Though I cut my teeth on decade-old Gigondas, I have a soft spot for the mature wines of Vacqueyras. This pair of 2014 vintage wines from Domaine la Garrigue offers both fruit and structure for development in your cellar. In fact, the 2014 Domaine la Garrigue, Vacqueryas is completely backward when first opened. However, after 24 mysterious hours of interaction with air it reveals its full potential for development. The wines of la Garrigue can reward aging and this bottle certainly requires it. The 2014 Domaine la Garrigue, La Cantarelle, Vacqueyras is made from very old vines and offers more up-front savory, weighty fruit flavors. Though there are more seductive elements, it too is in need of age. I do not think it will develop for as long a duration as the regular Vacqueyras. Stock up! These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2014 Domaine la Garrigue, Vacqueryas – $22
Imported European Cellars. This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault sourced from 70 year old vines that was aged for 18 months in concrete tanks. Alcohol 14%. The nose is slightly pungent with aromas of plum. After 24 hours the wine is much improved with a savory, weighty start of cranberry, red and black fruits. There is watering acidity which carries the wine through. The finish is mouth filling as is the aftertaste which leaves ethereal, ripe flavors on the gum. I really enjoy this youthful, mineral, and rugged wine. ***(*) 2020-2030.
2014 Domaine la Garrigue, La Cantarelle, Vacqueyras – $27
Imported by European Cellars. This wine is a blend of Grenache from 100 year old vines and Syrah from younger vines that was aged for 24 months in concrete tanks. Alcohol 15%. From the beginning this wine offers up more fruit that is both concentrated and deeper. A mineral and bitter, black fruit streak weaves through as the wine builds weight, flavors of fat plums, and ripe powdery, cocoa flavored tannins. This weighty and savory wine has good flavor now but is in need of age. ***(*) 2019-2025.
I would drink the wines of Domaine le Sang des Cailloux in Vacqueyras every week if I could. Last week Jenn and I drank a pair. Unfortunately, our bottle of 2011 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Doucinello, Vacqueyras was not up to snuff. However, the newly released 2012 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras is quite fine. There is vigor from the acidity. However, the flavors remain not quite tight, but rather focused until the bottle was finish. I would check up on this wine next year to get a better idea of what is in store for the future. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Azalais, Vacqueyras – $25
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and Cinsault fermented in cement then aged in foudre. Alcohol 14%. The flavors are delivered with acidity driven vigor. The wine combines blue and citrus fruits that are finely focused. With air it the blue and cream flavors reveal density. *** 2017- 2022.
Produced by various members of the Reynaud family, the wines of Chateau Rayas in Chateauneuf du Pape achieved legendary status amongst lovers of Rhone wines. Indeed, the 2005 Chateau Rayas which Roland opened for me last year, remains one of the best Rhone wines I have ever drunk. Perhaps more important than the sheer quality is the unique aromas and flavors of Rayas. With this singularity comes a steep price. Fortunately, the Reynaud family produces wine not only at Chateau Rayas but also Chateau des Tours and Chateau de Fonsalette. These later two estates produce wine from Vacqueyras, Cotes du Rhone, and Vaucluse. Over the years I have found they share an undeniable typicity at respectable prices.
The wines of Chateau des Tours and Chateau de Fonsalette are scattered amongst the posts in this blog. When I first started tasting through the series of blind wines at Phil’s house, the Reynaud wines were the last thought on my mind. I would not have guessed I would sit down to an entire flight of them. Indeed, with the first two wines, 2010 Domaine des Tours, VdP Vaucluse and 2010 Chateau des Tours, Reserve, Cotes du Rhone, I thought were Trousseau from the Jura. However, as the wines opened up and I progressed through the tasting, my thoughts turned to des Tours in the Rhone. The one ringer stood out and I fully supported David in that it could only be from Domaine le Sang des Cailloux in Vacqueyras.
This was a unique tasting for we tasted vintages back to 1998, which is when Emmanuel Reynaud took over winemaking at all three estates. The wines were opened but not decanted about two hours prior to tasting. The 2007 Chateau des Tours, Reserve, Vacqueyras was unfortunately a bad bottle. Every other wine changed throughout the evening. My favorite wine was the 2006 Chateau des Tours, Reserve, Vacqueyras. While I noted “incredible” in my notes a previous bottle moved me to write “the most beautiful Vacqueyras I have ever drunk.” This was a huge hit with everyone based on the empty bottle. I also really enjoyed the 2010 Domaine des Tours, VdP Vaucluse which reminded me in part of the 2006. Of a different nature, the structured 1998 Chateau des Tours, Reserve, Vacqueyras possessed great energy and Rhone-like ruggedness.
At the end of the tasting, the leftovers were divided up. By all accounts, the wines continued to improve for the next two days. For this reason you should view my notes and ratings as just a brief glimpse of these wines. I highly recommend you try one of these fascinating wines. I suggest you start with the 2006 Vacqueyras for it is available at $60 which is one-tenth the cost of similarly aged Rayas.
2010 Domaine des Tours, VdP Vaucluse –
The medium opaque was not out of sync with the initial aromas reminiscent of Trousseau. There is a lovely start in the mouth with ripe strawberry flavors that persist through the aftertaste. With a fuzzy texture, the acidity continues to build, giving strong presence to the wine. The wine improves tremendously with air, revealing great beauty without blunt power. Clearly, there is a substantial amount of potential here. **** 2016-2030.
2010 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Cotes du Rhone
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. With a lighter, garnet color than the first wine, this wine reveals a more mature personality. The fine perfume makes way to flavors of red fruit and ultimately a black fruited finish. There acidity is there throughout. Rather closed down. *** 2017-2027.
2009 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Vacqueyras
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This was a bit stinky at first and also revealed both volatile acidity and raspberry aromas. In the mouth the wine was frizzante in a manner reminiscent of some Barral wines. The wine improved with air the first night, showing a core of blue and red fruit and a coarse personality. By the end of the evening this brute of a wine showed plenty of fruit. The second evening the nose was clean with Kirsch and raspberry candy aromas followed by pure, driven fruit flavors. ***(*) Now – 2030.
2007 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Vacqueyras
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. There was a similar smell to the 2009 vintage. The wine itself was a little cloud with flavors of old wood, Kirsch, some fruit and less aggression. Clearly an off bottle. Not Rated.
2007 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Floureto, Vacqueyras
Imported by Kermit Lynch. This young wine was clearly from the Southern Rhone, specifically Vacqueyras, and not by too far of a stretch Sang des Cailloux. There were leather accented flavors and upfront flavors of Christmas spices that leant for a comforting wine. The flavors were a bit tight with very fine and ripe tannins, minerals, and some extract. Nice stuff. It reportedly took an extra day to open up. ***(*) 2017-2027.
2006 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Vacqueyras
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. The lighter, more mature color made way to a lighter and mature nose of delicate, berry fruit. Both the nose and flavors indicated that we had moved back in age. In the mouth were ripe, mouthfilling flavors there were lithe and complex. The sweet, red fruit built more and more in intensity until this full-bore wine clearly reminded me of Rayas. Incredible. **** Now -2030.
1999 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Vacqueyras
The more aggressive, dense start made way to ripe blue fruit in the middle and a dusty finish. This was a more fruit-driven wine with the structure and acidity present. With air there is ample focused, berry fruit, good grip, and wood notes in the middle. ***(*) Now – 2020.
1998 Chateau des Tours, Réserve, Vacqueyras
The lightest color of the final three. A bit frizzante on the tongue tip but with beautiful concentration similar to a Chateauneuf du Pape. The energy makes the wine seductive but it is wound up with a supportive structure for future development. It apparently took two days for this to open up. **** Now – 2025.
If you are looking for a traditional and approachable wine bargain from the Southern Rhone then look no further than the 2012 Domaine Le Clos des Cazaux, Cuvee des Templiers, Vacqueyras. This blue fruited and mineral wine already provides comfort without the need for further aging. It is perfect for the Fall weather. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine le Clos des Cazaux, Cuvee des Templiers, Vacqueyras – $18
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache sourced from vines at least 30-50 years of age. The fruit was completely destemmed then aged in both stainless steel tanks followed by enamel coated concrete tanks. Alcohol 14%. This somewhat old-school wine offers gentle and controlled round flavors of blue fruits and minerals. The subtle ripeness is matched by integrated acidity and is eventually supported by fine, drying tannins in the end. With air the wine becomes more mineral and reveals that it should be drunk over the short-term. *** Now – 2018.
Of the four wines featured in today’s post I highly recommend you first try the 2013 Clos de Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone and the 2012 Domaine Badoz, Trousseau, Cotes du Jura. The former is an excellent Cotes du Rhone value that will drink well and modestly develop over the next few years. The later is yet another reason to drink more Trousseau. It is best drunk on the first night when the fruit is more outgoing. Lovely stuff! I suspect Jenn and I have consumed the majority of the Old-School Minervois stocks in the DC region. From the same producer you may now try the 2012 Chateau Maris, Les Anciens, Minervois La Liviniere which offers up a very good, elegant example of Carignan. I’ll admit my preference for old-school Vacqueyras but if you enjoy the modern-vein then definitely check out the 2012 Domaine de la Colline St-Jean, Vieilles Vignes, Vacqueyras. This wine will certainly improve with age and is best left in the cellar for the next several years. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.
2012 Domaine Badoz, Trousseau, Cotes du Jura – $20
Imported by The Country Vintner. Alcohol 13.5%. The nose evokes cherry liquor with pure and light red fruit in the mouth. There is some weight to the flavors and an enveloping, fuzzy ripeness. Though it sports very, very fine and firm structure this wine is best on the first night when it exudes strawberries. With air it becomes leaner in flavor and more mineral. *** Now – 2018.
2012 Chateau Maris, Les Anciens, Minervois La Liviniere – $27
Imported by Verity Wine Partners. This wine is mostly Carignan that was fermented with indigenous yeasts in oak tanks then aged for 18 months in oak vats. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose matched the flavors in the mouth with its somewhat dense, grapey, flavors of purple and black fruit. This is a fruity and acidity driven wine with minimal structure until the finish where some cinnamon spice comes out. The watering acidity wraps everything up. Quite elegant and well done. *** Now – 2018.
2013 Clos de Mont-Olivet, Vieilles Vignes, Cotes du Rhone – $15
Imported by Dionysos Imports. This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Carignan, and 10% Syrah. Alcohol 14%. The fruity nose sported deep, berry aromas. In the mouth the flavors were clean, well balanced and integrated with fine drying yet slightly ripe tannins. The flavors of plums, raisins, and minerals turned blacker towards the finish. With air the wine developed more structure, blue fruit, spices, and a slight cream hint. **(*) Now – 2020.
2012 Domaine de la Colline St-Jean, Vieilles Vignes, Vacqueyras – $22
Imported by Kysela et Fils. This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah that was aged for 18 months in concrete tanks. Alcohol 15.5%. The wine was rich and dark with raisin accented fruit. In the mouth were ripe purple flavors in this youthful wine. The fruit was enlivened by watering acidity that matched the grapey nature. This modern wine turned brighter with air. Though it has power and ample tannic structure, it is a balanced wine with attractive minerality. Will certainly improve with age. **(*) Now -2025+.
I admit to being surprised by how accessible the 2011 Domaine la Garrigue, Cuvee de l’Hostellerie, Vacqueyras is. I also admit that we finished the bottle instead of tasting it over two nights. My surprise, no doubt, comes from having never tasted the Cuvee de l’Hostellerie before. I do like Vacqueyras very much. These wines can show more warmth and forward nature than Gigondas yet they also mature well. This particular bottle already shows good, attractive complexity and has the stuffing to develop over the years. That is a lot to offer for a price of only $22. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.
2011 Domaine la Garrigue, Cuvee de l’Hostellerie, Vacqueyras – $22
Imported by European Cellars. This wine is a blend of 74% Grenache and 25% Syrah sourced from 40-60 year old vines that was aged for 24 months in concrete. Alcohol 14.5%. The nose indicated some maturity along with earthy, black mineral aromas. In the mouth there was just the right amount of ripeness and focus with the flavors expanding in the mouth. There was a youthful accessibility due to the black and red fruit yet there was still complexity. The wine had some tartness before the earthy aspects expanded in the mouth to make way for ripe texture on the gums and cheeks followed by a mineral aftertaste. ***(*) Now – 2025.
It is a treat to have friends with strong interests in cookbooks, cooking, and cocktails who are both curious and excited to try new wines. This meant that earlier this year I shared bottles not just from France but Croatia, Turkey, and Israel. These were all youngs wine that I opened to expand their experience with wine regions. At the beginning of the summer I was fortunate to purchase a number of old and mature wines (in case you have not yet noticed the radical shift in average vintage that Lou and I have been opening). With a slew of vintages mostly from the 1970s my patiently cellared Rhone wines from the 1998 vintage now seem no longer precious. Though modest in selection, they were the oldest bottles I owned so I held fast.
At a small dinner this past weekend we started off with the recently acquired 2007 Yves Cuilleron, Les Poitiers, Saint-Peray. I had no clue what to expect nor did Phil who pointed the wine out at MacArthur Beverages. This blend of Marsanne and Roussanne was surprisingly young! It showed some maturity in color but the palate was fresh with good acidity. I did not take any notes at dinner so I am curious to try another bottle.
We then proceeded to a trio of red wines including the previously described 2003 Brick House, Cuvée du Tonnelier, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. The other two bottles were minor Chateauneuf du Pape that I had forgotten about until I unpacked my wine in the new house. I was expecting less from the 1998 Comte Louis de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chateauneuf du Pape but it offered plenty of fruity aromas and a burst of clean, uncomplicated fruit in the mouth. The finish was rather short and my interest faded fast. I called it a one trick pony to which S. commented that he liked this pony. I think though he ultimately preferred the 1998 Domaine Saint Benoit Grande Garde, Chateauneuf du Pape which was clearly favorite amongst the group. It was austere at first but over a few hours it fleshed out to show reasonable complexity and appealing structure. You could drink this now after an hour in the decanter or over the next five years.
With that selection largely finished I returned with a double-decanted bottle of 1975 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac. This particular example was rather stinky with a strong leather component on the nose and in the mouth. It was too distracting so I eventually gassed and re-corked it. I finished off the bottle the next night after which the stink had left. The leather was still prominent but the wine had some heft and made for a decent Sunday night drink. With the Pichon out of favor I then returned with the bizarrely consistent 1971 Chateau Montgrand-Milon, Pauillac. This wine is very stable (perhaps filtered?), showing good fruit and though smaller in personality, is engaging enough. I suspect it would work well at lunch.
For dessert Lou opened the 2007 Domaine des Baumard, Coteaux du Layon. This sweet, Chenin Blanc based wine drank forward without being heavy. It was a spot-on match for our raspberry tart and a good note to end the evening.
One bottle that Jenn and I drank alone this week is the 2000 Domaine La Garrigue, Vacqueyras. Apparently I bought four of these, of which I discovered three bottles at the time I also discovered the pair of 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape. My tasting note from four years ago did not offer much promise. I was hoping for bottle variation in the positive direction but this was not the case. It remained ethereal in flavor with very fine, drying tannins, and some heat. It only became harder with air. Drinkable but not pleasurable.