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Le Combard (Photo E. Lillie)
Garon Côte-Rôtie and Balthazar Cornas; For Now and for Later...

Just arrived from Domaine Garon are the 2010 Côte-Rotie "les Triottes" and 2011 "La Sybarine" as well as their wonderfully delicious 2011 Vin de Pays Syrah. The Garon family has been in Ampuis for many generations but only began re-planting abandoned vineyards in the early 1980s, and made their first wine in 1995. Their parcel on the Côte Brune is a beautful south-facing amphitheatre directly above La Landonne. The backyard of their home ascends into their parcels on the Côte Blonde: Le Goutay, Combard, Lancement, Mollard and Triottes. Traditionalists and vineyard workers by nature, the walls and terraces are well-maintained by Jean-Francois and sons Kevin and Fabien. "Wine is made in the vineyard," say the Garons. Kevin, mostly in charge of the cellar, says "I reject the idea of the 'winemaker' – I'm seeking a more Burgundian style; I've learned to extract less."  The Garons want their wines to be pleasurable at a young age so there is a high percentage of de-stemming, depending on the vineyard and vintage – "after all, even the Romans de-stemmed" says Kevin. The Garons have a unique style of their own, not strictly traditional or modern, but anchored in great vineyard work and minimal intervention in the cellar. The 2010 "Triottes" is an excellent Côte-Rotie at a great price that will drink beautifully within 4 or 5 years, while the Sybarine and Vin de Pays are delicious now and are fabulous values!

Franck Balthazar in Cornas is making beautiful wines, continuing the old-fashioned winemaking of his father René while converting the estate to organic agriculture and vinifying with minimal sulfites. The 2010 Cornas Chaillot is mostly from 98 year-old vines in Chaillot, plus 50 year-old vines in Mazard. Two-week whole-bunch fermentation with manual cap-punching, aging in five-year and older 600 liter casks. This is a very traditional style of Cornas, inky in color and extremely firm with ripe skin and stem tannins. A great Rhone Syrah in the making, it will need 8 to 10 years at least, peak drinking perhaps 2020 to 2035. Drink it if you dare!

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