Domaine Oratoire St Martin “Haut-Coustias” 2015, Cairanne. The reason you don’t think about the southern Rhone village of Cairanne much is because you’ve never tried this. Tracing their winemaking roots back to 1692, the Alary brothers are pretty much the Royal Family of Cairanne, owning the prime spots and making powerful, totemistic wines in a town known for table tipples that tend to blend into the tablecloth. The Haut-Coustias site is a 90-yr-old south-facing vineyard on a hill of chalk, a terroir quite unlike its surroundings and one of the only sites in Cairanne that can fully ripen Mourvèdre, the dark, moody grape that makes up 60% of this blend (with 20% Grenache and 20% Syrah; the Haut-Coustias’ constitution is similar to Beaucastel’s Hommage a Jacques Perrin and about a tenth of the price). Gorgeous violets and nutmeg surround plums and blackberries with a healthy dose of black pepper, boldly spicy and unforgettable. I’ll be pouring this on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room if you want to taste for yourself. One of the better values I’ve found this season. 94 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $52.98 +tax
Chateau Saint-Cosme 2017, Gigondas. Continuing an unbroken legacy that almost predates the fork, the Barruol family gets back to traditional hues after two hot, climate-changey vintages and breaks out the pepper mill. Black and white pepper fold around blackberry, ginger and black olives over a fresh, vibrant frame, forged in both foudre and concrete. Silky and persistent. Grenache leads the band (70%) with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault all playing tambourine. Probably best after a 2 years nap to let the finish integrate. There’s something so consistent and so right about Saint-Cosme, quite independent from how delicious it is: year after year it tastes like this ancient village’s natural reference point. 93 points Wine Spectator, 2 cases available, $77.99 +tax
Rotem & Mounir Saouma “Inopia” 2016, Cotes-du-Rhône Villages. The 97+pt Chateauneufs by Husband/Wife crime-fighting duo Rotem and Mounir (also of Burgundy’s hallowed Lucien Le Moine) were presented on these pages a few weeks ago, but these stellar, overachieving CdRVs come from a rocky, nearly barren plot near Orange that was so tough to cultivate they named the wines Inopia, from the Latin meaning “made from nothing”. The Blanc is mostly Grenache Blanc with Roussanne and Marsanne, gorgeously silky with jasmine, brioche and pear notes over a robust frame with a touch of salinity. The Rouge is almost entirely Grenache with bits of Syrah and Cinsault, bright red fruits and lavender, medium-bodied and hella-versatile. I can’t stress the value of these enough: rather than a mishmash of lesser fruit (like most houses entry-levels are) these are single-vineyard expressions from one of France’s most exciting contemporary houses – Wednesday wines for the well-informed, if you will. I am in with both feet on this.
Blanc, 92 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $40.98 +tax
Rouge, 90 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $40.98 +tax
VERTICAL: Domaine Jamet 2013, 2014 & 2015, Côte-Rôtie. You can see the Alps on a clear day from Le Vallin, the high plateau over Côte-Rôtie where Jean-Paul and Corinne Jamet make their traditionally ethereal wines (it’s also where they made their son Löic, who now works the vineyards with them). This “assemblage” cuvée, built from fruit in 15 different vineyards around the appellation, avoids destemming and sees almost no new barrels, so it’s a truth-serum Syrah, honestly and nakedly expressing the slate and granite terraced slopes of Côte-Rôtie in all their peppery, bacon-y glory. The Jamets have a devoted following worldwide, which is why it’s way-cool that I can offer the following:
Côte-Rôtie 2013, 94 points Robert Parker, 94 points Vinous, 3 bottles available, $165.99 +tax
Côte-Rôtie 2014, 96 points James Suckling, 95 points Vinous 8 bottles available, $165.99 +tax
Côte-Rôtie 2015, 97 points Vinous, 96 points Robert Parker, 9 bottles available $165.99 +tax
E. Guigal “La Landonne” 2014, Côte-Rôtie. The only one of the “La La”* Cote-Rôties by Guigal to not contain any Viognier, this 2014 Landonne is dark, deep, and more focused than someone jumpstarting a nuclear submarine, an impressive feat in a challenging vintage. The nose has notes of smoked meats stuffed with sage and olives, with hints of blackberries that have fallen under the grill, the deployment is smooth but the finish has notes of bar fights and leg-hold traps. This is a wine to be buried, hidden amongst the muggles until its eleventh birthday – only then can you announce that it is actually a wizard. 98 points Robert Parker, one wooden 3-pack available, $526.98 +tax
René Rostaing “La Landonne” 2015, Côte-Rôtie. Not quite as famous or historically significant as Guigal’s take on the same vineyard (Guigal put Côte-Rôtie on the map and single-handedly saved Viognier from extinction – in contrast, I just learned how to set a DVR recording from my phone), but Mr. Rostaing’s Landonne certainly approaches the Guigals in quality and longevity. Blackberry, fig, tobacco and bacon are just some of the attributes of this ever-changing nose, the palate is elegant power: it’s a medium weight at best but the intensity is almost frightening. Still several years out from true joy, but this 2015 will get there a tad quicker than other vintages. 99 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $249.98 +tax
E. Guigal “Ex Voto” Blanc 2012, Hermitage. The best white Hermitage I’ve tasted besides Chave, from the Ermite and Murets parcels on Hermitage hill. Both stoic and generous, the nose teems with stone fruits, brioche, green apple, ginger and mint, omg. Beeswax and citrus deploy on palate, with that gorgeously viscous sewing-machine-oil texture and finish so prevalent in Marsanne. Drinking amazing now, drinking amazing in 15 years, all because it is made of magic. 97 points Wine Spectator, 8 bottles available, $249.98 +tax
Until next week, Happy Drinking!!
*The “La Las” are 3 Cote-Rôties by Guigal from 3 vineyards: La Mouline, La Turque and La Landonne, they are widely considered to be the appellation’s benchmark.