France - Part 3
|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|
|Laurance Feraud, winemaker Domain du Pegau|
|The Pegau lineup, NV, 07, 07, 05|
NV Plan de Pegau $15
2007 Domaine Pegau Reserve CdP $70
2007 Domaine Pegau Cuvee de Capo $400+
2005 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Laurance $100
|Cuvee Laurance 2005|
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|
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
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!|
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.
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
Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2008 $15
|Cotes du Rhone 2008|
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
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
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
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
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
|2003 and 1999 Vielles Vignes (VV)|
Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 1999 $65-80
Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vignes’ 1993 $NA
Cotes du Rhone Reserve 1979 $NA
|1979 Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Reservee|
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!|
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.
|The legendary 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:
2001 Mont Redon CdP
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.