January's trip to France included many tastings of 2015s from both the northern and southern Rhone. It's obvious that this is an excellent vintage, though some wines may lack the grip and structure present in the 2010s. They make up for it, however, with the gorgeous fruit that is complex and deep and brightened by the late rains that fell just before and during harvest in some regions. The Syrahs of the northern Rhone are particularly beautiful, with tremendous aromatic appeal and supple, round textures on the palate that will make them delicious as young wines - even in Cornas! Reports from extensive blind tastings by the leading Rhone authorities all indicate that the better wines from Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie will all age well in the twenty year range. The top Saint-Josephs should age well also, as will a few of the very best Crozes-Hermitage - we think of the Rousset "Les Picaudières." The problem in this very alluring vintage will be obtaining the wines, as the tiny quantities produced, and the huge demand, will make the wines both scarce and expensive. Happily the wines in today's email are not only among the best examples from their appellations, but they have remained reasonably priced and a few great values are included as well. (Wines arrive by Tuesday, April 25)
Please join us at the bar at Racines on Tuesday, May 2nd, as Racines pours a selection of reds and whites from Dard & Ribo, Domaine Gripa, Franck Balthazar, Laurent Habrard and Domaine Gonon. (Beginning at 6pm.)
Recent vintages from Dard and Ribo have been consistently excellent, and firmly in the "natural" camp, with foot pressing, whole cluster fermentation and minimal SO2 or manipulation. We love the purity and balance of these wines, the deep berry fruit and floral character. Decanting is recommended. Quantities are very limited.
The Cornas "La Geynale" from Vincent Paris is always among the very best wines of Cornas, based on vines planted in 1910 by Paul Michel. The fermentation is with mostly whole-clusters and aging is in 2 to 10 year-old casks. The Cornas Granit 60 is also made with old vines, but with more de-stemming, giving a bit more roundness and softness to the wine. Both should age well for 15 years or more and will be great examples of this wonderful vintage.
Domaine Bernard and Fabrice Gripa - "This is a top domaine at Saint-Joseph and Saint-Péray, and the wines can be followed with confidence" says our friend Livingstone-Learmonth in DrinkRhone. We have always been enthusiastic about the Saint-Perays from this estate and we are happy to offer both the Saint-Perays and Saint-Josephs in 2015. Fabrice Gripa is now working with organic methods and the wines deserve your attention, with the Saint-Joseph "Le Berceau" red and white being near the top of the appellation. The blanc "Le Berceau," from very old vines of 100% Marsanne, is particularly outstanding.
Franck Balthazar in Cornas is making beautiful wines, continuing the old-fashioned winemaking of his father René while converting the estate to organic agriculture and vinifying with minimal sulfites. The 2015 Cornas Sans Soufre is from young vines, the wine undergoes a two-week whole-bunch fermentation with manual cap-punching, is aged in old barrels and is bottled, un-fined, un-filtered and un-sulfured! The 2015 Cornas Cuvée Casimir Balthazar is from a mix of old and young vines and represents one of the greatest values in Cornas.
Laurent Habrard is an organic grower we visited many years ago who has excellent old-vine vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage. In 2015 he produced a red Crozes-Hermitage simply labeled "Vin Bio" that is insanely delicious, both to drink young and for 5 to 8 years of aging. It's a sensational value and is highly recommended. Habrard also has one-half hectare in Hermitage "Les Rocoules" with vines that are 60 to 110 years old! Try the ripe and delicious 2014 while we wait for the 2015...
Stéphane Rousset has, in our opinion, the best vineyards of any grower in Crozes-Hermitage, with soils similar to Hermitage itself. Stephane's parcels are all on hillsides with old vines, producing some of the greatest values in the northern Rhône. His 2014 reds are delicious (and in stock) but today's feature is his distinctive 2015 Crozes-Hermitage Blanc. From 60 to 90 year-old vines in the hillside vineyards of "les Vedias" and "Tout" in Erome, on decomposed granite with clay and gravel, great terroir that produces a serious wine!
The Dard & Ribo 2015 Crozes Blanc is from 30 year-old vines, more Roussanne than Marsanne, in the "Les Baties" vineyard in Larnage with soils of granite with clay. The wine ages for 12 months in a mix of large and small barrels, with a small percentage new, approximately 250 cs made.
The 2015 Dard & Ribo Crozes-Hermitage Rouge is from numerous sites in the villages of Crozes and Larnage, on mostly granite soils. The fermentation is with whole-clusters, the wine ages in used 600 liter barrels. Organic farming, minimal sulfur.
This juicy and delicious Saint-Joseph comes from 20+ year-old vines at Ardoix (central Saint-Joseph) in a high-altitude vineyard. The grapes are de-stemmed and the wine ages partially in vat, partially in small used barrels.Deep, bright black/red color. Very bright floral aromas with pure berry fruits - blackberry and blueberry - with a bit of musk and roast meat. A bright attack, then very good density and weight on the palate with very ripe berry fruits typical of 2015 backed by firm acidity and intense mineral flavors. This is an extroverted Saint-Joseph, quite ripe and lush, but at the same time quite firm and earthy - delicious now, but give this wine a few years to come together.
The Paris Cornas "Granit 60" is from 100 year-old vines in "Les Mazards," 65 year-old vines in "Patou" and 24 year-old vines in "Sauman." The grapes are partially de-stemmed then undergo a 2-3 week vinification with wild yeasts. The wine ages in two to ten year-old barrels and is bottled un-filtered. About 400 to 500 cases are produced.
The Vincent Paris Cornas "La Geynale" is 85% from the top of La Geynale, including vines from 1910, 15% from Tezier. 80 - 85% whole bunch fermentation, with wild yeasts, aged in 2 - 10 year-old casks. This is one of the top Cornas of 2015.
One of the few "natural" winemakers in the northern Rhône, Frank Balthazar is certified organic and vinifies with wild yeasts and minimal sulfur, even producing a cuvée of Cornas without SO2. The Cuvée Casimir Balthazar is from 25% old vines in "Les Mazards" and young vines in "La Légre." Balthazar's Cornas are aromatically beautiful with silky, pure fruit and terrific length and are never heavy or over-extracted. The 2015 Casimir Balthazar shows a dense red/black color, with elegant pure blackberry, cassis aromas with violet and stone and hints of spice, a bit closed from the recent bottling. The palate is dense and elegant, but not heavy, with firm tannins surrounding lovely pure black fruits with a beautiful core of minerals, earth and berry fruits. The finish is all stone and juicy acids. Beautiful wine - hold 5 to 8 years and drink till 2035. DL
Domaine Bernard and Fabrice Gripa is one of the top estates in Saint-Joseph and Saint-Peray, with the whites being particularly stylish and well-made. The Saint-Peray Les Pins is from 30 year-old vines on both granite and limestone soils, 75% Marsanne, 25% Roussanne. Honeyed floral, herbal and citrus aromas, creamy lemon oil, hay and stone.The palate is round and fairly soft with spicy white fruits and lime, but with nice finishing acidity and mineral character. An elegant Rhône white that will drink well over the next 10 years, a great aperitf and a good match with full-flavored fish and pork dishes and mild cheeses.
This little-known wine from Bernard and Fabrice Gripa is one of the most delicious and fascinating whites of the Northern Rhône. From 50 to 60 yeal-old vines in Saint-Peray, 60% Roussanne and 40% Marsanne.
The Gripa 2015 Saint-Joseph Blanc is 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne from 35 year-old vines. Drink over the next ten years, decanting recommended.
The Gripa 2015 Saint-Joseph is from fifteen to sixty-five year-old vines in the "Peygros" vineyard, above "Saint-Joseph," shared by Gonon and Chapoutier, on granite with thin soils. The grapes are de-stemmed and the wine ages in a mix of small and large casks, new to eight years of age. This is a more forward wine that will drink beautifully over the next five to eight years.
The 2015 Gripa "Le Berceau" Blanc is 100% Marsanne frm 60+ year-old vines in the "Saint-Joseph" vineyard above Tournon. 215 cases made, a rare and beautiful wine. "This imposes, and is a kingly wine with its steady assertion of ripe flavour and near red wine structure." (DrinkRhone) Drink over the next fifteen years.
The Gripa Saint-Joseph "le Berceau" is from the vineyard called "Saint-Joseph" in Tournon, one of the best sites in the appellation, with the Gripas having a full-south exposure and vines planted mostly in the 1920s. The soils are granite with clay and stones. The fermentation is with 30 to 40% whole clusters, with aging in one to six year-old barrels. This is an outstanding old-vine Saint-Joseph that should ideally be cellared for about 5 years and should drink beautifully for fifteen to twenty years.
From one of the few organic estates in Crozes Hermitage. The vines are 25 to 75 years old, most in Erome and Gervans on slopes of decomposed granite, some in Pont d'Isere on sand and gravel. No SO2 during vinification, aged in vat and in 2 - 5 year-old small barrels. The 2015 Habrard is a lovely wine, showing a bright red/black color; lovely aromas of ripe black cherry, blackberry and blueberry with hints of roast meat, mint and dark chocolate, quite pure and elegant. The palate shows dense, supple blackberry fruit with earth, smoke, black olive and licorice, nicely balanced with citrus and spice and finishing with terrific length of berry fruits, saline minerals and cool acidity. Lovely wine! Delicious now, served cool, or hold for 5 to 8 years. DL
100% Roussanne from old vines in the vineyards of "Les Champs" and "Opatyres," on granite with clay and stones. The wine ferments and ages in a mix of vats and small, used barrels. Decanting is advised, drink over the next ten years.
The reds from Dard & Ribo have been outstanding in recent vintages, with lovely purity of fruit, silky tannins and terrific length. We hope we get to taste the 2015s! The Saint-Joseph rouge is from old vines, mostly on "Pitrou" in Saint-Jean de Muzols, and "Les Champs" in Tournon, with a mix of sandy granite and hard granite with quartz, clay and alluvial stones. Whole cluster fermentation, aging in used barrels for 12 months. 2 bottles per person maximum.
From old vines in the vineyard of the same name in Larnage, on granite with clay and rolled stones. Whole-cluster fermentation, aged in old barrels, about 150 cases made. Sorry, one bottle per person, please.
From 60 to 90 year-old vines in the hillside vineyards of "les Vedias" and "Tout" in Erome, decomposed granite with clay and gravel - great terroir producing this serious but overlooked wine from the Rousset family. The Rousset Crozes Blanc is outstanding in 2015 and is one of the finest white wine values in the store! It's an intense and delicious Marsanne showing elegant aromas of lemon, stone, dried pear, almond, apricot and hay - really lovely. The palate is dense, mineral and balanced by firm acidity with citrus, pear, grilled almond, anise and herbal flavors, with a long stone and citrus finish. Delicious in its youth, this will benefit from a few years in the cellar and should be quite interesting in 2025. Serve with white meats, full-flavored fish dishes or provençal fish soup and a wide variety of cheeses. David Lillie