Le Combard (Photo E. Lillie)

Garon Côte-Rôtie and Balthazar Cornas; For Now and for Later...

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Just arrived from Domaine Garon are the 2010 Côte-Rotie "les Triottes" and 2011 "La Sybarine" as well as their wonderfully delicious 2011 Vin de Pays Syrah. The Garon family has been in Ampuis for many generations but only began re-planting abandoned vineyards in the early 1980s, and made their first wine in 1995. Their parcel on the Côte Brune is a beautful south-facing amphitheatre directly above La Landonne. The backyard of their home ascends into their parcels on the Côte Blonde: Le Goutay, Combard, Lancement, Mollard and Triottes. Traditionalists and vineyard workers by nature, the walls and terraces are well-maintained by Jean-Francois and sons Kevin and Fabien. "Wine is made in the vineyard," say the Garons. Kevin, mostly in charge of the cellar, says "I reject the idea of the 'winemaker' – I'm seeking a more Burgundian style; I've learned to extract less."  The Garons want their wines to be pleasurable at a young age so there is a high percentage of de-stemming, depending on the vineyard and vintage – "after all, even the Romans de-stemmed" says Kevin. The Garons have a unique style of their own, not strictly traditional or modern, but anchored in great vineyard work and minimal intervention in the cellar. The 2010 "Triottes" is an excellent Côte-Rotie at a great price that will drink beautifully within 4 or 5 years, while the Sybarine and Vin de Pays are delicious now and are fabulous values!

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 2010 Cornas Chaillot is mostly from 98 year-old vines in Chaillot, plus 50 year-old vines in Mazard. Two-week whole-bunch fermentation with manual cap-punching, aging in five-year and older 600 liter casks. This is a very traditional style of Cornas, inky in color and extremely firm with ripe skin and stem tannins. A great Rhône Syrah in the making, it will need 8 to 10 years at least, peak drinking perhaps 2020 to 2035. Drink it if you dare!

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Garon 2010 Côte-Rôtie Les Triotes

From primarily "shiste blonde" with some granite in the parcels of Triottes, Combard, and Lancement, on mid and upper slopes in the Côte Blonde. A very small percentage of new oak in 2010 with mostly older barrels. A well-structured wine featuring kirsch and blackberry fruits, especially from Combard, which will drink well soon and cellar well for at least twenty years. This from Livingston-Learmonth in DrinkRhône; "Good, thorough red robe. The nose shows blackberry fruit, comes with various layers of depth, the fruit mulled, and mixing up red fruits and vanilla as well, touches of black raisin and white pepper: all in all, an interesting start. This is good, still close-knit wine: it has a smoky outer casing, with good gusto in its red stone fruits, then charcoal from its oak towards the finish. There is a plum fruit, Pinot influence. It has just opened enough to show a sexy promise. The length is fresh, there is plenty of crackle in the wine, and it ends on tang, smoke. Lots of pleasure to come – it will drink well around 2015-16." This is a sensational value in Côte-Rotie from this superb vintage.

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  • $39.99

Garon 2011 Côte-Rôtie La Sybarine

From 25 year-old vines in Goutay and Mollard on the lower slopes of the Côte Blonde. Granite sub-soil with clay and pebbly sand topsoil. Aged 18 months in old barriques. La Sybarine, on 100% granite soils, is the most forward and open of the Garon Côte-Roties. This has lovely cherry and blackberry liqueur aromas with hints of spice and violets. The palate is ripe but with good acidity and lift, and with good underlying mineral character. A bit tight right now, but already quite delicious with lovely sweet fruit in the finish, this should open up nicely over the next few years and drink well until 2022. Great value! (Last 24 bottles, don't delay!)

 

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  • $36.99

Garon 2011 IGP Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah

100% Syrah from vines just outside the Cote-Rotie appellation, above Bocharey on the Cote-Blonde. This is a beautiful junior Cote-Rotie showing lovely aromas of tart cherry, raspberry, violets, spices and musk. The palate is ripe but balanced with fresh acidity, with pretty and quite complex red fruits lingering on the palate. Really a pretty wine and a great value at $21. Only 125 cases made.

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  • $19.99

Balthazar, Franck 2005 Cornas Chaillot

Mainly from 90 year-old vines in Chaillot, two-week whole bunch fermentation, aged in old 500 liter casks. Franck Balthazar took over from his father René in 2002 and has maintained the old-fashioned ways while converting the estate to organic farming. A traditonal Cornas that is showing well now and will continue to soften nicely over the next ten years.

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  • $64.99

Balthazar, Franck 2010 Cornas Chaillot

Here's a great descpription by our favorite Rhône writer, Livingston-Learmonth: "Thick, Cornasien robe, full. Big, oily, saturated bouquet that has a 1990 richness, gives the image of red meat strength – there is packing here. It is a very complex nose, with violet and polished leather involved as well, has a lot to show. The palate has a black berry drive, has acetate in it as well. It shows savoury, meat gravy features, is compact, but extends a long way. The black fruit is squeezy in this Big Beast Cornas, that bears black raisin, some brioche sweetness until the end grain enters – this resembles oak, but isn’t. The palate will need leaving until 2017 or 2018 – it is robust and demanding now, its deep-seated matter leading into a glowing end, which shows the strength of the vintage."

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  • $59.99

Balthazar 2011 Cotes-du-Rhône

This is a sensational Cotes-du-Rhône Syrah from Franck Balthazar, one of the most traditional winemakers in the northern Rhône, made from young vines just outside the Cornas appellation, organically farmed. The aromas are deep and round – ripe blackberry, violet, mint with a hint of smoked meat, really superb. The palate is supple and bright with mintly black and blueberry fruit, with hints of rose-petal. Balanced and eminently gulpable, this is in the style of the Gonon Les Iles Feray and will give great satisfaction over the next few years. A great value and highly recommended!

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  • $20.99