Friday, November 26, 2010

Bordeaux Day 1 Part 2 

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 

Saint-Julien & Pauillac 

Latour, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Pontet Canet 
The grand Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

     Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou is situated in the Saint-Julien appellation on the left bank south of Latour in the Medoc. Depending on the vintage, Ducru makes some of the best wine in all of Bordeaux. This famed Chateau, a gorgeous work of architecture that is as pretty as it is intimidating when in its presence, received its name because of the beautiful and large stones that are common in the soil of this property or “terroir”. Sitting in the heart of the appellation, Ducru sits on some of the best ‘terroir’ in Saint-Julien having those large stones in the vineyard property, as well as sitting right on one of the better gravel mounds, the heart of the best terroirs in Bordeaux. In fact, the best Chateau in Bordeaux such as Lafite or Latour, have vineyards sitting on the best gravel mounds on the left bank. The gravel mounds are large, archeological formations and deposits that make up more than just one property and can extend to multiple properties, but more or less are the reason for the best properties that have the best vineyards that produce the best fruit and therefore make the best wines, though in good vintages, plenty of great wine is available in all of the Bordeaux appellations at all prices.
The vineyards of Ducru-Beaucaillou, checkout that terroir!
     Our tour at Ducru was to be in French only and thankfully our Rosetta Stone lessons came in handy. We sat in the waiting area of the offices nervous of what we expected to be an uncomfortable tour. It turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences while on France on vacation for those two weeks. Many wine making terms are synonymous, no matter the language, mostly because they are French in origin so cepage, elevage, barrique, etc. were all familiar and having gone on many wine tours, even in French they are kind of the same and we were able to interpret on our own fairly well. But this one was great as our tour guide was the cellar master Rene Lusseau, and we found the challenge of interpreting the language barrier a fun challenge. We started in the vineyard and the layout of the vines on the property, explaining which vines were Cabernet Sauvignon and which were Merlot, which were older and which were younger vines that would go into the second wine, Croix de Beaucaillou, and then those from the oldest and best terroir destined for the grand vin Ducru-Beaucaillou.
The barrel room at Ducru
     Next we moved to the cellar to where the fruit came in from the vineyards during harvest to view the fermentation tanks and then the aging barrels the newly fermented wines aged in. We sort of discussed a different process of how wines are racked in Bordeaux, it is different than what I have seen in most Napa cellars I have been to.  Recently I asked Napa Valley vigneron Aaron Pott about this process called "Esquive" racking.  Aaron currently makes Napa Valley wine under his own label called "Pott", but years back cut his teeth in Bordeaux making wine and later at quite a few solid wineries in Napa.  According to Aaron it goes a little something like this:

"The little hole called an esquive on the head of the barrel is taken off and the wine pours into a small pan before a tube is inserted into it. The other side of the tube goes to another barrel next to it. Then inserted into the bung hole is a device called "une tete de chien" or dog's head, it is either attached to a small electric pump or can be manually pumped. The pressure pushes the wine through the esquive and through the tube into the other barrel. When there is no wine then you pull the tube out and tip the barrel using a hand cranking device that sets on another barrel or on the wall and tips the barrel forward to let out the wine. Now the wine is just falling into the pan. You can look through the stream with a candle and determine when the ideal time to stop lifting the barrel, that is when the wine runs clear."  Thanks Aaron!

The rear property of Ducru, the Gironde estuary is further back.

     Next we made our way across the property to the rear of the Chateau towards the tasting salon. See here the view of the palatial Chateau view, a stunningly beautiful work of architecture. Upon entering the salon, a beautiful purple and gold room has the 2009 vintage notes on the wall, along with the composition and tasting notes of the 2009 wines. Ducru has 3 wines, the last not from grapes from the actual estate vineyards but still hailing from Saint-Julien: 

Grand Vin: Ducru-Beaucaillou
2nd wine: Croix de Beaucaillou
3rd wine: Chateau Lalande-Borie 

     As we made our way from the foyer to the tasting salon, we passed through the 2009 wines in barrel resting in the depths of the Chateau’s ornate lower reaches. The entrance to the tasting salon had a grand setup displaying many sizes of bottles: magnums, Balthazar, all of the different wines produced by Ducru. The tasting room had the most unique sink I have ever seen. Made of beautiful stark white marble, the sink with a thin layer of water, would allow the taster to see their disposed wine form a rose blossom in the bottom of the sink. Original art work from artists such as Keith Haring lined the walls of the salon. This was spitting at its highest art form! Monsieur Lusseau was kind enough to gift us a few souvenirs for our visit, as well as pour us the 3 Chateau wines from barrel for the 2009 vintage. It was such a treat to try these wines in their youth as these wines were drinking so well. The grand vin 2009 was one of our favorite wines from barrel on that trip, up there with Vieux Chateau Certan and Haut-Bailly grand vins. As we tasted through each wine, we spit them into the sink and watched as the rose blossoms bloomed, gaining more color and concentration with each wine up the ladder. Truth be told, we did not spit much, if any of the grand vin as it was already so developed and delicious, Monsieur Lusseau actually told us to drink it and not spit it as it was so good, why waste it we all thought? He pointed right down to his gullet and that was sign language we could easily identify with.
Various sizes of Ducru-Beaucaillou

The smartest tasting room I have ever been in, this is the marble sink.

The overhead light helps to gauge the gradation of the wine's colors, you also see limestone brick from the original structure of the Chateau.

     As we left and made our way back above ground to catch our ride to our next destination, monsieur Lusseau officially anointed us ambassador’s of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. So here we bring you our experience and tasting notes for Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou. If you find yourself in Bordeaux, make sure you set up a tour here to see the land and try the wines, you will not be disappointed.
Lisa holding the 2009 barrel sample of the Grand Vin Ducru Beaucaillou

Yours truly

The rose bloom formed by the spitting of the wine

Rose bloom second view

Tasting Notes 

2009 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

Deep red in color. Complex notes of creme de cassis, currants, licorice, and black cherry; big but precise on the attack. The palate is enrobed in luscious fruit and big, sweet, silky tannins. The texture and finish is off the charts impressive. Big and ripe tannins frame the bountiful fruit with a very solid structure. An incredibly long 1+ minute finish, enticingly silky texture, expansive palate = incredible wine. Very developed for such a young wine, very persistent and pure. This was the best barrel sample we had on our whole trip. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot; 90% aged in new French Oak, 10% in used (12 months) French Oak

2009 Croix de Beaucaillou, 2nd wine of Ducru

Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon here, silky long and smooth, fruit aromas and flavors like cassis, currants, and notes of pencil shavings...great concentration for a second wine, smooth finish, good tannic structure, a solid 2nd wine. This will be a great second wine, the feeling we came away from these two wines were they were definite buys, this one especially in the $40 range.

2009 Chateau Lalande-Borie, 3rd wine of Ducru

Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) is the majority of this blend, with plenty of Merlot (40%) and a large proportion for the left bank of Cabernet Franc (10%). The color is deep purple. Bright red fruit aromas, and you can taste the cabernet franc distinctly in the mix. Raspberry & currants, whiffs of orange peel. Unique for a 3rd wine. Though I am not so sure how much this is an actual 3rd wine, from what I have read this is a completely different property/vineyard west of the estate.

NEXT up is Pontet-Canet back in Pauillac!



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pauillac & Saint-Julien 

Latour, Ducru Beacaillou, Pontet Canet 

Part 1 Chateau Latour 

The famed tower at Chateau Latour

Bordeaux Day 1, Evening
La Brasserie de Bordelaise
      The anticipation started well before bedtime the night before our first day in the famed Bordeaux wine region. We arrived in down town Bordeaux by train from the east near Provence in time for dinner, passing vineyards and coastal Mediterranean Sea vistas in the Southwest region of France. We hurried through our check in at The Regent Grand Hotel in the heart of downtown Bordeaux. We washed up, changed, and made our way back downstairs and hurried the 4 blocks to La Brasserie Bordelaise. When we arrived I felt like a kid in a candy store, everywhere you looked you were surrounded by various bottles of various vintages of great Bordeaux wines on the walls. Bordeaux is the second largest metropolis in France, so dinner was loud, vibrant even, people spoke quickly and oh so French! This was a locals place and I would have eaten here more if we could. I would have rather passed on the other night at a tourist trap that was highly recommended. This was not sleepy Provence, but a lively, energetic city full of energy. A bottle of 2005 Baron de Brane, the 2nd wine of the famed Chateau Brane-Cantenac was just the right wine, displaying the wonderfully, silky terroir of Margaux, at a younger age and at a good price. We later moved on to another Margaux, a mature 1995 Chateau Giscours. We knew what we wanted to eat this night before we left the ground in New Jersey for this meal: fois gras and steak, staples in Bordeaux. We devoured a hunk of fois gras terrine the size of my fist, which was perfect spread over charred crusty country bread. The steaks were solid, but we should have gotten the cote-du-beuf for two, but we were quite content with our sirloin. Never be afraid to say, “I’ll have what they are having”. The diners next to us were eating Peter Luger’s sized chunks of beef, we being a little afraid to just say give us that, ordered instead entrecote, which was a sirloin cut. It was great, cooked perfectly medium-rare, but not the same steak. In case you may be wondering, the menu was amazing filled with things like French fries cooked in duck fat, duck or beef carpaccio, Salmon tartare, Cote de Boeuf (what we should have ordered), steak tartare, pork braised in Sauternes, multiple variations of duck, Cassoulet, Beef Bourguignon, grilled veal chops and braised lamb shoulder. Like I said I could go back more, over 7 nights and eat 7 different meals!

Bordeaux Day 2, The Medoc or the ”Left Bank” 

     When we rose from our sleep the first morning on Bordeaux, this incredible feeling of anticipation overcame us, this was it, the big day in the Medoc, the grand Chateau were on our agenda for the day. We were picked up by our driver on this day, driving in style in a Range Rover we made our way the hour north to our first stop, Chateau Latour. The urban feel of Bordeaux gave way to a mix of suburbs and industrial parks on the outskirts of town, and then those gave way to the vineyards which spread out and rolled on in what seemed like forever in different directions. The sky was clear and blue, the sun high and bright, one could not have better weather to tour the Medoc.

Chateau Latour

     As we pulled up to the gate we were greeted and shown the way in to the eastern part of the property to our tour and tasting of this legendary property. Chateau Latour is my favorite first growth Bordeaux, tops on many lists as one of the greatest wines of the world. Sonia Guerlou was our guide as we met first at the Chais, where we watched a short film on the four seasons at Chateau Latour, showing the life of the vine over a year. This was some pretty slick stuff, very impressive and much better than I was expecting. The short film lasted about 1o minutes and was not narrated, which left you up to your eyes to interpret the visuals for you. 

The front gate at Chateau Latour
The actual Chateau Latour
     We then made our way with Sonia across the Chais which is the main building that all the work is done after the grapes are brought in from the vineyards. As we made our way into the first part of the tour at the tank room you can sense that the Chais was recently renovated and updated to the latest technology that fits the Latour style of winemaking. The tanks are all precisely monitored by a large dashboard to exact temperatures at all times, with alarms that will notify key people when a temperature is too high or too low. 

Fermentation tanks Chateau Latour

Chateau Latour barrel room
     The next stop was the barrel room which was by far the largest we’d see on our trip, holding several hundred barrels for wine maturing. Currently the 2008 and 2009 vintages were in barrel. Below us underground was a single, large tank that all of the wines were emptied into when the final blend is decided on. This is such a great idea to create consistency in the final version of a blend, be it the Grand Vin or the Les Forts de Latour. Next we saw the entrance to the Chais

Microchip Authenticity

The private cellar chock full of back vintage Latour
     Next we descended into the Chateau’s private cellar where they had in storage wines going back to the 1800’s! I do not think those would be for drinking and are more of a museum piece. But I could easily get comfortable next to a few 1961 and 1982 vintage bottles! Next we made our way to the tasting salon where we sampled 3 wines from 3 different vintages. The tasting notes further below go into greater detail of those grand wines. The tasting room was as modern and chic as anything I have ever seen in Napa, Italy, and even the rest of our trip in France. Black, grey, white, steel, leather and granite all worked together to help show the grandeur of the Latour wines in a modern art designed room. A funny personal note is that there were these Egg shaped art pieces in the room and it reminded me of the Wilco album “A Ghost is Born”, so I called it the Wilco in my head and a few times to Lisa. 

Latour Tasting Salon
"Wilco" Egg
     We tasted the first growth Grand Vin Latour from the 2004 vintage, Les Forts de Latour from 2005 and The Pauillac from 2006. All 3 represented a nice spectrum of 3 different vintages from the estate vineyards. Les Forts is the second wine but the grapes are sourced from its own vineyards, it is not the portions of the regular estate grapes not used in the Grand Vin. That is what the 3rd label is for, The Pauillac, as that is primarily the portions not used in both the Grand Vin and the Les Forts wines to achieve a more affordable Latour experience. 2004 is not my favorite Bordeaux vintage, but the Grand Vin showed very well. The Les Forts was exceptional as expected from the heralded 2005 vintage, and the 2006 Pauillac was fine, but in that price range one can do better. 
The vineyards looking east to the estuary and the Gironde River

Latour "terroir"
      After the tasting we walked the grounds some to see for ourselves the soils and the terroir up close. The vines were smaller than those in Napa and Italy, where warmer temperatures seem to stretch the vines higher to the sky, with bunches hanging several feet off the ground. In Bordeaux the grapes are about a foot or 2 off the ground, resting closer to the warmer ground. The gravel was distinctly original from any other vineyard site I have ever seen. Similar gravel was seen in the other Bordeaux vineyards in Saint-Julian and Pauillac that we visited. Bordeaux may not at first seem that terroir driven, but once you get in the vineyards you can see the terroir for yourself. 
3rd, 2nd and the 1st Wines of Chateau Latour
2004 Chateau Latour 

Wonderfully classic as 2004 is just that kind of vintage, pure cassis and currants, earth, and minerality in layers of depth that unfold gracefully on the palate. Balanced and pure, this is a more affordable vintage for those looking to get a better priced Latour that will drink well soon but also age for 20+ years. The best grapes on the property come from the vineyard sections called “l'Enclos”; this is the heart of the Latour property and the wine. The Grand Vin is aged in 100% new French oak.

2005 Les Forts de Latour, 2nd wine of Chateau Latour 

Excellent depth, medium oak influence. Overall the LFdL is more approachable than the Grand Vin overall. This wine is the 2005 LFdL and is more approachable with seemingly less tannin, even than the 2004 grand vin which is subtler vintage. 2005 was a high tannin vintage for Latour (and most Medoc wines), but I think the aim for Les Forts de Latour is not the same as the grand vin for decades long longevity, maybe just 1 to 3 decades instead of 3-7 decades or more in great years of the grand vin. This wine shows nicely with dark red currants, cherry, cassis, classic toasty French oak, with a touch of mocha and toasty oak. Sturdy, yet fine tannins. Les Forts de Latour is aged in 50% new French oak and 50% in oak barrels already used so they are more neutral and impart less of an oak presence (and to an extent less tannin).

2006 The Pauillac, 3rd wine of Latour 

The focus here on this wine is the fruit, lots of bright red fruits. With barely any new oak, this sharpens the focus on the fruit. The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot. The palate reveals tart cherry, currants, and minerality. As expected this is the leanest of the 3 with more acidity and definitely for near term consumption. The fruit for “The Pauillac” is sourced from the juvenile vines of the Latour properties. The Pauillac is aged in only 5% new oak, the remaining in neutral oak barrels.
Latour in the glass

Lunch: Le Lion d’Or, Arcins 

The Le Lion d’Or lives up to its reputation: lunch was delicious and the service was a tab cranky. Most of the crankiness was due to my trying to speak too much broken French and then too much English. The chef was actually the nicest one, checking on how our meal was progressing a few times. We ate on the back patio under a large canopy umbrella to shield us from the steady sun. Some white Bordeaux and some fresh claret were the call for drinks, while we both ordered the steak tartare that was served with chips (think perfectly cooked thick sliced potato chips). This was probably the best steak tartare I had ever had. As we finished out lunch, we walked around the village of Arcins, not much was there to look at so we walked back to meet our driver and head to our next appointment.

Le Lion d’Or, Arcins

To be continued (Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou)

Monday, August 09, 2010

France - Part 3 


 Domaine du Pegau
Domaine de la Janasse
Chateau Mont Redon 
Clos des Brusquieres

Grenache vines surrounded by galets in CdP

Day 4 was an exciting trip north of Les Baux to the world renowned wine region Chateauneuf du Pape. Driving north from Les Baux through Avignon we made our way to Chateauneuf du Pape on the first Tuesday of our trip. Chateauneuf du Pape, or “Castle of the Popes”, or as I like to call it Chateauneuf du Awesome is a place still rooted in the past, with little commercial flash like Napa or Bordeaux as you will see in the pictures here and in comparison to future posts from Bordeaux . For those not familiar with this region, the Roman Catholic Church had a major influence in this region in the middle ages. Quite a few French popes reigned in this region in the middle ages, mostly in Avignon. But beside Avignon, the mighty French Popes also had a castle built in a village we now know as Chateauneuf du Pape.
The steps leading up to the "castle of the popes", or Chateauneuf-du-Pape

The remains of the castle sit at the highest point on the hill the village resides on. You can see it off in the distance quite a few miles away as the half remaining part of the castle towers over the surrounding area. The anticipation sparks the second you see the castle it and grows as you get closer to your first tasting appointment. Now mind you this is not a castle you are thinking with moats and draw bridges, it is half blown up and quite small from what we recall from our memory of castles in movies and stories past. The castle was intact until World War II until the Nazis that occupied it and used it as their ammo and weapons cache for the region. As the Allies closed in, the fleeing Nazi’s blew up the weapons cache and blew out half of the castle, leaving just one half of the castle standing. I have heard of Irish goodbyes, but can one consider this a German goodbye? Such a shame! I am curious if they export much of their wines to Germany? (kidding of course). This was one of my favorite days in our two weeks in France, the images from memory and wines were very vivid and unforgettable. 

Domaine du Pegau

What a great visit! Laurance Feraud made us feel at home and gave us a thorough tour and introduction to the wines of Domaine Pegau and ALL from the best recent vintages! Avignon traffic was terrible and held us up for 30 minutes, but Laurance received just as she would have had we been on time for the visit. We made out wine to the cellar room to meet with the group lucky enough to not have suffered a traffic jam on their way to CdP. The old, stoic foudre were lined up in the cellar room, the Capo barrel as you can see in the picture being the biggest foudre of them all. They are currently expanding, as we saw when Laurance showed us around the property and saw the new construction. These were excellent wines. Looking back on our trip, I would have taken the opportunity to bring a few more of these wines back to the US with us. I chose the 2005 Cuvee Laurance and the 2007 Reserve CdP, the Capo was tempting but my gut said Laurance! 

Laurance Feraud, winemaker Domain du Pegau

With each wine Laurance went into the story behind each wine, as well as the methods used to create the wines. For example only in certain years the Cuvee de Capo or Cuvee Laurance is made, but never both. The Capo seems to be made in riper years (’03, ’07) and the Laurance in more classic years (’01, ’05, ‘06). The reserve was the first wine and was a beauty. Dark red and black fruits, meat and spicy pepper aromas, this is classic, benchmark CdP. The Laurance was more to my tastes and what I expected of a classic CdP, the Capo was huge, borderline new world in style. No doubt I could tell why it is a perennial favorite of Robert Parker’s. The Capo was huge, with layered, unctuous flavors and textures. The Laurance was more refined, more classic CdP in style and to me more complex. Delivering multiple layers and more aroma complexity than the Capo, this was the iron fist in the velvet glove. 

The Pegau lineup, NV, 07, 07, 05

We got a little background on wine legalities and the rigorous bureaucracy the AOC and other oversight entities apply to the winemakers to ensure they are adhering to the rules set forth by the government, whether they are suitable or not. The rules were originally intended to ensure a winemaker was being true to the rules of a particular region. But as the industry has matured, the regulators adhere to old and unsuitable rules that do protect the consumer, but at times constrict the creativity and the true expression a winemaker is trying to make. American winemakers have no idea how lucky they are that the regulators here do not do the same! Laurance was a terrific host and indeed shows the passion for winemaking that comes through in her wines. We also met her father, Paul, who started making wines as Pegau in 1987. For generations the property that yields the grapes for their wines was in this family. This was truly a family operation, original and rooted in the tradition. 

Wines Tasted:

NV Plan de Pegau $15 

Pegau’s answer to a Cotes du Rhone, but is mostly Merlot and from multiple vintages so it is designated “NV” for non vintage. Laurance explained the vines for this wine are from property on the banks of the Rhone River on mostly sandy soil good for growing Merlot in (this is also true in Bordeaux). This is truly unique for the area and since it is not made from traditional Rhone varieties, it cannot even be called a Cotes du Rhone or Vin de Pays, it is rather simply a “red table wine” or “Vin de Table” and thus not allowed to show a vintage (proof of the poor rules in France – no vintage? Seriously?!). 

2007 Domaine Pegau Reserve CdP $70 

The color is dark red with red edges. The aromas jump from the glass of deep black and red cherry, currants, spice, meat and a touch of mocha. Black cherry, black figs and crème de cassis coat the palate while the silky and long finish sails on. The 2007 reserve is an exceptional wine of depth and length, with a deep and long finish of true CdP character. I bought one of these to bring back home with me. 

2007 Domaine Pegau Cuvee de Capo $400+ 
Capo 2007

This is a monster of a wine and packs a wallop of fruit, glycerin, and texture. A black core with dark red edges. The nose is ripe, but not overly so showing deep black currants, beefy notes, black raspberry, chocolate and spice. This is a huge wine and given its size should age for quite a long time. It is aged in its own special cask and is the best fruit from a given vintage when no Cuvee Laurance is created. It is not cheap, but if you can walk away with one from the Domaine you should do so if this is your style. 

2005 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Laurance $100 
Cuvee Laurance 2005

This is a beautiful, classically styled wine that is what the Capo is not. Though, do not mistake the power of this wine’s ability to show an iron fist with a velvet glove. It may be more elegant, but it is no less stimulating, and in fact I think it is more complex, and more interesting of a wine than the Capo. The 2005 is showing impeccably balanced and is just starting to show some mature aromas, but it is mostly still shrouded in a weave of tannin and acidity. Beautiful aromas of mostly deeper red fruits, roasted beef, spice, and some flowers rise from the glass. The palate is broad and deep, with solid tannins that should melt away as this wine ages for many years. I also bought one of these to take home with me. I wish I had purchased more! 

Le Verger du Papes

For lunch we drove to the top of the village and had lunch beneath the castle ruins at Le Verger du Papes. We both ordered steak. I had mine with frites while Lisa had an exceptional gratin that was traditional but also had layers of bacon added into the matrix of cheese and potatoes. With lunch we had the 2007 Clos des Brusquieres Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I really liked this wine and highly recommend it as the 2007 can be had for about $35 here in the US (a very good price for a CdP). It was showing classic CdP flavors and aromas, revealing dark and red spicy fruits, roasted Provencal herbs, with smoky a meat component, a luscious texture and a long, fresh finish. Classic! 

Domain de la Janasse 

Nestled north east of CdP in Courthezon, about a 15 minute drive from the village of Chateauneuf, Domaine de la Janasse was an exceptional visit. The highlight was the generous tasting of 14 wines going back to 1979! What a lineup! We were received by the warm and friendly Isabelle Sabon at the Domaine. Isabelle asked which wines we wanted to try, and, well, we said everything! The tasting room was a modest place to taste these great wines, with little flash as their children’s toys were in sight, as well as medals and honors bestowed upon the Sabon family’s best wines, including the best white for the 2008 vintage from Chateauneuf du Pape (see CdP Blanc 2008 below). I liked the feel and comfort of the tasting room; it was just like Pegau, not stuffy, but original and unassuming. Adjacent to the tasting room was the fermentation room and the cellar for aging the wines in foudre and barrel. We were definitely intending on buying a few bottles here too, especially the CdP blanc as the 2007 was a recent favorite of ours. The variety and styles of the current wines was impressive. There were a few roses, whites, some top notch Cotes du Rhones, and then quite a few exceptional CdP: each wine displaying a different expression of the grape and the vineyard.

Domaine de la Janasse

Thankfully we had lunch before the 14 wines we tried at Domaine de la Janasse. Here is a list and some notes I took on each of the wines we tasted. Some we drank, some we spit, but we made it through with our wits intact! 

On average, Janasse produces about 250,000 bottles of the below wines. Only about 50,000 of those wines are from 15 hectares of Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards. 


Vin de Pays (VdP) de la Principaute d’Orange Rose 2009 $10-12

1/3 each of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre
Simple and easy, red fruits and acidity blend well to deliver an easy going Rose. Copper-pink in color. Nice wine and super cheap as it only cost a few Euros, maybe 8.

Cotes du Rhone Rose 2009 $12-14

50% Grenache, 30%Syrah, 20% Cinsault
More depth and mid-palate here, silky red fruits and orange zest. Salmon in color. Good acidity and weight. This rose delivers and for may 10 Euros, also a great deal. Pretty and elegant but with a tad more depth than the VdP. 

Lisa starting to sample the "few" wines we tasted!


VdP de la Principaute d’Orange Viognier 2009 $18

100% Viognier
Classic Viognier of white flowers, honeysuckle, stone fruits like peach and ripe nectarine. Chardonnay lovers take note this wine delivers huge white wine character in a while new way! This wine delivers Viognier as it should be. Only about $16-18 I have seen this back home here in the US. Cook up some scallops or sea bass and you will not be disappointed.

Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2009 $14 

50% Grenache Blanc, 15% Clairette, 15% Bourboulenc, 10% Viognier, 10% Roussane
We had this at home before our trip and I was not impressed, but in France it was showing better, silky and more succulent. White, waxy and succulent exotic fruits blend well with almonds, flowers and spice. Fabulous little white wine.

Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2009 $60

50% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 25% Clairette 
This is one of the best white CdP I have ever had, the 2007 was absolutely spectacular, delivering complexity, depth and richness in a balanced wine that would have anyone saying wow! The 2009 was almost as good, ever so slightly lower in depth and richness, the 2009 delivered more acidity with the classic white flowers and stone fruits, sweet almonds, with nervy minerality and terroir. Solid white, this matched well with a roasted chicken basted and seasoned with Provencal herbs. 


Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2008 $15
Cotes du Rhone 2008

50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 15% Vieux Carignan, 5% Cinsault
Aged 6-9 months in foudre.
The nose reveals delicate red fruits like strawberry and cherry, spice and an easy going freshness. The palate was more forward with similar flavors to the nose, the tannins were apparent here, good kirsch-like and black fruits. Balances well as medium to full bodied.

Vin de Pays (VdP) de la Principaute d’Orange ‘Terre de Bussiere’ 2007 $15

55% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 10% Cabernet
Aged 12 months in 30% new oak, the rest neutral oak barrel.
Again surprising that this is a lot of Merlot, but this has more depth than the Plan de Pegau which also had a large majority of Merlot. This was also aged in a smaller barriques, or barrel, whereas the previous Cotes du Rhone was aged in foudre. This was really nice for a CdR, if not so traditional with all of that Merlot. I wonder how much Merlot could have been in my other Cotes du Rhone that I have been tasting all these years. Typically Grenache or Syrah is the main grape in a Cotes du Rhone. Nice wine, delivering red fruits, medium to full bodied. A little spice and some oak.

Cotes du Rhone Village 2008 ‘Terre de Argile’ 2008 $17-25

1/3 each Grenache, Syrah, & Mourvedre
Serious Cotes du Rhone here as this receives some complex elevage.
Aged 18-21 months as follows:
Syrah & Mourvedre (60%) oak barrel (30% new) and the Grenache 40% is aged in foudre.
This was a fabulous Cotes du Rhone as this was not your basic Cotes du Rhone. Not your average CdR, this wine is made with quality in mind, and shows in the glass. Terre de Argile tastes more like a Chateauneuf du Pape, and priced a little higher than an average CdR, it should. Rich red and black fruit, spice, and some meaty aromas and flavors blend well with the oak treatment barely noticeable in this wine. The full flavor of the wine finishes long with supple tannins. The Mourvedre adds more depth and deeper color to the fresher Syrah and Grenache. The anticipation of the coming wines did not overshadow this wine and I recall well how much I liked this for a Cotes du Rhone. This was the 2008 and I have a stash of the 2007 at home waiting for their day to shine. 2008 is on the shelves right now and ready to drink!

Chateauneuf du Pape Traditional 2008 $50-60

2008 Chateauneuf-du-Pape
70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre
15-18 months aged in 80% foudre and 20% barrel
The 2008 Chateauneuf du Pape traditional is a blend of both the regular CdP vineyards and the Chaupin which is bottled separately in better vintages. More Mourvedre was used in 2008 at Janasse in the two CdP wines produced, much more than usual as my notes say “20%+?”, probably to counteract a somewhat average to slightly poor vintage. Red and black fruits, meaty aromas, lavender and garrigue are all on display in this classic, traditional 2008. Priced high for a so-so vintage, the ’08 would be a nice comparison to the 07 that everyone had gone gaga over! Both are priced similarly right now.

Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 2008 $90-120

70% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 2% Divers
From Grenache vines aged 60 to 100 years old, this wine was aged: Mourvedre in barrel (25%, 40% new), the remaining 75% was Grenache raised in foudre!
This wine showed more depth and complexity than the Traditional, but also is twice the price. To me it is twice as good. Full bodied and dark in color, this wine was brooding from the glass. Blackberry and currants, incense, licorice, and toasty mocha reveal a beautiful aroma and full flavors that lead to a long, full finish.

Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 2003 $100-125

The richness and depth of this wine was very apparent and to be expected from the hot and ripe 2003 vintage. I believe Parker gave this a big 97 point score. This is a huge wine of profound richness and depth. This wine was open for a little over one day and was giving off a big, full aroma of dark berries, meat, charcoal like smoky and toasty oak, some mocha, with some fresh flowers and brighter red fruits, very complex, and very deep. The palate was full and broad, coating every nook and cranny in the palate with rich black fruits, currants, cherry, spice, minerality, and a long, long finish. In years to come as this sheds some fat, I am sure this will be an incredible wine as it gains further complexity. I just hope it ages well and in balance, though I have a feeling it probably will. As French wines go, this is a big boy, big body, fruit and everything else! But given the course CdP has taken in recent year by some producers to ramp up the ripeness, I guess this is not too much of a surprise. It does however tastes in balance. A careful high wire balancing act of huge fruit, alcohol, tannins and decent acidity, though that one was lacking the most of the 4 components. As this wine ages this will be an interesting wine to taste and analyze through the years. In time this will show more finesse, but could easily be a 20-30 year wine, maybe more with all of the stuffing that is packed into this wine.

2003 and 1999 Vielles Vignes (VV)

Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 1999 $65-80

Speaking of finesse, the 1999 VV was our favorite wine of the day. Drinking perfectly, this big wine started with a purple core getting red and then barely brick in color at the edges. Open almost 1 full day, the nose was a sensual complex perfume of red and black fruits, licorice, fall leaves, provincial herbs, subtle spice, with secondary notes of tobacco and dried flowers. The palate was just the same, showing a combination of youthful fruit, combined with dried herbs, garrigue, earth and spice, showing great balance and wonderful presence. The wine seemed practically seamless, with a beautiful nose, wonderful palate, and a long finish of the aforementioned flavors still resonating on the palate. Full bodied, the tannins are still intact, but starting to mellow. This wine is definitely fighting the aging process well and is in a very palate pleasing spot showing both primary and secondary aromas and flavors. I don’t usually rate wines but this is an easy 96+ and drinking superbly at this moment! Perfect balance, full inviting aromas and flavors, what more could you want from a classic Chateauneuf du Pape! 

Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 1993 $NA

What a treat, the 1993 was in full bloom as a mature, wonderfully complex wine. Sn older version of the 1999, but maybe not as good as the 1999 will be at this stage. The color was purple red with brick color at the edges. The aromas were a haunting mix of more secondary aromas and flavors. Dried black and red fruits, currant and cherry, with mature notes of sandalwood, earth, cigar box, spice, and licorice come through with ease and subtlety. Not sure how much better this will get, so if you have any drink up! Great balance and wonderful mature character, this is a great wine if you wanted to get to know a mature Chateauneuf du Pape. 

Cotes du Rhone Reserve 1979 $NA

1979 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Reservee
When drinking through a deep tasting of wines, it is usually best to save the oldest for last. The flavors and aromas are usually more delicate than the younger wines, but reminiscent of the younger wines and in some ways traceable back to their younger siblings. The color was light red to full on brick, being 31 years old! Aromas of crushed fall leaves, earth, subtle spice and sandal wood rose from the glass as we swirled our tasting glasses. The nose had plenty of the aromas one would associate with an older wine. The palate was good, though very delicate and very subtle with lighter red fruits, leather, acidity, and very slight tannins. It had plenty of drinkability if you have had old wines and knew what to expect out of this wine as it was lacking in that fuller fruit sensation, but over-loaded in the maturity department. 

2007 Janasse Chateauneuf Du Pape XXL $300-400

100% Grenache (inaugural vintage) 

There are the old and pleasant wines you should finish with, and then there are the ones you just have to finish with as they will completely obliterate your palate. The XXL is just that, a monster wine of size and proportion that exceeds anything that is traditional and classic in Chateauneuf Du Pape.  Not to mention deeper, fuller, strong and richer than any of the other wines that you must finish with it like you would a desert wine, but this is no desert wine as it is completely dry.

The new for 2007 "XXL", the name says it all!
2007 is the first vintage of the 2,000 bottle production XXL. It reminded me of the 2003 VV on steroids! The palate is huge, I mean seriously HUGE! XXL is very new world and not typical of the CdP wines I have tried, though there are similarities to Pegau's Capo and the 2003 VV from Janasse. I can see why they would make it as collectors and enthusiasts will for sure snatch them up. Parker scored it a 98-100 to boot. 

Color: Black as night, through and through 
Nose & Palate: Crushed super-ripe blackberry, licorice, blueberry, black cherry, toasty malted chocolate oak and charcoal! Whiffs of alcohol, but not as strong as you would think given its got to be 16+ degrees abv. Virtually no acidity, but of course it’s in there, the acidity is overshadowed by the ultra ripe and sweet fruit, with huge ripe and sweet tannins. 

I felt surprised and shocked at how close this wine resembles a California Grenache or Syrah from a few producers that definitely push the alcohol to 16+ degrees, same goes for the Capo. It was not bad, just different than what I was expecting from CdP. For the price I would take multiple bottles of the VV or try the Chaupin, but that’s just me. Remember, I passed on 2007 Capo earlier that day. If you get this, please decant for a very, very long time or throw it in the cellar and forget about it for 25 years….seriously. Or just drink up now and hold on to your hat and let go of your wallet!
The legendary Mont Redon

Chateau Mont Redon 

Last on our agenda was a quick stop at Mont Redon, north of the village of Chateauneuf du Pape on our way back from Janasse in Courthezon. Mont Redon is one of the original big producers in the area and they maintain an adherence to an old traditional mix listed below that is of course dominated by the Grenache grape, like all Chateauneuf du Pape. The vineyard is maintained traditionally so as to bring out the best terroir the vineyard can produce. The property is wide, broad and beautiful, as you can see in the pictures here with the galets (large oval smooth rocks) in the vineyards between and under the vines. These rocks are part of the secret to the terroir of CdP as the galets reflect the light and maintain warmth over the night. This is why the vines are lower to the ground than you see in new world regions like Napa Valley. The galets soak up the suns heat and remit that heat back over night to the vines. So the vines stay close to their source of warmth, the stones on the ground. Bordeaux has a similar concept but with much smaller, more gravelly stones and soil in the left bank in the Medoc and the Graves regions. The Domaine has a full service tasting room not looking much different than something you would see in the Napa Valley offering many vintages for one to taste. The oldest available without begging was the 1999, but to me tasted a little tired or maybe was open for too long. The 2001 and the 2007 were the best I felt of the bunch we tasted.
The vines are surrounded by galets, everywhere in thsi part of CdP

Mont Redon maintains a standard recipe for the blend of their Chateauneuf du Pape of the following cepage:

Grenache 65%
Syrah 15%
Cinsault 10%
Mourvedre 5%
Counoise-Muscardin-Vaccarese 5%

2001 Mont Redon CdP

The color on this wine was an elegant ruby red, hinting at more refined flavors of red fruits and spices. The nose and palate were a classic, refined, typical blend from this Domaine. Red fruits of cherry, strawberry, mulled spices, leather and tobacco notes show age and complexity. A beautiful wine.

2007 Mont Redon CdP

The best of the 3 young vintages we tasted. The 2007 was expected to be good being the best vintage in years in CdP and this wine delivered. The color was deep, a darker red hue. The nose and palate were ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, virtually no oak, but a nicely elegant and decently long finish. Some more plum fruit, spice, fine grained tannins and lots of acidity. More acidity than the last 2 producers we visited.

Next we will move on to the world famous wines of Bordeaux and our visits to a few world renowned Chateau such as Latour, Ducru Beaucaillou, Pontet Canet, Haut-Bailly, Angelus & Vieux Chateau Certan to name a few.



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