The Rhône stretches from Hermitage, St. Joseph, Crôzes-Hermitages and Côte-Rôtie in the North, where the wines are made from pure syrah, to Cornas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the South, where a blend of many grapes (grenache, mourvedre, cinsault) is the norm.

These wines range from the simple, quaffable Côtes-du-Rhônes to complex, meaty, layered wines that define the syrah grape.



Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1978 (Cab Franc Blowout+): Pale ruby with a hint of orange; light nose, aromatic menthol & almond; medium acidity, not as crisp as some of these others, but nicely balanced. Round & tongue-coating, soft tannins. (6/8/99)

Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1994 (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): Medium cloudy ruby-brown color, this ain't right. Smells bricky and stewed, lots of tea. Yup, it's cooked wine, stewed and baked flat. I drift off into a reverie about Kane manfully insisting that the proprietor himself told him that all his '94s taste like this, but it's a passing fancy and soon goes. (10/04)

Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1996 ($36) (Rivers of Liquid Gold I): Smells very funky, barnyard and baked yam, mud and red raspberry. Nice, but very funkified. Tastes round and smooth and fleshy, warm dirtberry flavors, with a minerally talc streak emerging on the finish. Get down, get funky. Won't you take me to. Funkytown. Bring in da noise... oh, you get the point. (11/05)

Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1997 ($40)(Jason Takes Manhattan): Medium to medium-dark garnet color; surprisingly forward and accessible meaty-fruity nose, very lightly Birkenstocky, but mostly nice clean dark raspberry redfruit. This wine is a beauty; balanced, tangy and meaty-rich, but light and crisply acidic, with a long smoky-berry finish. Really fine stuff, dense and nimble and earthily flavorful. Red of the night? Gotta be, at least so far. (5/00)

Boiron Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Relagnes 1983 (Iron Winegeeks): Laconic Iron Wino Connell finally speaks:

"Sort of decent..."

We pause in our tracks, then scramble madly for pours of our own, for this is a ringing endorsement indeed. Medium ruby fading to amber at the edges; slightly faded, leathery, carrot-cake spicy nose shows its age, but holds the attention very well. A soft wine, with brown-edged redfruit settling slowly on your palate, layered and complex and mellow. Nice. Sorta decent indeed, but I'd drink any more fairly soon. (2/19/00)

Domaine Bois du Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1997 (Joey): Hints of earthy old-leather funk over red raspberry fruit, tastes tangy, a bit sharp and tight. Good focus, somewhat ungiving, a medium-bodied wine that needs time to relax a bit. (1/6/01)

Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chantemerle Vieilles Vignes 1998 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): When he's in the driver's seat Kane always opens a Southern Rhne so he can indulge his lust for gobbiness and wash away the taste of the Burgundies and other species of foulness that the rest of us force on him. This is the prototypical Kane concoction--ripe and raspberried, plush and pillowy fruit, medium acidity, light earthy notes, only slightly boisterous. Jay Miller would gag, but it's got some composure and big-boned balance. If you're partial to simple frooty wines, this is probably a decent choice; I rather like it. (7/06)

André Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cailloux Cuvée Centenaire 1990 (Farewell My Lovely): Comes across all big and velvety-smelling, warm berries and leather with a streak of pumpkin pie spiciness and hints of black olive underneath. Tastes silky and richly smoky, with a gravelly streak emerging in the midpalate and flowing into a long humming tarry-berry finish. Good depth of fruit, nice long sustain, starting to develop nicely. It's a good big wine with large fruit and plenty of wood, but I've always found it a little generic. I'm in the minority enjoying it, though, as others are deriding it roundly as a pumped up 'international-style' potion. It may not be classic Châteauneuf, but it's okay by me. (6/01)

André Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cailloux Selection Reflets 1988 (Bastard): Medium ruby color. Smells rich and layered, muted red berry fruit laced with crushed brick, an earthy tree-bark streak and a dash of cinnamon. Smooth, elegant and nicely developed, a fleshy wine that retains a sense of lightness and matches wonderfully with the osso bucco. Even Jay, the über-grenacherbasher, gives this wine its props. Thanks, Asher! (11/23/03)

André Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cailloux 1995 ($25) (Recluse Convention): Medium muddy ruby color. "It's a little volatile..." says Andrew. Yes, hints of nail polish remover over dark berry, red meat, black olive and smoky hints. Tastes leatherfruity and slightly frantic, the berryness falling away from the toasty-oak streak, the volatility kicking and squirming and somehow managing to meld in my mouth with the astringent finish. Disjointed and rather unpleasant; something bad has happened to this bottle and it's turned malevolent. (11/22/02)

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1994 ($24) (Iron Winegeeks): Medium-dark ruby; fairly forward ripe dark red berryfruit w/hints of leather. Tangy and dense, a bit medicinal-ripe, a fairly lush style of CdP with some stern young tannins. There's a nice core of dark red fruit that needs time to settle and spread out a bit. Points for potential, though. Try again in seven years, three months. (2/19/00)

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1994 ($24) (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): Medium-dark red, bricking lightly at the rim, and full of sediment. Smells of Band-Aid brand bandage strips and muted earthy raspberry/saddle leather fruit, touch of horsiness. Middling acidity, there's a spine in there amidst the fleshy ripeness. Dark and smoky up front, blowsy and rounded in the middle, licoricey on the finish. Seems like it's probably about as good as it's going to get, maybe even on the way down. Drink up. (10/04)

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1995 ($25) (Farewell My Lovely): A layered-smelling wine, red cherry, berry and leather with earthy undercurrents. A sip, and there's a good tight thrust of leathery muted berry fruit, the wine has some nice coiled strength and good follow-through. It's quite crisply acidic, on the lean side but fully flavored. A slight astringency on the finish is forgiven in what is a very decent wine, just starting to soften back up. (6/01)

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 ($30) (I Get the Shakes): Medium-dark garnet color. Red raspberry and blackberry-based fruit smells, herbs and baked yam hints. Tastes a bit soft, a bit low-acid, a Kane kind of wine. Rich and lushly fruity, a party in my mouth, with some fine and slightly aggressive tannins swooping in for a raid and shutting the doors a bit early. (6/6/00)

Clos du Mont Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1994 (Magnum)(Nonoffensive Notes): Medium translucent garnet. Sweet, spicy pumpkin-pie, leather and quiet red berry nose. Medium crisp, smooth and layered, a small, complex wine that comes to a spicy-earthy finish. Nicely balanced, supple and delicious, one of my favorites of the night. I've had a run of surprisingly accessible 94 CdPs lately, and this one continues the streak. (3/20/00)

Clos du Mont Olivet Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 ($25) (Wasted Hours): Medium to medium-dark garnet color; I get some nice rich raspberry, leather and white pepper hints when I stick my sniffer into the glass. Much more accessible than the Graillot, meatier and lower in acidity, there's plenty of ripe, fleshy leatherberry fruit. A friendly and boisterous young CdP until some glassy-fine tannins shut things down on the finish, which then dissolves in an odd flash of bitterness. Still, give it a few years and I wager the tail end will come together nicely. (7/15/00)

Domaine Font de Michel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Etienne Gonnet 1995 (Walt Begs for Mercy): Smells pleasantly of smoky raspberry, leather and earth. A sip, and it's a soft and gentle wine, rich and smoothly meaty-textured, with velvety warm red fruit flowing into a smoky-tarry finish. A good wine that needs more spine. I keep trying to work around Kane's aversion to the word "soft" by coming up with kinder euphemisms, 'fleshy,' 'meaty-textured,' and so on, but let's face it, it's a soft wine, albeit a warm and layered one with some good stuff going on. (5/01)

Kirkland Signature Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grande Reserve 2003 ($22) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): I haven't bought a Châteauneuf in a few years, the prices having gotten stupid for what is for me essentially pizza wine, but this caught my eye. Gently smoky raspberry-liqueur redfruit laced with quiet leathery-clovey-cedar hints, subtle touch of volatility. Tastes soft and plush, velvety and smooth, rather spineless, a pool of soft spicy compote washing over my tongue. There's a vagueness at the center, but for a loosely wrapped '03 southern Rhône it's rather composed, if naturally zaftig. There's just a gentle surge of tannin on the finish, which is medium-brief. Short on structure, but Kane-friendly wine. I could see liking this, were one a fan of the low acid gob-laden style. (11/06)

Domaine Lafond Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2001 (Steamed Steaks): Ah, the evening's Kane wine. Smells ripe and dark, raspberry jam, toast and bomber jacket. Tastes similarly ripe and squishy, a velvety-meaty low acid wine that gives you a warm wash of meaty red fruit, then evanesces with a Robitussin flourish. Hey, it's a juicy little wine that's so simple and amiable it's hard to find fault, much in the mold of the 'Ugly American Cuves' of all those overripe Spanish jamfests that pointy folks go nuts for. (10/2/04)

Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 1993 (No Hook): Medium ruby color. Smells decent enough, lightly aromatic leathery brick-berry fruit. Tastes puckery-sour at first, then turns astringent, then the tannins claw at my tongue, then an ugly bitterness settles in by way of a finish, leaving a persistent bad taste in my mouth. Note to self: DO NOT EVER DRINK THIS WINE AGAIN. (6/7/03)

Domaine de Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 1995 (Shanks): Medium cloudy ruby color, bricking at the rim. Smells rootsy, a pronounced yam streak in the leathery cherry-kirsch aromatics. The flavors spread out softly on my tongue: it's a fleshy wine with a big presence and perhaps a gob or two. Loose at the edges, cohesive at the core, it seems like it's quite ready to drink. Pleasant and easy to drink. (4/24/04)

Domaine de la Mordorée Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de la Reine des Bois 1998 ($50)(I Get the Shakes): Medium-dark garnet in color, there's plenty of smoky, tarry oak on the nose, but also plenty of dark ripe raspberry-blackberry fruit to go with it. Very young and primal at the moment, the oak and the fruit are running parallel to each other and not acknowledging the other's presence. It's rough and tannic in the mouth but the core of the wine is there, tight and balanced with some snappy acidity, dark and strong. It's a baby and it's a bit jarring now, but give it time to come together and I bet it will be something nice. (6/6/00)

Pignan Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1988 (Pigfest): Ha! Pignan, get it? "Pig"-nan! Haaaa hee, good one! Medium-pale ruby color, ambering out to brown-orange at the rim. Smells of muted strawberry-rhubarb, asphalt and earth. Smooth, layered and loosely fleshy wine. Faded but pleasant enough, with shy acidity and a certain crisp meatiness. Getting on past its prime, drink 'em up. (1/06)

Eric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 1999($30)(September 15, 2001): Quiet but amazingly youthful nose, light red berry-cassis fruit, opens up marginally with air but remains undemonstrative. At first the wine seems monolithically one-note red, tangy and tight, but soon some warm earthy tones flash on the finish and hint at future development before they are smothered in fine stern tannins. Way too young. (9/15/01)

Eric Texier Châteaneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 2001 ($30) (Island Jeeb): Sweet, smooth strawberry-raspberry aromatics, dark earth-and-something undertones. Tastes powerful, focused and strong, with firm acidity, yet with that grenache fleshiness serving as a pillow. Matte mouthfeel, slightly gritty tannins, a wine to chew on like an old favorite bone. This may be the best Châteaneuf in the long and storied history of the Texier empire. It has a lovely balancing act going on, crossing a highwire over the intersection of Firm Avenue and Gob Street and tipping its hat in both directions. I don't usually find much point in aging Châteaneuf, but this has an interesting sternness around the heart and I'd be curious to see where it goes over the next decade. (3/23/03)

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1999 ($30)(September 15, 2001): Black olives, red raspberry and saddle leather on the nose, smooth and easygoing in the gob. The fleshy red fruit spreads out gracefully on my tongue in warm layers of flavors. There's a certain meaty softness and lack of structure to the wine, it has Kaneish tendencies, but it's well put together and very friendly at the moment. (9/15/01)

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000 ($35) (Muscajeeb): Quiet, quiet nose: flashes of hard red fruit laced with concrete dust, not much else. Tastes dark and hard, tightly wrapped dark red cran-cherry fruit laced with cocoa, a swirl of tannins. Well focused and intense, but utterly impenetrable now. (11/10/02)

Vieux Mas des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 ($25)(Farewell My Lovely): Sweet saddle-leather and raspberry nose, lush after the leaner Clos des Papes. A warm, smooth burst of balanced red flavor comes at me, ripe but not overdone. Smooth and lightly wooded, a middleweight wine with a satiny-smooth delivery and a long darkly berryish final note. There are a few young and jangly notes on the finish, but all in all a pleasantly opulent Châteauneuf with good cohesion and balance and enough acidity to get by. The second wine of Vieux Telegraphe. (6/01)

Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 (Culling Me Softly): Smells like root beer, shoe leather and old berries. Comes at you with some meaty earthy-berry fruit couched in low acid flesh, but quickly turns hollow in the middle, with a disagreeable metallic tang. Soft, round and seems to be coming unglued as it sits in my glass. Maybe one shouldn't age grenache. Or perhaps Jay has been right all along--maybe one shouldn't drink grenache at all. (9/03)

Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape les (la Crau?) Crau 2003 (Lies, Damned Lies, and Tail Meat): Smells and tastes like Big Red chewing gum that's been dipped in raspberry jam. (7/06)



Cornas

Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 1994 (Misplaced Weekend I): Textbook northern Rhône aromatics, matte brickberry, iodine and peppery smoked meat, violets and sod. Just lovely, a happy mingling of rough edges and elegance. Actually reminds me of an older, slightly mellower Graillot Crôzes. (5/2/04)

Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot 2001 ($60) (Misplaced Weekend II): Dark, smoky-smelling, hints of iodine, damp sod and matte blackberry. Tastes warm and slightly fleshy, spreading langorously out on my tongue. Smooth, flavorful and layered, it's rather loosely wrapped, but also wonderfully subtle and complex for such a young wine. Supertasty stuff; seems like one to drink young rather than age. (5/9/04)

Thierry Allemand Cornas 'Reynard' 2001 (Birthday Engorgement): Oh jeez, this smells supersweet--spicy-dark blackberry-raspberry fruit laced with smoked meat and eucalyptus notes, really pretty stuff, happily aggressive aromatics. Tastes smoky-taut and vivid, almost stern, serious acidity hiding behind some cheerfully taut blackfruit. Very young, still awkward, but really impressive and layered wine with great balance, focus and nervosity. Too young, but it's hard to find fault with drinking it now, it's so good. (6/06)

Thierry Allemand Cornas 'Unsulfured' 1999 (MoJoe 2004): My notebook is a little stained, so it's not terribly easy to decipher, but I believe this is how my notes read: "Whooo! Wheeeeee! Waaahhsssaaa! YOW! YOW! YOW!"

Good god, y'all.

Actually, looking farther down the page it also says "Dark blackberry-raspberry, gravel, freshly-turned earth, pure, focused, elegant, balanced, fine tannins, Marty questions Johnny Depp's masculinity, strikingly vibrant, fruit hums in my mouth, superb, elegant, Nureyev in a glass." So it looks like I enjoyed it. (7/10/04)

Delas Cornas Chante Perdrix 1995(Of Bass and Men): A light and lean wine with a stalky green streak amidst light leathery-earthy fruit. Not bad, but not very interesting. Fans say "Um... ah... er" while detractors respond with "Er... well, hm..." (2/01)

Domaine de Rochepertuis Cornas 1990 ($9) (Blind Syrah): Nice and stinky--muddy brown garnet, stinky, barny, muted raspberry, slightly carroty, rich and crisp, with a lot of character. Medium-bodied, nice. ("And, for all of you who liked it--this is a nine-dollar wine!" says Andrew.) (8/16/99)

Domaine de Rochepertuis Cornas 1990 ($9) (The Longest Night): Medium muddy ruby color. Light nose, stirrings of smoked meat and baked yam, dark hints of shoyu and iron, all in a light muted raspberry frame. A lean, layered wine with a lot of structure. Good, although this bottle is showing a little more wear and tear than the last few. (12/31/00)

Tardieu-Laurent Cornas 1996 (Chateau Joe): Dark, dense garnet; nose of rich new oak over blackberry, earth & band-aids. Smooth, velvety wine with decent acidity & nice rich fruit and a long smooth finish. Pleasant enough, but made somewhat unremarkable by a boatload of oak. Joe, shaking his head at the oak levels in this one, says merely "it's a shame." (8/99)

Verset Cornas 1989 (Foodies 3): Quite volatile at first, not so much with a bit of air. Underneath the acetone hints are earthy-berry-lauhala pith notes, lovely nostrilizing here. A sip, and it's a muted and layered Cornas, the fleshiness of the midpalate is warm and inviting, the striation of flavors beguiling, crushed bricks, muted redfruit and earthy tones. Composed and elegant, a small-scaled wine with a shy side, somewhat lacking in mouthgrapple, but flavorful and calm, feathering out loosely at the edges. Drink up, I'd say. (2/26/05)

Verset Cornas 1991(Bastille Day): There's a world of ass in this glass. Big and funky, with the aromas of manure and black olives over dark raspberry-leathery fruit. Tasty, crisp, funky wine that is a bit startling at this point, although a fine match with the stinky cheeses that are going around now. (6/16/01)



Côte du Rhône and Côte du Rhône Villages

Domaine d'Andezon Côtes du Rhône 2001 ($9) (Boatloads III): Medium-dark garnet color. Smells of light plum-berry and leather jacket, with just a hint of cinnamon. Tastes warm and fleshy, a smooth, ripe little Côtes du Rhône that does its job well. Lowish acidity, but enough to get by, smooth, rounded and chewy. Just what you'd want in a gluggable little Côtes du Rhône. [Buy again? Sure.] (2/05)

Domaine Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône Villages Cuvée des Galets ($12) (Nine Characters): More formidable aromatics here, darker and redder, smells slightly medicinal, concentrated. Tastes fat and happy, fleshy raspberry-leather reduction sauce, a wine that seems to be straining to be larger than it is. Low acidity, flash of heat on the finish, not bad but trying too hard to impress. (11/02)

Château Beaucastel Côte du Rhône Coudoulet 1999 ($20) (Threesomes): Smells of leather and red berry laced with traces of wet sheepdog. Comes at me sternly at first, stonily tight, slightly hard red fruit with a rocky core, tangy and crisp. Good thrust and sustain, but there's a hint of shrewishness here, and some fine tannins don't reassure me. Normally it's the kind of wine I would dally with, racily stony-berried, well balanced and with a bit of funk and some complexity, but there's a certain selfishness, a coldness about the heart. I don't know, maybe I'm being hasty and it simply needs time to find itself, but I'll take any woo-pitching rather slowly with this one and not wear my heart on my sleeve. (2/02)

Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône 2000 ($17) (MartyParty): Hello little Côtes du Rhône, what are you doing here? Are you lost? Hmmm, let's see... there's a touch of barniness at first, bit of funk over dark raspberry aromatics. Tastes ripe and rich, smooth and simple and lightly candied, without much backbone, a fine little quaffer with a hint of aromatic complexity. Run along home now, that's a good Côtes du Rhône. (2/28/04)

Joel Dupont Côtes du Rhône 'Les Trois Chemins' 2003 ($6) (Boatloads III): Light garnet color, looks like a wan pineau d'aunis. Okay, an '03 Cte-du-Rhne, big and ripe, right? Wrong. Smells of nothing much at all, light generic redness, hint of shoe polish, that's about all it'll give up, swirl as I may. Tastes watery and vapid, like someone has filled the bottle halfway up with cheap Côtes du Rhône, then topped it off with Dasani. I guess it's not actively disagreeable or ugly, but it's so damn dilute that's it's barely here at all, just red water. Could this be a mislabeled 2002? Damn, it's just puzzling. [Buy again? Pfff.] (2/05)

Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Côte du Rhône Cuvée Font de la Borry 1998 (Joey): Earth, new leather over dark cherry-raspberry. Quite ripe, good structure, medium-sized. The fruit is smooth and well wrapped around a nice dark core, and the wine has a pleasant lightness. I like it. (1/6/01)

Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Côte du Rhône Villages Beaumes-de-Venise Cuvée Prestige 1998 (Joey): Eucalyptus leaves, leather and peppery red berry fruit, this is softer than the DDLFSMCDRCFDLB and seems a bit all over the place, a little uncertain of what it wants to do with its life. I like the DDLFSMCDRCFDLB more. (1/6/01)

Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Côtes du Rhône-Villages Beaumes-de-Venise Cuvée Princesse 1998 ($14)(Motor Oil): Medium garnet color. Light nose, raspberry, gravel-rainwater. Fairly light in the mouth, but quite flavorful--juicy, nimble and well balanced Beaumes-de-Venise, small in amplitude and straightforward, but a good package within its scope with a long tangy-berry finish. Nice. (6/29/00)

Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Côte du Rhône Villages Beaumes-de-Venise Cuvée Princesse 1999($13) (Cape Mayhem): At least we think it's a 1999, as the label actually says "1998" but with the 8 crossed off and a "9" written on it with felt-tip marker. I ask, and am assured that it is indeed the 1999, with a misprinted label. At any rate, it's a boisterously fruity wine, lushly boysenberry-raspberryish, so much so that I commit heresy and openly question the vaunted 'natural fermentation' claim. No, Joe assures me, that's how they do it, cross my heart and hope to sober up. There's nice crispness, lots of juicy rich fruit, a jolly little wine with a bit of babyfat and a positive outlook on life. (5/27/01)

Domaine de la Ferme Saint-Martin Côte du Rhone Villages Beaumes-de-Venise Cuvée St. Martin 1998 (Joey): Bright, sharp nose, gravelly red fruit, not giving up much now. Tastes somewhat hard, but there's coiled energy in there waiting to come out, and you can sense hints of it even now. More structure than the DDLFSMBDVCDRVCP, deeper and denser than the DDLFSMCDRCFDLB, with some fine tannins. Young, reserved, quite interesting. (1/6/01)

Château de Fonsalette Côtes-du-Rhône Réservé 1989 ($26)(Robin in the Big City): Smells of light redfruit, smoked meat & herbs. Well-balanced & medium-crisp, the fruit is spreading now, feathering out over the palate nicely. Light in body but with many layers of flavor. Very nice, and ready to go. (2/7/00)

Château de Fonsalette Côte du Rhône Réserve 1991 ($32) (Scheduling): Muddy medium ruby color. Smells of leathery cran-raspberry fruit laced with crushed brick; with air a sweetly savory brown gravy hint sneaks into the mix. I take a slug, and it's got a pleasant earthy greeting, seems to be flattening out a bit in the middle but goes on to finish with a muted dirtberry thrum. Pleasingly crisp, balanced and layered, with a decent amount of complexity. No great shakes but a nice mouthful that would best be drunk soon. (12/8/02)

La Font d'Estevenas Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 1999 (Muscajeeb): Smells of black olive, pepper and dung. A sip, and it's a compact wine, balanced and crisp and not as expressive in the gob as it is up the noseholes. Or so I think until the prefinish turns leathery-earthy, then lingers and flickers pepperishly. Interesting, an elegant wine with a spicy late bloom. (11/10/02)

Domaine Gourt de Mautens Côtes du Rhône Villages Rasteau 1996 ($20)(Trilateral Offline): Dark and deep and red--rough, dense, oaky and tannic. SFJoe taps me on the shoulder: "This wine" he says "is a mouthful of steel wool." Good enough for me. The wielder of Mjolnir says that it is in fact better than the wine-jerky 1998 version, so perhaps there's hope for the jerky a few years down the road. There's a bit of leathery mustiness that has me eying Lisa, but it isn't too overt. (3/14/00)

Guigal Côtes du Rhône 1996 ($10) last night with Indian food (shaag paneer & shrimp biryani). Fruity, strawberryish flavors predominate. Not far off from a Beaujolais, but a bit more spine. Light, fairly simple flavors. Nothing too marvelous, but a decent quaffer for the money ($10), and a pretty good match with the spicy nosh. (7/98)

E. Guigal Côtes-du-Rhône 2001 ($9) (Boatloads V): Quiet aromatics, bit o'plum, touch o'berry, hint o'leather, trace o'tar--smells okay if not particularly interesting. Tastes plain and loosely-knit, with middling structure and decent flavorosity. Decently built Côtes-du-Rhône that would be more compelling if it weren't dull as dishwater. I mean, it's drinkable and all, perfectly decent, but I mean really now--snooze city. [Buy again? *Yawn* Sorry, what was the question?] (10/05)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône Parellèle "45" 2001 ($8) (Boatloads II): I'm not sure why the "45" is in quotes. Hm. Anyhoo, I don't think I've had this since the '96, and it's pretty much just like I remember, except maybe simpler: cherry and earth, simple, relatively pleasant aromatics. Tastes tart, slightly candied fruit right upfront, crisp in the middle but oddly zippy, like some of those Australian wines, just a bit suspiciously spiky-crisp amidst the flaccid fruit. There's nothing really wrong, it's quite correct, but it just seems kind of wrong. Heck, let it be fleshy and spineless if that's what it wants to be. [Buy again? No.] (11/04)

Moillard Côtes-du-Rhône Les Violettes 2003 ($8) (Boatloads IV): What a cute squatty little bottle! I'm a sucker for cute squatty bottles. Leaner and more structured than I'd expected from an '03, there's no blowsiness to speak of--the acidity is crisp and not spiky, if it's been acidified it's been done well. The wine itself is rather medium-light bodied, so that would probably help. Easygoing, pretty darn nice, and I just love the little squatty puntless bottle. [Buy again? Sure.] (6/05)

Domaine la Montagnette Côtes du Rhône Villages 2004 ($10) (Boatloads IX): Quiet dark berry-tar aromatics, rather nosally shy, but what's there is soft-smelling and pleasant, if rather smooth and undistinguished. Mediumlight-bodied, with a bright acidic spine wrapped with fleshy-velvety berry redness. Rather indistinct, but perfectly well-built, decently drinkable Ctes du Rhne that finishes with a slight tarry astingency. Nice, well built and quaffably bland. [Buy again? Not really.] (11/06)

Domaine Moret Monet Côtes du Rhône Villages Saint-Maurice 1999(September 15, 2001): Surprisingly ripe, almost jammily red and blackfruity to smell. Tastes just as ripe, silky smooth and moving from dark fruit towards a tarry-licoricey streak. Happy ripe fruit, decent if not particularly pronounced acidity, a juicy-fruity fun little wine. (9/15/01)

Domaine de L'Oratoire St. Martin Côte du Rhone Villages Cairanne Cuvée Serious Prestige 1999 (Sitting Jeebis): Smells dark and ripe, raspberry, blackberry and yeasty-smokiness. Ripe, young, slightly candied impression, oaky, tannic. Seems good, but quite harsh now--needs time for all the elements to integrate. (3/31/01)

Domaine de l'Oratoire St. Martin Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Haut-Coustias 2000 (15 Fox Place): Medium-dark garnet, purpling lightly at the rim. Just a bit of horsiness, touch of the barnyard. Ripe plum-raspberry fruit, whiff of acetone, tastes dark and smoky, rather low-acid, but more fleshy than flabby. Dark licorice-tar tang on the finish. Pretty good, a big wine that's rich without being ponderous. It's not particularly complex or compelling, but it's a friendly, ripe mouthful of dark smoky red-purple fruit that does its best to go with the seriously overcooked pastry & mushroom wrapped filets. Things are going slightly awry here with the final courses. (3/22/04)

Domaine Pelaquié Côtes du Rhône 2005 ($8) (Boatloads XI): Brett. Brett, brett, brett. Bandaids, barnyard, quonset hut, plummy redfruit, bandaids. Tastes metallic, some decent warm red-purple fruit is hard to appreciate beneath the distracting brettiness. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Nope.] (11/07)

Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2001 ($8) (Boatloads V): Medium-dark garnet color. Smells quietly raspberry-peppery. Fleshy and friendly, with just-sufficient acidity and a general looseness. A bit tannic at the end, but that's okay, it's a nice little Côte du Rhône that goes down smoothly and flavorfully. [Buy again? Sure.] (10/05)

Perrin & Fils Côte du Rhône Villages Vinsobres les Cornuds 2003 ($13) (Boatloads V): David Lillie's recommendation for a steak wine. Dark peppery blackfruit, violets and earth in a dark fruity base. Rich, muscular syrahish wine, with a bit of redfruit blowsiness in the middle but comes together nicely and finishes smoky-roastyfruity, with a baked-redfruit flourish. Rounded and blunt, a bit loose, but broadly flavorful and finely tannic on the finish. Robust Côte du Rhône, more power than finesse, but does the trick nicely with a grilled T-bone. A 2003 that plays to the strength of the ripe year but has enough compusure to get by. [Buy again? Yeah, good wine if you're not looking for subtlety.] (10/05)

Domaine Rabasse-Charavin (Corinne Couturier) Côtes du Rhône Villages 1998 ($9)(All CNN Wines): .sasha forced us to buy a case of this wine at gunpoint. Sadly, it seems to have all vanished. Familiar quiet raspberry-smoky nose, meaty-smelling and ripe. Slightly roughish in the piehole, a chewily darkfruity mouthful. Seems softer than it is because of the slutty-plush fruit, but there's enough spine to do the trick. Gulp, gulp, gulp. Oops, another bottle has vanished. (11/11/01)

Domaine Rabasse Charavin (Corinne Coturier) Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée D'Estevenas 1997 ($17) (Lisa's Birthday): Medium ruby-garnet color, dead center red. Rich, bright nose--red cherryfruit, smoke and gravelly notes with a hint of menthol. I don't detect any gobs, but that could easily be an oversight on my behalf, as my gobometer has been a little unreliable lately. What I do detect is a well-built medium-bodied wine whose balance is impeccable. It's got plenty of bright fruit, but it's so nicely honed you'd almost think it wasn't a dense, full-flavored wine. Yet it is, lithe and concentrated, a plucky little acrobat of a wine dismounting into a long cherry-dark finish with a half twist and sticking it cold. Graceful, cheerful. (6/13/00)

Domaine Rabasse-Charavin (Corinne Couturier) Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne Cuvée D'Estevenas 1998 ($18) (All CNN Wines): The flagship wine. Riper and gobbier than the '97, this is clearly slouching towards hootiedom. Big tarry-ripe berrylicious nose, a taste gives you a rush of warm dark cherry-berry fruit suffused with smokiness, old leather hints and tarry bass notes. The midpalate surges past, rough and boisterously dense--a barroom brawler of a wine. Hasn't the balance of the last release but it's got more stuffing and more muscle, not to mention the love handles that cushion the roughness as it flows past. This divides the company, Ms. Amanpour thinks it a bit much, but I like it. (11/11/01)

Domaine des Relagnes Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes 2001 ($10) (Boatloads I): Ripe and dark, loose and berry-tarry, simple fleshy black cherry flavors laced with smokiness. Very credible two-tone Côtes du Rhône, gives you all you could ask for in a quaffing wine. [Buy again? Yes.] (8/04)

Domaine de la Renjarde Côtes du Rhône Villages 1998 ($14)(I Get the Shakes): Medium garnet. Smoky, herby ripe brick-red fruit. Tastes very smooth, a bit soft and rounded at the edges, but creamy-ripe and pleasant, another mellow easy drinker with a lot of flavor and nice balance. Finishes with a nice raspberry-cream flourish, and the question begins to follow the bottle around the table: "Hey, how much does this one cost?" (6/6/00)

Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Les Garrigues 2002 (Misplaced Weekend II): Loose, red and juicy, decent and straightforward, not particularly compelling. Good wine, for the vintage. Runs well, for a catcher. (5/9/04)

Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2000 ($9) (McNetta 2002): Sweet black cherry-raspberry nose. Tastes warm and muddily fleshy, a soft, meaty wine with something of a reduced quality--richly fruited, but a bit harsh and amplified, as if it had been boiled down. Simple, rich, slightly unpleasant. (6/02)

Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2001 (Pigfest): Something of an odd mallard, a ripe, gentle, pleasantly young Cairanne. Dark red raspberry and black cherry aromatics, plush chewy flesh, medium-firm acidity. Despite some broadness and unsubtlety it's actually quite a pleasant Cte du Rhne, plainspoken and robust without being overly bumptious. Still, there's a Jethro Clampett quality to this wine that gives it, in this company, contextual issues. (1/06)

Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne L'Ebruscade 2000 ($13) (Peach Tree Vines): Medium-dark garnet color. Soft aromatics, plum-raspberry and smokiness. Tastes smooth, plummy and round in the middle, finishes with a bit of grittiness. Nice enough, unremarkable. I'd be happy to pay something like ten bucks for this, but does the world really need yet another sixty-dollar Cairanne? (4/03)

Domaine de la Soumade Côtes du Rhône Villages Rasteau 1998 (Muscajeeb): Dark garnet color. Candied red berry and black cherry, road tar and a whiff of rubbing alcohol. Two-dimensional, slightly stewed flavors, blowsy, abrasive and hot but otherwise agreeable. I think the New York crowd has been gunshy of Rasteau since the wine jerky Gourt de Mautens '98 sandpapered our collective uvulae until they bled bitter drops a few years back. I can still hear SFJoe's voice rasping "Steel...wool... in a glass... it burns... it burrrrrnnns...." This is not as bad as that. (11/10/02)

Tardieu-Laurent Côte du Rhône 1997 (Scheduling): Wood. Wood, wood, wood. Wood, wood wood wood fruit. Wood? Wood. (12/8/02)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Brézème 1998 ($14)(Motor Oil): Medium-dark garnet color, and the syrah fruit comes out ripe and spicy, dark berry laced with gravel and horehound, with earthy-dark bass notes. Nicely balanced and rich, the coltish tangy dark cran-raspberry fruit gives you a nice smoky ride through a well cut, deep midpalate into a final flourish of tart fruit and fine tannins. Very nice CdR. (6/29/00)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Brézème 1998 ($12) (Boatloads IV): Boy, this was a good cheap wine a few years back. I was a bit wary of it because internet recluse and known pessimist Andrew Munro Scott had claimed his last bottle was undrinkable because of out-of-whack acidity. Not so with me. Smells smoky-bacony, iodine and blackberry. Yes, the acidity is rather hard, slightly offputting at first, but either I soon become acclimated or it relaxes with a bit of aeration. Probably the former. Very aromatic, but yes, a bit obsidian-hard. [Buy again? If I could, sure.] (6/05)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Brézème 2000 ($13) (Winterfest 2003): Smells purple-peppery-dark and smoky-meaty. Big nose, dark purple fruit and lots of cracked black peppercorns, black olive, hint of VA. A sip, and there's hard dark fruit, sharp acidity, a little sour-tart, without the richer supporting fruit of the VV version. A day later it has mellowed, but it's still rather shrill and angry. I want to like it, but it keeps pushing me away. ["Acidity problem." "Acidity problem?" "Acidity problem!" "Acidity problem."] (2/03)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Brézème Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($19) (Winterfest 2003): Medium dark purply-garnet. Rich, meaty nose--cracked peppercorns, blackberry and smoked meat. A tangy wine with lemon-juicy acidity but the depth of fruit that the 'regular' Cuvée lacks is enough to balance it. Obsidian at its heart, only giving hints of what it has right now. Tough love. (2/03)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Brézème 2001 (Island Jeeb): Medium dark purply-garnet. Now we're back in syrah country, pepper and smoked meat, heavier on the iodine and violets than previous vintages, dark smoky blackberriness. Taut and crisp and nervy, a bright young syrah that needs time to rest, the antidote for gobs. Very nice, more in the model of the firm 1999 than the shrill 2000. (3/23/03)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Villages Chusclan 2000 ($14) (Nine Characters): Quiet smellies, dark red blackberry and raspberry fruit laced with smoke and tar. More acidity here, better focus and balance, quite young and coiled, seems on the lean side after the fatter first pair. Some gritty tannins make for a slightly bumpy finish; a compact, impressive wine that probably just needs a little time to smooth out. Reliable sources tell me that this is mostly syrah, but it doesn't scream SYRAH the way the Brézème does--were I a thinking guy I'd have thought it grenache. Happily, I'm a drinking guy, not a thinking guy. (11/02)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Villages Séguret 2000 ($14) (Nine Characters): Aromatically shy, dark black cherry-leatherberry notes, hints of smoke and earth. Slightly more giving than the Chusclan, with a hint of looseness at the edges of the firm structure and a chewy-meaty mouthfeel. With air the nose turns towards a dark raspberry-compote character. Very nice stuff, if rather monolithic and borderline chunky now. (11/02)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Villages Sé'guret Vieilles Vignes Non Filtré 2000 ($14) (Boatloads VI): Dark plum and smoky-earthy blackberry, rich and meaty-smelling. Quite chewy, gentle and plush around the edges, just firm enough at the core. This hasn't really budged much since release, I'll probably hold onto my couple remaining bottles for a few more years. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Oh yeah.] (12/05)

Eric Texier Côte du Rhône Villages Séguret Vieilles Vignes Non Filtré 2000 ($14) (Boatloads VIII): Blackberry-plum aromatics, subtle hints of earth, leather and iodine, touch of acetone volatility. Tastes smooth and chewy, darkly raspberried, rich and firm, very nice, maybe just the hints of some early secondary complexity. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Sure.] (9/06)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Villages St. Gervais Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($15) (Nine Characters): Smells sweetly warm and redfruity, with a shoepolishy dark streak. A big, meaty wine with a firm spine of acidity, this nevertheless seems a little more unfocused than the other Texiers, with some watery diffusion in the center. (11/02)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Vaison-la-Romaine 2000 ($15) (Bastille Day): Yeasty cherry-berry fruit with a plaster-of-paris hint in the nose. Rich, yeasty and lightly smoky, a well-balanced, smooth wine that is quite gulpable. Good enough, if unremarkable compared to the lovely red Brézème. (6/16/01)

Eric Texier Côtes du Rhône Villages Vaison-la-Romaine 2000 ($15) (Nine Characters): Smoky nose, smells of roast meat and dark berry-plum fruit. Good rich core of red fruit that feathers out to smokiness at the edges yet retains a hardness in the middle. It's young and rather two-toned now, but there's good stuffing here. (11/02)

Les Vignerons d'Estézargues Côtes du Rhône 'les Grandes Vignes' 2004 ($11) (Boatloads IX): Light leathery plum-berry-tar aromatics, smells nice and straightforwardly CôteduRhôney. Medium acidity, taut spine wrapped with some soft fleshy redfruit. Some surprising tannins give the finish some bite. Good combination of tanginess and calmly pillowy fruit, nice real wine, easy to sip, turns very plummy on the finish. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.] (11/06)

Domaine Viret Côte du Rhône Villages Saint-Maurice Maréotis 1999 ($20) (Nine Characters): The Vinsurrection bottling, although someone seems to have gotten their hands on a bottle through other sources (grey market?). It seems rather quiet and thoughtful at first sippage, but satiny red fruit sashays out from the calm center. Sweetly fruited and feathery at the edges, there's a firm core but the rich redness gives this a titillatingly fleshy quality. Awfully good and utterly honest, my favorite of the Rhônes so far. (11/02)

Domaine Viret Côte du Rhône Villages St. Maurice 'Cosmic' 1999 ($13) (Winterfest '03): Medium-dark garnet, purpling at the rim. Black raspberry and plaster smellies, leather, licorice and a touch of Band-Aid™ brand bandage strip. Dark and fleshy-ripe in the piehole, purely fruited, in the mold of the same producer's Mareotis but not quite as focused. Black cherry and dark grape-juice tasties, primary and leathery-rich. Good rich grenache, dark and pure. A nice wine, but Lisa is astonished that it's a Dressner wine. "So ripe, so lush...?" she says wonderingly, Keane-eyed. (1/22/03)

Domaine Viret Côte du Rhône Villages Saint-Maurice 'Cosmic' 2000 ($14) (Boatloads III): Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe raspberry-leather-cherry bubble gum nose, hint of metal shavings. Crisp, well-structured, ripe and borderline gobby, with meaty-rich redfruit flesh. Just a bit blowsy in the middle, doesn't quite have the shape and follow-through of the '99 version, but still a delightful mouthful of ripe grenache, a fine match with my special MSG-mushroom burgers. Really, it's a lot of fun but it's not for fans of the lean and sour; there's plenty of ripeness and lush fruit here, it's a Kane kind of wine except he'd say it had an 'acidity problem' because there's a bit of structure and it's not as limp as a wet noodle on hot asphalt. (2/05)

Domaine Viret Côte du Rhône Villages Saint-Maurice 'Cosmic' 2000 ($14) (Boatloads IV): Ripe dark red tarry-berry fruit, leather and smoke. Smooth, plush and ripe, a bit more dilute than the '99 version but very friendly and puppyish, almost gobby. Hard not to just swill it down, it's such a smooth, warm mouthful of dark redness. Yeah, it could use a little more structure and complexity, but what do you want from a place named after a Saint "Maurice"? Plush, fleshy and velvety-smooth, a crowd-pleaser. Not quite up to the last release, but who among us is? [Buy again? Yup.] (6/05)

Alain Voge Côtes du Rhône 2000 ($15) (Nine Characters): Smells of ripe raspberry and leather, with air a low-level note of licorice emerges. Tastes ripe and loosely rounded, simply red and smooth. Nothing much going on, just a punchy red concoction. Inoffensive, gulpable. (11/02)



Côte-Rôtie

Lucette and Martin Daubrée Côte-Rôtie 1996 ($10) (The Longest Night): Medium garnet. Light nose, lean and slightly green, with hints of metal shavings. Tastes tart and thin, with a distinct streak of metallic Quonset hut permeating the puckery, green fruit. Unpleasant. Avoid. (12/31/00)

Delas Côte-Rôtie 1991 ($35) (Blind Syrah): Lighter than the others so far. Blackberry, nutty, bacon, earth nose. This is Rhône. Côte-Rôtie? Light-bodied, smooth & crisp, slightly tart. Light, but very nice. I go out on a (sawed-off) limb and guess Ogier La Rosine. (8/16/99)

Dervieux-Thaize Côte-Rôtie Cuvée Reserve 1978 (Clash of the Ayatollahs): Medium ruby, ambering at the rim of the glass. Smoky, rich baconberry nose, nice hints of well-done rump roast and eucalyptus. Great to smell, but faded on the palate, lean and tart, a bit over the hill, mostly acidity and earthy baked-yam tartness left. (4/19/00)

Gangloff Côte-Rôtie 1995 (Manuel and Josie): Medium to medium-dark garnet, with a real telltale Côte-Rôtie nose--muted raspberry mingles with smoked meat and eucalyptus, oh, this is fun to smell. Not half bad to taste, either, showing surprisingly open for being a young 'un--smooth, medium-rich and balanced, with a meaty mouthfeel. A friendly wine, fleshy tasting and with creamy, accessible fruit flavors that beg to be consumed slowly and steadily, leading into a long peppery finish. My red wine of the night. (4/23/00)

Gentaz-Dervieux Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Cuvée Reservée 1979 (Steamed Steaks): Medium ruby color, browning well in from the rim. Smells like a walk in a eucalyptus forest, hints of dried leaves and koala. Over the hill, leafy and dried out, but still has a bit of life. Well, a tiny bit anyway. Okay, not that much. Whoops, it's dead now. Oh well. (10/2/04)

Gentaz-Dervieaux Côte-Rôtie 1990 ($55) (Prodigal Hawaiians): Mmmm... rich bacon & eucalyptus & black raspberry aromas caress my shnozz lovingly, more of the same in the mouth. Not a colossus, more medium-weight, but the flavorful tart fruit sings on a nice clear note for a good long while. A beauty, and my favorite red of the evening so far. (1/15/00)

Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 1980 (Cab Franc Blowout+): Deep garnet; gorgeous nose of honey, raspberry and smoked meat; in the mouth not quite as lush, but still lovely--cassis, raspberry, pepper; fine tannins. (6/8/99)

Jamet Côte-Rôtie 1988 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium to medium-dark ruby color, browning just a touch at the rim. Smells of bricky redfruit laced with sweet cedar, truffles and mushroom. Touch of eucalyptus hovers above. Tastes soft, layered and resolved, an ethereal-tasting wine that feels a little tired but still has a lot going on. (11/04)

Jasmin Côte-Rôtie 1985 (Chateauneuf-du-Joe): (magnum). Medium ruby red color, bricking slightly in from the rim. Very pretty smelling, smoked meat, dirt and African violets, maybe a hint of plumeria whiteflorality up high. A sip, and it's a lightbodied wine that still manages a substantial mouthprint, bright acidity enervating muted dirtberry redfruit. Seems to be fading slightly around the edges, but there's plenty to like here. Fades a bit on the finish, light bitterness poking through the earthy redness. Supple, earthy and expressive. I probably wouldn't hold it a lot longer, but it's awfully nice tonight, and matches with the Kumumoto pig almost as well as the riesling. (11/06)

Jasmin Côte-Rôtie 1988 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium ruby color, ambering lightly at the rim. Smells nice--muted bricky redfruit, mint, eucalyptus and leather. Tastes fully resolved, smooth and fleshy and a bit flaccid. The aromatics are more interesting than the flavors, the wine seems a bit dried out, past its peak. Still, it has a pleasant sense of decay to it. Drink up. (11/04)

Marie-Claude Lafoy et Vincent Gasse Côte-Rôtie 1990 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Smells ripe, hints of iodine in a wash of red berryness. A Côte-Rôtie that secretly longs to be a Châteauneuf, this is Kane-style Northern Rhône, plump and fleshy. A jellyfish of a wine, bloppy and loosely-wrapped, richly flavored but unfocused, short and not terribly compelling. Next? (6/05)

B. Levet Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche 1998(Fridge): Big, red nose, berries and violets, hints of smoked meat. Sweetly berried up front, big and densely berried in the midpalate with a turn towards dark smokiness and gravel, tarry and tannic on the finish. Well balanced but a little chunky, a overmuscled infant, simple now but with potential. Good, but a little tiring, seems to be trying too hard. (5/12/02)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1990(Rejeebus): Muddy ruby color, ambering at the rim. Smoky berry-hickory smellies, roasted raspberry and just a suggestion of eucalyptus leaves. A sip, and it's nicely developed, rather delicate and girlish, hints of violets emerging in the middle to dance with the smoky-meatyness. Elegant and restrained, with a surprisingly supple core and a languid, relaxed finish that's not in a hurry to go away. Light and pretty, layered and flavorful. (7/21/02)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1994 ($32)(Cape May Geeks): This one has some fine nosechops working--menthol is the first impression, menthol and old worn funky leather over a base of peppery dark raspberry fruit. In the piehole it's silky, smooth and lightly flavorful, an elegant wine. It's a bit soft and structurally small compared to the past few vintages, but it's quite tasty and has a lot of hot C-R action going on within a small amplitude. Some fine glassy tannins emerge as it strolls towards a finish, but I think this wine is ready to go. (6/3/00)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1995 ($35) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium red color. Sweetly complex nose, light eucalyptus high notes--soft dark raspberry. Tangy, crisp, a bit hard. Tangy, not terribly dense, a layered, medium-bodied wine, on the lean side but layered and interesting, but ungiving & closed. Slightly rough; in need of time. (11/04)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1996($35) (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Smells gently baconberried, smoky blackfruit dusted with violet petals and a touch of gaminess. Tastes crisp and a bit thin, not a whole lot of depth. Seems closed to me, or maybe it's just a shy wine, more aromatically than mouthistically interesting. (6/05)

Michel Ogier Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1997 ($35) (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): This may have been the last year before the huge price increases or wait, maybe one more (this was about $35, the '98 about $40, then WOOOEEEEE! $$$$$$!!!! CHA-CHINNGGG!!! and suddenly it's $70). Classic, elegant Cte-Rtie, smells of baconberry and violets. There's an amiable looseness to the midsection and a gentle smoky-earthy buzz on the finish. Light frame, layered texture, smallish and utterly charming, a wine that makes me lean back and think dreamy thoughts. (12/05)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 'La Belle Hélène' 1997 (Barrel Sample) ($90) (Waiting for Callahan): "This wine is a deep, impenetrable purply-red, with lovely scents of menthol, smoked meats, and a core of black raspberry and blackberry fruit that is dense, but not frighteningly tight. It is layered, rich and roughish, but it goes down smoothly and quickly." Killer stuff, as Kane might say. (9/12/99)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 1998 ($40)(Cape Mayhem): A lot of dark berry smellies, bacon fat and eucalyptus. Tastes smoky, densely flavored, rich and meaty, fairly ripe and smoothly fruited. It's rather primary now, but seems a decent bet for the the long haul, although I can understand the recent concerns about the more forwardly fruity style, something I'd have attributed to the ripe year. Joe grumps about fake yeasts and chaptalization and more fake yeasts and hormones and fluoride and other stuff, wonders what has become of the Côte-Rôtie in this effete era. (5/25/01)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie 2000 ($50) (Foodies 2): Medium-dark garnet color. Smells quite ripe, blackberry and red plum with a dash of toastiness. Tastes fleshy and supple and glossy, a slightly candied feel to the fruit. Balanced and smooth but lacking any discernable character--I would never have recognized this as Côte-Rôtie. Not at all bad as wine, but disappointingly generic. (2/03)

Michel Ogier Côte-Rôtie la Belle Hélène 1995 ($75) (All About the Chicken): Smoky-toasty nose, dark blackberry laced with bacon fat, African violets and toasty wood. Robust blackfruit, licorice and smoke, quite generously new-oaked but lots of complexity and heft and depth, an old world wine with new world glitz. Or perhaps a new world wine with old world character, take your pick. Anyway, I'm savoring my glassful when I start to notice the pained expressions and gasps of dismay that follow the wine around the room. By the time the bottle comes back around to me the verdict has been reached: this is shiraz. (7/05)

Eric Texier Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 1999 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Medium-dark purply-black color. Wonderfully rich aromatics--iodine and violets, baconberry and newly turned earth. Quite crisp and rough-edged, almost overly so until my steak comes along, timid souls would say it had acidity issues; not me. Its aggressiveness is a good counterweight to the supple, smooth Pontet-Canet. Very nice. Maybe it needs a few more years, but it's happily chatty now, almost on a par with the same producer's '99 Brézèmes. 5/05)

Eric Texier Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($40) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Pure northern Rhône nose, lots of peppercorns, menthol, blackberry and bacon. A sip, and it's surprisingly accessible; a rather loose wine that's middleweight, crisp and darkly flavorful. A lot of flavor, but seems a bit vague in the middle. Finishes with an iodiney flourish. (11/04)



Gigondas

Château de Saint Cosmé Gigondas 1998 (Horrifying the Newbies): Smells rich and spicy, dark raspberry with a bit of barnyard and a splash of black pepper. In the facehole it's very ripe and fleshy, going in several directions at the same time, a little all over the place. Still, it's friendly and chewy, a big wine with flavors that meander in the direction of medicinal but don't quite cross the line. I am ambivalent, enjoying the spiciness and richness, but I also find the wine a little tiring. (3/3/01)

Château de Saint Cosmé Gigondas 'Valbelle' 1995 ($30) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill 2): Dusty earth- and leather-laced redfruit, muted and calm smelling. There's a good dusting of wood, and the brickdusty fruit seems to have lost its youthful verve, so I'd say drink up. Loose, easygoing and layered, in a nice place now. (3/06)

Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas 1998 (Lisa's Birthday): Medium garnet color. The rich upfront black cherry fruit smells a bit candied, a bit Robitussiny-medicinal. Tastes odd, candied and darkly fruity up front, then comes unglued in the low-acid, creamy-ripe midpalate and just stops cold with a flash of alcoholic heat. Lisa observes "If I want a nine-dollar zin, I'll have one." Not good, O best beloved, not good at all. (6/13/00)

Tardieu-Laurent Gigondas 1999 (Rejeebus): After the balletic Ogier this has the air of a drunken lumberjack. Deep purply-black color, smells smoky and medicinal; Robitussin with a splash of Liquid Smoke. A sip, and it's a brawny purple mouthful, big fruit and big oak. The midpalate swings through my mouth on a vine lustily bellowing its jungle call, then slides clumsily down into astringent oak tannins. I guess there's a market for blockbuster Gigondas, but this does nothing for me. One wag dubs it "Shirazgondas," but that may be overstating the case. Six and a half velveteen-covered Prongs with storebought mylar balloons that say HAPPY BIRTHDAY in large black and red letters tied to their points, each brushed down with glitter and barbeque sauce and baked in a 350-degree oven until the first sign of caremelization, then nailed to plywood squares and set adrift on Lake Waramaug. (7/21/02)



Hermitage and Crôzes-Hermitage

Chapoutier Crôzes-Hermitages Les Meysonnieres 1995 ($17): Slightly muddy-looking medium garnet; fairly light nose, very restrained notes of blackberry, menthol & damp spaniel; tart & a bit shrill at first, with some air it softens and fleshes out a bit, but it remains a tart mouthful of raspberry & tarry notes & an odd animal taste that emerges in the midpalate and dawdles in the finish while the muted fruit melts away. Quite crisply acidic, with some small gritty tannins. Lean, but complex & interesting. (8/99)

Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne 1989 (Scheduling): Medium-dark garnet color. Quiet nose, light smoked meat over pepperberry. Medium bodied. Medium flavored, recognizably syrah-ish in a fightin' varietal kind of way. Abbreviated finish, gritty-stern tannins. I can't think of much to say about this wine; it's decent but two-dimensional and in the end just rather nondescript. (12/8/02)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1985 ($60) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Aromatically vivid, layers of smoke and iodine, menthol, black pepper and smoked meat, all couched in a muted raspberry base. Tastes surprisingly light and lithe, very flavorful but flirting with insubstantiality, a certain looseness and low acidity that almost says 'I dare you to find me less than lovely.' And indeed, I can't, as it's lovely wine, girly and light but extremely flavorful. Just pretty perfumed stuff without much substance. (11/06)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1986($48)(Cellar Gems): The drawbacks of being last on the pouring line are evident as only a few tablespoons of this make it down to our end of the table. Packed with sediment, this slurry has some wonderful aromas, just rich and beguiling singed meat, mushroom and faded raspberry notes. I smell it for awhile, savoring all the stuff that's going on. Sipping it, it's a bit thinner than I'd expected, light and tangy-crisp, meaty and truffley. Overt fruit is faded and takes a backseat, but there's a lot of character here. (10/14/99)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1986 ($60) (McNetta 2002): It's quite a switch, light in body but pretty, with hints of violet, yam and earth. A soft, leathery-layered wine with darkly muted berry-earthy fruit, easy to sip at and quite developed. A light wine but a lovely one. Drink up. (6/02)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1986 ($60) (Scheduling): Lightly but sweetly aromatic, baked yam, violets and sod, a touch of light eucalyptus. Quite rooty, a pretty little feathery-layered wine with soft darkly muted fruit. This is in a good place right now, quite developed and complex in a small-scaled way. (12/8/02)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1988 ($110) (MartyParty): Medium-dark dead center red. Quiet but expressive aromatics, iodine, black pepper, muted red berry. Reticent at first, it opens marginally with air but remains rather tight and shy. Still, there's brisk acidity, great balance and a lightness that belies the intensity of its flavors. Very nice, still quite coiled in upon itself, needs time. (2/28/04)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1988 ($110) (Shanks): Smoky. Very smoky. Quiet aromatics: dark hints of black olive, violets and iodine mixed into a base of muted brickberry fruit. Bracing acidity, fine sense of composure, rather severe at the moment. The finish is especially rough, a fast ride down a gravel road with no shock absorbers. Maybe if we had some food, but unfortunately I've finally exhausted my supply of Brad's lobster-mango salad with avocado dressing. (4/24/04)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1990 ($100) (McNetta 2002): Yikes. Strikingly bounteous nose just fills my glass and from there my happy, happy sinus cavities. Dark meaty berry-cassis, iodine, smoked meat and humid eucalyptus forest. Wow. I sip at it eagerly--it's not as effusive in the piehole as it is in the nose, a little tight just yet. Not heavy but weightier than the '86, it's a lithe wine with a strong core of acidity that is somewhat ungiving in the middle. It's a beauty, still locked down, but the finish is quiet and understatedly elegant. Striking stuff. (6/02)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1994 ($60)(Thoresa): This, friends, is the real thing, with a lovely meaty-bacony nose laced with baked yam hints and a high note of light menthol. The wine is neither still young nor yet very developed, but the place it's in is fine with me. Plenty of rich, well-balanced, meaty fruit with a shoyu note emerging in the midpalate and a long, hummingly tart finish that turns towards dark soddiness. Great, just great. (10/7/01)

J.L. Chave Hermitage 1994. Medium-dark garnet color. Mmm... iodine... lots of iodine... red raspberry, baked yam, smoked meat and cracked peppercorn too, not ebulliently aromatic, but not reticent either, somewhere pleasant in between. A sip, and the acidity seems a little harder than in past bottles, just short of shrill, but there's lots of smoky, meaty flesh there to chew on. Medium-bodied, not a big wine but a lovingly complex one, with layers of flavor that come together and drift apart throughout the middle and on into the finish. The parts are all very nice, but the working together is what really makes this distinctive, a little concerto for strings in my mouth. (6/7/03)

Jean-Luc Columbo Crôzes-Hermitage le Tuilère 1999 ($15) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium-dark garnet, purpling at the rim. Smells of leather and shoyu, blackberry and a touch of mint. Shiraz? No, not enough ripeness, not much stuffing here, watery blackberry fruit. Finishes abruptly, with a tiring sourness in the prefinish. Indistinct, vapid wine. (11/04)

Cuilleron-Gaillard-Villard Les Vins de Vienne Hermitage 'Les Chirats de Saint Christophe' 1999 ($50) (McNetta 2002): Rich, chewy and toasty-woody in an international style, it still shows lots of Northern Rhône character. Plenty oaky, yet there's enough rich meaty fruit to handle the planking. I'm normally not a fan of the nouveau Rhônes, but this one rubs me the right way. A pleasant surprise: Negocialicious! (6/02)

Delas Crozes-Hermitage 1983 and Delas Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1983 (Robin in the Big City) are not something you'd want to put in your crown. The Crozes has a weird, funky, burnt sweet-potato & wet fur nose. What little fruit remains turns brown and bitter and astringent very quickly. Ick. The CdP has a bit more life, with a big stinky ("have you ever been on a chicken farm" asks Robin) nose, some faded red fruit remains but also passes quickly into bitterness. Pour 'em into the sink if you got 'em. (2/7/00)

Ferraton Pere et Fils Hermitage Cuvée des Miaux 1985 (MoJoe): The neck label with the cute picture of the Thomasina the kitty is missing, but the wine is nonetheless purring quietly and arching its back when stroked. Light aromatics, sweetly leathery and leafy, a damp glen in a misty eucalyptus forest. Muted blackberry-plum flavors in the piehole backed by a rigid spine of acidity, the delicate flavors are mugged by the well spiced dry-rub ribs and the remaining acid gives a feeling of brittle hardness. Six and a half ceramic Prongs left outside over the winter then trundled around to craft fairs all over the eastern seaboard before finally being displayed on a lacquerware bookshelf next to a small collection of Hummel figurines, many of which are chipped. Pronged twice, with consistent Prongs. (9/23/02)

Ferraton Pere et Fils Hermitage Cuvée des Miaux 1985 (Recluse Convention): "More volatility!" squeals Andrew. Yup, there's that acetone smell again, under which lies sweetly faded leatherberry fruit, more pondwatery-smelling than I'd remembered. Tastes quite faded, the fruit fallen away to an earthen wash, the midpalate dominated by naked acidity. Not a good showing for this one tonight--Thomasina the eponymous kitty must be coughing up a leafy hairball somewhere. I've had decent bottles of this in the past year or two, but this one is solidly over the hill. (11/22/02)

Ferraton Pere et Fils Hermitage Cuvée des Miaux 1990 (Party House): The Cuvée des Miaux is whimsically named in honor of the proprietor's cat Thomasina, an Abyssinian-Siamese mix whose picture graces the neck label. Or so I'm told, as this bottle actually has no label whatsoever. We'll have to take Kane's word that it is what it claims to be. At any rate it's a beauty of a wine, richly baconberried and warm to smell, with an earthy baked-brick streak that grounds the ripe fruit very well and gives the high note of menthol a chance to strut. A sip, and it's a smooth meaty package, a seamless flow of fleshy red berry fruit that flashes some leather in the midpalate and turns dark and coffeed on the finish. There is enough acidity, a chewy mouthfeel, all in all a lovely, unchallenging wine that is easy to enjoy. (1/5/02)

Ferraton Pere et Fils Hermitage Cuvée des Miaux 1999 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium garnet color. Nonchalant nose, easygoing aromatics, touch of black pepper, muted raspberry, smoked meat that gradually turns bacony. Pleasant to taste but rather vague, the flavors are all there but there's a sense of watery diffusion in the middle that is only partially compensated for by a flickery-smoky finish. (11/04)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage 1997 ($20): Medium garnet. Light grapey nose with sort of an odd old-couch smell to it, along with some cocoa. Odd, tart & kind of cabbagey--smoky-tasting, with a burnt-cookie aftertaste; astringent & not terribly pleasant--cranberry-sauce tart, squeaky-sharp short finish. Weird & not to my liking. (6/99)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage 1998 ($20) (Misplaced Weekend II): Light but typically Graillotish aromatics--iodine, blackberry, violets, all very shy, very quiet. A sip, and there's hard matte fruit, but there's also jarring acidity that rises in the middle and turns towards sourness on the finish. Odd, a strange combination of familiar likeable flavor and scary-spiky acidity. Kane's iconic "acidity problem" line is, for once, on target. (5/9/04)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage 1999 ($20) (McNetta 2002): Medium dark purply-black color. Pretty nose, expressively redolent (yes, expressively redolent!) of violets, tree bark, smoked meat and a high note of eucalyptus over a dark blackberry-raspberry base. A sip, and there's a crisp, darkfruity upfront rush of fruit that turns slightly sour in the middle, rallies, then turns charry with a rubber-tire finish and is clubbed down by harsh tannins. Interestingly rich, but disjointed and tough going now. (6/02)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage 2000 ($20) (Winterfest 2003): Dark purply-garnet color. Even more aromatic than the '96 Guiraude, violets and smoked meat and licorice hints over rough earthy-blackberry fruit. Crisp, medium-sized, a prettily focused and darkly chewy wine. Hasn't the amplitude of the last, but hasn't the cruel streak either, although the glassy black core is unyielding at the moment. Young, a little disjointed now but very impressive and a pleasure to drink. (2/03)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage la Guiraude 1990 ($80) (Subdued Festivization): Darkly complex aromatics, blackberry-raspberry laced with violets and iodine, hints of smoked meat, touch of bandaid. Smooth and round, quite ripe and velvety, surprisingly fleshy and loosey-goosey for a Graillot Crzes: there's a touch of jamminess here, maybe even a gob or two. The medium-low acidity supports the plush fruit to a certain degree but can't keep it all in hand; it tends to bulge and billow around the edges. Very atypical, but once I've rebooted my palate I find the silky-smooth ripeness to be very pleasant. It's a rich, friendly wine that has a puppyish appeal, but there's complexity and depth here as well. (6/13/04)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage la Guiraude 1990 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Big ripe blackberry aromatics, hints of violets up high, dark smoky-meaty vein down below. Tastes broad-beamed, with a sinewy smoky streak keeping all the velvety flesh honest. Medium-low acidity, plump and puppyish. I've always been ambivalent about this wine. It's so fleshy-ripe yet so recognizably Graillot that it's like a familiar figure in a weird incarnation, Billy Bob Thornton as Santa Claus. That said, it's very enjoyable in a pleasant, pillowy sense. I sip at it furtively as the rain slows, then abruptly ceases. My crab cakes are only splash-dampened, but they're still quite tasty, others aren't so lucky and have soggy appetizers. (6/05)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage La Guiraude 1995 ($35) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium-dark garnet-black color. Lots of pepper and iodine on the nose, blackberry, smoke and earth. Tastes assertive but rather quiet, matte blackberry fruit laced with sod, pepper and more iodine. Vivid, chewy-sinewy wine, not brand new but on the young side. Finishes with the telltale iodine-dirt-blackberry hum. (11/04)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage la Guiraude 1996 ($24) (Winterfest 2003): Medium-dark purply-garnet. This smells wonderful--earthily complex and smoky-meaty hints over muted cherry-blackberry fruit, flashes of tree bark and violets and iodine, with a cheery whiff of barnyard. Whoo, tastes rather severe at first, glass-hard acidity loosening only marginally at the edges, impenetrable at the core. Gives you a jolt going in, whips around the inside of your mouth, then zips away, leaving blackberry and violets humming in your piehole. An imposing wine with a little bit of a cruel streak. Strangely compelling. (2/03)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage La Guiraude 1998 ($25) (Wasted Hours): It's a medium-dark purply-garnet, and smells quite black-peppery, with muted earthy raspberry and hickory smoke aromas -- Mr. S____ says 'bacon roasted on slate,' a clever turn of phrase, and I quickly write it down to steal it for future use. The wine is lean and gravelly-tart, dark and young and tight, with crisp-plus acidity (what Mr. K___ calls an 'acidity problem') making itself known underneath the tightly wrapped dark peppery fruit, which turns licoricey on the finish. Young and quite aggressive now, this, I would posit, needs down time for the fruit to feather out a bit and clothe the hard edges, but I like it very much even in its callow youth. (7/15/00)

Alain Graillot Crôzes-Hermitage La Guiraude 2001 ($27) (A New Low): Dark purply-black color. Smells of black olives and african violets, smoked meat and a good whiff of iodine. Rich and racy, it has a plush skin that is unusual for Graillot, velvety smoky-dark softness surrounding the usual stern acidic core. The mouthfeel is quite matte, almost to the point of roughness, but the wine is fuller and less dominated by structure than usual; it's a kinder, Kane-friendly Guiraude. Impressive. Still, you'll want to hold it for at least a demidecade or two. (7/14/03)

Guigal Hermitage 1986 (Nonoffensive Notes): Medium translucent ruby. Spicy muted raspberry on the nose, with hints of leather and roast yam. A bit lean and faded but there's some decent tart fruit here. Smells better than it tastes, though, and the impression in the mouth is of a wine that is past its prime. (3/20/00)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1972 (I Get the Shakes): Medium-dark ruby color, still looks surprisingly young, hardly bricking at all. The leathery-muted redfruit smells of coffee with hints of baked yam. Silky in the mouth, the fruit is feathered and open and brownish-tasting at the edges, still tight and dark and red in the center, earthy and beef-jerkyish. Great balance, a supple wine with a lot of character that flows prettily into a coffee-berry-smoky finish. I could drink this all night. Delicious. (6/6/00)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1990 (Blind Syrah): Medium-dark rich red; soft leather, plum, blackberry; fairly reserved, you sense some rich flavors in there, but this wine is hard and seems closed. Nevertheless, nicely balanced, smooth, pleasant, not too bad at all, not too shabby. Not worth $300 in my book, but very pleasant. (8/16/99)

Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1992 (Prodigal Hawaiians): A quiet nose, earthy-roasty-raspberry with a hint of mushroom, leaning a bit towards the earthy-carroty side rather than being redfruity. Crisp-tasting, but not showing too much, seems a bit closed. Bit earthy, slightly tart... I dunno. It is not in the giving vein. (1/15/00)

Gilles Robin Crôzes-Hermitage Cuvée Albéric Bouvet 1999 ($18) (Winterfest 2003): Medium dark, almost dark garnet, edged with purple. Meaty-rich nose, smoke and black olives and roasted meat; syrahlicious, and a great match with the griddle cakes. (2/03)

Gilles Robin Crôzes-Hermitage Cuvée Alberic Bouvet 2001 ($18) (Boatloads III): Who the hell is Alberic Bouvet? The wine is a medium-dark garnet color, purpling at the rim. Smoky-bacon and blackberry aromas, hint of african violets. Tastes rather hard, there's an obsidian-dark core of blackfruit, bracing acidity, seems slightly angry at the moment, not giving much away, but the wine has great presence and stuffing, lots going on. Needs time. [Buy again? Sure.] (2/05)

Gilles Robin Crôzes-Hermitage 2003 ($85, delivered to our table) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Medium-dark garnet-black color. Quite rich-smelling, smoky black raspberry laced with smoked-meat hints, it's plush and obvious and a bit much, but I kind of like it. A sip, and there's a rush of ripe blackberry-raspberry plushness, which spreads out in the middle and, combined with the lowish acidity, makes for a rather paunchy middle. The northern Rhne meets Napa Valley. (11/06)

Eric Texier Hermitage 1999 ($45) (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium-dark garnet color. Light, redstony nose, cracked peppercorns and raspberry, touch of iodine, honeysuckle hints, charming to smell. Tastes medium-bodied, smooth, small and flavorful; on the lean side, with a certain softness around the edges. Flows smoothly through a pleasantly pepperberried midpalate, finishes silkily, with some light whispery tannins. Small-framed wine, balanced and meaty, with just enough mouthgrab. (11/04)

Eric Texier Hermitage 1999 ($45) (Passages): Smooth, dark syrah, not profound but very shiny and friendly. Pepper/eucalyptus/blackberry aromatics, light hint of iodine. Tastes smooth and medium-bodied, with the usual velvet-skinned leanness. Jay thinks there are some storage issues in play, but to me it seems pretty much as it always has been, perhaps a bit quieter. There's a shy treebarky note that's I don't remember from previous bottles, I think that's what he's talking about, but I don't find it intrusive. Never a wine I'd think to age for very long, this is just a graceful small framed Hermitage, smooth and silky and quietly layered. I have a few bottles left, they'll probably be moved into the rotation fairly soon. Drink while you're waiting for the late-90s Brézèmes or Côte-Rôties to come around. (4/06)



Lirac

Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac 1998 ($14) (Nine Characters): Not quite as warmly berrymatic as the '99, dark fruit and rocks along with a nice whiff of horsiness (although, as Manuel is quick to qualify, "A horse without an ass"). Tastes darker and earthier than the '99, with middling acidity. Seems to have darker undercurrents not present in the younger wine, lacks the plushness. Very nice. (11/02)

Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac 1999 ($15) (Nine Characters): Smells warmly of raspberry compote and saddle leather. Velvety-ripe and flavorful, dark pure red fruit spreads out subtly and smoothly, medium-low acidity gives a slight fleshy feel. Rather straightforward and two-tone for a Mordorée Lirac, but also rather more densely fruited and plush than usual. Quite nice, really. (11/02)

Domaine de la Mordorée Lirac 2000 ($13) (Boatloads VI): Smells very redfruity, plush black cherry and raspberry, smoky-toast and clove, almost zinnish. A bit watery in the middle, but fleshy and friendly. Medium low acidity, chewy texture, shortish shoepolish-laced finish. Could probably use a bit more backbone, but all in all a very nice fat little Rhône. [Buy again? Sure.] (12/05)

Domaine Pélaquié Lirac 2003 ($11) (Boatloads VII): I'd sworn off any more '03s, but this eleven dollar Lirac for some reason called out to me. Smells big and red, light earthy streak amidst a warm wave of berryness. Plump, almost fat, plush and gently ripe, there's enough acidity to get by, just. It's big and rounded, but isn't plodding, so I'd give it a thumb's up. [Buy again? Yes.] (4/06)

Domaine Pelaquié Lirac 2005 ($8) (Boatloads XI): Much cleaner, dark smoky-licoricey red-blackfruit, not a whole lot going on aromatically, but chewy-rich ripe dark fruit makes for a cheerful rich mouthful. Head and shoulders above the bretty Côte du Rhône. Spend the extra buck, although this has the poisonous bark instead of the safe fake cork. Happily, this one isn't tainted. [Buy again? Oh yeah.]



St.-Joseph

J-L. Chave St.-Joseph 'Offerus' 1996 ($24): Medium garnet; slightly funky barny-poop note over raspberry and menthol--rich and smooth-smelling, silky, but with some nice rustic character. Delicate mouthful, crisp and light, but with some very expressive dark fruit. Some fine tannins, some fine young tannins. Showing very well tonight, and roundly thought a youngish Burgundy. (9/23/99)

J-L. Chave St.-Joseph 'Offerus' 2000 (Pigfest): Baconberry, blackberry and earth. It's a bit glossy-textured, but quite pleasant, with medium acidity and an easygoing, almost silky mouthfeel. "It's not Chave," says Joe 'Two Bottles For Me' Perry, "But it's Chaverus." Yes, it is Chaverus, and with Chave prices being the way they are these days it may be the wine with the highest Chaverusness/dollar ratio. (1/06)

Tardieu-Laurent St.-Joseph 1997 (Party House): Big ripe red berry fruit, overly concentrated and rich, then smoky-toasty oak laid on with a trowel. It might just need time, but I find it an ungainly wine that is too big in too many directions--sound and fury, no harmony, no center. "The Turley of St. Joseph?" I say aloud to no one in particular. (1/5/02)



Vacqueyras

Domaine le Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras 2000 (Misplaced Weekend II): Dark, dense and chewy-meaty, deeply blackberry-raspberried. Smooth and dark, nice balance, lots of muscular fruit. (5/9/04)

Domaine le Clos de Caveau Vacqueyras Leo Muse 2000 (No Hook): Dark purply-red color. Smells reduced, dark raspberry-blackberry sauce laced with roastiness. A meaty wine, dense and chewily fruitpacked to the point of being tiring. Who is Leo Muse? Quickly dubbed The Reverse Osmosis Wine, it also wins the heavy bottle/deep punt award. I can fit two of my stout fingers entirely inside the punt. And I do, twirling the impaled bottle high in the air. "Stop that, that's disturbing!" snaps SFJoe. (6/7/03)

Château des Tours Vacqueyras 1990 (New Wine Achievers): Medium dead center red. Plush, soft nose--cherry, red berry, orangy baked-yam notes with a high note of light eucalyptus. Tastes soft, velvety, with a nice spine of acidity surrounded by nicely resolved feather-edged cran-cherry-leather fruit. Light, tart & tangy, this wine has almost no tannins left and seems mature to me. Drink 'em now if you got 'em. No, go ahead, I'll wait... (7/00)



Vin de Pays and Vin de Table

Another bargain find, the Paul Jaboulet Âiné 'Parallele 45' 1996 ($8), which was fairly flavorful, cherry and earthy notes prevailed, with a dusty hints . Rather simple and unexciting, but a decent glass for a summer afternoon. (6/98)

Michel Ogier Syrah La Rosine VdP de Rhodaniennes 1994 ($14): Medium garnet, just translucent; light but velvety-complex nose with delicate notes of plum/raspberry, toasted pumpkin seeds & a hint of menthol. Medium to medium-light bodied, with a light, crisp mouthfeel. Slightly watery at first, rich smoky darkfruit flavors bloom in the mouth & carry over into a long tangy finish. Fairly light in texture, but a lot of character indeed for the price and a good match with a roast chicken. (6/99)

Michel Ogier Syrah La Rosine VdP de Rhodaniennes 1996 ($20)(Quiz Show I): Medium translucent garnet. Interesting smoked-meat, raspberry & black pepper nose, with a hint of eucalyptus. Still young and fairly tight, but opens up a bit with air. There is a hint of greenness that bothers some people with the initials BK, but I find it marries pleasantly with the smoky baconberry flavors. Lean but flavorful, with nice balance, very tasty. (4/7/00)

Domaine Viret Vin de Pays Porte Méditerranée 'Solstice' 2000 ($10) (Winterfest '03): Medium-dark garnet, purpling at the rim. Black raspberry and plaster smellies, leather and licorice. Dark and purely fruited, in the mold of the same producer's 'Cosmic' but not quite as focused. Still, pretty good stuff if you're a grenache fan. (1/22/03)




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