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As with Burgundy, we don't usually associate "Northern Rhône" and "reasonable prices" but these two estates quietly make some of the best wines in their appellations without the high price tags of their neighbors. We're very happy to have five new arrivals from Clos de la Bonnette and to offer 2018s and 2019s from Domaine Rousset! (Wines are in stock or arrive Thurs 7/15)
Clos de la Bonnette
Directly above the town of Condrieu, just north of the Côteau de Vernon (across the Arbuel river) are the dramatic almost unworkable steep slopes of the Côte Bonnette. Here, Isabelle Guiller and her husband Henri Montabonnet, who had grown organic fruits and vegetables since 1970, created the Clos de la Bonnette. They carefully replanted abandoned vineyards that had never seen chemical treatments and made their first wines in 2009. Organic work on the côteaux is incredibly difficult. As horse or tractor work on the steep, narrow terraces is impossible, the family adapted an artisanal tool that enables them to plow slightly without breaking the structure of the ground and preserving the life of the soil. Treatments against mildew are totally natural with minimal use of copper sulfate. This is certainly among the best farming in the Northern Rhone.
Best known for their Condrieu (Eric Texier is a big fan!), especially the very elegant "Legende Bonnetta," the estate decided to take advantage of the excellent late-season weather in 2019 to make a late-harvest Condrieu - "La Roc D'Ucarisse." The wine shows a brilliant yellow/gold color with complex, ripe aromas of peach, pineapple and passion fruit. The palate is explosive with lush flavors of apricot and citrus - pineapple, grapefuit and mandarine. It's an extraordinary Condrieu with a small amount of RS - A rare and beautiful wine to drink now with foie gras, charcuterie, lobster or scallops, even fondant au chocolat or tarte tatin, and it should cellar beautifully for 5 - 8 years. 36 btls for the US. From young vines on the plain of Condrieu comes a Vin de Pays Viognier "L'Archette" that is extraordinary in it's own right, bursting with flavor and freshness, it will be a great aperitif this summer....
New from Clos de la Bonnette is the Côte-Rôtie "Damas Pourpre" from 0.4 hectare on gneiss soils on Coteau de Tupin, formerly worked by J.M. Stéphan. This is a beautiful wine, showing the ripe, silky dense fruit of 2019 with a backbone of mineral flavors - forward enough to drink young but best to cellar 5 years then enjoy till 2035 - 2040. This has great promise and should be a superb mature wine. 36 btls available.
The estate makes two delicious Vins de Pay Syrah from old vines high on the slope above Ampuis and from younger vines on mostly alluvial soils near the river in Ampuis and Tupin-Semons. The 2020 "Cisselande" is a beautiful Syrah to drink now showing the zing of very fresh red berries, small black plums, dark peach skins, dried flowers, and saline-laced minerals, while the 2019 VDP Syrah Vieilles Vignes shows the aromas and flavors of good Côte-Rôtie and is enjoyable now and over the next 5 years! Clos de la Bonnette is making very special Northern Rhône wines that deserve your attention!
Beginning with the 2009 vintage, and based on a recommendation from Jean Gonon, we have been featuring the wonderful Crôzes-Hermitages and Saint-Joseph from Stéphane and Isabelle Rousset. Stéphane's great uncle was the legendary Raymond Roure, from whom the Roussets purchased the "Picaudières" vineyard in Gervans - it's one of the best vineyards in the region with terraces cut out of the granite and old vines planted in high density, dating back to the 1930s. Unlike most Crôzes-Hermitage producers, all the Rousset's parcels are on slopes, mostly granite but with a small amount of clay-limestone as well, giving the wines more affinity to Hermitage than to the modern styles of forward and fruity Crozes-Hermitage grown on the flats. Known for their great terroir in Crôzes, the Roussets also have a superb parcel in Saint-Joseph on the lower slope of 'Rivoires" in Tournon. The 2019 Saint-Joseph is particularly successful, a complex and meaty wine that is drinking beautifully now and will cellar nicely for ten to fifteen years.
Les Picaudières is perhaps the best vineyard in Crôzes-Hermitage, formerly owned by Raymond Roure and now tended by Stéphane Rousset. 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 Livingstone-Learmonth in "Wines of the Northern Rhône," wine from Les Picaudières is "certainly better" than many Hermitage from the eastern part of the hill.) In 2018 Stephane fermented more with whole clusters to bring freshness and structure in this very ripe year. The wine shows a deep red/black color with an elegant melange of ripe blackberry, black cherry and blueberry with bitter chocolate, black olive, earth and menthol. The palate shows bright berry liqueurs with deeper earthy black fruits , black pepper, cocoa and mineral flavors with ample tannins and a long saline finish of black fruits and firm acidity. Enjoy now in its exuberant youth, best 2025 - 2040.
Do not overlook the complex and distinctive Crôzes-Hermitage whites made by the Roussets, primarily from old vines of Marsanne in hillside vineyards of granit sands in Gervans and Erome. Only 90 cases are made of the Crôzes-Hermitage Blanc Vieilles Vignes from vines planted in 1933 and 1965 - it's a sensational expresssion of Marsanne and a great food-pairing with a full-flavored fish or white meat preparation. Enjoy now and over the next ten to fifteen years. In the 2018 Crôzes-Hermitage Blanc, 50 - 60 year-old Marsanne is brightened by young vines of Roussanne - it's a lighter, very fresh and supple wine, though still quite full-bodied, to be enjoyed as an aperitif or with fish and chicken dishes over the next 5 years.
Special mention must be made of the superb 2019 "regular" Crôzes-Hermitage Rouge - "The palate while concentrated, has fine energy and features an array of fresh, ripe black and blue fruit flavors, with a bit of savory leather and a lovely bead of graphite stoniness within the ripe fruit, carrying on to the long, sapid, just juicy finish. What a marvelous bottle" says John McIlwaine! We have 6 cases - don't miss it! Our thanks to Isabelle and Stephane Rousset , and Stephane's father Robert, for these authentic wines of terroir!
The lovely 2020 "Cisselande" from the Clos de la Bonnette comes from the estate's 100% Syrah vines on the plain and plateau of Tupin-Semons in Ampuis (Cote-Rotie). In the glass, the wine has the color of a ripe, black cherry. On the nose there is the zing of very fresh red berries, small black plums, dark peach skins, dried flowers, and saline-laced minerals. Slight scents of milled coffee appear after half an hour open. On the palate, flavors of cherry and mint come before a long finish of earthy graphite. Great acidity with medium tannin. A wonderful wine to open now!
The Clos de la Bonnette VDP Syrah is from parcels of old vines on the slope above the Cote-Rotie AOC in Ampuis and from the plateau of Tupin - Semons. The wine undergoes a 25 day maceration, partially whole-cluster, and ages for 22 months in old barriques and demi-muid.This is a delightful Vin de Pays Syrah, showing the lush ripeness of the 2019 vintage but retaining the bright subtle fruit of a good Côte-Rôtie. The aromas are floral, with rose and violet with deeper, darker fruits than in 2018, the palate is dense but bright with red currant and cherry fruit with truffle, violet and spice, with silky tannins and a very mineral core in the long elegant finish. This will drink beautifully over the next five years, only five cases for the US. David Lillie
100% Syrah (1990s) from 0.4 hectare on gneiss soils on Coteau de Tupin next to Prenelle but lower down the hill, used to be worked by J-M Stéphan, 67% destemmed, 3 week vinification, wild yeasts, daily pumping overs, cap punching, aged in 5 year-old 228-litre oak casks for 22 months. This is the first vintage for the "Damas Pourpre" from Clos de la Bonnette - it's a very elegant, ripe and glossy wine in this terrific vintage for Cote-Rotie. The color is very dark red with purple hints, the aromas of black raspberry and red currant are intense and mineral with a bit of spice. The palate is silky, dense and powerful with a melange of strawberry, cassis and blackberry flavors with a bit of iron and graphite with some oak presence from the barriques. The finish is very long and sapid with minerals, spice and red fruits. Drink happily now but best to wait, as it should open up beautifully after 3 - 5 years, then enjoy until 2035 - 2040. This is a beautiful Côte-Rôtie at a "reasonable" price, only 36 bottles for the US. David Lillie
The delicious Vin de Pays Colline Rhodanienne "L'Archette" from Clos de la Bonnette is 100% Viognier from young vines on the plain of Condrieu, aged for 6 months, 50% in inox cuve, 50% in barrel. The wine shows an bright yellow color with golden reflections, a fine and complex nose with aromas of quince, nectarines and vine peaches with some subtle notes of honey and pineapple. The palate starts with great finesse and freshness with aromas of quince, vanilla and explodes with citrus and exotic fruit. The aromatic persistence is long with citrus and passion fruit notes lingering in the bright finish.
From 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne grown on decomposed granite with clay and gravel - great terroir producing this delightful wine from the Rousset family. The Rousset Crozes Blanc is outstanding again in 2018 - the second vintage to include the new planting of Roussanne - and is one of the finest white wine values in the store! The wine shows fresh aromas of white peach, apricot, almond, ceamy lemon and lime-flower with a bit of white pepper. The palate is supple and dense with ripe pear, mineral and citrus flavors, with wet stone and honeysuckle. The finish is ripe and long with firm lemony acidity. Serve with white meats, a ceviche of fluke, full-flavored fish dishes or provençal fish soup and a wide variety of cheeses. David Lillie
This is an oustanding Marsanne from vines planted in 1933 ad 1965, aged in 10% new, 90% 1 - 3 year-old 400 liter barrels, 8 months on the lees, no batonnage. The 2018 shows elegant aromas of apricot, peach skin, almond, lime-flower, and flint - the palate is round, dense and quite full-bodied, but well-structured with buttery white fruits, almond, stone, anise and mineral flavors with pear, citrus and mineral notes in the long finish. Pair this beautiful wine with full-flavored fish and chicken dishes and goat cheeses. David Lillie
Les Picaudières is perhaps the best vineyard in Crozes-Hermitage, formerly owned by Raymond Roure and now tended by Stéphane Rousset. 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. In 2018 Stephane fermented somewhat with whole clusters to bring freshness and structure in this very ripe year. The wine shows a deep red/black color with an elegant melange of ripe blackberry, black cherry and blueberry with bitter chocolate, black olive, earth and menthol. The palate shows bright berry liqueurs with deeper earthy black fruits , black pepper, cocoa and mineral flavors with ample tannins and a long saline finish of black fruits and firm acidity. It's quite well-structured and long even in this rather soft, forward vintage. This is a superb northern Rhône Syrah that can be enjoyed young, especially with grilled foods, but best to wait five to ten years and drink until 2035 and beyond. Highly recommended. David Lillie
From hillside vineyards in Erome, Gervans and Crozes, mostly granite with some limestone/clay, average age 45 years, aged 30% in foudre, 70% in one to 7 year-old burgundy barrels. This is no "ordinary" Crozes-Hermitage, but a real wine of terroir from great vineyard sites, all on hillsides. Domaine Rousset is blessed with excellent terroir and the good sense to get that into the bottle with as little interference as possible. The 2019 Crozes-Hermitage has a beautiful deep purple robe. The nose offers lovely aromas of black currant, dewberry, black tea, and violets—oh, the violets! The palate while concentrated, has fine energy and features an array of fresh, ripe black and blue fruit flavors, with a bit of savory leather and a lovely bead of graphite stoniness within the ripe fruit, carrying on to the long, sapid, just juicy finish. This is lovely stuff and positively sings in concert with a plate of poulet aux olives, but a bit of saucisson or terrine wouldn’t suffer for this; and come to think of it, if you have a wild mushroom pasta recipe tucked away, this pretty Crozes would offer good company indeed. What a marvelous bottle! John McIlwain
From a one-half hectare parcel of 60 year-old vines in "Les Rivoires" on the lower slope in Tournon, a cool, late-ripening terroir with clay, sand and stones over firm granite. Aged 12 months, 30% foudre, 70% 2 to 5 year-old barrels. 2019 is an excellent vintage at the Roussets - the Saint-Joseph shows a dark black/red color with deep aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur with plum, earth and smoke, deeper but less bright than the 2018. The palate is quite dense and supple with ripe black fruits and hints of blueberry, dark chocolate, black olive, licorice and roast meats which continue in the long finish with pronounced mineral flavors and firm acidity. The Rousset Saint-Joseph is normally somewhat austere and tightly structured when young, but as in 2018 the 2019 will be quite delicious as a young wine if decanted for a few hours. Despite the more forward aspect, there is plenty of structure here for aging, best perhaps 2025 to 2035. David Lillie
The 2019 Clos de la Bonnette "Roc D'Ucarisse is an extraordinary Condrieu made to take advantage of the ripeness attained in this vintage while retaining structure and finesse. The wine is a selection of the ripest grapes, fermented and aged for 12 months in 3+ year-old barriques." Granted, under the best of circumstances Condrieu isn’t exactly the easiest sell. But if pressed, I have to tell you, friends—the Clos de la Bonnette Roc d'Ucarisse, may be the most compelling young wine I’ve tasted this year; I measure my words. First, it is a late-harvest Condrieu (a first for the domain), second, shockingly there’s a bit of residual sugar here. And despite the unctuousness and gras, this is a brilliant, if unconventional, wine. Far from being too exuberant, this has a salty granitic core that grounds the extravagance (granitic as the day is long, thank you). And given the aromatic and textural exoticism/flamboyance (the nose displays an array of fruit that would put Carmen Miranda to shame), there’s a grounded stony foundation that keeps this from veering into bombast or worse, blowsiness. And while I wouldn’t say this is the Condrieu that will convert all the non-believers, I will venture that with the right (rich) dish, this will be extravagantly good. Foie gras? Magical. Washed-rind cheeses? Bring it on! Sweetbreads? Yes, please. Should you be a gourmand, this has a place at the table and should make for a truly memorable pairing. And for the curious: if you’d like to see the intersection of grape, terroir, and climate, this makes for a fascinating, albeit idiosyncratic example. John McIlwain