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We're very proud to offer new arrivals from Isabelle and Stephane Rousset in Crôzes-Hermitage and from Emmanuel and Marie-Agnès Barou in Saint-Joseph, along with some remaining inventory of the superb Syrahs of Domaine des Amphores, also in Saint-Joseph.
A Tale of Terroir: Domaine Rousset
The Rousset family goes back eleven generations in Erome - Stéphane's great uncle was the legendary Raymond Roure, from whom the Roussets purchased the "Picaudières" vineyard in Gervans. Talk of terroir in Crôzes-Hermitage often turns to the difference between the granite hills of Serves, Gervans and Erome in the north of the appellation (with smaller outcroppings in Larnage and Crôzes) and the deeper soils in the plains of the central and southern region. The producers in the plains "excel in the nearest the northern Rhône comes to a new-world style" while the steep granite slopes of the northern villages produce leaner, age-worthy wines "a situation nearly identical to that of Hermitage with it's southward-facing hillsides and generally granite soils." All the Rousset's parcels are on hillsides, mostly granite but with a small amount of clay-limestone as well, in the villages of Erome and Gervans, with a smalll parcel in Crôzes. "Les Picaudières" is regarded as the best site in Crôzes-Hermitage, 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 85 years-old and are planted in high density.
The 2019 "Picaudières" rivals the superb 2016 with terrific density and length but with brightness as well - "It’s floral, fresh, on red fruits" says Stéphane. Enjoy this lovely wine until 2045.
Don't overlook the "regular" cuvée of Crôzes-Hermitage rouge in this exceptional vintage. From average 45 year-old vines on hillsides of granite, with some clay/limestone as well, the wine is a Syrah-lovers delight, for drinking over the next ten+ years - and it's a phenomenal value! Speaking of terroir, the Rousset's tiny parcel of old vines in Saint-Joseph is on "Les Rivoires" in Tournon - this is prime real estate (The Gonons have three parcels there, Les Oliviers, La Croix du Peygros and Côtes des Rivoires) giving dense, meaty black and blue-fruited wines with licorice and olive notes. The 2019 is outstanding - give it a long decant or five years in the cellar, enjoy until 2025+.
The Rousset's Crozes-Hermitage Blancs are grown on wind-blown powdered stone (loess) over granite in Erome, a great spot for white Crôzes. (As is the white clay (kaolin) soil over granite in Larnage.) The 2019 Marsanne Vieilles Vignes is from 55 and 85 year-old vines - It's a complex and beautiful Northern Rhône white that will be a superb accompaniment to full-flavored fish and white meat dishes over the next 15 years. The 2020 Crôzes-Hermitage Blanc is 85% 50 year-old vines of Marsanne, with 15% young vines of Roussanne, giving a brighter, lighter wine, still with lovely complexity and with great adaptability as an aperitif or an accompaniment to fish and chicken.
Domaine Barou in Charnas, Saint-Joseph.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, when chemical agriculture took over the world's vineyards, there were those few vignerons whose conviction and courage led them on the path to organic and Biodynamic farming, often in the face of resistance and ridicule by their peers. Estates that chose to preserve the life of their soils and the quality of their fruit in this early period included L'Ecu (Guy Bossard) in Muscadet, Guion in Bourgueil, Frick in Alsace, Rateau in Burgundy, Tinou in Jurançon, Pierre André in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Domaine Barou in Saint-Joseph. We salute all these estates and we're happy to feature in today's email the vibrant Vins de Pays and Saint-Josephs from Domaine Barou.
Alexis Barou converted the estate to organic agriculture back in 1971 as he didn't find as much flavor in his cherries with "conventional" farming. His son Emmanuel, with wife Marie-Agnès, currently have about 3 hectares in Saint-Joseph, 1 hectare in Condrieu and 6 hectares of Vin de Pays in Charnas from which they produce elegant, unforced traditional wines - along with delicious organic cherries and apricots. Their farming is exemplary, using their own compost, keeping the soil covered, plowing as little as possible and avoiding even the organic treatments against mildew, as they can harm soil fauna. The Saint-Joseph parcels are in Limony, on de-composed granite, and Charnas, on stone covered firm granite, and the Vin de Pays vines are in hilltop or plateau vineyards on thin sandy soils above granite bedrock as well. "This is a name to watch" says Livingstone-Learmonth in "Wines of the Northern Rhône," "the domaine is emerging as a sound address for carefully made, natural wines."
The 2020s from Emmanuel and Marie-Agnès are simply sensational, bursting with vibrant fruit, balanced and bright - they are amazing values and are a testatment to 50 years of organic farming. Many of you are familiar with the deep complexity of the Barou Syrah "Vernes" and Saint-Joseph Rouge as well as the unique, joyful fruit of the Vin de Pays Marsanne - this shipment includes something new and different - the incredibly delicious Chardonnay "Rebel, Rebel" from 20 year-old vines on granite soils (needless to say always iin organic farming). It's a must-buy for a house white, but act quickly as very little is made, we could only get ten cases...
Domaine des Amphores
Véronique and Philippe Grenier at Domaine des Amphores are located on the hillsides of Chavanay, just south of Condrieu, where they produce Saint-Joseph red and white, a lovely Condrieu and delicious Vins de Pays that are sensational values. Organic since their beginning in 1992, they are now certified Biodynamic (Demeter) as well. As with their neighbors to the south at Domaine Barou, the Greniers make superb Saint-Joseph and Vin de Pays Syrah on the granite soils. Although we are sold-out of their Saint-Joseph "Les Sept Lieus" we have one case left of their most serious Saint-Joseph, the 2019 "Les Mésanges" and a few cases of their extraordinary 2019 IGP Syrah "Les Iris." Our next shipment won't arrive until February, so grab some now for fabulous drinking this winter!
Wines are in stock, with more inventory arriving later this week. Normal case discounts apply.
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" Crôzes-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 Crôzes-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 Crôzes would offer good company indeed. What a marvelous bottle! John McIlwain
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 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 the Northern Rhône, this ranks near the top for bang to buck consistently and for terroir expression. The 2019 Crôzes-Hermitage Picaudières has a densely layered nose and palate: a quick decant reveals brambly aromas of hedge fruit (wild blackberry, blackberry, and huckleberry), pomegranate seed, and a bit of pencil lead, game, and crushed violets. The palate is similarly layered and concentrated—not extracted—boasting black fruit, Telicherry peppercorn notes, and black tea flavors astride a deeply-pitched and mouth-wateringly tangy mineral core. The prominent (and ripe) tannins that lurk beneath all that dark fruit indicate a long and bright future for those who have the patience to cellar this beauty. Lovely with a decant, but the balance is here for 15 -20 years in the cellar and beyond. Highly recommended! John McIlwain
The 2020 Rousset Saint-Joseph is from a one-half hectare parcel of 35 to 70 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% 1 to 5 year-old barrels.This is prime Saint-Joseph terroir (the Gonons have vines in "Rivoires" as well) giving a dense well-structured wine that is enjoyable young, as most of the grapes are de-stemmed, and that will drink well over the next ten+ years. 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, oak and smoke, with high-toned citrus notes and good brightness. 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 with surprising lift and brightness. There must be a newer barrel this year as there is a bit of oak which will blend in soon. 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 2020 Rousset Saint-Joseph is from a one-half hectare parcel of 35 to 70 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% 1 to 5 year-old barrels.This is prime Saint-Joseph terroir (the Gonons have vines in "Rivoires" as well) giving a dense well-structured wine that is enjoyable young, as most of the grapes are de-stemmed, and that will drink well over the next ten+ years.
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, oak and smoke, with high-toned citrus notes and good brightness. 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 with surprising lift and brightness. There must be a newer barrel this year as there is a bit of oak which will blend in soon. 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
This is an oustanding Marsanne from vines planted in 1933 and 1965, aged in 10% new, 90% 1 - 3 year-old 400 liter barrels, 8 months on the lees, no batonnage. The 2019 shows elegant aromas of apricot, peach skin, almond, lime-flower, and flint - the palate is round, dense and quite full-bodied, but well-structured and elegant with firm acidity, showing 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
From 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne grown on powdered granite with clay and gravel - great terroir producing this delightful wine from the Rousset family. The Rousset Crozes Blanc is outstanding in 2020 - the third 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 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 caramel. The finish is ripe and long with firm lemony acidity. Serve with white meats, a ceviche of fluke, mildly-flavored fish dishes and a wide variety of cheeses. David Lillie
(Arrives 9/21) From 40 year-old Syrah vines in Charnay, just outside the Saint-Joseph AOC, on living soils tended organically for forty years by Marie-Agnès and Emmanuel Barou. Plowing by tractor or weeding by hand on the steep slopes. Hand-harvested, wild-yeast fermentations, aging one year in 4 to 5 year-old barrels. The 2020 Cuvée des Vernes is simply sensational and one of the best values in the store! The wine shows deep black/red color with lush aromas of blackberry liqueur, licorice, blueberry and musk with cool minty notes - really lovely! The palate shows cool dense black fruits with dark chocolate, blueberry, earth, smoke and citrus with a beautiful, refreshing finish of minerals and fruit. This is an outstanding Syrah, equal to many Saint-Josephs and simply delicious for current drinking. Serve a bit cool with almost anything from roast chicken to pork, rabbit, charcuterie and lamb, or just enjoy by itself. Case quantities are available. Highly recommended! David Lillie
Domaine Barou has been organic since the 1970s and also produces cherries, apricots and peaches. The Saint-Joseph vines are in Limony, on thin soils of decomposed granite over the bedrock. Shallow plowing ("griffage") is done in the summer, with rye and clover growing between the rows in winter. The grapes are 80% de-stemmed, fermentations are with wild yeasts, aging is primarily in old barrels. .The 2020 Saint-Joseph shows a deep black/red color and gorgeous aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur with violet, spice, citrus and roast meat, very floral and pretty. Ripe black fruits, bitter chocolate, earth, licorice and citrus continue on the very lush, supple palate which is framed in perfect, bright acidity. The finish is soft and sapid and shows bright acidity and mineral flavors. This is absolutely delicious now but has the structure to age nicely for five to ten years. A sensational value and highly recommended!
The Barou family family makes delicious wines, and grows cherries and apricots on their mixed-use organic estate in Charnas, in the northern section of the AOC Saint-Joseph. Their 2020 Vin de Pays Marsanne "Rendez-Vous"is a simply superb everyday wine! Light bronze/gold color. Aromas of almond, lime-flower, honeysuckle, lemon peel and hay, really quite pretty. Ripe stone fruits on the palate, primarily peach and dried pear with lemon, spice and saline mineral flavors with good balancing acidity in the long finish. Serve this lovely wine with chicken, full-flavored fish, mild cheeses and Asian foods. This is a unique and delicious wine and an extraordinary value - highly recommended! David Lillie
Only 4 cs left of this surprisingly delicious northern Rhone Chardonnay from vines planted in 2000 on granite soils on the plateau, above the Saint-Joseph AOC, destemmed, 24 hour skin maceration, fermented at 20°-21°C, aged in 6-7 year-old 228-litre oak casks for 9-10 months, malo completed, The nose is subtle and surprisingly elegant with pear, ripe granny smith and floral aromas, with a bit of buttery apricot and nice brightness. The palate has a nice mineral attack from the granite soil, with pear, apricot, citrus and stone flavors that continue in the clean, well-balanced finish. Chardonnay from the Northern Rhone? Yes, it's delicious! David Lillie
From 100% Syrah in Chavanay, just outside the Saint-Joseph zone, tended organically since planting, in the early 90's, and now certified Biodynamic as well. The 2020 "Les Iris" Syrah shows the balance, pretty fruit and slightly lower alcohol of this very good and more "traditional" vintage in the Northern Rhone. The wine shows bright aromas of blackberry and blueberry with hints of stone, mint, smoke and violet, quite fresh and pretty. The palate is balanced and elegant, with cool acidity and lush blackberry and black raspberry fruit, with a fresh earthy finish with mineral, citrus and ripe red and black fruit flavors. Terrific length and depth for a wine at this price. This is a very versatile wine to serve cool with grilled chicken, pork and full-flavored cheeses or to sip by itself, slightly chilled. It's an authentic and delicious wine and a great value! David Lillie
"Les Mesanges" is a cuvée of Saint-Joseph made from 40 to 50 year-old organic Syrah vines on biotite granite soils in the vineyards of "Pecher" and "Vauturerie" at Chavanay, 30 - 40% whole cluster, aged 18 months in 600 liter barrels, 5 to 8 years-old. This is the most structured and age-worthy of the Domaine des Amphores Saint-Josephs and is a full-bodied, elegant wine in the excellent, rather dense and concentrated 2019 vintage. The wine will benefit from a few years of aging, and needs a bit of time open if drinking now, then shows generous aromas of ripe blueberries, smoked green olive and thyme and is generally brimming with energy and life. The palate is ripe and supple with black fruit liqueur, menthol, spice, earth and mineral flavors, quite intense but very bright, lifted by firm acidity, really showing the Biodynamic farming. It has terrific persistence and freshness and was a perfect companion to roast chicken and summer squash. This will drink beautifully over the next 10 to 15 years.