Red Wings and
A Few from Up North...
1999 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage, $18, 13% alc.: An inky purple garnet with a big plum, chocolate nose showing undertones of rhubarb, bell pepper and garrigue, and do I detect some subtle toasty oak in this? Typically wild on the palate for a young Graillot, this has good acidity, and while it doesn't seem terribly tannic, it IS tight and needs some time, as the rhubarb and bell pepper seems to dominate the flavors right now, and it finishes with some astringency. Kim mentioned a note of charcoal. It does open some after three hours of air, and the garrigue comes more to the fore, but give this at least a couple of years to come around.
1999 Alain Graillot Saint-Joseph, $18, 13% alc.: This inky dark garnet shows a hint of the barnyard over big plum and dark red berries, all shaded with some nice garrigue and a subtle note of bacon lurking in the background. Equally big flavors echo, being considerably more accessible than the Crozes Hermitage noted directly above, with a few years worth of tannins, good acidity and a reasonably long finish. It’s somewhat astringent, but not as much as the Crozes; the fruit is rich, intense and enjoyable, with or without food. The second night, it shows no letup in the intensity, but the garrigue comes out even more, making for an excellent Saint-Joseph with a promising future.
Alain Graillot Wines Imported by Europvin U.S.A., Oakland, CA
1998 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, $23.99, 13% alc.: This latest vintage of one of our perennial house favorites is as you would expect, a typical dark garnet with fairly typical flavors and aromas of dusty plum shaded with notes of black cherry, leather, iodine and a shovel full of earth thrown in for good measure. The considerable acidity actually overshadows the tannins and gives it a bit of a byte, and it’s still pretty tight, even after two hours in a decanter. The finish is somewhat astringent, as is so often the case with young Syrah, and indeed, this needs a minimum of five years in the cellar to show what it has. Deep and dark, this is a solid effort, although nothing indicates and exceptional one at this point.
UPDATE - 1996 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert, $18.99, 13% alc.: It’s been two years since last we tasted this wine, and it’s still an inky dark garnet; aromas of earthy plum, berry, smoke and a little leather don’t exactly jump out of the glass, but do open up to gain some gamy garrigue, licorice and a hint of mint. Very dry and a bit astringent on the palate, the flavors echo and expand, with decent acidity, a few years worth of tannins and a tarry finish, but like the last taste, this is missing something on the mid-palate. It continues to open with air, revealing a better wine than we found before, and it should improve with further bottle age. All in all, a pleasant wine, but not one of the better Thalaberts.
1999 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage "Les Jalets®," $10.49. 12.5% alc.: We got this slightly cloudy inky garnet for a pretty good price for what’s in the bottle, thanks to Costco. It exhibits a muted nose of plum and berry, with just a hint of garrigue. Fairly dense on the palate, with a few years worth of tannins, good acidity and a youthful astringency that caused Kim to comment, "tart and sour," the earthy flavors echo and pick it up nicely. It opens considerably with a few hours of air, taking on a note of chocolate and a somewhat vegetal quality that adds to the character, rather than detracts. It finishes reasonably long, with a tarry note, and on the whole, does yeoman’s service, being solid if unspectacular.
Paul Jaboulet Aine Wines Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd., New York, NY
1998 Cuvée Côte-Diane Saint-Joseph, $17.99, 12.5% alc.: This purple dark garnet Syrah TASTES purple; it saw 25% new oak and shows flavors and aromas of plum, olive, violet, chocolate and earth with a hint of the barnyard on the nose and a somewhat astringent finish. It has good acidity and at least 3-5 years worth of tannins to resolve before it shows its best. A nice wine, and a good value for the price.
...and a Few from Down South
1997 Chateau de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape, 13.5% alc.: This dark garnet isn’t just approachable, it’s drinking damned well right now, right out of the bottle! (No, we didn’t REALLY pass it around in a brown paper bag like street corner aficionados, but decanting it proved to be unnecessary.) It’s not that robust in the nose, but it has big, rich flavors of purple plum, smoke and coffee, along with hints of leather, Provencal herb and Brasso. Although it’s in no danger of fading any time soon, it’s not that tannic, has good acidity and a nice long finish. This may not be from a better vintage, but it sure is one big mouth filling fruit bomb, by CdP standards. Went really well with a Wings 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Yumm!!! Many thanks to Mary Palmer for opening this with us.
Imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL
1990 M. Chapoutier La Bernardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Alan Kerr pulled this from his cellar for us, and while we somehow missed noting the alcohol content on this slightly rusty ruby dark garnet, we got all of the goods on the flavors and aromas. Nicely perfumed, with rich plum, prune, sweet spices reminiscent of cinnamon and Halloween candy, and some subtle funky, earthy overtones, this still has some tannins to resolve, but not nearly enough to keep one from really enjoying it now. It has good acidity, and while it’s not as dense or as concentrated as one might expect, that didn’t detract from its obvious charms. I thought the finish was long and lingering, but Mr. Kerr opined that after 10 or 15 seconds, it "drops off, leaving powdery cocoa tannins instead of fruit." So what’s wrong with a little cocoa?! Honestly, we enjoyed this wine quite a bit. It’s not a blockbuster, but it’s satisfying and delicious.
1999 Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas, $23.99, 14% alc.: I was a little surprised to find this at such a relatively low price, and sure enough, when I went back for more, the tag said $29.99 and I bought something else. Dark garnet, with a tarry plum and blackberry nose and a little aquarium overtone, the big fruit flavors echo loudly with a nice note of chocolate, and the youthful tannins can’t hide the lusciousness of it all. It has good acidity and yet a creamy smooth mouthfeel at the same time, with a nice finish, and Kim was impressed with it after pouring herself a glass right out of the bottle upon uncorking, which is rather unusual for a young Gigondas. And, rather atypically, the aquarium impression intensifies with more and more air, taking on a certain woody quality. I would have liked to have gotten a second taste of this for comparison, but it’s gotten hard to find, which I suppose is to be expected. It’s a little odd, but it’s also tasty.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkley, CA
Côtes du Rhône-down 4/02