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Our second shipment of the beautiful 2015s from Domaine Rousset in Crôzes-Hermitage has just arrived! 2015 is an excellent vintage in the Northern Rhône, although in some degree dependent on the timing of September rains after dry weather in August that delayed maturation. Stéphan Rousset seems to have timed his harvest correctly as the wines have an extra level of ripeness but remain structured and bright and certainly ageworthy. The Crozes "les Picaudières" is of course exceptional in this vintage, but it is the 2015 Saint-Joseph, from the late-maturing "les Rivoires" vineyard in Tournon that seems to have particularly benefitted from the vintage conditions. All of these wines are superb values - savvy lovers of the Northern Rhône should buy them by the case! And don't overlook the lovely Crozes-Hermitage Blanc - 100% Marsanne from old vines on granite soils.
For many years now we've been working with the great father and son team of Guy and Thomas Jullien at La Ferme Saint-Martin in Beames-de-Venise. One of the first estates in the southern Rhone to practice organic farming and low-sulfur vinificatons, the high-altitude vineyards produce complex, powerful reds that retain freshness and balance as well as a full-bodied white and a fabulous rosé. From their website: "The vineyards are exposed due south on dry and stony limestone terroir, in terraces from 600 to 1800 feet in altitude. We have cultivated the vines in certified organic agriculture since 1998. Each parcel is harvested by hand and we select with care (with a sorting table) the grapes that enter the cellar. The vinifications are done without the addition of any oenological products. Our family, united in the same passion, works with conviction and determination to bring you living wines, free to express their personalities, true reflections of their terroir." The 2015 "Costancia" is a big, well-structured wine, quite similar to a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape, that will benefit from carafing or opening well in advance. "Terres Jaunes" and "Les Romanins" are complex and delicious Rhône reds - great values for everyday drinking. The Côtes-du-Rhône white "Carlina" is partially vinified with skin-contact and also benefits from decanting - it's a superb value showing great complexity both aromatically and on the palate. The rosé is simply delicious! We urge you to try these truly unique though inexpensive wines...
Please Note: All wines arrive by Thursday, Jan 18!
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. Although normally overshadowed by the Rousset's superb Crozes "les Picaudieres," the 2015 Saint-Joseph is a great wine of terroir and one of the better Saint-Josephs we've tasted from this vintage. The wine shows a dark black/red color with deep aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur with plum, earth and smoke - quite ripe but with nice brightness as well. The palate is quite dense and supple with ripe black fruits and hints of blueberry, dark chocolate, black olive 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 the 2015 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 2020 to 2030. 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. 2015 is an excellent vintage in the northern Rhone with great ripeness balanced by some rain before harvest. The Rousset 2015 Crozes-Hermitage shows a deep black/purple color with deep aromas of blackberry and blueberry liqueur with hints of earth, bitter chocolate and musk. The palate is dense but brightened by firm acidity with black fruits, licorice, earth and mineral flavors. Black olive and red currant emerge with aeration, really lovely. This is a delicious Syrah from great terroir that will accompany grilled foods, stews, tagines and full-flavored cheeses over the next 5 to 8 years. 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. "Les Picaudières 2015 was harvested on September 21st, after a very dry period in late August. The vines profited from the rains in September to finish the maturation" said Stéphane, givng grapes in perfect condition at 13% alcohol. The 2015 shows a deep red/black color with elegant aromas of blackberry, black cherry, 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. 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 60 to 90 year-old vines in the hillside vineyards of "les Vedias" and "Tout" in Erome, decomposed granite with clay and gravel - great terroir producing this serious but overlooked wine from the Rousset family. The Rousset Crozes Blanc is outstanding in 2015 and is one of the finest white wine values in the store! It's an intense and delicious Marsanne showing elegant aromas of lemon, stone, dried pear, almond, apricot and hay - really lovely. The palate is dense, mineral and balanced by firm acidity with citrus, pear, grilled almond, anise and herbal flavors, with a long stone and citrus finish. Delicious in its youth, this will benefit from a few years in the cellar and should be quite interesting in 2025. Serve with white meats, full-flavored fish dishes or provençal fish soup and a wide variety of cheeses. David Lillie
Guy Jullien at the Ferme Saint-Martin is one of the pioneers of organic and natural winemaking in the southern Rhône, and his great work continues under his son Thomas. Made from hand-harvested young vines of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, the 2016 "Romanins" has deep, complex aromas of crushed blackberries with red currant, violet, licorice and spice. The palate shows dense red and black fruits, with strawberry, earth and mineral notes - more structured than the 2015, but remains balanced and pretty, with bright acidity, good length and lovely fruit lingering in the finish. This lovely, great value Côtes-du-Rhône will be perfect with a stew or steak, or anything grilled. Serve slightly chilled. (Bottled with minimal SO2, not fined or filtered.)
From parcels of clay/limestone, rich in iron, on hillsides surrounded by woods and hedges, 75% Grenache, 25% Syrah. Like all the Ferme Saint-Martin wines, it's from organic grapes and bottled with minimal SO2. The 2015 Terres Jaunes shows lovely deep berry liqueur aromas - mostly red currant with hints of bright raspberry, with floral and earthy notes. The palate is round and supple showing ripe blackberry and red currant flavors with minerals, citrus and dark chocolate, that continues on the long refreshing finish. This is a big but bright and balanced Côtes du Rhône that shows the lush fruit and concentration of the 2015 vintage - it's the best Terres Jaunes ever and a great value! Serve with stews, steaks and chops or anything grilled. DL
A great Beaumes-de-Venise from Guy and Thomas Julien at La Ferme Saint-Martin. The estate has been working with organic methods for many years, with natural fermentations and minimal use of sulfur. The Costancia 2015 is from old vines of Grenache and Syrah grown at 1,500 ft in Suzette, on limestone/clay soils. Deep red/black color. Blackberry aromas with red currant, earth and bitter chocolate lifted with cool menthol and floral notes. The palate is deep and ripe with blackberry, coca, citrus and earth with firm acidity and ripe tannins. This is a beautiful Rhône red to serve now with grilled foods, stews and tagines - or hold for 5 years then drink until 2032, as this will age beautifully. A fantastic value and highly recommended. David Lillie
Guy and Thomas Jullien make a small quantity of fascinating and delicious white Cotes du Rhône on their organic estate in Suzette, on the slopes of the Dentelles near Beaumes-de-Venise. "Carlina" is made from 45% Clairette, 45% Roussanne and 10% Grenache Blanc grown at high altitude on clay/limestone soils, vinified with some skin contact and with minimal SO2. Bright pale gold color, with aromas of spiced pear, anis, lemon peel and almond. The palate is round and ripe but nicely balanced, really showing the Roussanne with lemon confit, pear, hay and herbal flavors, with stone and mineral notes. This is quite delicious and complex, perfect with fish in sauce, Asian foods, chicken and pork dishes and full-flavored cheeses. David Lillie