Last summer I had the privilege of taking a ‘Rhone Wine Holiday’ with my family. Our home base was located in the quaint, historic village of Chateauneuf-Du-Pape.
During our stay, we hired Philip, a local English/French speaking gentleman, who provided us with a guided wine tour on 7/7/14. (And yes, it did feel strange to be the customer, taking the tour for once!) He suggested that he take us out of our village so he could help us explore some of the important appellations of the Southern Rhone area. Philip said we could wonder around Chateauneuf-Du-Pape “under our own steam”, and so we did.
On tour day, Philip picked us up in a roomy, 9-seat, air conditioned van, with plenty of trunk space! Our first stop was a visit to Domaine de Mourchon, located in the Cotes du Rhone Villages, Seguret appellation. We were met by the McKinley family, owners of Mourchon for the past (12) years, in their outside area. Soon we were in the middle of their vineyard with Grenache and Syrah grapevines everywhere! It had been a rainy evening the night before, and now our shoes were covered with their rich, clay soil. It was a beautiful sight, and the vineyard reminded me so much of my fathers vineyard, where I grew up. We were promptly ushered into the winery, which was a new building, and looked out of place in this area of historic buildings. It was a state of the art, gravity flow type winery, that has helped this family rise to be one of the top leaders of this area. Next came the tasting of their current vintages which amazed and delighted our palates! Some of the wines were purchased, especially their Grand Reserve Red Rhone, a blend of Syrah and Grenache, vintage 2011, so we could visit it over and over again. This winery did have a distributor in the US, which made it much easier for us to acquire some of their wines.
Later that afternoon, we found ourselves standing in front of Chateau de Saint Cosme, a winery that Philip thought was one of the best producers in the Gigondas and Cotes du Rhone appellations. Louis Barroul is the owner here and makes powerful Gigondas in a traditional fashion. He and his family believe in the co-fermentation of several grapes, and adding them during the course of the fermentation. He states that “nothing can replace time and nothing is better than several ingredients cooked together in one pot!” I fell in love with his Les Deux Albion wine, vintage 2012, and yes some of this wine was purchased, and sent home to the US! What grapes make up this interesting wine? All we know is, by law, it is no more than 80% Grenache, with no less than 15% Syrah and /or Mourvedre blended in.
Our final winery of the day was Chateau Juvenal, which was a start up winery in the appellation of Ventoux. Ventoux is located in the southern Rhone area just east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. When you blend excellent terroir with the services of the famous enology consultant Philippe Cambie, you end up with some mighty fine wines. These wines are fine enough to find Robert Parker giving them some critical attention…and Parker Points! The wines were made by Philippe Cambie in collaboration with Sebastien Alban. This is an organic facility and this is only their second vintage! The owner, Bernard Forestiere was a charming host and loves to serve you cheese! Which wine did I take home? I fell in love once again, with a red blend of Grenache and Syrah, vintage 2012. Did I ship this wine to the US? You bet I did!
Now since it had been around (7) months since I last tasted these wines in France, we decided that it was time our group got together to examine what I had purchased. So, last night the WineDirt.com tasters gathered to taste some Red Rhone wines and evaluate them. We did purchase one more wine here in the US, to add to the tasting, so we would have four total wines. Here are the results using our 20-point scale:
**Domaine de Mourchon, Grand Reserve Red Rhone, Vintage 2011, Alcohol 15.5%, received 18.98 points. This wine had good levels of tannin, acid and alcohol, and was well balanced. It had a ruby color that continued all the way to the rim. We found hints of dark fruit, licorice, black pepper, roses and mint on the nose, and the taste was smooth, round and juicy.
**Chateau de Saint Cosme, Les Deux Albion, Vintage 2012, Alcohol 14.5%, received 18.24 points. Again, this wine had good levels of tannin, acid and alcohol. The color was light ruby with color at the rim. This wine had some H2S odor in the beginning, followed by aromas of floral, anise, and raspberry. The flavor was very rich, round and complex.
**Chateau Juvenal, Assemblage de Grenache et Syrah, Vintage 2012, Alcohol 15.0%, received 18.75 points. The color was a dark ruby which continued all the way to the rim. There was good structure once again with fair amounts of acid, tannin, and alcohol. Initially, there was some Bret odor, which blew off quickly, followed by anise, black pepper, mint and bright fruit of strawberries and cranberry. The flavors were well balanced, fruity and delicious.
**Domaine Grand Veneur, Les Champauvins, Vintage 2009, Alcohol 15.0%, received 18.5 points. The red color on this wine shows its age a bit. This wine also had good acid, tannin and alcohol. The nose started out with floral notes, continuing with a very light ‘fruit smoothy’ aroma of vanilla, cherry and strawberry, and finishing with some barrel spice notes. At first the flavor was a bit rough, but as it was aerated, it smoothed out and showed off much more flavorful vanilla and spice notes.
Happy tasting everyone!