Laurence Feraud’s top cuvee at Pegau, da Capo, was the 100-point star of 2010, but she never quits and squeezed something darn good out of 2011 too. An iffy vintage for some, but not Laurence. When I stopped by her cellar in Chateauneuf earlier this month, I found the ’11 Cuvee Reservee a beautiful wine with a detailed texture and more mourvedre in the nose, Grenache and the rest filling out the voluptuous body with dark cherries and plums. Sweet if not as expansive as 2010. How could it be? It’s not the 2010, Laurence knows that and priced it so that it’s a solid buy. You should have a few bottles of the 2011. They’ll get you through your wait for the once-in-a-lifetime 2010s (got a few of those available too!).
2011 Pegau CdP Cuvee Reservee …a seductive, open-knit, precocious, sexy example with decent acidity, sumptuous fruit and delicious, mature flavors of roasted herbs, kirsch, black currants, raspberries, licorice and incense…. 90-93 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
Some of my most exciting wine hunting in the last few years is in the south of France – think Leon Barral and Ch. Lascaux. I love Herault, rugged old country on the slopes of the Massif Central. Head west from Montpelier along the Mediterranean and then go up into the hills. Saint-Chinian is now one of the top AOCs in Languedoc and Canet Valette my best new discovery there. Marc Valette and his granddad know this terroir; they were one of the first to go “bio” 20 years ago to show off its purity and quality. No fertilizing, no fining, no filtering, no foolishness, just good honest wine. Proof’s in this bottle, the 2009 prize cuvee he calls 1001 Nuits, and it is magical. He blends five of my favorite grapes from Chateauneuf du Pape with Provencal abandon for a with big aromas and silky finesse, exotic yet muscular enough for the local cassoulet. Valette says he makes his wine to suit his rugby teammates and his favorite Michelin-starred chef. Guess you and I are in the middle and love it for being old-fashioned, incredibly sophisticated and a can’t-miss deal. A 93-pointer for under $20? Better buy plenty! 93 points, Bob Sprentall, B-21 Proprietor
Okay. Everyone who’s tasted the St.-Damien Gigs has been talking about them, and we’re all saying the same thing: they are off-the-charts great! No secret that the folks at Beaucastel, our pals the Perrins, have a serious project in this tiny hill town, and sure we are proud of Louis Barroul at St. Cosme, hitting the top 10 of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2012. Something is going on in Gigondas! St.-Damien’s are gob-smackers with gorgeous Grenache fruit tethered by Mourvedre’s terra firma notes of garrigue with remarkable floral scents, too. Whiffs of wild fruits, sinewy leather and spices follow through to the palate. 2010 Rhones! I mentioned these wines here back in September and since someone else has piped up and loves ‘em too. The Rhone Report’s author and newly appointed Wine Advocate critic Jeb Dunnuck went wild on these after tasting the final bottlings and his scores are impressive, taste why! It’s a Rhone world now.
…off the charts decadence and richness, with notions of garrigue, licorice, violets, and assorted floral qualities all supported by a dense core of black and blue fruit. Full-bodied… beautifully balanced…
Louis Barruol, a good friend and the owner of Gigondas giant, Saint Cosme, has become a living legend and a force of conservation in the Rhone. He also made the wine placing #2 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 this past season. Known and loved for his beautiful Gigondas in the south, he is now gaining a solid reputation for wines from the north. Importer Kermit Lynch, another friend, recently commissioned Louis to craft some exclusives for him. Good thing, too! Louis has become a vineyard saint of late, unearthing growers still having plots and blocks of Syrah’s ancient predecessor Serine. Helping these growers preserve these treasured land, Louis turns their bounty into some of the most delectable and intense northern Rhones being made. We should be grateful it’s a Rhone world!
…plum, fig and boysenberry pâte de fruit notes at the core, but also very racy, with a vibrant graphite spine and mouthwatering cut on the finish. …dusting of charcoal for added texture and grip. Intense….
Gorgeous cocoa and bitter espresso aromas and flavors slowly give way to dark, steeped currant, plum and blackberry fruit notes, while the back end struts with ample charcoal and singed bay leaf accents….
A fleshy, ganache-driven version, featuring mulled plum and blackberry fruit inlaid with anise and Turkish coffee notes. Fresh fruit hangs on the finish. More bass than treble here, but the effect is rock-solid….
You’ve heard of legendary Beaucastel and have hopefully tasted how glorious the 2010 Rhone vintage is. Have you heard how the Perrin family who’ve been making wine at the 14th century domaine for nearly a century and scored a perfect WA100 for their ultra sensuous Hommage a Jacques Perrin? I tasted this cuvee in May at the property with Cesar Perrin, grandson of Jacques. I was blown away by the massiveness of the wine, and dizzied by its litheness thanks to the vintage’s bright acidity, the wine is quite literally perfect. Surging out of the glass with a nose of garrigue herbs, blueberries, truffles, and hints of smoked meat, the palate is truly stunning, with an enormity that has to be experienced to be believed. The finish… book yourself a room, you’ll need the night! Figure this beauty will last long enough to share with a generation or two. A flawless example of why “it’s a Rhone World!”
2010 Vieux Telegraphe, the legendary CdP discovered and imported by our friend, Kermit Lynch, is on its way and we’ve got half bottles, full bottles, magnums and even doubles for folks who want to drink this beauty with their grandkids, and perhaps even great grandkids! Asked winemaker Daniel Brunier about the 2010 over dinner there in January, and he was enamored of the vintage and after tasting out of barrel. Have to say I agree with him. Not as huge or as buxom as the ’09, being more lithe and less boisterous, with more elegance and sophistication unmistakably pure, precise, Vieux Telegraphe. Super sumptuous now and built to gain beauty with time for those with patience. You’re gonna want that.
Okay. Everyone who has tasted this wine since it was bottled, including me, has been talking about it, and we’re all saying the same thing. It’s not only off the chart, but broken it, creating it’s very own category of great, call it great, gob-smacking Gigondas, with gorgeous Grenache fruit, tethered by Mourvedre’s terra firma notes of garrigue and remarkably floral scents at the same time. Whiffs of wild, sinewy leather and spice following through to the palate. I mentioned this wine a couple weeks ago and someone else has piped up and loves it too. The Rhone Report’s author, critic Jeb Dunnuck went wild for the wine, his 98 point score is impressive and you need to know why. It’s a Rhone world.
…wildly perfumed and aromatic, as well as incredibly full-bodied, rich, and concentrated. Showing thrilling notes of wild herbs, orange peel, garrigue, exotic flowers, and layers of ripe fruit… awesome freshness and focus…
Andre Brunel and his Les Cailloux have always been a favorite from CdP. Love the way Andre, third generation vigneron, guides the grapes into gloriously Grenache-driven beauties. 2010 was an outstanding vintage, and Les Cailloux is one of the best I’ve tasted. Critics the world over adore this strikingly pure CdP, and so will you. Drinking wonderfully now, but built to last, this blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah has pinpoint whiffs of blueberries, black raspberries and that ever so lovely licorice/anise note that says Southern Rhone. This effort is densely saturated, thanks to deeply concentrated fruit, the result of poor flowering in the spring. While it bodes well for a superbly structured, prodigious wine for the ages, it comes at severely reduced yields that left fewer grapes on the vines, and created one seriously voluptuous wine. Andre said his harvest was down by nearly 30%. This loss of fruit means a gain in complexity in the grapes remaining but, sadly, it means far less wine to go around. Incredibly complex, with layer upon layer of gorgeous, fleshy fruit, all saddled upon a solid structure of super smooth and tasty tannins, born to drink well for decades.
…reveals a dense ruby/purple color… slightly more definition, structure and acidity, and precise blueberry and black raspberry fruit notes intermixed with licorice and a floral component. Full-bodied and deep…
Last week we were going “Giggity, giggity!” for Julien Brechet’s Gigondas. This week we’re bowling over his brother Laurent’s Chateau de Vaudieu CdP. With its impressive chateau built in 1767 by Admiral Gerin of Marseille, 245 year old underground cellars, and 172 acres under vine, this estate is set to craft some very fine vino. Laurent knows that the vineyards are the key to making exceptional wines, so he’s divided them into 32 individual plots to ensure each is harvested at its optimum maturity. Like its famous neighbor Rayas, Vaudieu’s vineyards are layered in the storied galets roulés, or pudding stones, helping create micro-climates amongst the organically farmed, 30+ year old vines, providing the warmth necessary for Grenache to deliver its signature lustiness to the Syrah and Mourvedre blends. …And the wines? Well, Laurent’s respect for tradition is easy to taste. Wanting to highlight the superb quality of his fruit and terroir, Laurent chooses to allow the grapes to ferment via wild yeasts, thus slowing down the process, enabling the embryonic vino to develop richness whilst maintaining a vital underpinning of vivaciousness that must be tasted to be truly appreciated. These wines are far from average sippers, boarding on magnificence, with purity, precision, and the all-important pleasure.
…exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, black fruit, ink, licorice and graphite characteristics, superb fruit, a fuller-bodied, more concentrated and deep mouthfeel, and 15+ years of longevity ahead of it.
…dense purple color is followed by sweet scents of black cherry liqueur, raspberries, licorice, subtle smoke and licorice. Full-bodied with silky tannins, a voluptuous mouthfeel and a multidimensional finish….
300 years of experience: Clos des Papes CDP scores 98WS.
The Avril family’s vineyard history predates the U.S. Declaration of Independence, but its first estate bottled Chateauneuf-du-Pape from 90+ acres of vines didn’t come about until 1896. Until then the family had sold fruit to other estates. Today they produce only one red wine, Clos des Papes, no old vine or luxury cuvees. Meaning this bottling is the real deal, the expression of their estate. No apologies made, and when you taste, you’ll understand. Adhering to tradition, the Avril family employ old wood foudres that allow the classic CdP grapes, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, to spice up the flavors of the blend and strut their collective beauty for the thirsty Rhonists who are in the know. For well over a century, this family has been building serious wines that stand the test of time; and to think, I’ll be in my 70s when this 2010 Clos des Papes really starts to sing!
No quagmire with this lot of lush and plush southern stunners. The Brechet family has holdings all over the region, including their CdP vineyard, Vaudeiu, that neighbors Chateau Rayas! But that’s just an interesting tidbit and side story. What about their grand Gigondas, or Giggy (as some lovingly call the village and wine)? In a word, fantastic! The Brechet family vineyards are the source for some of the world’s most gratifying Grenache driven wines. Vigneron Julien Brechet manages his familiy estate as the doting father and it shows in the gregarious Grenache vin he crafts from nearly half century old vines. His far from standard Gigondas, a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, with equal parts Mourvedre and Cinsault is lipsmackingly delicious, but it’s his 1965 planted, 100% Grenache Gigondas “Le Lieu Dit…” that Grenache hounds seek for its layered goodness. Either wine you choose, you can’t go wrong with these Giggity Gigs!
…glorious perfume of creosote, black raspberries, black cherries, lavender and forest floor. Dense, pure and full-bodied, it is a marvelous success with slightly more acidity and tannin than the 2009….
This rare old-vine rosé from Chateau Trinquevedel is as good as any I’ve had. Amazingly sumptuous, with big toasty flavors besides the berries; shining crimson, not pink, and a very long pleasure. No quickie thrill here. A very special cuvee from a lovely place deep in the Rhone this winter (January is just as sunny as summer in Provence). Nothing frilly about Trinquevedel’s Les Vignes d’Eugène, but it’s still fun. The chateau is as old and classy as Bordeaux’s, but not as formal. It looked more like a Vogue fashion shoot of decadent Bohemian artists. I wanted to stay all day. The seriousness of the wine will stun any rosé skeptics. Flavors are extravagant and long. Tavel is the only apellation that makes rosé the first and only wine. It is not an afterthought here, and Eugène is one of its best. It is named for the family’s grandfather and boasts vines 60 to 80 years of age. The blend is equal parts of grenache noir and clairette finished off with syrah. Gently pressed and then kept in tank for another year before bottling, the wine shows a more developed and vinous quality on the palate than most rosé wines. Rosés of this caliber are hard to find. The production of Eugène is less than 10 percent of what the family makes, but I had to have it for you. These are the wines that made Tavel famous as far back as Louis XIV. Relax in Provencal style all summer.
The great hits just keep coming in the Cotes du Rhone, especially on this side of the river heading toward the mountains and here the wines of La Colliere in Rasteau are stunners. Opulent, succulent, deep purple, full of blackberries and the darkest kirsch. The domaine is in Rasteau, a CdR village that just jumped to AOC, or Cru, status in 2010 – meaning that it is Rasteau now, like Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape before it. Lots of hot rocks there and it’s still possible to grow mourvedre, which I think is a key to the flavor. Vines are 50 years old and the farming is organic. The human ingredients are top notch too: Georges Perrot is said to be one of the smartest owners in the area. I know his partners importer Eric Solomon and Rhone guru Philippe Cambie have brilliant palates. 2009 was the ripest year to smile on the Rhone in many vintages. Whatever the reason, this is the richest taste of the Rhone you’ll find for the price. Bet you’re gonna want more than one.
I’ll be honest. It was very dark when I got to Domaine Faury in Saint-Joseph. We left Hermitage, Cote Rotie and the other great AOCs of the northern Rhone and climbed high up the granite sides of the valley. Don’t know how Kermit Lynch found it, but I’m very glad he did. I could tell that the farming was hard even if I could not see the terroir. But I could taste it, and recognized the passion of the wine grower when young Lionel Faury showed up with and his wines and his smile. The dark vanished and it felt like the noonday sun came out. Especially the 2010 Saint-Joseph blanc. Wow. Marsanne and roussanne. Like summer in full bloom. with a strong breeze too. Tropical, but not lazy. If you haven’t tried the magic of Rhone whites, join the fan club now and banish chardonnay boredom forever. The Saint-Joseph reds don’t get the hype of Hermitage, but Faury’s sleek and subtle syrahs definitely should. The old vines Vieilles Vignes cuvee is a knockout you won’t forget: hand-harvested, low yield and intensely pure. Not many others know Faury, but it’s a producer every Rhone lover should. This is a family to stick with. They’ve been here for a long time growing grapes and peaches and just put their name on the label 30 years ago. Already it’s one of the greats in the appellation. But Lionel only makes 2,000 cases for France and the world, so I jumped in line to get these for B-21. You’ve got to try them.