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WTN: Many Rhones

Jean Brislance

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Chris Gross was kind enough to grace the Twin Cities with his presence on Sunday, so some of the Twin Cities locals gathered to welcome him at a favorite local establishment, Bakery on Grand, in Minneapolis. The locals in attendance were Paul and Elaine Campbell, Lee Short and Melissa, Lee Kitzenberg and Jen, Dale Roberts, Jon Gorman, Jason Swanson, and myself. The theme of the evening was a loose one of Rhones, with a few others thrown in to mix things up a bit.

A disclaimer: we moved through some flights fairly quickly in order to keep up with the various courses of our dinners, so it was difficult trying to evaluate the wines in a short amount of time. I got more time with some wines, and less with others, so some of my notes are sketchy at best. All apologies if details were missed, or if I slaughtered some of the names of the wines! Here are some impressions I jotted down:

A couple of whites to start...

1997 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc "Chante Allouette" - Initially served pretty cold, so the nose did not give up much right away. After it warmed, I picked up some citrusy notes (mandarin orange, perhaps?). Flavors of green apple, and a nice bit of spice on the finish. Light and subtle, and a little bit oily in texture. Overall, a fairly subtle, restrained, yet elegant wine.

2001 Pierre Gaillard Condrieu - A gorgeous nose. Incredibly fragrant, with huge perfumed floral aromas absolutely leaping from the glass. Flavors of pear, peach, cinnamon spice, and more floral notes. A big, oily texture in the mouth, and a long, long finish that shows nice fruit and mineral character. Great spiciness, too. A very nice white. I liked this a lot.

On to the reds…

Flight 1 - The Hermitages

1995 Ferraton Pere & Fils Hermitage "La Cuvee des Miaux" - A really smoky nose, with almost a cigar ash aroma. Some dark fruit on the palate, but also more of the ashen quality that was a bit off-putting. Some of that blew off with some time in the glass, but the fruit that remained had some strong notes of overripe, raisiny dark dried fruit. Not one of my favorites of the night.

1994 J-L Chave Hermitage - The nose on this seemed somewhat muted at first, giving up some pretty spice, red berry, and a little bit of dark fruit. Lighter on the palate, with some subtle berry fruit, spice, and minerals. Very elegant, smoother texture with finer tannins. It was interesting to be able to compare this to the...

1992 J-L Chave Hermitage - Also initially muted on the nose. Eventually, this really started to show me some dark fruit, smoke, spice. Lots of flavor, with earth, dark fruit, minerals, pepper, and spice. Seemed to have more tannins than the '94. An elegant wine that just kept getting more interesting. I took a smell of this as the night went on, and it revealed some gorgeous minty notes. Beautiful.

Flight 2 - The CdP's

1993 Boisrenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Initially when poured this wine showed a really "spritzy" quality. It was very lively in the mouth with this sort of citrus prickle on the tongue. That blew off rather quickly, but I thought this was left a little bit flat after that, with just lots of tannins. I was not picking up much fruit.

1999 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape "Cuvee des Cadette" - Big fruit on the nose, with almost a buttery note. Lots of blackberry and red berry fruit with spice. Seems like an almost "New World" CdP with lots of fruit and spicy oak. More oak crept in with time in the glass, and the tannins were grippy and firm.

1999 Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Some red berry fruit and minerals, but there were a lot of really firm tannins standing in the way on this for me. I was having trouble coaxing out much fruit, and was just left with this drying, tannic sensation in my mouth.

Flight 3 - The Crozes-Hermitages

1994 Allain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage - This was a really earthy wine. A nice nose of earth, spice. More flavors along those lines, also with a little bit of tobacco. A wine with some funky notes to it that were very interesting. There seemed to be a little fruit behind it, but the wine showed a lot of earth and spice overall.

2000 Allain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage - It was interesting to taste this after the 1994, because it was just so different. This seemed almost ripe fruit on the nose and did not have the same earthiness. Plenty of red fruit, licorice, and spice on the palate. This seemed almost fruit forward compared to the other one, but it also had good balance and was very tasty.

1999 Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage "Cuvee Alberic Bouvet" - A few folks instantly recognized this as "Florida Jim's wine!" Lots of spice and earth. Very pure flavors of red fruit and minerals. Perhaps the best texture of all the Crozes-Hermitages this evening. The flavors are very focused, and it is expansive in the mouth. Very nice. (And as a side note, this was probably my favorite flight of the evening. I thought these wines showed well.)

Flight 4 - Cote Rotie, Rasteau, and Cornas

1998 M. Chapoutier Cote Rotie "La Mordoree" - Lots of pepper and spice on the nose, and very spicy and peppery on the palate as well, with powerful red fruit character. Also some notes of plum and mint. The tannins are firm, and the aromas in this wine just keep getting better. I had some of this in a glass all the way through dessert, and it evolved into this soft, gorgeous, perfumed red fruit aroma. A joy just to smell, and it is really just a baby. This was my wine of the night.

2000 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau Cotes du Rhone - Black pepper, chocolate, and a little bit cheesy on the nose. A fairly high extraction on this wine, with lots of red fruit and oak, but some absolutely fierce tannins that absolutely caked your mouth. This was the most tannic wine of the night for me.

1999 Marcel Juge Cornas "Cuvee C" - There was some debate as to whether or not this wine was corked. I was in the camp that felt it was not. It was gamey and funky on the nose, with some red fruit, and lots of black pepper, eventually picking up some barnyard aromas as it opened up. Blackberry, black pepper, an minerals on the palate. Tannins were pretty firm as well.

A few others…

1976 Casecha Rioja Vina Real Grand Reserva - It is not every day I get to try a Rioja whose grapes were harvested when I entered kindergarten! I don't even know where to begin describing this wine. There was almost a pruney dark fruit quality to it, with some sweet tobacco as well. Seemed to be a rather delicate wine, with plenty of fine tannins that were still present.

1988 Pernard Il des Vergelesses 1er Cru - Lee Short thought he should open a Burgundy, and who were we to stop him? Some initial clove-like spice on the nose that was very pretty. Some cherry, licorice, and tea leaves, with some nice mineral presence as well. A substantial wine, still showing the presence of some bigger tannins.

1998 Domaine de Beaumalric Muscat De Beaumes De Venise - Interestingly enough, both Paul and Jason brought a bottle of this to the dinner! What are the odds? A lovely dessert wine that showed lots of apricot, peach, and maybe a little bit of orange zest as well. Big and thick on the palate, and not overly sweet. Just really nice, and a great match to my almond touile for dessert.

It was really fun evening, and thanks to everyone for sharing all the wonderful wines.

All the best,


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