Marie-José, Claire, Lucien and Francois Michel

Le Vieux Donjon: Classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2014 and 2015 Pre-Sell; Dinner with Winemaker Claire Fabre, Featuring the 1990!

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Le Vieux Donjon has been one of the leading estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape since the 1970s, under the direction of Lucien Michel, with his daughter Claire and son Francois now responsible for the winemaking. The red CDP is comprised of 75% Grenache, with vines dating back to 1900, with Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Counoise and white grapes including Clairette. The grapes are approximately 50% destemmed, fermentations are with wild yeasts and aging is in old foudres. The house style is one of elegance and balance, producing wines that are attractive when young and age gracefully for 20 years and more. On my first visits to the estate in the early 1990s with importer Alain Junguenet,  I was particularly impressed with the elegance and beauty of the older wines, even those from so-called lesser vintages. Only one red and one white Châteauneuf are made - no super cuvées to chase point scores - just one consistently delicious wine (except in 1998!) which is always one of the finest wines of the appellation. On offer today are the superb 2014 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge and 2013 Blanc, as well as a pre-sale of the 2015 CDP Rouge. 2015 is a great vintage in the Rhône Valley, giving wines of depth and concentration that are also bright and balanced due to some welcome rain at the end of the season. Barrel tastings of the 2015 Vieux Donjon indicate that this will be an outstanding Châteauneuf, enjoyable young but perhaps best from 2022 to 2032. Also feautured today are the lovely organic Côtes-du-Rhone Villages wines of Domaine de L'Echevin from Adrien Fabre, Claire Michel's husband - the Guillaume de Rouville Blanc is one of the finest southern Rhône whites, made with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier - we urge you to try it!

Please join us at Racines NY on Monday, February 13th, for a celebration of Le Vieux Donjon with winemakers Claire Michel Fabre and Adrien Fabre! We'll enjoy a four-course dinner from Racines Executive Chef Frederic Duca while we taste a remarkable array of old vintages from this great estate. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge: 1990, 1995, 1998, 1998 Cuvée Speciale, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014; Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc: 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2015; Domaine de L'Echevin CDR Villages Saint Maurice "Guillaume de Rouville" 2015 Blanc and 2014 Rouge. $165 all-inclusive of dinner, wine, tax and tip.

Dinner - Vieux Donjon Monday February 13, 2017 7:00pm Racines NY 94 Chambers St

Please join us at Racines NY on Monday, February 13th, for a celebration of Le Vieux Donjon with winemakers Claire Michel Fabre and Adrien Fabre! We'll enjoy a four-course dinner from Racines Executive Chef Frederic Duca while we taste a remarkable array of old vintages from this great estate. Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge: 1990, 1995, 1998, 1998 Cuvée Speciale, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2014; Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc: 2005, 2007, 2013 and 2015; Domaine de L'Echevin CDR Villages Saint Maurice "Guillaume de Rouville" 2015 Blanc and 2014 Rouge. $165 all-inclusive of dinner, wine, tax and tip.

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Vieux Donjon 2014 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Resolutely old-fashioned in the best possible sense, Vieux Donjon makes Châteauneuf that harkens back to an era before super-cuvées, fancy cooperage, and points. The 2014 is comprised of 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault, Counoise, Clairette from old vines averaging over 70 years old. The wine has a ruby to violet robe, the nose is a melange of red and black fruits, eastern spices, garrigue, and tobacco aromas, blessedly free of notes of toasted oak or torrefaction. The mid-weight (for CDP) palate offers a complex blend of flavors ranging from wild strawberry, black cherry, five spice, and roasted game, girded by a spicy mineral foundation. This is generous and fresh, but has the  structure for aging. Enjoy this with game, pot au feu, or for the adventurous crispy duck chow fun. John McIlwain

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Vieux Donjon 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

A blend of 50% Clairette and 50% Roussanne, fermented in stainless steel with native yeasts and has malolactic fermentation blocked, the 2013 Vieux Donjon displays the nervier side of  Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc. The robe is a pale yellow, and with gold highlights. This nose is a bit subdued upon opening but blossoms to reveal lovely aromas of  ripe white stone fruits, acacia honey, and candied lemon peel, with hints of stone and smoke. The mid-weight palate offers flavors of white peach, nectarine, toasted almond, and bergamot. There is nice acidity lending a sense of freshness, offsetting the supple texture. This is really pretty, though it benefits from decanting a for couple of hours to allow the aromatics to harmonize. Best served just below cellar temperature. John McIlwain

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Vieux Donjon 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

A tiny fraction of Vieux Donjon's organically farmed estate in Châtueaneuf-du-Pape is planted to stately white varieties Roussanne and Clairette, which combine for a supple, full-bodied, exotic, and languorous southern French white. Still quite young, fabulously spicy and round (especially compared to the more chiseled 2013), with aromas of yellow apple, wild flowers, kiwi, and fennel that lilt onto the shimmering palate of stone fruit, ripe pears, husk cherries, ginger root, white peppercorn, and crunchy mineral soil. The white wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are famously fascinating with age, but offer great pleasure in their youth, as unique pairings for silky seafood dishes, poultry, veal, and cheeses. Ariana Rolich

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L'Echevin 2014 Saint Maurice Rouge Guillaume de Rouville

Though perhaps not the most well-known of the Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Saint Maurice has a long history of wine making with evidence of winemaking dating back to the Romans. The vines are a planted in clay limestone soils at 350 meters, the coolness of the altitude  lending freshness to the 95% Syrah, 5% Grenache blend. The nose offers aromas of cassis, blackberry, with hints of game, anise, and garrigue. The palate is a medley of black fruit, mineral expression, and  cool-toned herbal notes with good persistence and lift. Try this with lamb or grilled sausage. John McIlwain

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