Quite a "wine day" yesterday. There was an early afternoon tasting of ten northern Rhone wines and an evening dinner with two more bottles. There were some outstanding wines in that mix.
The Rhone tasting offered a nice contrast as there were two Saint Joseph's, two Crozes Hermitage and two Cote Roties that offered the chance to taste a new vintage against an older vintage. Add in two medium aged Hermitages, a single Cornas and a Condrieu to start the day and it was quite an experience.
The Condrieu was a 2006 Georges Vernay. It was full of peaches, nectarines and honey on the nose and an apricot or two jumped in on the taste. Full bodied and oily, almost unctuous with a long, full bodied finish. There were two absentees at our table so I not only tasted my sample, but managed to confiscate one of the unused samples. At $70 a bottle the price was a little steep, but this was a nice wine.
The two Saint Josephs were a 2000 Pascal Perrier Domaine de Gachon ($40) and a 2005 Chave Offerus ($35). Bright, tart cherries in the Offerus with a sweet cherry taste and noticeable oak. It's a very young wine. The Gachon was about meat and leather and dark fruit on the nose. Medium weight in the mouth feel, but with good acid and a long, sweet finish. It is more than drinkable now, but still has some short term aging potential. Good wine.
On to the two Crozes Hermitages, a 2000 Belle Pere et Fils Cuvee Louis Belle and a Y. Chave 2006. The Belle ($40) was smoky meat and dense fruit on the nose and just loaded with dark fruits in the taste. It retains some gripping tannin and has great acidity. The finish was very long and full. I liked this wine. The Y. Chave ($35) was a surprise and to me it seemed out of place in this tasting. Obviously it is quite young, but it was so fruit forward and extracted that I would have picked it as Australian or Californian if the tasting were blind. It was all about fruit and it was hard to detect anything else but fruit and oak. Not what I want in a northern Rhone, but a well made wine.
The Cornas was a Despesse 2005 ($68). Young, closed nose with some meat and cherries peeking through. Deep, dark color - almost black. Cherries, spice, meat tannin, acid all came through. A long, long finish just full of fruit. This wine is nowhere near ready to drink, but it should be spectacular when it is. Production was was less than 150 cases.
The two Cote Roties were a Burgaud 1999 ($70) and a Rene Rostaing 2005 ($85). The Burgaud was all about old leather and dirt overlaid with sharp tart fruit. Bright cherries in the taste made this wine taste much younger than it smelled. Totally balanced wine and a finish to die for made this my favorite wine of the day. Sadly there was only one bottle for sale and it was sold via a random drawing to someone else. The Rostaing was a huge wine with full fruit forward on the nose. It tasted sweeter than it smelled. Medium body with great acidity and wonderfully ripe tannin. A definite wine for the cellar.
The day ended with a 1998 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle ($109) and a 2000 Chapoutier La Sizeranne ($120). There was some oxidation in the Jaboulet wine and some light browning at the edges. The nose was spicy with fully ripe fruit underneath. There was still that wonderful raw steak smell that I love. The wine tasted much younger than it looked and was full bodied with meat and spices and dark cherries. Add a long finish and you had a very nice wine that is drinkable now, but should last a few more years. The Chapoutier was very closed in the nose but eventually some blackberries and cherries came through, along with the raw meat. That's exactly the way it tasted, and there was acid to refresh and tannin to add to it. The finish was perhaps the longest of the day.
I was very happy to taste the Jaboulet wine and even happier that I liked it as well as I did since there are two already in the cellar. That eliminated one potential purchase for me. So the net haul for the day was two bottles of the Gachon Saint Joseph, two bottles of the Belle Crozes Hermitage, one bottle of the Despesse Cornas and one bottle of the Rostaing Cote Rotie. It was a tough call to come home without a bottle of the Condrieu but budgets are what they are - a warning to not overspend.
The two wines with dinner were a Clarendon old vines Grenache, Hicknbotham Vineyard from Australia and a Zind-Humbrecht Clos St Urbain pinot gris from Alsace. More on them later.