ending up in the wine business, first in Cahors and then Bordeaux. He also dabbled in the Barossa Valley for awhile before planting some roots (no pun intended) in the Napa Valley. Maltus was part of the pioneering "garagiste" movement in the late 1990's and early 2000's when the rise of The Wine Advocate and it's considerable affect on winemaking and wine pricing in Bordeaux began taking affect. To Maltus' credit, this has led a wine he once sold for $15 to earn "100 points" from Mr. Parker and catapult to a $210 price tag.
Second Author's Note: My disdain for points systems and someone with a not-quite-objective palate having a massive affect on how wines are made, priced, and purchased is no secret, but even I must admit that having anyone who does this sort of thing for a living believe your wine is completely flawless is a feat or herculean proportions. Well done, Messrs. Maltus, Whyte, and Beziat!
The night progressed into the tasting, beginning in Napa Valley with the World's End wines. Starting with the 2008 vintage, World's End was Maltus and Co.'s attempt at emulating the Château Teyssier wines using Napa fruit.
Our first taste, of the "If Six Was Nine" from 2010, was a perfect palate-setter and a sign of things to come. While the wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a blend of three vineyards that combines fruit from the valley floor, the slopes, and the mountains. It's a wonderful expression of Napa Valley quality at a price point (a bit north of $50) that isn't too far out of the realm of possibility. If you're looking for an approachable way to get into quality Napa Cabs, this just might be it. A word of warning, however - "If Six Was Nine" could absolutely be a gateway drug into the dark and dangerous world of three figure price tag wines!
Moving on, we came to the 2009 "Wavelength." Truly, this wine was on a different wavelength (pun intended that time!) as it sees Syrah (my all time favorite grape!) blended with Cabernet Franc (one of my all time least favorite grapes), all coming from a single vineyard, the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. It's exceptionally unique, and would come highly recommended from me if you're looking for something non-traditional. I challenge you to find something similar!
The final World's End taste was by far the highlight of the show. The "Good Times, Bad Times" offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced solely from Andy Beckstoffer's To Kalon Vineyard. Not that Maltus had other plans, but uniquely enough Andy Beckstoffer prohibits those winemakers who buy grapes from him to do any sort of blending with his fruit. Thankfully for consumers, this allows each and every expression of To Kalon fruit to be pure and unadulterated, showcasing the product of the gravelly, loamy soil. This leads me to two points: 1) Jump on any To Kalon Vineyard offering you find. Andy Beckstoffer won't sell to just anyone, so you're pretty much guaranteed to be drinking someone's labor of love and not just a massive conglomerate's offering of a bottle of plonk with a prestigious vineyard name on the label, and 2) This wine is so damn good that it allowed me to break through my own personal psychological barrier of no single bottle of wine being worth more than $125. "Good Times, Bad Times" retails for $135.
At that point we moved on to the Château Teyssier offerings, named after the 18th century château in Saint Emilion the Maltus family calls home. We were started off with the 2010 Château LaForge, which is actually it's own château that was purchased from the daughter of the local blacksmith (get it? LaForge?) back in the 1990's, with the original vineyard being pieced together from various parcels that were "seized" as payment of unpaid blacksmithing bills. You see, it was well within the rights of business owners to take bits and bobs of land as legal tender when bills could not be paid. That, my darlings, is how the original vineyards of Château LaForge came to be. Priced a bit high for my tastes (nearly $70), this wine nevertheless is a wonderful expression of right bank fruit from four different Grand Cru vineyards in Saint Emilion. It's a bit tight on the palate, but with some decanting will surely soften up.
The next Teyssier offering was the 2010 Vieux Château Mazerat. Also it's own château, VCM (as it goes by) is actually the Château that the vineyard contributing fruit to Le Dôme goes with. This stellar blend of Merlot and Cab Franc is quite tight and probably won't be at optimum drinking conditions for at least another five years. My favorite of the Teyssier options we tasted, VCM is also a favorite of Maltus - Jon mentioned it would be his desert island wine if he were forced to choose just one of his own. If you're looking to buy Bordeaux to lay down, and don't mind drinking "FUC*ING MERLOT", give it a shot. It isn't cheap at $131 retail, but if you have the disposable income is certainly worth the investment.
The final wine of the evening was the pièce de résistance, 2010 Le Dôme. The 100 point king, this is the world's most expensive wine made predominantly of Cabernet Franc (75%). After tasting many, many Cab Francs that have been immensely disappointing, I was looking forward to one that may have changed my opinion and help build its campaign of being a grape that is capable of standing a bit more on its own. I do have to admit, this was a fantastic wine, the best Cab Franc I've ever had. But was it perfect and priced appropriately at $210? I just don't think so. Le Dôme is an incredibly structured wine that lasts forever on the palate, draping your tongue in velvet, and really is ready to drink now (though I think it will get better!). But I personally believe there are better wines out there for a much lower price point (see: "Good Times, Bad Times").
Third Author's Note: Check out the labels of the VCM and Le Dôme. Reflecting upon the fact that the two wines are exact opposites in terms of percentage of Merlot vs. Cabernet Franc, the labels are exact opposites as well.
Any way you look at it, you won't go wrong with Château Teyssier or World's End wines. Both portfolios are more expansive than we had the opportunity to taste, and I would happily buy anything we did not taste "blind." Mr. Maltus, if this post ever crosses your desk, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the best tasting I've been a part of at Bin 604. Well done, good sir.”