A case of perfectly stored 1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon showed up at MacArthur Beverages last week. You can tell because the fills are all in the neck, the corks are age-defying, and the color of the wine is deep. The wine itself is simple with flavors of hard cherry and eventually polished wood. And that’s about it!
The wines of Les Champ Libres are produced by René-Jean Dard and Hervé Souhaut. Both of these men produced northern Rhone wines, the latter of which have appeared on this blog. The 2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix is a wine of great energy. Both the nose and palate offer deep, grapey, young fruit that is quite remarkable. I kept expecting some Pilsner/yeast aspect to break out but it did not. Instead, this is a personality rich wine that any lover of the Northern Rhone must try. These wines are (or were!) available at MacArthur Beverages.
1986 Chateau Bel Air, Cotes de Castillon – $10
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co. Alcohol 12%. The nose remains subtle. In the mouth the flavor of hard cherry remains firm. The structural components are still around and the watering acidity reminds you that this wine is very much alive. It needs some air before gaining a touch more interest from a polished wood note. *(*) Now but well-stored bottles will last.
2015 Les Champs Libres, Lard, des Choix – $22
Imported by Louis/Dressner. Alcohol 13%. The aromatic nose offers up grapey aromas and deep young fruit. In the mouth are lively, deep flavors of floral, purple fruit. The initial acidity on the tongue tip leads to a textured wine that leaves an ethereal, perfumed coating of fat-infused flavor. **** Now – 2018.
The 2012 La Vrille et le Papillon, Tous Cousins, Ardeche makes two surprising transformations. First, the highly evocative aromas of barnyard manure eventually morph into attractive, earthy red fruit. Second, though initially a lighter and ethereal wine, this bottle developed both concentration and a lovely structure. It is one of those wines which makes me wonder how it delivers earthy, complex flavors instead of just pure fruit. I strongly recommend you try wine. It is available at Weygandt-Wines.
2012 La Vrille et le Papillon, Tous Cousins, Ardeche – $18
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% Syrah. Alcohol 12.5%. The aromas of merde clean up to reveal, earthy bright red fruit. In the mouth is an ethereal core of flavor. Ripe tannins develop with air, matching the eventual concentration of the wine. Quite a good drink. *** Now – 2018.
The wines features in today’s post comes from three very different regions of the Rhone, Loire, and Roussillon. What they have in common, beyond the importer, is they are smaller, individually driven efforts. The 2012 La Vrille et Le Papillon, Z Rouge, Ardeche bears a “Z” for zero-sulphur. I thought this was evident on the nose but in no way were the flavors strange. This wine needs a bit of air for the interesting flavors to come out at which point it drinks well. The 2010 La Folie Lucé, Autrement, Saumur Champigny shows an interesting herbaceousness but in this case it is wildly tropical. Though it is young and best left in the cellar, the nervy quality is attractive. There is a strong future for the 2010 Jean-Louis Tribouley, Orchis Vieilles Vignes, VdP des Cotes Catalanes. From the tobacco aromas to the floral infused fruit there is a lot to like. I would leave it in the cellar or wine fridge for a few years to let it relax and open up. So perhaps drink the La Vrille et Le Papillon now while you let the La Folie Lucé and Jean-Louis Troubley improve in the cellar. These wines were purchased at Weygandt Wines.
2012 La Vrille et Le Papillon, Z Rouge, Ardeche – $26
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% Syrah, completely organic, and bottled without sulphur. Alcohol 12.5%. The light nose mixed berries, natural wine aromas, and tea smoked berries. In the mouth were incensed flavors of dry, bright fruit that was underlaid by black fruit and acidity. The flavors remained tart with a bit of a spicy tannins. The tannins coated the sides of the cheeks. With air the wine developed flavors of graphite, young fine fruit, and a light orange-wood note. *** Now-2019.
2010 La Folie Lucé, Autrement, Saumur Champigny – $40
Imported by Weygandt-Wines. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from vines averaging 30 years of age on more chalky soils. It was raised in used oak barrels. Alcohol 13.8%. There was an interesting nose of black fruit and aromas from a greenhouse full of tropical plants. The mouth followed the nose with rounded red and black fruit that had a nervy tartness. There were tight, ripe flavors then some ripe tannins on the gums, followed but a tart, citrus pith aftertaste. **(*) 2015-2020.
2010 Jean-Louis Tribouley, Orchis Vieilles Vignes, VdP des Cotes Catalanes – $30
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Cinsault. Alcohol 14.5%. The attractive nose bore aromas of focused ripe berries and tobacco. In the mouth were both tart and ripe flavors of black and red fruit that left citric tannins on the g um. The wine was a little chewy with long tannins that were a little spicy and matched a Big Red flavor. This was a good, young wine that became better with air. It eventually took on violet infused black fruit, some lipstick, and dry spices. **(*) 2016-2024.
Just a quick note for today. Herve Souhaut practices minimal intervention which is reflected not only in the clarity of the label but the purity of the flavors. This vintage requires cellar age for it only revealed characteristics over the second and third nights. Its got a bit of everything right now, such that I would be curious to follow its development. For background information on this wine please check out my post The Aromatic 2009 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, Syrah, Ardeche. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, Syrah, Vin de Pays – $27
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from a parcel of 30-year-old vines located on the slopes of the Doux river along with purchased grapes. Alcohol 12%. There was a very fine vintage floral perfume which took time to develop. The nose carried through into the mouth where there were purple fruit flavors evocative of juice and a slightly creaminess. It eventually took on black pepper that paired with fresh acidity. There was a very subtle ripeness in the middle along with a touch of weight. **(*) 2017-2027.
This past weekend a small group gathered in my dining room for a casual wine tasting. Present were Lou, Phil, Roland, Andy, and myself. Though the theme of Northern Rhone was picked just 24 hours in advance we ended up with a range of wines from 1995 to 2011 representing France, Washington, and Maryland. Of the Northern Rhone wines there were four wines from Cote-Rotie, two from Cornas, one from Hermitage, one from Crozes-Hermitage, one from Saint-Joseph, and one from the Ardeche. Two ringers in the form of Cayuse Vineyards and Black Ankle Vineyards were included. All of the wines were served blind.
It was a fun evening. Every person has a deeply set love for wine and a noticeable curiosity about what is in their glass. I believe all enjoyed the wines for the conversation kept weaving back to the wines and regions amongst noises of approval. I honestly prefer tasting wines when the people I am with and their remarks keep drawing me away from my notes. Wine is a social beverage and is best drunk when the people you are with are just as much of a draw as the wines themselves.
I started off the tasting by serving the 2011 Syncline, Grenache Blanc blind. This was one of the only white Rhone inspired white wines in my basement. I have become curious to try Washington State Grenache Blanc so I thought it would be a fun start. New World was concluded with Washington and Oregon narrowed down based on my travels.
Starter – 2011 Syncline, Grenache Blanc, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley
This wine is 100% Grenache Blanc which was whole-cluster pressed, fermented with indigeneous yeasts, racked into older French oak, no malolactic fermentation, and aged on the lees for roughly five months. Alcohol 14.1%. The nose was lighter and brighter with focused white fruit and tree fruit. In the mouth there was fresh, acidity driven fruit, a little hint of toast, and a citric finish. It has a bit of grip, along with some tartness and leaves the overall impression of youth and freshness. On the second night there was a core of grippy white fruit, tart green apple flavors, and enjoyable tannins in the aftertaste. I was surprised by the quality of the acidity. *** Now-2015.
The red wines were tasted in flights of three. In retrospect I could have grouped these by age but being more interested in not know what we were tasting I automatically mixed them up. I do not think this harmed any perspectives. Unfortunately the 1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle was not drinkable and the 1995 Chapoutier, La Mordoree, Cote-Rotie was only made somewhat drinkable by additional decanting. The 2008 Barret, Brise Cailloux, Cornas was an oddity and I think showing too many flaws. Shame.
There was a lovely glass to be found in the 2008 Cayuse, Syrah, Armada. Perfumed, effortless, and elegant it was easy to grasp why this was one of two bottles to be finished. The only other finished bottle was the 2010 Champet, La Vialliere, Cote-Rotie. While young there is strong attraction to this old-school wine which should develop quite nicely. The 1998 Ogier, Cote-Rotie stood out with its striking nose. The flavors could not quite keep up but it was a beautiful wine overall. Perhaps the biggest surprise came from the 1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Crozes-Hermitage. Tardieu-Laurent’s northern Rhone wines do very well with the Syrah easily absorbing all of the new oak. This bottle had been kicked about the shop floor a bit but despite the figurative footprints the wine inside was a treat.
The 2003 Durand, Cornas is hybrid between the old with its earth and vintage perfume and the new with forward, ripe fruit. A bit of an oddity in that combination but this drank great on the second night and should develop for some time. The 1999 J. Vidal-Fleury, Brune et Blonde, Cote-Rotie is perfectly mature and complete in what it is, which provides for a good glass. The 2003 Corbis, Les Royes, Saint-Joseph is a very solid glass of wine and while it drank well on the second night, it may not gain much more complexity so I would drink it now. The 2007 Black Ankle, Leaf Stone Syrah stood out with its candy and sweetness but it was a great start for the second night. I doubt anyone guessed Maryland. Ed said the 2007 is more New World and the 2008 is Old World. I should like to try the 2008. Lastly the 2011 Gonnon, Les Iles Feray which was literally and figuratively the youngest of all the red wines. Produced from vineyards located right next to Saint-Joseph this showed unique flavors and worthy of seeking out for the cellar or wine fridge.
1 – 1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine, La Chapelle, Hermitage
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced primarily from Meal, Bessards, and Greffieux. All of the fruit is destemmed and crushed with fermentation in a mix of concrete and steel vats. It is aged between 13-17 months in some to no new oak. Alcohol 13.5%. Double-decanted right before tasting. The color was a tired, medium tawny garnet. There was a firm nose which smelled old. In the mouth the firmer palate was tired, perhaps a touch of ripe fruit, but showing past prime. Not Rated.
2 – 2010 Domaine Joel Champet, La Vialliere, Cote-Rotie
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the three hectare vineyard of La Vialliere which was fully planted in 1999. The fruit is not destalked, fermentation is in concrete vats followed by 18 months of age in < 10% new foudres. Alcohol 12.5%. Opened right before tasting. There was a lovely nose of young fruit and pepper. In the mouth there was tarter, focused black fruit which took on weighty, ripe red fruit. There was fine grip, old-school personality, and fine drying tannins. A powerful, balanced wine which is young with a very strong future ahead. ***(*) 2018-2028.
3 – 2003 Domaine Corbis, Les Royes, Saint Joseph
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 12 hectares of vineyards on Les Royes with soils of limestone and clay. The fruit is destemmed, undergoes punch downs, pump overs, and emptying/refilling. It is aged for one year in 33% new, 33% one year, and 33% two year old casks. Alcohol 14%. Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting. The color was a light to medium garnet. The light nose was tight with dark, earthy aromas. In the mouth there was red, weighty fruit, some vanilla, a little red candy, and tart acidity. There was a fine wood box flavor and good density to the fruit which had a sexy personality. On the second night the nose became more restrained. In the mouth the black and red fruit was dense with a light, creamy feel. There was subtle black fruit, minerals. The acidity and flavors were fresh, almost Eucalyptus like. There were fine polish and drying tannins in the aftertaste which stuck to the gums. Should last for some time but might be best now. Better on first night. *** Now-2018.
4 – 2008 Cayuse Vineyards, Syrah, Armada, Walla Walla Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the Armada Vineyard planted in 2001. It was aged for 22 months in puncheons. Alcohol 14.2%. Decanted for two hours prior to tasting. The color was a medium, garnet ruby. There was a beautiful, effortless nose of perfumed fruit. In the mouth there was lovely weight to the fruit which bore gentle power and subtle creaminess. There was black fruit in the finish along with a minerally bit. Well integrated all around. With air it took on an orange peel note. This should age well. Elegant! **** Now-2023.
5 – 1998 Tardieu-Laurent, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Bacchus Importers. Alcohol %. Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting. The color was a light to medium garnet. The nose has more old wood and a touch of smoke. In the mouth it was an interesting wine with dark red fruit, minerals, and a more upright personality than #4. There was a youthful core of fruit which matched a good structure. On the second night this was still drinking well and took on elegance. **** Now-2023.
6 – 2007 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah, Frederick County
This wine is 91% Syrah, 4% Pinot Noir, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Merlot which was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Alcohol 14.6%. Double-decanted half an hour prior to tasting. The light nose revealed more candy aromas with ripe fruit and a barrel note. In the mouth the riper fruit has good weight, sweetness, and a forward personality. It was mouthfilling with a touch of powder. On the second night the good weight continued with cool black cherry fruit, a creamy texture, and some raciness towards the finish. There was a bit of black licorice and some barrel sweetness. *** Now-2020.
7 – 2003 Eric & Joel Durand, Cornas
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from three hectares in Chaillot, Champelrose, Sauman, and Tezier. The fruit is destemmed, fermented in regulated vats then undergoes malolactic fermentation in oak casks where it is aged for 12 months in 10-15% new oak casks. Alcohol 14%. Opened one hour prior to tasting. The red nose offered up some candy aromas. In the mouth there were flavors of red candy and strawberry with some ripeness. There was a tang on the sides of the tongue followed by very fine, drying tannins. On the second night the weighty fruit showed more complexity with minerality, black flavors, structure in the middle, and good acidity. Then there were earthy and vintage perfume notes. A nice wine which continued to drink with confidence on the second night. ***(*) Now-2028.
8 – 1995 M. Chapoutier, La Mordoree, Cote Rotie
Imported by Paterno Imports. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the oldest vineyards in Brune and Blonde which date back to the 1940s. The fruit is destemmed, fermented in open wood vessels then aged for 15-20 months in 50% new oak casks. Alcohol 12.8%. Double-decanted right before tasting. The color was a light to medium tawny garnet. The light nose was tight with older aromas. Decanting certainly helped but older, drying fruit remained. There was firm black fruit, tartness, acidity, and a general lack of giving up anything. * Now.
9 – 1998 Domaine Michel Ogier, Cote-Rotie
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from lieux-dits Lancement (1979), Cote Rozier (1950s), Champon (early 1990s), and But de Mont (1988). which is aged for 18 months in 30% new oak casks. Opened right before tasting. The nose was striking and stood out with smoke, vintage perfume, and pepper. The flavors were tart on the tip of the tongue. This salty wine slowly expanded in the mouth and does show some age. At first the mouth was not as good as the nose but with air it eventually opened up. There were lots of red fruit, a little citrus, and on the second night an earthy and bloody aspect. **** Now-2023.
10 – 1999 J Vidal-Fleury, Brune et Blonde, Cote Rotie
Imported by W. J. Deutsch & Sons. This wine is 95-97% Syrah and 3-5% Viognier sourced only from estate vineyards averaging 40 years of age. It is aged up to three years in 50 hl barrels. Alcohol 13%. Opened right before tasting. The color was a medium garnet. The nose bore older, ripe aromas with a fine quality and perhaps a touch of veg. In the mouth the fruit bore riper weight, expansive in the mouth, and a younger personality compared to the nose. There was a little cedar note and black fruit in the finish. On the second night the wine was softer with gentle red fruit, wood box notes, and some puckering acidity. There was a little earthy component. Despite the good level of maturity the fruit had a youthful nature. I would still drink this up. *** Now-2018.
11 – 2008 Matthieu Barret, Brise Cailloux, Cornas
This wine is 100% Syrah which is farmed organically and biodynamically. It is sourced from almost 10 hectares of vines . Between half and all of the fruit is destalked, the cap punched, then aged for 18 months in used casks. Very little sulphur is used. Decanted for two hours prior to tasting. There was a nose of pepper and pine. In the mouth the fruit was very tart with citric red fruit flavors. There were drying tannins and a hint of yeast in the aftertaste. On the second night the yeasty flavors continued with red grapefruit in the aftertaste. Not enough sulphur? * Now.
12 – 2011 Pierre Gonon, Les Iles Feray, Ardeche
Imported by. This wine is 100% Syrah which was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged for 13-15 months in 600 liter casks which are 1 to 40 years old. Decanted for one hour prior to tasting. The color was a medium grapey ruby. At first there was a strange nose with some mixed ripe berries. With air the nose became muted with aromas of fresh berries. In the mouth there was blacker fruit, a serious attitude, gentle weight to the unique and good flavors. On the second night there were flavors of tart black fruit, berries, and minerals. There was salivating acidity and a brighter finish where firm, drying, and somewhat grapey tannins came out. The wine stands out and should be cellared for the short-term. *** 2015-2025.
This was my first time drinking a wine from Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet. Herve Souhaut founded Domaine Romaneux-Destezet in 1993. Located within the Ardeche the domaine lies 30 km west of Tournon. This area falls between the Northern and Southern Rhone. A Vin de Pays (VdP) de l’Ardeche comes from a geographically smaller region than VdP Collines Rhodaniennes. Over the years Herve purchased both plots of old vines (50-100 years old) and planted new vines. Today the domaine is composed of 5 hectares. Interacting as little as possible and employing traditional techniques, the grapes are macerated with stems, fermented using indigenous yeasts without temperature control, and matured in second-use oak casks.
2009 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet, Syrah, VdP Ardeche
Imported by Williams Corner Wines. This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from a parcel of 30-year-old vines located on the slopes of the Doux river along with purchased grapes. These soils area composed of acidic granite. The color is a light to medium grapey purple. The nose is very pure, fresh, floral, and grapey. In the mouth the flavors are of light to medium weight with a little prickle on the tongue, tart, and with the red fruit driven by acidity. There are red grapefruit flavors in the finish. The light, sweet, grapey bits of flavor coat the lips in the aftertaste. The pleasure in this wine is driven by the nose with aromas that jump out as soon as the bottle is uncorked. Now-2015.