Château de Pitray AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2012

Dark red with faint translucence; cherry, spice, plum, forest floor-earth on the nose; dark fruits, black currant, sour cherry, black raspberry, subtle oak on the palate.

Dry, medium body, dense, firm in the mouth with good tannins and acidity, some rusticity, plenty of dark fruits. Blend of 75% merlot and 25% cabernet franc. It is likely this is released after four years in the cellar in order to tone down the grippy tannins and acidity of the cab franc; this still has a way to go, or give it plenty of air time because in first pours this is interesting and challenging rather than tasty or delicious. It certainly could stand up to rich red meats or other strong-flavored foods, but it will stomp all over delicate delights, obliterating them from your palate. Such experts as Robert Parker praised this effort, but they, too, suggest it needs six years or so of aging to bring things together in more harmony.

Château de Pitray may be more famous for its 150-year-old château and grounds and surrounding beauty of its 100-acre vineyard than for its wine, but—to be fair—both receive praise. It certainly wins recommendations such as “Stay here if you are looking for a unique, historical experience and a taste of local wine making flavor. It is the exact opposite of impersonal chain hotels. Staying with Pierre and Alix, the Duke and Dutchess of the Chateau, is a magical experience. You travel back in time to a more distinguished era, and you dine and lounge peacefully.” And “Chateaux de Pitray is the most perfect place to stay in Bordeaux: it is a real fairytale castle near Saint-Emilion, surrounded by forest and vineyards, and hosted by the lovely and friendly Pierre and Alix. We felt as we were their private guests!”

When you enjoy such an intimate and pleasurable experience, my bet is those evaluators on Trip Advisor also loved the wine. You may be somewhat more hard-pressed, although if you embrace challenging reds—and particularly if you have the patience to allow this to evolve either in decanter or your cellar—you will find layers of things to enjoy in this Bordeaux blend.

Château de Pitray AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2012 reflects the wisdom that a good Castillon is better than a ho-hum Saint-Emillion (adjacent to the west), and you can enjoy it for far, less expense. This over-delivers for the price, even if it may be challenging to some with aversions to serious, heavy-duty wines. $15

Château de Pitray website

Other photo: Château de Pitray