Archive for June, 2009

IMG_1292Clos Saint Jean is a family estate founded in 1900 by Edmund Tacussel. Wine has been produced at Clos Saint Jean since 1910. Sons Pascal and Vincent have controlled the vinyeard since 1991 when owner Guy Maurel died. In 2003, Philippe Gambie became involved as a consultant. Cambie has been credited with modernizing Clos Saint Jean and dozens of other Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates by focusing on making wines with riper fruit and using small barrels for aging instead of the traditional large foudres or tanks.

The Grenache-dominant wines of Clos Saint Jean are all made from very old vines. They’re opulent, with notes of dark berries and spices. Robert Parker says, “Under the inspired winemaking talent of Rhône oenologist Philippe Cambie in addition to proprietor Vincent Maurel, 2003 marked a breakthrough vintage for Clos Saint-Jean, and that has been followed by some of the finest wines of 2004 and blockbusters again in 2005.”

This is a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre, 3% Cinsault, 2% Vaccarese and 1% Muscardin.

Deep purple/ruby in color. Cherry, kirsch, currant, twizzler and some pepper on the nose. On the palate, cherry, blackcurrant, plum and pepper with leather and tobacco notes and a bit of toast and black olive. Concentrated and rich. Almost a bit chewy with good balance and structure with solid (but soft) tannins and a long, pure finish. Recommended.

1,250 cases made. 14.5% alcohol.

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IMG_1287Eric Texier worked as a nuclear engineer before deciding he would rather make wine. He became a winemaker without any industry experience or family background in vines or wines. His goals and methods developed not from years of schooling (though he studied enology for 2 years at Bordeaux in 1992 and in 1993), but from his readings, visits with winemakers around the world, and work in Burgundy with Jean-Marie Guffens at Verget. He made his first vintage in 1995.

After giving up the idea of buying vineyards (which was too costly a proposition for someone just getting started), he started a small négoce where he selected particularly interesting vineyards. He rediscovered nearly forgotten areas of ancient fame, like Brézème in the northern Côtes du Rhône, and nurtured relationships with people who tend their vines with great passion and care. He has since acquired plots in Côte Rôtie and Condrieu in the northern Rhône, and replanted several hectares in Brézème, with Syrah and Roussanne.

Today, Texier has two sides to his business. First, he continues to act as a negociant (he produces many different wines, from 10 different origins, from Bussières in the Mâconnais to the northern Rhône and the southern Côtes-du-Rhône), but he also makes wines from his own vineyard in Brézème. Brézème is a small appellation in the northern Rhône. He was fascinated by the fact that in the mid-19th century, its wines rivalled those of Hermitage. By 1961, however, just one hectare remained. Eric has now put the appellation back on the map, and is now the leading grower there. He works his vineyards biodynamically, and makes all his wines in a natural manner, only adding sulphur dioxide at bottling.

Eric Texier Brézème Côtes du Rhône 2007
100% Syrah. Aromatics of violet, cherry, red fruit and twizzler. On the palate, on the lighter side with raspberry and cranberry and a little bit of black olive, pepper and thyme. Very approachable, fruit driven and not overly complex. I don’t think this sees any wood and was very Gamay-like to me in many ways. 12% alcohol. $21 a bottle at Chambers Street Wines.

Eric Texier Brézème Côtes du Rhône Roussanne 2007
Stone fruits, hay and wildflowers on the nose. On the palate, apricot, green apple and pear with a little honey. Good minerality, richness and acidity. Medium finish. 12.5% alcohol. $24 a bottle at Chambers Street Wines.

I thought both of these wines were well made and enjoyable. The Syrah was a bit more interesting of the two wines, but I probably preferred the Roussanne. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

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IMG_1266 André Perret is one of the leading producers of Northern Rhône whites. In particular, his Condrieus are among the very best of the appellation.

André Perret took control of the family domaine (half a hectare) in 1982. Like many small vignerons of the northern Rhône, the Perret family were small-scale farmers, growing fruit and keeping livestock as well as tending their small plot of vines. Soon after taking control, Perret purchased a number of plots of Condrieu, together with some in St Joseph, increasing the size of their holdings to over 8 hectares.

50 km south of Lyon, the Saint Joseph vineyard covers an area of 1000 hectares, along 60 km of the Rhône’s right bank. It includes 23 communes in Ardeche, 3 in the Loire. The soils of the region are characterized by metamorphic schist and gneissic granite. They are also shallow, light, permeable and warm — perfect for producing a high quality wine.

Terrace cultivation of these vines on steep hillsides involves some difficulties for wine-growers. Because of the narrowness of the terraces, the use of  machines is impossible — all work must be done manually, so the vines are cultivated entirely by hand.

This is a blend of roughly 50/50 Marsanne and Roussanne, aged one year in barrel, 20% new. Aromatics of peach, white flowers with poached pear. On the palate, apricot, nectarine, honey with some light citrus notes and stony minerality. Rich but elegant. I expect this will be on my short list of best white wines for the year. I was impressed by the ripeness of the fruit, but it showed some restraint and was also well balanced and delineated. 14% alcohol. Imported by Robert Chadderddon Selections. Strongly recommended.

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IMG_1262Kunin Wines was founded in 1998 with wine production growing annually from 400 cases to a current 5,800 cases. Winemaker Seth Kunin produces his wines made with grapes purchased from the vineyards of the Central Coast region of California. Kunin’s varietals include Syrah, Zinfandel, Viognier and blends of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah.

Their Viognier is from Stolpman Vineyard  in the Santa Ynez Valley. Pale straw in color. Aromatics of honeysuckle, tropical fruit with some citrus and cut grass. On the palate, stone fruit, pear and lemon meringue. A bit loaded up front, decent acidity, minerality and richness. I would consider this to be good, though it fails to really impress and certainly better options at the price point. 14.6% alcohol. 425 cases produced.

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