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Rhone All Stars

Friday night at Red Slate was awesome! Pulling the corks on so many of the top wines from the Rhone valley was enlightening and delicious.  We enjoyed two flights on wine, the first focused on the northern Rhone followed by one with four Chateauneuf-du-Papes.  We concentrated on just the top producers and wines, so we had a clear look how the wines show both terrior and the hand of the winemakers. 

The first flight was comprised of:

Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Côte Rôtie 2009 – I served this wine out of the Riedel Swan decanter.  I chose it for a couple reasons, first for such a star studded tasting I wanted to start with a dramatic presentation for which this decant is admirably suited. Next, I figured this wine would be tight, so I wanted to give it plenty of space to breath in the larger base.  The wine itself was interesting, and was the one that evolved the most during the course of the evening. At first it just showed a bunch of oak and a modern take on syrah, but by the end of the night the elements of the wine came into harmony and showed the balance of elegance and rustic tones for which Cote Rotie is known. Floral tones, black pepper, pork, brambleberries, rather delicious and certainly a modern take on the region.

Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 2009 - I knew this wine would be closed up and need some breathing room, so I poured it from the Riedel Amadeo decanter. This wine was tannic and hard all night, but it still showed an incredible amount of class that will come to the forefront in another 5+ years when the wine softens up.  Without a doubt one of the winners of the night for me, but only as something to put in the back of the cellar and forget about. 

Super sexy decanter next to plastic water bottle due to E coli scare.

Super sexy decanter next to plastic water bottle due to E coli scare.

Alain Voge Cornas Les Vielles Fontaines 1996 – I’ve enjoyed this wine in the past and I knew it would be friendly right away, so I was simply decanting to remove sediment by using the Riedel Bliss decanter. This wine next to the Allemand was a fantastic study in how Cornas ages.  Its always rustic, but the Voge was much more approachable and illustrated why this region is so well regarded.  The wine was definitely showing plenty of tertiary notes and doesn’t need anymore age, drink up.  The biggest surprise of the night was how much acid this wine had, tons! Sommelier wet dream, big bold red with lots of acid…

JL Chave Hermitage 1992 – Like the Voge, I knew this wine would open quickly, so I used the Riedel Face 2 Face decanter to remove sediment and provide some amazing visuals for a top tier wine.  Without a doubt the most regal wine of the evening.  The nose needed a bit of time to come into its own, but the mouth immediately showed the majesty of Hermitage.  1992 was a tough, rainy year in the Northern Rhone, but Jean-Louis and his father Gerard are another example of outstanding winemakers beating the odds and producing a fantastic wine in an off year. I don’t think that this wine will continue improve, but you don’t need to rush to drink it either.

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The second flight Chateauneuf focused  included the following:

Vieux Télégraphe La Crau Châteauneuf du Pape 2007 – The iconic wine from the Brunier brothers is usually pretty friendly right out of the gate, and this wine was no exception.  I decanted into the Riedel Bliss decanter mostly to help it open more quickly, but there was a surprising amount of sediment as well.  In the land of Chateauneuf, I find there are two color spectrums that the wines will display, one is more the reds and browns, the other is purple and inky.  The VT was definitely in the red category, lots of cherry, raspberry, earth, spices, and garrigue.  It was a perfect combination of complexity and approachability.  2007 was a great year for bold styles of CdP, and I think this wine exemplifies this. 

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 2007 – I poured this wine from the Riedel Swan decanter because I figured it would need more room to breath.  Like the Vieux Telegraphe, it was throwning a bit more sediment than I expected.  Unfortunately, unlike its 2007 counter point, it was a bit reduced and never came out of its shell. Its obvious this wine is well bred, but it just didn’t want to show its true potential.  Everyone has off days.  Like the VT, it was definitely projecting in reds and browns. Put it back in the cellar and forget about it for a while.

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape 2009 – Every Clos des Papes I’ve had is friendly and more accessible so I used the Face to Face decanter from Riedel to help the wine open up more quickly.  This wine was all about purple inky tones! Olives, garrigue, white pepper, blackberries, intense and high alcohol, but still charming.  Worthy of the praise and acclaim it receives, but certainly a wine with limited application on my dinner table.

Pierre Usseglio & Fils Réserve des 2 Frères 2009 – This is the first time I’ve had this wine, not knowing what to expect I used the Riedel Amadeo decanter to give it plenty of air contact.  I’m glad I did because it certainly took its time opening up, and throughout the night had an interesting biscuit note to it.  That being said, it definitely showed the modern face of Chateauneuf, purple and inky with lots of fruit, but some very pleasant lavender and white pepper notes also came into play.  I think this wine would be more enjoyable on its own rather than in the comparative setting, where it was playing second fiddle to some of the other wines. 

Overall this was an incredible tasting both for the hedonistic and intellectual elements.