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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Rhone’

A Tasting at MacArthurs with Fran Kysela

September 16, 2011 2 comments

This past Saturday I managed to arrive at MacArthur’s in time for their afternoon tasting with Fran Kysela.  He was recently nominated by The Wine Enthusiast magazine for Wine Importer of the year.  Coupled with the fact that Jenn and I drink a lot of the wine he imports, I was particularly excited to attend.  Both Fran and Jeremy Sutton poured wine and chatted about the eclectic range of wine on offer from France, Germany, Australia, and South Africa.  The 11 wines ranged in prices from $11 to $32.  With such diversity there were surely favorites for all who attended.

The Lineup

I spent most of my time chatting with Jeremy, Phil, and eventually meeting Fran.  I was rather enjoying their company, myself, and the wine so I did not bother to take any formal notes.  I should hope that I get to taste wine with them again as they both amiable and there is much I could learn from Fran.  I have already posted notes on two of the selections, tasted at home from full bottles, and will eventually get notes up on some of the other selections.  My overall impression was one of good, fresh aromatics followed by clean, pure fruit flavors.  You may read about my individual impressions below.  I rather liked the Sancerre, went back for more of both Mordoree Liracs, felt the Thorn Clarke Quartage is a great bargain, and would like to restaste the Mullineux again in the near future.

2010 Jean Reverdy, La Reine Blanche, Sancerre
This was enjoyable with its aromatic floral nose and core of sweet fruit.  Not Rated.

2009 Gaudrelle, Clos de Vigneau, Vouvray
This is dry with hints of residual sugar with smooth flavors of stone fruits.  Not Rated.

2010 Bastgen, Riesling, Qba Blauschlefer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
This was clean, fresh, leaning towards citrus flavors and some minerals.  I only had a tiny sip but this seemed like a solid wine for the price, if not exciting.  Not Rated.

2010 Mordoree, Rose, La Dame Rousse, Tavel
This sports ripe red fruit and has a lovely mouthing coating aftertaste.  Not Rated.

2009 Mordoree, La Dame Rousse, Lirac
This had been open for some time and was showing quite well.  You may read my impression of a bottle drunk in May hereNot Rated.

2009 Segries, Clos de l’Hermitage, Cotes du Rhone
This was consistent with an earlier impression of rich blue fruits, youthful tannins, and a contemporary profile.  Earlier this month we drank a bottle and I published a note hereNot Rated.

2009 Cave de Tain, Crozes-Hermitage
The weakest of the reds, reminded me of a light Crozes.  Available for $25 I would spend $3 to purchase the outstanding 2009 Colombier, Cuvee GabyNot Rated.

2009 Mordoree, La Reine des Bois, Lirac
This was lovely and quite approachable.  Richer than La Dame Rousse but with primary red fruit, a creamier texture, and balance.  This will age for some time.  Not Rated.

2008 Thorn Clarke, Shotfire, Quartage, Barossa Valley
This was soft, savory, subtle with dark fruits.  Strong value.  We recently drank a bottle and I will post a note soon.  Not Rated.

2009 Thorn Clarke, Shotfire, Shiraz, Barossa Valley
This showed black fruit, youthful flavors, richer than the Quartage but less evolved.  I preferred the Quartage.  Not Rated.

2008 Mullineux,  Syrah, Swartland
This showed dark fruit, some herbs, plenty of acidity, structure from oak but in a balanced manner.  I was rather surprised and pleased.  Tasted blind I would not have guessed South Africa.  Not Rated.

2003 Saint Joseph from Alain Paret and Eric & Joel Durand

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment

We laid down a respectable amount of wine right before our daughter was born.  But the expensive daycare costs of the Washington, DC area require us to now drink everything we purchase.  When we do not want to drink from our dwindling cellar we can still purchase from the stocks of aged Rhone wine that are still available.  We have drunk many different bottles of Saint-Joseph over the last two years.  Both of these wines are from the 2003 vintage which started off with some crop reducing frosts then wrapped up with high heat that caused blockage.  This produced big, rich wines that are just coming into their own.

Vineyard Near Chateaubourg, Image by Alain Cachat (Flickr)

If you follow my posts and are willing to spend $25-$35 on a recent release then I suggest you also purchase some of the older wines that I recommend.  The Eric & Joel Durand was recently purchased at MacArthur’s but it no longer available.  The Alain Paret was imported by Robert Kacher Selections and is still available at MacArthur’s for $24. While we have enjoyed the modern Durand in the past, this time we both preferred the Alain Paret.  It is just reaching middle-age so give it several hours of air.  This wine is particularly expressive of the granite found in the Saint-Joseph vineyards.

Four years ago I made a concerted effort to start drinking older Rhone wines.  I had difficulty finding any online tasting notes of these older, less expensive bottles.  I found them particularly enjoyable so I started sharing my discoveries by posting online.  I recommend that you join me by drinking a bottle of the Alain Paret then let me know what you think!  If you prefer to stick to a lower price point then cellar some of the recommended current releases.  Many of these wines will develop with some age.

2003 Eric & Joel Durand, Les Coteaux, Saint-Joseph
The Durand Saint-Joseph vineyards are very steep and contain vines planted in 1978-1980 at Chateaubourg and younger vines planted in 1990, 1998, and 200 at Glun.  The vineyards are fertilized with cattle dung, cocoa powder, and grape marc.  The Cuvee Les Coteaux is aged for one year in 75% one to four year old casks and 25% stainless steel.  The 2003 vintage is also the first year they produced the Cuvee Lautaret which is made from fruit sourced from a prime plot Lauraret in Chateaubourg.   There is a nose of youthful purple berries and some spice.  In the mouth there are purple and red berries, lifted blue fruits in the finish, and ample tannins.  On the second night there is a hard edge to the fruit while modern spices comes out while the ample tannins dry out the fruit.  The fruit fades in the finish and hints of heat come out. *** Now-2017.

2003 Domaine Alain Paret, Rochecourbe, Saint-Joseph
Alain Paret first purchased a vineyard in Coteau de Rochecourbe which was planted in 1974.  Since then he has expanded to 15 hectares.  He stopped using insecticides in 2001 and grows grass on his lower slopes to prevent erosion.  I believe this is a cuvee made for Robert Kacher.  This wine is slow to unveil.  It is lightly perfumed of dark, blue fruits.  The aromas continue in the mouth with good notes of hard stone, salivating acidity, an enjoyable underlying dark profile, and herbs.  There are very fine, quality tannins.  We found notes of tobacco in the aftertaste. ***(*) 2015-2020.

Crozes-Hermitage From Domaine Les Bruyeres and Domaine du Colombier

September 13, 2011 2 comments

Washington, D.C. is a great city to buy wine.  There is a never-ending supply of new and old vintages at all price ranges in many of the wine stores.  The wealth of importers maintain a continual flow of interesting wines from all over the world.  This has enabled a great introduction to the 2009 Northern Rhone vintage by drinking the wines of Crozes-Hermitage.  The first 2009 Crozes-Hermitage that I drank was the 2009 Domaine Les Bruyeres, Cuvee Georges Reynaud which was excellent. With prices ranging from $17-$32 there is good 2009 Crozes for everyone to drink.  My one sober feeling is that the 2009 vintage appears so strong in the Northern Rhone that I hope I can afford to drink bottles from outside Crozes-Hermitage.

Route de Crozes, Image by Le Vin Parfait (flickr)

Over the past week we have drunk these two old-vine cuvees.  These wines were purchased from MacArthur’s.  The Colombier is imported by Kysela Pere et Fils and was purchased for $28.  The Bruyeres is imported by Elite Wines and was purchased for $32.  At this point in time I prefer the Colombier, with one hour of air it was such a pleasure to drink with more depth of flavor.  The Bruyeres was excellent as well but requires aging and I am not sure it has the same amount of potential.  While I recommend both wines, I give a nod to the Colombier because it is more complex and lower priced.

2009 Domaine du Colombier, Cuvee Gaby, Crozes-Hermitage
This is 100% Syrah sourced from old parcels.  This wine has a delicate, earthy nose with Jenn finding notes of tobacco and good, new tire scent.  This wine changed dramatically during the first hour.  Once open there were savory red fruit, racy/inky purple flavors, and dry herbs that rocket through the mouth.  There are grapey tannins in the finish and hard purple flavors in the aftertaste.  This is a youthful, concentrated wine that will surely age but is such a pleasure to drink right now. **** Now-2022.

2009 Domaine Les Bruyeres, Les Croix Vieilles Vignes, Crozes-Hermitage
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 55-year-old vines.  It was aged for 12 month in barrel.  A lovely, medium strength nose.  In the mouth this youthful, textured wine contains ample fruit and spice.  The fresh fruit is grapey with pepper notes and spice on the back-end.  The light amount of very fine tannins, coat and dry in the aftertaste as they build up in the mouth.  This is well-balanced for aging. ***(*) Now-2022.

Three Crozes-Hermitage From Alain Graillot

September 12, 2011 1 comment

Jenn and I have been drinking a variety of Crozes-Hermitage from the excellent 2009 vintage.  I think we have drunk more bottles of Crozes this summer than in the few years prior.  Curious to try bottles with a wee bit of age we opened these three bottles.  These bottles were imported by Europvin and purchased at MacArthur’s a few years ago.

On the first night Jenn preferred the 2006 vintage with its smooth fruit and pepper notes while I preferred the darker nature of the 2005.  On the second night we rather enjoyed the 2004.  In the end I feel that the 2005 is the best of the bunch but all had pleasing aspects.  I would drink the 2004 right now, it is in a harmonious state and I do not see it gaining complexity.  The 2005 definitely needs time to gain mature flavors.  The 2006 could be drunk now for its youthfulness or aged alongside the 2005.

Alain Graillot's Vines in Crozes-Hermitage, Image by PWMWINE (flickr)

The grapes are sourced from almost 18 hectares of Crozes-Hermitage vineyard.  The vineyard is flat with soils of sand, gravel, and rocks.  According to John Livingstone-Learmonth, Alain harrows four times per year, which allows moisture to penetrate the soil, burns vine clippings on the spot, and lets grass grow in August.  These wines are 100% Syrah from fruit that was hand-harvested.  The whole bunch was fermented in concrete vats then aged for 12 months in 80% one to three-year old oak barrels and 20% in vat.

2004 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage
This sported a medium-strength nose.  The overall profile tilted towards herbs with slight notes of pepper.  This is clearly in a more mature state than the other two with notes of pencil, mature red fruit, and a simpler finish.  The nose was rather interesting though the flavors in the mouth were simpler in comparison.  This held up well on the second night and was the least changed of the three. **(*) Now-2019.

2005 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage
This vintage and the 2006 were the most similar.  The aromas of pepper on the nose followed through in the mouth.  The red fruit was darker in flavor with less of a grapey aspect.  There were notes of smoke and some dark roast.  On the second night it was fruitier than the 2006 with structured, drying tannins, and clean notes of pepper in the finish.  This is more intense than the 2006 with more depth to the fruit and potential for development. *** Now-2019.

2006 Alain Graillot, Crozes-Hermitage
My daughter smelled the wine and found “raspberries.”  This wine had a nice balance of red fruit and pepper.  The flavors were smoothly delivered and mixed with obvious fine tannins throughout.  On the second night the wine was full of pepper notes, dry fruit, powdery tannins, and flavors that thinned out in the aftertaste. ** Now-2017.

1998 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Saint-Joseph

This estate needs no introduction due to their reknowned bottles of Hermitage.  Jean-Louis also produces a Saint-Joseph that is not to be confused with the Offerus cuvee which is a negocient blend.  The Chave’s have long kept vines in Saint-Joseph.  Over the years their holdings have increased to five acres of vines on hillsides behind Mauves and Tournon.  Some vines near Tournon pre-date World War One with the rest from the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s.  The wine typically spends 15-20 months in two to three year old casks.  According to John Livingstone-Learmonth this wine should typically be drunk “within around eight years.”

St. Joseph Vineyards above Tournon, Image by peter.smithkeary(flickr)

I bought this wine from MacArthur’s as it was a respectable price, their Rhone wines are impeccably stored, it is a great producer, and from a decent vintage.  But I must admit, I was not too excited by the wine.  The fruit has faded a bit too much for this bottle.  While the bacon and wood notes are enjoyable the fruit is receding and lacks complexity.

1998 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Saint-Joseph
This wine started with a nose of meaty bacon and wood scents.  In the mouth there were hard flavors of red fruit then bright, acidic red fruit that is fading and not complex.  There is some incense in the finish and smoked bacon in the finish and aftertaste.  This forged on for several hours and showed no signs of cracking up.  If anything, the bacon notes became more intense.  ** Now-2017.

A Casual Tasting of Currently Available Wines

June 23, 2011 3 comments

Lou came over this week to taste wine with Jenn and myself. We typically pick a theme but this time, excited about all of the wines that we have not tried, we decided to taste six currently available wines. We coordinated no further than arranging to have two whites and four reds. All of the red wines were decanted about half an hour before tasting. As there were six wines and only three of us, there were leftovers of every bottle.

Wines on the Table

I was almost overwhelmed by this tasting. We usually taste through a spectrum in quality. But this time all of the wines were very good, very interesting, and all but one were affordable.  I thought the two white wines complemented each other very well with my personal preferrence being the Domaine Faury.  Of the reds I equally enjoyed the Vieilleneuve, Mastro Janni, and Barral.

2007 Domaine de L’Aigle a Deux Tetes, En Griffez Chardonnay, Vieilles Vignes, Jura
This was purchased for $24 at Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is from a 1 hectare plot of very old Chardonnay vines.  This is a very pale wine.  The medium intensity nose was very fresh with long-lasting yeasty aromas.  In the mouth there were apple-like flavors delivered in a crisp manner with a flint/stone quality.  The wine turned tart with plenty of acidity in the finish.  On the second night the nose was almost overwhelmed by an oxidated/flor aroma.  The flavors immediately mimiced the nose as the entire wine showed a tart and acidic nature.  I preferred it the first night.  ** Now.

2009 Domaine Faury, Blanc, Saint-Joseph
This was purchased for $26 at MacArthur’s.  This wine is a blend of 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussane.  The nose was very fresh with delicate aromas.  In the mouth there were flavors of almonds, some sweet white peaches, and stone fruit.  There were very nice flint flavors in this supple wine.  I really liked the mouthfeel.  On the second night the nose became richer.  The almond and stone fruit flavors were more pronounced.  The aftertaste now left a lovely, oily coating on the lips.  A lovely wine and one worth seeking out.  **** Now-2017.

2009 Domaine Vieilleneuve, En Griffe, Cotes du Rhone
Lou bought this wine at the Saint Georges location of Le Vin en Tete in Paris.  He thinks it was less than 20 Euros.  Note, the textured glass “label.”  This wine is produced from a four hecatre plot of 50 year old Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre.  This had a medium, grapey color.  The nose was comprised of clean, higher-pitched red fruit blend of raspberry and Kirsch, along with a little alcohol.  For Jenn it reminded her of “olive alcohol.”  I was not prepared for the full-bore dusty, ripe red fruit flavors that took over my mouth.  There was good acidity, some sweet spices, and a sweet finish.  There was a warmish aftertaste.  This was amazingly preserved on the second night.  The nose was effusive of raspberries.  In the mouth it developed a black tea flavor that complemented the raspberries.  The ripe, sweet, dusty red flavors start out strong but start to fade by the aftertaste.  *** 2015-2022.

2006 Mastro Janni, San Pio, Toscano
This was purchased for $30 at MacArthur’s.  This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese which spent 18 months aging in new and old barrels.  There were lower tones on the nose, with an interesting lanolin/”Gunk” hand cleaner scent, and some black fruit.  In the mouth this was tighter, with linear black fruit, tons of minerals, and sweet tannins.  With air the acidity and tart fruit eventually balance out.  It is quite nice and comes across as young.  I really like the minerally, black fruit flavors.  ***(*) 2015-2019.

2008 Rotie Cellars, Southern Blend, Washington
This was purchased for ~$30 at Esquine Wine in Seattle.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre.  This had the lightest nose of restrained, strong red fruits.  In the mouth the black/red fruit is mixed with fine tannins and delivers some glycerine in the finish.  It is a well made wine but lighter than the three other red wines.  There is a slight, metallic hint.  It never expanded in flavor or potential during the first night.  On the second night the restrained feeling was lifted and it still showed a light profile all around.  There black/red fruit was still dominant and the very fine tannins more obvious.  A good wine but not as interesting as the other three.  **(*) 2015-2019.

2007 Domaine Leon Barral, Valiniere, Faugeres
This wine was purchased for $62 at MacArthur’s.  It is a blend of 80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah.  The Mourvedre vines are 15 years old and the Syrah are 30 years old.  The soils are of schiste, the vineyards are fertilized with manure from the estate, indigenous yeasts are used, and no sulfur is used.  Wow, there was good stuff here in this dark wine.  The nose contained darker perfumed fruits and sage.  There were layers of scented berries in the mouth that were expansive.  The dusty flavors continued into the rich finish and aftertaste.  This showed better when it was a cooler temperature.  On the second night the dusty fruit flavors became saltier and a little more austere.  The dark flavors continued in the finish and aftertaste.  The wine continued to build and progress in the mouth.  Great stuff!  This is worth seeking out and really should be cellared a few more years.  ****(*) 2015-2022.

Lou Taking Notes

2009 Domaine des Remizieres, Crozes-Hermitage

June 13, 2011 3 comments

I am an unabashed lover of Southern Rhone wines.  A lot of that is due not only to my love of Grenache but also the ample supply of well-priced wine.  As a result, I do not have much experience with Northern Rhone wines.   We had drunk one other good 2009 Crozes-Hermitage, the Domaine Les Bruyeres, Les Bruyeres but that cost ~$27.  This bottle, also from MacArthur’s, is only $17.  I grabbed a bottle excited by the vintage and price. I was pleasantly surprised by this wine.

2009 Domaine des Remizieres, Crozes-Hermitage
Drunk over two nights the medium+ nose sports a dark purplish nose with dusty herbs, some pepper, roses, and some lifted perfume.  On the second night the pepper become white pepper.  There are big, soft, ripe flavors and immediate tannins.  There is a floral note that is complemented by the developing pepper.  On the second night the flavors rounded out with more pepper, French toast, and a finish of fine tannins.  There are light red fruits in the short aftertaste.  This is an excellent value and shows the potential of this excellent Northern Rhone vintage.  *** Now-2015.