Rhone and the Sud
Notes and impressions from a Rhone tasting - Saturday, July 15, 2000, at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Nineteen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $16.
The wines, in the order tasted:
1999 Ch. Grande Cassagne Costieres de Nimes Rose. $6.99. Cranberry
rose color. Nose of spicy strawberry, grains and meat, and almost a feeling
of effervescence. Quite meaty and fruity on the palate, with good acid
and sweet strawberry/cherry flavors.
1997 Domaine des Murettes Minervois Clos de l'Olivier. $7.49.
Medium garnet color. Dense, earthy and floral nose. Spicy, fruity,
toasty mouthfeel, with a bit of sweet tomato and tobacco flavors. Wow,
here's a real bargain.
1998 Domaine Clavel Coteaux de Languedoc Les Garrigues. $8.49.
Dark crimson color. Big sawdusty sweet peppery fruit nose. Sweet mouthfeel
initially, with a some youthful coarseness. Develops a little tartness
on the mid and latter palate, but finishes out very nicely.
1998 Ch. de Valcombe Costieres de Nimes Prestige. $10.99.
Dark ruby color. Big fruity, shoe polishy and floral nose, with aromas
of toast and sweet peppery fruit. Rich off-sweet mouthfeel, with a long
dry and roasted grain finish. Really a nice job here -- especially for
the price point.
1998 Domaine Clavel La Copa Santa. $15.99. Dark purple
ruby color. Nose of dense fruit, with earthy and floral notes, and something
akin to tart rhubarb and black cherry aromas. Sweet chewy fruit and mouthfeel,
long smooth finish. Very nice job -- again.
1998 Mas de Daumas Gassac. $25.99. Medium dark purple ruby color.
Lots of sawdust, shoe polish and black cherry/cassis-like fruit in the
nose. Fruity and surprisingly soft on the palate, with a smooth mouthfeel
and long finish. A nice wine, that underscores more elegance than richness.
I expected a tighter and bigger mouthfeel, since this wine's about 50%
1998 Ch. Signac Cote du Rhone Cuvee Terra Amata. $14.99. Medium
dark garnet-ruby color. Nose of sweet blueberry/blackberry fruit and toast.
Slightly sweet blueberry/blackberry fruit, smooth mouthfeel, with a sweet
and meaty/toasty finish. More impressive in the mouth than the nose, but
all-in-all and pretty nice CdR.
1998 Domaine du Trapadis Rasteau Prestige. $17.99. Medium
dark ruby violet color. Sweet, smoky and toasty nose, like BBQ sauce dripping
on charred hardwoods. Smooth toasty mouthfeel, nicely integrated flavors,
and a very long finish that seems to get a bit thin in fruit. Beautiful
complex nose, and the mouthfeel isn't far behind.
1998 Le Clos des Cazaux des Gigondas Cuvee de la Tour Sarrazine.
$13.99. Medium dark violet ruby. Slightly restrained nose of fruit,
floral and shoe polishy notes. Sweet juicy cherry fruit on a medium-weight
frame. Medium-long fruity finish. Soft and approachable, here is a wine
that doesn't beg for descriptors -- it's just great to drink.
1998 Domaine Pontifical Chateauneuf du Pape. $16.99. Medium garnet
color. Meaty, fruity and floral nose. Sweet slightly crisp taste, with
toasty and slightly coarse mouthfeel. Obvious tannins through the long
1998 Domaine Moulin Tacussel Chateauneuf du Pape. $19.99. Medium
ruby color. Nose of boysenberry/blueberry, toast and floral notes. Lots
of off-sweet toasty fruit throughout the mouthfeel, with a long smooth
finish. Very nice taste and mouthfeel, with none of the slight sharpness
that was apparent in the nose.
1998 Mas de Boislauzon Chateauneuf du Pape. $22.99. Medium ruby
color. Lots of effusive blackberry/boysenberry fruit and toasted grains
in the nose. Somewhat soft mouthfeel, with fruity and toasty flavors.
Then nose here was fabulous, but the mouthfeel didn't quite measure up
to the promise.
1998 Domaine Font de Michelle Chateauneuf du Pape. $24.99. Medium
ruby color. Stunning nose of fruit, toast, anise, and floral notes. Full
mouthfeel with lots of sweet toasty fruit and a long smooth finish. Here's
a beautifully approachable CdP that is a real joy to sniff and sip. Massively
better effort than their '98 CdR, which had a horrific nose.
1998 Domaine des Relagnes Chateauneuf du Pape La Cuvee Vingneronne.
$21.99. Medium ruby color. Fruity nose, with aromas of blackberry,
toast, and some floral notes. Soft mouthfeel, but very flavorful and tasty.
1998 Paul Avril Chateauneuf du Pape Clos des Papes. $28.99.
Medium dark ruby color. Very nice nose of blackberry, pepper, smoke, and
wisps of bacon fat. Somewhat coarse and young mouthfeel initially. But,
this smooths out through the long finish. Has a little more substance
on the palate than the other CdPs in the group. But, there is also a sense
of tartness to the fruit. Much nicer nose than the '97, though somewhat
tarter in mouthfeel.
1998 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage La Guiraude. $26.99.
Dark ruby garnet color. Big sawdusty and toasty aromas intermingled with
sweet blackberry fruit. Slightly tart mouthfeel, with long finish. Lovely
nose, but the fruit seemed a bit too tart on the palate, especially when
compared to the nice sweet aromas pumping from the glass.
1997 Delas Freres Saint Joseph Sainte Epine. $27.99. Medium
dark ruby color. Nose of smoky dense blackberry fruit and roasted grains.
Slightly tart fruit on the palate, with toasty flavors and long finish.
1997 Cave de Tain L'Hermitage Les Nobles Rives. $22.99.
Medium dark ruby color. Nose of blackberry, shoe polish, beet, and toast.
Fruity and tart flavors on the palate, the mouthfeel seems a bit coarse,
but smooths out at finish.
1997 Delas Freres Cote Rotie Seigneur de Maugiron. $39.99.
Medium dark ruby color. Nose of toast and jam, with lots of complex background
notes. Quite tart on the palate, the fruit seems to be a bit underripe
from beginning through long finish. Very nice nose. But, I wonder if the
fruit will ever sweeten up.
Overall impressions: the '98s are still living up to the advance billing. Several wines in this Rhone/Sud cross-section were very good to excellent, and the prices were very favorable. In fact, of my top 10 favorites, only 2 were over $20.
Probably the "find" of the tasting was the Font de Michelle. Here was a beautiful wine, approachable and very tasty right now. Domaine Clavel is continuing to knock out some real bargains. Both the La Copa Santa and the Les Garrigues were values.
As for surprises or disappointments, the Mas de Boislauzon had a gorgeous nose, unfortunately the mouthfeel couldn't seem to match the intensity. And, the lone Cote Rotie, the Delas Freres, had the same problem -- nice nose, but where's the beef?
Nice tasting, and good cross-section of wines. There's a whole lot here
to like, especially considering the vacuum left by the '98 Zins.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference,of the wines tasted.
1998 Domaine Font de Michelle Chateauneuf du Pape. $24.99.
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