Old Photo of Côte-Rôtie, Domaine Levet.

New Arrivals from the Northern Rhone: Levet, Balthazar, Lionnet, Gilles and Texier!

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Now that cooler weather is here, we're stocking up on our favorite wines from the Northern Rhone, including new arrivals from 2013 and 2014 and a few of the excellent 2009s and 2010s that remain available. 2013 was a somewhat difficult year for the growers, with poor weather during flowering giving low yields and a bit more rain than usual during the summer. As often happens, generally good weather in the late summer ripened the grapes well bringing good concentration along with firm acidities. Late September rain was an issue for some estates but overall the wines have turned out very well, with many being a bit old-fashioned in style, with excellent terroir expression and good aging potential. "2013 rates as a very good Cornas vintage, one to place in your cellar," says Livingstone-Learmonth in drinkrhone.com, and regarding Cote-Rotie, "What was a tricky and much delayed year at Côte-Rôtie actually worked out well in the end. The wines are often very good and the ripening profile of the year has also contributed to a welcome clarity in the wines, which happily spills over into making them good examples of their sites..." At our recent tasting, the 2013s of Levet and Balthazar showed particularly well - they will drink beautifully within a few years, and will age nicely, perhaps best 2020 to 2035. Speaking of Levet, we're happy to offer the end of stock of his 2009 Côte-Rôtie "Chavaroche" (in magnums), a superb wine that will drink beautifully over the next 15 to 20 years. And from the wonderful organic estate in Cornas, Domaine Lionnet, we're offering their beautiful 2010 "Terres Brulées," an old-fashioned Cornas that is exciting to drink now and that will age well for another 15 to 20 years.

All the wines on offer today are traditional in their winemaking - whole-cluster, wild yeast fermentations and aging in used barrels, except for a small percentage of new oak used by Levet. And of course our friend Eric Texier is making some of the most beautiful wines in the Northern Rhone! (Eric will be in town for a dinner on October 24th, details to come next week.)

No Longer Available

Levet, Bernard 2009 Côte-Rôtie Chavaroche 1.5 L

Mostly from Petite Serine planted in the 1950s on Chavaroche, a superb parcel of granite and schist soils with clay and sand (just west of Cote Brune) a very warm terraced plot sheltered from the north wind. Whole-bunch fermentation, aged one year in old barrels, one year in 15% new, 85% old casks. The 2009 Chavaroche is a magnificent Côte-Rôtie with surprising structure and acidity for the vintage - in fact Nicole Levet suggests drinking the 2010 before the 2009. Superb, elegant nose of deep black fruits, stone and game with hints of cocoa. (Albert Dervieux-Thaise once told me that a good Côte-Rôtie should smell like "le ventre d'un lièvre chaud" - the gut of a warm hare.) This is not that rustic, but definitely has distinctive aromas. The palate is bursting with stony blackberry fruit, with brown spice, citrus, smoke and licorice. This seems softer than the 2010 to me but there is ample lifting acidity and freshness to carry the wine into old age. This is a big, gorgeous Côte-Rôtie that will be a joy to drink over the next 15 to 20 years! David Lillie

  • Out of Stock
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  • $141.99

Levet 2013 Côte-Rôtie La Chavaroche

Mostly from Petite Sérine planted in the 1950s on Chavaroche, a superb parcel of granite and schist soils with clay and sand, just west of Côte Brune, a very warm terraced plot sheltered from the north wind. Whole-bunch fermentation, aged one year in old barrels, one year in 15% new, 85% old casks. The 2013 Chavaroche shows deep black/red color with aromas of  blackberry liqueur, red currant and blueberry, earth, violet and black pepper. The palate is intensely mineral with earthy acidity under tight black fruits, leather, blood orange and spice with a long, stony almost bitter finish. This is a deep and complex Côte-Rôtie that will need 4  to 8 years of cellaring, best perhaps 2025 to 2035. David Lillie

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  • $57.99

Balthazar 2013 Cornas Chaillot

From organically farmed vines in the granitc soils of Chaillot, fermented with native yeasts, whole cluster, and aged in 600 liter casks. The 2013 has a dark robe with aromas of blackberry, violets, tree bark, black tea and pepper. The mid-weight palate offers flavors of wild blackberry, Italian plum, game, and a nearly saline earthiness from the granite. Though by no means a bruiser, this shows good density on the palate with fine (though certainly present) tannins and fresh acidity.  Enjoyable now, with decanting, this is poised, layered, and harmonious. Better still with 3 to 8 years in the bottle. Somewhat feminine for a Cornas from Chaillot, but truly delicious. John McIlwain

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  • $56.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Balthazar 2014 Cornas Sans Soufre

From young vines in Les Côtes & La Lègre, whole bunch 2-week fermentation, wild yeasts, manual cap punching, aged in 7-8 year 600-litre casks for 14 months, unfined, unfiltered. Dark black red color; aromas of very ripe blackberry/blueberry liqueur with a deep earthy center, violet, citrus and animal notes as well. Black fruits on the palate, with earth, licorice and mineral flavors framed in firm acidity and round tannins, quite deep, pure and long.  This is fascinating and delicious now, perhaps best 2020-2025.

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  • $58.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Lionnet 2010 Cornas Terre Brulée

A leading producer of traditional Cornas, Domaine Lionnet has modernized only slightly over the last 20 years with the wines losing their former "rustic" character, while retaining complexity and terroir expression, very much in the style of the Gonons in Saint-Joseph. Organic since 2007, whole-bunch fermentations with wild yeasts, aging in both 600 liter and 228 liter two to eight year-old oak casks. From 100 year-old vines on Mazards (a great parcel below Reynards having both granite and limestone/clay soils), 70 year-old vines on Combe, Chaillot and Pied la Vigne. The 2010 shows lovely deep aromas of blackberry and black cherry, with brown spice, cocoa and musk lifted by high-toned floral and menthol notes. The palate is deep and structured showing blackberry liqueur, earth and licorice with very firm acidity. Very long and tight. This is classic old-school Cornas from a great vintage, and although it's exciting now, it will age beautifully, probably best 2020 - 2030. David Lillie

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  • $47.99

Texier 2014 Côte-Rôtie Vieilles Vignes

"The Corps de Loup vineyard has not ceased to surprise us for the elegance and finesse of the wines it produces. It’s hard to imagine a more ethereal and delicate expression of Syrah than this 2014 Côte-Rotie. Don’t be fooled: if the subtleness of the tannins make it an approachable wine today, 10 to 15 years will bring it to new horizons of minerality and salinity. It might be like the wines of Albert Dervieux Theize, so tender in their youth that no one pays attention. But, as a recently drank 1985 proved, his Côte-Roties age remarkably. Aged 18 months in Burgundian barrels of 5 wines, total SO2 equals 25 mg/l at bottling. 12.5%. – 540 bottles and 12 magnums. " - Eric Texier

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  • $64.99

Rousset 2014 Crozes-Hermitage Les Picaudières

Les Picaudières is perhaps the best vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage, formerly owned by Raymond Roure. It's a steep slope of granite terraces, isolated in an oak forest facing due south and protected from the wind. (In the opinion of Livingston-Learmonth in "Wines of the Northern Rhône" wine from Les Picaudières is "certainly better" than many Hermitage from the eastern part of the hill.) The vines range from 20 to 80 years-old. The grapes are hand-harvested and mostly de-stemmed. The wine ages 16 months, 40% in foudre, 60% in burgundy barrels, new to 5 year-old. 2014 is another excellent vintage at Domaine Rousset thanks to the great vineyard and cellar work of Stephane and his father Robert. The 2014 Les Picaudières shows deep pure aromas of blackberry, black cherry and red currant with hints of violets, earth and licorice, a bit riper and more forward than the 2013. The palate is dense and well-structured with black fruits, mint and saline minerals, but soft enough to be absolutely delicious as a young wine. This is a serious wine of terroir - a very elegant Crozes that should be decanted if drunk now, best 2020 to 2030+.

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  • $22.99

Gilles, Guillaume 2011 Cornas Chaillot

Mostly from 40 year-old vines in Chaillot from parcels high on the slope on granite (Les Terasses) and lower on limestone and clay, (Les Grands Murs). Whole cluster fermentation with wild yeasts, minimal pumping over, manual cap punching, aged in 4 to 14 year-old 400 and 600-liter casks. In general, 2011 Cornas tends to be more supple and gentle than the normal "black wine" style. Certainly with good ripeness but lacking aggressive tannins and having round attractive fruit for early drinking. “We had 60 mm (2.4 in) of rain on 26 August when the crop was already at 13° to 13.5°. The grapes lost their depth, so I waited for them to re-concentrate. I harvested two plots on 5 September, and waited some more, then finished on 20 September. It is a very aromatic year, with the fruit well-juiced from the kick-off." - Guilhaume Gilles. The wine shows lovely red fruits as well as blackberry, surprisingly round and quite pretty. Not exactly Pinot Noir, but a more Northern expression of Syrah. Quite full and harmonious in the finish - drink now and through 2025 and beyond.

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  • $59.99

Gilles, Guillaume 2012 Cornas Chaillot

While working for Robert Michel, Guillaume Gilles began with one-half hectare inherited from his grandfather in 2002 and then took over the 1.5 hectares of Robert Michel on Chaillot in 2007. As at Lionnet, the soils are worked by tractor and by hand without herbicides. Fermentations are whole-cluster with wild yeasts and last three weeks or more, at relatively low temperature due to the cold cellar. Minimal pumping over, manual cap punching, aged in 4 to 14-year-old 400 and 600-liter casks.Guillaume is fortunate to have superb terroir in the heart of Chaillot, with soils both of decomposed granite and of clay/limestone, giving a unique purity and saline minerality to his wines. The 2012 Gilles Cornas shows bright aromas of red currant, blackberry and blueberry fruit, floral and elegant with stone and musk. The high-toned aromas contrast with dense black fruits on the palate, surprisingly deep and ripe with a bit more alcohol than normal for this wine. Firm acidity and elegant tannins frame the long finish with minerals and bright fruits lingering on the palate. This is an excellent Cornas combining brightness and power, and built to age, best perhaps 2023 to 2030.

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  • $61.99