It was not until 1991 that the red Crozes-Hermitage was sold under the Colombier label instead of being sold off in bulk. Of these wines, the Cuvee Gaby is a barrel selection of the best casks chosen one month before bottling. The 1997 vintage is regarded as better in the Northern Rhone as compared to the Southern Rhone. Having enjoyed other vintages of Cuvee Gaby I thought it would be fun to try a decent “old” vintage. The wine did remind me of a Crozes-Hermitage and I was attracted to both the meaty aromas, potpourri flavors, and savory finish. At 19 years of age it is certainly in fine shape with characteristics reminiscent of younger vintage. However, the laid back impression left me wanting for more zip.
1997 Domaine du Colombier, Cuvee Gaby, Crozes-Hermitage
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. Alcohol 13%. The nose is meaty with clean aromas of pencil lead. In the mouth there is nice, grapey fruit flavors with added complexity from dry potpourri notes. The initial firmness in flavor is eventually replaced by a gentle, almost laid back impression. The wine then brings on soy sauce, tart berries in the middle and a savory finish. ** Now – 2021.
David Bloch drinks a classic wine.
2009 Alain Graillot, Crozes Hermitage
Imported by Europvin. This is a very honest and authentic Northern Rhone Syrah. Very dark in color, like a deep magenta. A spicy nose. The wine is very pure. Some meaty and bloody notes in the mouth. Along with some bay leaf and thyme. Really long and peppery finish. The empty glass smells great! Like the Faury wines, this is just about unmanipulated winemaking and high quality grapes.
There was no shortage of grilled food and wine this Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to many generous people I got to try decades worth of wine. An inexpensive bottle of NV L.A. Cetto Vino Espumoso from Baja California enlivened a lunchtime sangria. The first serious wine is a magnum of 2006 Macarico, Aglianico del Vulture which smelled and tasted great from the very first pour. It still has strength but the tannic edges are receding such that you notice the dark fruit and minerals. I wish I could age more of these wines. The 1998 Chapoutier, Hermitage Monier de La Sizeranne showed much better oak integration than when tasted last summer. It is a substantial wine with a long future. The 1971 M. Mascarello, Nebbiolo d’Alba held up for several hours after double-decanting. It was sweaty on the nose, in an attractive old-school way to me, but better in the mouth with lively acidity and a core of flavor.
The 1971 M. Mascarello helped show how a 1976 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape was even fruitier with notes of old wood. It made for a perfectly good drink. I will follow this post with a real tasting note. The magnum of 2007 Domaine Ponsot, Morey St. Denis 1er Cru Cuvee des Alouettes showed on the elegant side of the spectrum with very clean fruit. Other drinks include a 2003 Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf du Pape that is youthful and packs quite a lot of forward fruit.
Roland opened a slew of bottles including 1990 Alain Graillot, La Guiraude, Crozes-Hermitage. This wine is made from a selection of the best barrels and is certainly the oldest Crozes-Hermitage that I have tasted. This was still clean and fresh with that sense of lightness a Crozes can offer. It was almost suspended in time.
The 2007 Henri Bonneau, Chateauneuf du Pape was quite tight right after double-decanting. Nevertheless a few minutes of swirling coaxed an elegant wine. It has quite a bit of focus and certainly more heft than the ethereal Marie Beurrier can have. The 2001 Domaine Bois De Bourson, Chateauneuf du Pape showed great right out of the decanter. It is drinking near peak with earthy flavors and garrigue delivered with grip. A pour from the end of the 1990 Jamet, Cote Rotie provided a really good glass. There was an aspect of elegance to the maturing and complex flavors.
The 1994 Chateau de Fonsalette, Cotes du Rhone drank quite well. This is a generous Rayas wine made from Syrah. It is floral with dark blue fruit, wood notes, and good complexity.
I also tried a surprisingly savory, dense, and fruity bottle of 1996 Chateau Ste Michelle, Merlot Reserve, Columbia Valley. This came from a mediocre vintage and if this took a toll on the wine it was only that the finish was a bit short. This wine was made under David Lake MW which probably explains why it is still balanced and lively. There is not much Charbono around so you should try whatever you can. The 2011 Calder Wine Company, Charbono, Meyer Vineyard, Napa Valley is still not up to the quality of the 2009 vintage but it reveals vintage perfume unique to the grape.
As for dessert wines the half-bottle of 1983 Zilliken, Saarburger Rausch Riesling Eiswein contained only 7% alcohol. The undoubtedly high levels of residual sugar were perfectly balanced by the acidity. It is really easy to drink and is entering the middle of life. Finally, a double-decanted 1977 Warre’s, Vintage Port needed just a little air before showing dense flavors of dark blue, racy fruit. Good stuff! There were some other wines I tried but I did not get a look at the bottles.
Crozes-Hermitage can offer a grapey, more approachable, and more affordable example of Northern Rhone Syrah. The 2013 Etienne Becheras, Le Prieuré d’Arras, Crozes-Hermitage is an exception for it steps up the level of fruit without losing typicity of the region. It drinks well over two nights providing an attractive balance of fruit, acidity, and structure that you will not mistake for any other area. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2013 Etienne Becheras, Le Prieuré d’Arras, Crozes-Hermitage – $25
Imported by Neal Rosenthal. This wine is mostly Syrah from very old vines aged for 18 months in demi-muids. Alcohol 13.5%. There is a fine nose of grapey floral fruit with notes of white pepper. In the mouth is surprisingly ripe black, grapey, floral fruit which is immediately accessible. The watering acidity is perfectly integrated moving the wine towards the more linear, drier, appropriately tannic finish and grapey aftertaste. *** Now – 2021.
This holiday weekend I found myself in Lou’s tasting room. The cellar itself might seem like the place to be with the crunch of the pea gravel and the smell of maturing bottles but the tasting room is the practical choice. It has the leather chairs and side board. Out of necessity the first bottle opened was the 1979 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle. Unfortunately, when I grabbed the bottle earlier, my thumb broke through the top of the capsule revealing some space below. The cork had shifted, which is never a good sign, and despite the combined efforts of my Durand and worm of the Screwpull it was of no surprise that the cork dropped down into the bottle.
The 1979 Jaobulet Aine initially smelled of roast and dirtiness but the mouth brought a surprising burst of sweet, ripe fruit. The nose eventually cleaned up but never hid its weak-cork origins. The mouth oscillated in quality and at best was lively, bright, and sported good grip. Proper bottles, no doubt, will please much but this still gave impressions of underlying quality. The 1979 Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley was sealed by a firm yet easy to extract cork. The wine was still dark which was matched by a mouthful of flavorful dark fruit. This was the best of the trio of wines, developing savory hints of thyme and cedar before leaving a pleasing amount of tannins and extract. For a great explanation about the eucalyptus notes in this wine please read Richard Jennings’ post Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Retrospective: 1978-1987. I had higher hopes for the 1985 William Hill Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley which is from a strong vintage. The cork crumbled away, which is not a good thing for a relatively young wine. This was a brighter wine with a short finish followed by astringent flavors and fine grained tannins. Lou found it a bit hollow but still with personality.
In the end it was a solid experience with some old wine. The 1979 Jaboulet Aine was quite interesting to track its change but the 1979 Robert Mondavi gave plenty of satisfaction. There was no need to open the backup bottles. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
1979 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Hermitage La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons. Alcohol 13%. The nose revealed roast earth and a bit of dirtiness. While it cleaned up to show red fruit, the roast never fully disappeared. In the mouth was a ripe burst of sweet fruit right at the start. The wine had redder fruit all around that became redder and tart with air. The acidity driven flavors were clean in the mouth, with good grip, and a fresh aftertaste. The quality oscillated and at best there was a slightly earthy hint towards the finish, some animale with a lively, textured, and bright nature. In the mouth *** but overall ** Now -2020.
1979 Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 13%. The wine conjured up darkness with eucalyptus like accents to the core of black and dark fruits. For some time there was quite a mouthful of flavor when first drunk with obvious ripe fruit followed by a pleasing coating of tannins and extract on the gums. The fruit turned tart with extended air but the wine took on savory flavors of thyme and a creamy edge. *** Now – 2020.
1985 William Hill Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.9%. The acidity was prominent on the front of the tongue which matched the bright red fruit and menthol flavors. The short finish brought an astringent flavors and fine-grained tannins. Interesting enough but not the best drink. * Now.
I am excited to report that we finished updating and staging our current house. Photographs were taken yesterday and it will be listed for sale tomorrow. Last week we closed on our new house which we will take possession of within one month. That should mean I can return to my regular research and writing until we must move.
Natacha Chave is the younger sister of Yann Chave whose 2012 Crozes-Hermitage was featured in an earlier post. Natacha Chave released her first vintage in 2006. Today, she produces wine both from St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage. In the later, she purchased a 5.5 hectare vineyard of old vines to which she has added new plantings. The vineyard is steep so it is worked entirely by hand. At times, the wines of Crozes-Hermitage comes across as weak introduction to the Northern Rhone. There is no confusion with the 2012 Domaine Aléofane, Crozes-Hermitage. This is a serious, attractive Northern Rhone Syrah at an affordable price. With a bit of that hallmark fat this balanced wine should develop of the next couple of years. It makes for great drinking now so save several bottles for the future. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine Aléofane, Crozes-Hermitage – $20
Imported by Exclusive Wine Imports. This wine is 100% Syrah. The fruit is destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for 12 months in demi-muid. Alcohol 13%. There was young, tart fruit that turned darker towards the middle. The wine had some attractive fat as well as a seamless blend of juicy acidity and riper tannins. Clearly a Northern Rhone Syrah this wine eventually developed prune and black fruit flavors. *** Now-2022.
Lou came over last week for another casual tasting. I had opened up the 2012 Domaine Belle, Les Terres Blanches, Crozes Hermitage Blanc as Jenn and I prepared the table. White Rhone wines are new territory for me. There was nothing but pleasure when we each tried our first taste. On the first night it was more vibrant and textured whereas on the second night it was smooth and mature. If you are looking for a new white wine then you must pick up a bottle.
2012 Domaine Belle, Les Terres Blanches, Crozes Hermitage Blanc – $26
Imported by DS Trading Co. This wine is a blend of 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne sourced from vines on soils of clay and limestone. The fruit was fermented in 20% new oak barrels, 50% one-year old oak barrels and 30% in stainless steel vats then aged for 11 months in the same vessels. Alcohol 13%. There was textured, slightly lively white fruit at the start. The smooth flavors matched the nut aspect that was balanced by noticeable acidity on the tongue. There was a gentle finish of stones followed by a persistent aftertaste. The wine seemed young on the first night but was perfectly mature on the following night. ***(*) Now-2020.
Lou supplied this flight in brown bags with his only revealing clue that they were all pre-2005. Blind tasting is fun since I am not embarrassed by my guesses. That the first wine was Riesling was fairly obvious but my conclusion of it being an old New York state wine was off the mark and continent. The 1997 Albert Mann, Riesling, Schlossberg Grand Cru showed a bit of a split personality with its youthful start and finish of beyond-mature flavors. It is a solid wine that is best drunk up. The fresh, articulate nose of the 2000 Chateau du Going de Saint-Fiacre, Comte de Saint-Hubert, Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine did not prepare me for smooth, nutty flavors in the mouth. On the first night I thought this a great wine to smell and taste with some evocations of the sea. On the second night the nose became too funky for me. This current release is only $20 so I will grab another bottle to try again. Worst case, drink this wild wine on the very first night! I guessed everything wrong about the 2001 Claude Dugat, Bourgogne. For a basic Bourgogne it is rather serious stuff. It responded well to air on the first night where it showed a bit of everything.
1997 Albert Mann, Riesling, Schlossberg Grand Cru, Alsace –
Imported by Weygandt/Metzler. This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from vines on soils of granite. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a light to medium golden amber. It smelled of mature Riesling with a hint of stones. It had a more crisp start that carried young flavors. These morphed into mature flavors with some old wood and still some ripe, tannic grip in the short finish. On the second evening it had a good mouthfeel with more prominent old flavors, dried herbs, and a tart finish. ** Now.
2000 Chateau du Going de Saint-Fiacre, Comte de Saint-Hubert, Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine – $20
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is 100% Melon de Bourgogne sourced from 100+ year old vines. The wine was aged sur lie. Alcohol 12%. There was a fresh, articulate nose of white fruit that on the second night was funky, dusty, and smelled of the sea. In the mouth, the almond flavors were smooth, engagingly floral, and mixed with white fruit. The wine was cool in nature with integrated acidity and a shorter, watery finish. With air the flavors became cheesy. *** Now.
2001 Claude Dugat, Bourgogne –
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections. This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from parcels on Gevrey. It was fermented in concrete vats then aged for 14 months in used neutral French oak barrels. Alcohol 12.5%. The color was a medium garnet. The initial aromas were high-pitched before revealing some deep fruit. In the mouth the hint of Morello cherries were tart yet had ripeness before building racy mineral notes. The wine was lighter in the finish with flavors of tart berries, some structure, old perfume, and dry black flavors. The tannins remained on the gums. *** Now-2018.
Priorat and Montsant Flight
This flight was organized around two new arrivals of Mas del Camperol. Produced by Celler Mas Garrian this is the same winery that produced the excellent 2005 Clos Severj, Priorat that I reviewed in my post Two Great Spanish Wines. Priorat and Montsant are neighboring regions so I added the 2004 Celler Laurona, Montsant to the mix. All three of these wines benefited from air and I thought tasted better on the second night. The 2004 Celler Mas Garrian, Mas del Camperol, Priorat was the most interesting of the bunch. It exhibited consistently greater complexity, poise, and will continue to develop for years. The Priorat sun comes through at first but it does balance out. The 2003 Celler Mas Garrian, Mas del Camperol, Priorat exhibited brighter, cleaner flavors with notes of dried herbs. Tasted alongside the 2004 the reduced complexity is noticeable so I would drink this alone. I agree with Lou that the 2004 Celler Laurona, Montsant was the more coarse wine of the three. It did come together on the second night where it had some complexity as well as old wood notes. I do not think it will make old bones like the 2004 Mas del Camperol so why not drink it on a crisp spring night!
2003 Celler Mas Garrian, Mas del Camperol, Priorat – $37
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is a blend of blend of 30% Garnacha, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carinena, and 15% Syrah from the estate’s older vineyards that was aged for 13 months in a mixture of new and used French and American oak. Alcohol 15%. The nose revealed Kirsch and dried herbs. In the mouth this flavorful wine was grippy with building power and brighter acidity. With air, the racy cherry flavors continues. The aromas and flavors were consistent throughout, leaning towards the clean side. The structure was noticeable on the gums as the aftertaste had good length. *** Now-2025.
2004 Celler Mas Garrian, Mas del Camperol, Priorat – $39
Imported by Williams Corner Wine. This wine is a blend of blend of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carinena, and Syrah from the estate’s older vineyards that was aged for 13 months in a mixture of new and used French and American oak. Alcohol 15%. The initially ripe, rasinated fruit became more attractive with aromas of ripe, musky, generous fruit. There were deep fruit flavors, some maturity, and greater complexity with air. There was good structure for development. **** Now-2025+.
2004 Celler Laurona, Montsant –
Imported by Europvin. This wine is a blend of of 50% Grenache, 25% Merlot, 15% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Alcohol 14%. The nose was a little plummy with some funk. It did not have as much depth and came across as coarse but with air it became less forward with better balance. There was decent complexity, some old wood but it still seemed fresh. It maintained a coarse nature with less strength. ***(*) Now-2025.