Around the World - Friday, 9:00AM
by Patrick Comiskey, this seminar gave us a far-reaching
look at Rhones from around the world.)
At the first seminar from the 2007 Hospice du Rhône, we learn that Rhône varieties are grown nearly everywhere in the world.
The panel consisted of Laura Catena of Luca (Argentina); Don Miller of Adobe Guadalupe (Baja California); Arnaud Frennet of Casa Silva (Chile’s Colchagua Valley); and Keven Clancy with Syrah from Montalcino producer Ciacci Piccolomini (Italy), and as well as Tony Rynders of Domaine Serene/Rockblock (Oregon). Remember, it’s a small, small world.
FROM AROUND THE WORLD :
Casa Silva "Lolol" Viognier - Chile.
Nose of white peach and pineapple, with a hit of floral aromas. Delicious! Full on front and mid-palate, with a soft fade toward the latter palate and a nice aftertaste. Touches of minerality, crispness and smoked apple.
Rockblock "Del Rio Vnyd" Viognier - . Rich nose of orange blossom and white fruit. Lightly sweet in mouthfeel, and more concentrated than the Chilean version. Nice, overtly new world.
Rockblock "Del Rio Vnyd" Syrah - .
Briary, with floral and vanilla notes. Meaty texture and flavor, with tarry and sweet anise traces and excellent balance.
Casa Silva Gran Reserva "Lolol" Syrah
- Chile. Fascinating nose of brushy and loamy blueberry. Dense and tarry taste, with hints of sweetness throughout and a slightly abbreviated finish.
Luca Syrah - Argentina. Nose and mouth presented a greater sense of red rather than black fruit. Lovely seemingly complex nose of toasted herb, berry and smoke - though somewhat less so in typicity. A bit soft on the palate - a decidedly femine version of Syrah.
Ciacci Piccolomini Syrah - Italy. A bit reserved in aromas, yet there was an underlying dusty/chalky quality of toastiness. Lovely mouthfeel, silky fine-grained tannins seem to melt on the palate. Not as Syrah-like in nose - almost SuperTuscan-like.
Adobe Guadalupe Kerubiel - Mexico. a Mediterranean
blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache,
and Viognier. Distinct charred wood and smoked
herb in nose gives this a major Cote Rotie quality.
This also carries through on the palate, where
a bright acidic quality seems to clip the finish.
In introducing the panel, moderator
Comiskey got a big laugh by pointing out the obvious "overdressed man" next to him, Kevin Clancy - who definitely did seem out of place in his coat and tie. Of course Kevin came back at us all by declaring everbody as being "underdressed."
We began with Casa Silva's Arnaud Frennet explaining some of the geographical situations with Chile, where the continental and maritime influences combine with 200 meter altitude to produce some ideal conditions for many varieties of grapes, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Merlot and Carmenère. Temperature swings of 20 degrees is normal, with short peaks of heat during the day, but also long cooler nights to give the fruit a much needed rest. The soils are mostly old decomposed granite.
The 500 hc Lolol vineyard is located in the Colchagua Valley, Chile's premiere growing area. Though granite in origin, there is some very old red clay soil with quartz gravel in the surface layers. The organic material content is low, and is of very low fertility. The gradients are varied and up to 30% on the slopes. Now operated by 5th generation family members, Casa Silva is turing out some very nice wines.
Next up was Tony Rynders, winemaker for both Domaine Serene and Rockblock - both owned by Ken & Grace Evenstad. Syrah and Viognier in Oregon, you ask? Of course. Rockblock has two distinctly different vineyard locations, Walla Walla Valley in northern Oregon and Rogue Valley in southern Oregon. The Seven Hills vineyard is in Walla Walla Valley (which actually stradles the border of Washington and Oregon) and Del Rio Vineyard, is located in the Rogue Valley, about five miles from Medford.
Seven Hills is about 300-500' elevation, with warm days and cool nights - contributing to a lusher fleshier style of Syrah. The Del Rio location, at an average elevation of 1200' is hotter and dryer, producing more extracted wines. Known mostly for Merlot and Cabernet, Syrah is the new kid in town.
world journey then headed back to South America, to
the Atlantic side of the continent. Here, in the west-central
region of Mendoza, Argentina, Luca's owner, Laura Catena,
is trying to maintain small quantities, artisan quality,
and stay true to the individual terroirs. She starts
with fruit from ungrafted 20-yr old low-yield vines
from high elevation (3,000') vineyards. Laura is the
daughter of Nicolás Catena (Catena winery), and
Luca (the name of her Laura's son) is her own label.
Interestingly, Laura lives in San Francisco, and works
as an emergency room physician at University of California,
San Francisco Medical Center.
is the largest and most important wine region in Argentina
with more than 350,000 acres of vines and over 80 percent
of the country's wine production. Pushed up against
the Andes in western Argentina, Mendoza's high desert
climate is quite dry with 350 days of sunshine a year.
But the soil is irrigated by melting Andean snow and
elevation keeps evenings cool. Luca's winemaker, Luis
Reginato, uses hand harvesting, no press wine, and blends
in about 10-15% Malbec to the final wine.
this point, we head over to the "old world"
with a visit to Italy. Italy's making Syrah? Yes, in
this case right in Montalcino. While the Brunello's
to the north, Ciacci Piccolomini has plantings of Syrah,
Cabernet, and Merlot to the south, where the Orcia river
provides a milder microclimate. The 100% Syrah “Fabius”
is an excellent expression of this varietal in Italy;
in fact, Parker agreed with a solid 94 pts for the 1999
vintage! The estate is a member of the EU "Lotta
Integrata" movement, which promotes reduced use
of chemicals and organic viticulture; at Ciacci, fertilization
is organic, and pruning and harvest are done by hand.
The Syrah was planted in 1995 in a medium textured soil,
rich in "Galestro," a brownish red clay-based shale
that pops up throughout Tuscany. Fermentation on the
skins for 20 days in temperature-controlled steel vats,
ageing in French and American oak barriques for 10 months,
further 6 months in 25-hectolitre oak casks.
are we all done with our world trip? No yet. It's back
to the New World to see what's happening in Mexico -
yes, Mexico. The wine growing region of Baja California
consists of three separate valleys, and winemaking is
centered around the northernmost: the Guadalupe Valley
(GV). The GV is a mere 1:45 minutes south of San Diego
(and 20 minutes inland from the party city of Ensenada),
and it is similar to the Central Coast’s Santa
Maria Valley in that it has a rare transverse geography—an
east-west orientation that channels cool ocean air directly
into the valley. Adobe Guadalupe is 15 miles from the
ocean, and so without the morning and evening fog, this
place would be pretty darn hot. But it’s not.
1998, the Don and Tru Miller built Adobe Guadalupe,
their home - along with a six-room, bed & breakfast.
They surrounded the adobe with a wide range of wine
grapes with the intention of building their own winery.
Their first harvest was in 2000, and their winery and
cellar room were built in stages and completed in 2004.
They have the capacity to make 5,000 cases, but are
currently at about 3,500. Then they hired the best winemaker
they could find - Hugo d’Acosta. Hugo has his
own winery (Casa de Piedra) not far away and is known
in Mexican sommelier circles as the top winemaker in
Mexico. The wines he has crafted over the last 3 vintages
from both properties were all the convincing.
I'd been looking to get an understanding - from a world perspective - just how well Syrah was doing. Very instructive! Probably the most eye-opening piece was spending some time on a wine from Mexico. One just never knows where good wine will show up!
Only Natural - The Wines of DuMOL and L'Aventure
- Friday, 10:30AM
to r) Stephan Asseo, John Alban, and Andy Smith
by John Alban, and Stephan Asseo and Andy Smith, we
take a look at the wines from two gentlemen with 'old
Arriving from Bordeaux in 1998, Stephan Asseo began looking in Paso for a place to start anew with his family. He found his L'Aventure in the last parcel he visited. Using a backhoe to examine the limestone soil composition, he confirmed that this was indeed the place he wanted. Despite the absence of vines, and only a house on the property, after Stephan saw the soil, he quickly visualized the potential for wine grapes.
DuMOL and L'AVENTURE :
L'Aventure Estate Roussanne - Paso Robles.
Lovely pineapple-infused waxy quality throughout.
Light on it's fee initially, picks up some weight
at mid-palate, and finishes somewhere in between. Very nice ripeness to the fruit.
DuMOL "Lia" Viognier - Russian River
Valley . Light clove scent to the tropical fruit. Very nice flavors and mouthfeel, with slightly sweet pineapple and a hint of orange blossom.
DuMOL Syrah - Russian River Valley. There is also some Bennett Valley fruit in this wine that has a nicely charred blueberry scent. Wow mouthfeel, with a mineraly chalky texture to the tarry fruit. Obvious oak, but integrated very nicely.
DuMOL "jack robert's run" Syrah - Russian
River Valley. Slightly sweeter than the RRV above (surprising to me, considering this fruit is from the [cooler] Green Valley AVA), with nice licorice and earthy notes. Less overty sweet in mouthfeel, big and slightly tannic, with a definite wow finish.
DuMOL "eddie's patch" Syrah - Russian
River Valley. This vineyard is in a warmer location, and it shows with the tar, tire, ashphalt scent to the dark fruit. Exquisite balance, with not apparent overt sweetness to the flavor, yet I found some traces of heat on the finish.
DuMOL "eddie's patch" Syrah - Russian
River Valley. Similar to the '04 version, but not nearly as big. More refined throughout, and maybe a bit short on the finish.
L'Aventure Mourvedre (barrel sample) - Paso
Robles. Fascinating hint of grapefruit in the brooding nose. Flavors of grapefruit peel seems to carry onto the palate, along with a decided chocolate note in the background. Nicely integrated oak, that gives a slight bite to the finish.
L'Aventure Côte a Côte - Paso Robles.
Big dense nose of dark fruit and sweet tar. Big and chewy on the palate, with massive finish.
L'Aventure Estate Cuvee - Paso Robles. This Cab-Syrah blend also has a good dose of Petite Verdot in it. Lovely nose of bright black and red fruit. Seductive mouthfeel, with fine-grained texture and hint of chocolate on the palate. Great balance and very long finish.
Shortly after purchasing this parcel on Live Oak Road, Stephan planted vines - lots of vines. In fact, he put in about 2,100 vines per acre - nearly three times more density than normal. He tells us today that he's calculated that one vine is roughly equivalent to one bottle of wine, "and that's not B.S." he says assuredly. Intent on striking a balance between ripeness and brix, Stephan planted most of the vines with a north-south facing, though the Cabernet is on the steep hillsides with southwest facing rows, and other varieties facing to the east in order to get what he felt would be more "elegant" qualities, in this 'Bordeaux meets the Rhône.'
Several years later, and Stephan now has about 58 acres planted with about 40% Cabernet, 30% Syrah, and 15% each Mourvedre and Petite Verdot, as well as a very small amount (1 acre) of Grenache. The experiment with Viognier is still that - an experient. From the outset, Stephan Asseo's goal has been to be 100% Estate-grown fruit, figuring this would take from 6-7 years to achieve. Well, he appears to be on target, and expect to reach that point by 2007. In further refining the estate wine program, Stephan doesn't intend to bottle any vineyard designations, and will ultimately be abandoning both Chardonnay and Zinfandel which was supplied from contract sources. Not producing a Zin is tantamount to heresy in these parts, but considering his goals, Zin just didn't fit in.
Stephan uses only new oak for the L'Aventure label (80% of his 1-yr old barrels are sold off - 20% are kept for the Stephan Ridge line). He'd recently racked all of his wines (moving them from one barrel to another in order to clarify the wine). Since this process can sometimes affect a wine's profile, Stephan had bottled some barrel samples for us just prior to racking, so that the racking wouldn't adversely influence our palates (thanks, Stephan). Also, because Stephan was due to have another group in right after use, we'd brought our own stemware to use for the tasting.
A native of Scotland, Andy has worked with a number of "hot" producers including Dry River in Martinborough New Zealand; Yalumba in the Barossa Valley, Australia; as well as Littorai, Paul Hobbs, Larkmead, and since 1999, he's been with DuMOL Winery. Like Stephan, Andy is also a viticulturist - meaning he spends a lot of time in the vineyard. DuMOL's estate property was purchased in 2003. This low vigor site is located in the heart of the Green Valley Appellation amongst the ridge tops and is planted with pedigree field selections. The vineyards are configured on a 3x4 foot planting matrix of hi-density (i.e.3630 plants/acre as compared to the usual 1100plants/acre) requiring intense hand farming. The vineyards are between eight and twelve miles from the Pacific coast on a series of ridge tops at an elevation of 400 to 800 feet. The coastal influence of summer fog and afternoon breezes moderate temperatures, lengthens the ripening season and creates intense flavors with lower potential alcohols and natural balancing acidity levels.
Describing the jack rabbit's run, Andy says: it's an incredibly steep east-facing hillside, wher the young vines struggle in the shallow rocky/sandy soils. This translates to small berries, bursting with flavor and mountainous structure. The cool location and late-season ripening ensures great aromatic complexity, further enhanced by a percentage of whole cluster fermentation. Its blend partner is the Gregori Vineyard, the sole source of our 2004 bottling and an exceptional vineyard in its own right. More moderate Goldridge sandy/loam soils provide excellent drainage and the bright south facing exposure ripens the fruit at a lower sugar level. This young wine is unquestionably the most broodingly structured and densely-packed Syrah we have yet bottled and really demands cellaring for a minimum of two years before uncorking. The wine's combination of mountain tannins and coastal acidity are a powerful combination, but with aging I expect the layers of ripe fruit and extract to come to the fore and offer at least twelve years of complex drinking potential.
certainly a nice introduction to these wines - though
it's obviously difficult to pigeonhole all expatriots.
by the White, Part Deux - Saturday, 9:00AM
to r) Marc Perrin, Claire Michel, Greg Brewer,
Yves Gangloff, Yves Cuilleron, and François
by Greg Brewer, this seminar gave us a look at the white
wines of Domaine François Villard, Le Vieux Donjon,
Chateau Beaucastel, Yvest et Mathilde Gangloff, and
Domaine Yves Cuilleron.)
Literally the "new castle of the Popes," this was the summer home of the Popes while the papacy resided in nearby Avignon, France in the 1300s. It is now one of the best known wine producing regions of the southern Rhone. With 13 grapes to choose from, and a higher minimum alcohol content than most wines. The wines grow on a soil that is a mixture of large quartz stones and sandy red clay. The quartz stones are known as "galet roules" and are probably the most recognizable feature of the vineyards in CdP. The galets roules reflect sunlight on the vines, giving them warmth. A wind, known here as the Mistral, whips through the valley from the Mediterranean Sea and has something of a cooling effect, but the region is still quite warm and dry. Chateauneuf may be made from a blend of up to thirteen grapes: grenache (noir), mourvedre, syrah, muscardin, vaccarese, counoise, picpoule, cinsault, clairette, bourboulenc, terret noir, picardin and roussanne.
Condrieu is a tiny wine making commune in the northern Rhone Valley of France. The wine is made exclusively from the Viognier grape. The best can be exceptional; however, Viognier is making a home for itself in the New World where the wines are much less pricey. Chateau Grillet is in Condrieu and in a stroke of masterful lobbying, has been given its own Appellation.
FRANCOIS VILLARD :
Saint Joseph Mairlant. This Roussanne Marsanne blend is lightly floral tropical fruit in the nose, with a nice waxy feel on the palate. Delicious, and very well-balanced with a nice long finish.
VIEUX DONJON :
Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. Beautiful, slightly meaty and fleshy nose with a scent of melted candle wax. Wow mouthfeel, with plenty of succulent fruit, excellent balance and nice long finish.
Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. About 80% Roussanne and 20% Grenache Blanc. Fascinating charcuterie scent to the otherwise fruit-driven nose. More focused than the Donjon, but then not nearly as expansive on the palate. Nice acids and very nice finish.
Roussanne Vieilles Vignes. 100% Roussanne. Nose of citron and meat, with a touch of candle wax and butter to the mango aroma. Beautiful balance and finish.
Roussanne Vieilles Vignes. 100% Roussanne. Now this was a treat. Lovely yeasty aged Champagne quality to the toasty, fruit nose. Nice mineraly quality noted in nose, but even more pronounced in mouthfeel. VEry nice!
ET MATHILDE GANGLOFF :
Condrieu. Apple and pineapple scents abound in the nose, with an exceptionally beautiful mouthfeel and flavor of slightly sweetened pineapple and citrus peel. Incredible balance and finish. What a knockout!
YVES CUILLERON :
Condrieu "Les Chaillets". Gorgeous nose of peach and floral notes in the nose. Terrific mouthfeel, balanc and finish.
Condrieu "Ayguets". This late-harvest style of Viognier was sensational. Slightly buttery caramel and butterscotch seemed to punch up the peach-pineapple fruit throughout.
Le Vieux Donjon was founded by the father of Lucien Michel, Marcel Michel, who did the first bottling at his domain in 1966. Since 1979 Marie José and Lucien Michel have run the property. The domain covers 14 ha of Chateauneuf du Pape, one of them with white varieties. The red Chateauneuf du Pape is made fro 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault. The vinification process is in the best sence of the word traditional. Only one cuvée of red and of white Chateauneuf du Pape is made. After the fermentation the red wine spends about 6 months in cement tank and then about 12 months in foudres. The cellars of the domain is situated on the route from Chateauneuf du Pape to Courthezon and the buildings at Avenue Saint Joseph is today serving as the private mansion for the family. The whites from CdP typically showcase tropical fruit and floral notes.
Marc Perrin, who together with his brother Pierre own the famous Château de Beaucastel in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region of France. The terroir here is quite unique, so join us as we discuss this area carved by the Rhone River during the Miocene period, which left an alluvium soil nearly covered with rounded stones known as galets. The topography, combined with the warm dry Mistral winds of southern France creates an amazing incubator for Grenache, the primary grape of the region.
The two white cuvées from Beaucastel are both Roussanne-based. There is a white Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc is 80% Roussanne and 20% Grenache Blanc, and the Roussanne Vieilles Vignes cuvée is, as the name implies, 100% Roussanne. The fruit is fermented about 33% in barrel, with the remainder in fermented in stainless steel. After malolactic the wine is partially aged in oak and partly in vat for about eight months prior to bottling.
Yves Cuilleron has been a fixture at Hospice du Rhône, and his reputation for making very fine white wines from Condrieu is well known. He also produces some Côte-Rôtie and St Joseph. Beginning in 1986, Yves set about expanding his vineyards and he became one of the most significant producers of Condrieu in the appellation. He produces three different cuvées, the La Petite Côte, made from the youngest vines, with an average age of 15-20 years. This is fermented in stainless to maintain its aromatic freshness, although once fermentation is nearing completion, about 30% is transferred to oak to age about ten months. Cuilleron's vieilles vignes cuvée is Les Chaillets. The wine is treated similarily, but over 80% of the final juice receives oak treatment. Yves also makes a sweet Condrieu, called the Ayguets cuvée.
Yves Gangloff is another small, high-quality producer. In 1980. With no formal training, he worked for seven years in the vineyards of Delas, using the opportunity to learn about the vineyards of Côte-Rôtie. Slow but sure he put together his own holdings along the way. He now owns a slightly more than 5 acres in Condrieu. Gangloff ferments his Condrieu in oak, about 1/3 new.
The wines were all impressive, but more than the wines,
it was apparent that each of these winemakers is at
the top of their respective game -- and will only continue
to get better with time.
of the Papes - Saturday, 10:30AM
to r) Isabelle Sabon, Claire Michel, Kelly McAuliffe,
and Sophie Armenier
by Kelly McAuliffe, this was truly a look at some of
the very top of the Chateauneuf du Papes.)
names Sabon, Michel, and Armenier may not be familiar to many Chateauneuf du Pape enthusiasts - but the names Marcoux, Donjon, and Janasse certainly are - indeed they are synonymous with
some of the finest wines of the Chateauneuf du Pape. Literally the "new castle of the Popes," this was the summer home of the Popes while the papacy resided in nearby Avignon, France in the 1300s. It is now one of the best known wine producing regions of the southern Rhone. With 13 grapes to choose from, and a higher minimum alcohol content than most wines, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is worth exploring.
DE MARCOUX :
Dom. de Marcoux White.
White peach and a light floral note accents the nose. Fascinating sweet/sour mouthfeel, the bright balance of this wine seemed to bring more pineapple to the flavor profile. Delicious!
Dom. de Marcoux Rouge.
Pretty, slight buttery sweetness to the rose peatl nose. Obvious tannins, but mostly tamed, with a hint of rose stem earthiness to the cherry and pomegranate.
Dom. de Marcoux Vieilles Vignes.
Slightly restrained nose of rose petal and cherry. Lovely mouthfeel and excellent balance, with nice long finish.
Dom. de Marcoux Rouge.
Lightly chalky and mineral-scented, with an odd medicinal back note. Flavors of black cherry with a touch of quinine, and the balance and finish was terrific.
Le Vieux Donjon Rouge. Somewhat high-toned nose of rose stem and pomegranate. Excellent balance, tannins hold firm throughout, nice long finish.
Le Vieux Donjon Rouge. Nose of red fruit, gradenia, and big hit of orange zest. Very smooth mouthfeel, refined tannins, nice balance, and perfect ripeness.
Le Vieux Donjon Rouge. Somewhat barnyardy in the nose, with leather notes to the red fruit. Pepper galore (sounds like a Bond character) on the palate, smooth mouthfeel despite still firm tannins.
DE LA JANASSE:
Dom. de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes. Lovely floral scent to the cherry fruit. Juicy and very tasty, with copious amounts of black cherry fruit, excellent balance and very long smooth finish.
Dom. de la Janasse Cuvee Chaupin. Big and burly, the nose seems almost afraid to yield up much. Chewy, firm and spicy, with good long finish. This was a tough vintage in the CdP.
Dom. de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes. Wonderful meaty quality to the dark fruit nose. Plenty of pepper and spice in mouthfeel, with delicious long finish and aftertaste.
Domaine de Marcoux is run by Catherine and Sofie Armenier, whose brother, Phillipe, is ironically in California, signing up disciples for biodynamics. (In fact, Phillipe is a consultant to many well-known vineyards in the Napa Valley and Central Coast.)
Official French records indicate that the Armenier family has been tending vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape since the 1300's. In 1990, the Domaine became the first in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape to implement biodynamic farming practices. Their youngest vines are 40- to 60-years-old, and in short, the sisters do as little as possible to the harvested grapes. This domaine, as critic Stephen Tanzer put it, is "the essence of Châteauneuf-du-Pape."
Domaine de la Janasse is led by Christophe Sabon, and the estate seems to embody the best of both traditional and modern techniques. Founded in 1976 by Aime Sabon, Christophe's father, he still oversees the vineyards and farms organically. The property consists of 40 Hectares, spread over as many as 70 different parcels throughout the appellation.
While Aime works in the vineyards, Christophe, is in charge of wine production. He manages to bring the best out of his Grenache-based wines through a combination of work in the vineyards and in the cellar. The results have been demonstrable, for as Robert Parker points out: "The young and talented Christophe Sabon continues to display the sure-handed touch of a veteran winemaker".
fascinating to taste these CdP examples, and come to understand the different house styles of each producer.
HdR : Syrah Shootout
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