All in a day's work. Can one still tell anything reliably after having tasted 50 similar reds in the course of 1 hour? I hope so!
3 broad regions were represented: White Burgundy (only 3 wines), Northern Rhone (about a dozen), Southern Rhone & Provence, with the Southern Rhone being the star of the show and having by far the largest coverage. The much hyped 2007 vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (by Robert Parker) was here to prove its chops. It did not disappoint, nor did it blow me away. Very good wines, but frankly Southern Rhone has been churning out "monstrous" wines for years now. It is becoming a bit much for my palate, and seems to be a cross-over style appellation for California wine lovers transitioning to France. The wines are ripe, concentrated, sweet, plush and warm, sometimes spicy, many almost jammy. Delicious, but not as food friendly as almost any other region in France I can think of. Cotes du Rhones (CdR's) and Liracs continue to offer tremendous value as compared to CdP's whose prices have skyrocketed north of $100/bottle for sought-after producers like Pierre Usseglio, Domaine du Pegau, or Chateau Rayas. CdP's are generally more complex with better textures than neighboring appellations, but they come with lofty price tags.
Here are the wines that stood out across all categories:
- 2006 Domain Jomain Batard Montrachet Grand Cru - incredible!!! $$$$
- 2008 Domaine de la Fouquette Cotes de Provence Cuvee Rosee d'Aurore - nice!
- Mouton Condrieu Cote Bonnette 2006 - my oh my! $$
- Domaine Vallet Saint Joseph Rouge 2005 Cuvee des Muletiers - raw meat!
- Domaine Jean-Michel Stephan Cote Rotie Vieille Vignes 2006 - refined! $$$
- Domaine Escaravailles Cotes du Rhone Les Sablieres 2007 - good!
- Domaine Escaravailles Rasteau La Ponce 2006 - cakey!
- Domaine de Villeneuve Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes 2006 - plush!
- Domaine Salettes Bandol Rouge 2004 - great mouvedre!
- Pierre Usseglio 2007 Cotes du Rhone - nice!
- Cuvee du Vatican Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve Sixtine 2007 - good! $$
- Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 - good! $$
- Mas De Boislauzon Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition 2007 - elegant!
- Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape Tradition 2007 - balanced! $$
- Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Cuvee de Mon Aieul" 2007 - classic! $$$
- Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape Reserve 2007 - flavorful!
- Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "La Fontaine" 2008 - sharp! $$
- Segries Cotes du Rhone "Clos de l'Hermitage" 2007 - nice!
- Segries Lirac Cuvee Reserve 2007 - tasty!
Usseglio was classic Southern Rhone. Aside from super-concentrated Rhones, there was a nice representation of delicious Rosés from subtle Cote de Provence and Bandol to the heavier Tavel. But in the end, it was the majestic Batard Montrachet white Burgundy grand cru that made me delirious. If you can afford it, more power to you! If not, there are plenty of other selections to impress your palate. Ask your favorite wine shop. You know what mine is.