Despite an intriguing black pepper note, this was largely undrinkable the first night when opened. Subtle black fruit are behind firm tannins and an overall bitter quality. Marginally better the next day, but not worth drinking a full glass.
I was shocked that Garagiste included this wine in a mystery box I ordered given the consistent complaints they must have received about the wine's quality.
Popped and poured, but based upon my last experience with this wine, I knew that was not the best approach. No formal notes, but this was nice and soft, but not really too compelling. Also not too much hard structure, so I think I'll try again soon, but open it quite a bit of time in advance (like, a day).
Deep ruby color. Fairly typical Northern Rhone syrah notes of pepper and earth. I noticed more green notes than I did in previous bottles. Medium bodied. As long as you don't go in with Cote Rotie expectations, this is a good drink. (87)
This was much better than previous bottles – though still nothing to get too excited about. Shows real Syrah character, but lacks some complexity. However, it has fleshed out a bit and I like the medium weight. Good. (88)
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The Mystery Wine concept continues to spin out of control but as long as the free fall doesn't harm anyone, I'll keep listening to winery offers...
Which brings us to a 3 am soiree last night.
There I was, minding my own business and getting some much needed rest when the phone starting ringing....and ringing...and ringing. When you are in the middle of deep sleep, a ringing phone can be assimilated into a dream quite easily and it took 3-4 attempts to lull me out of my Salvador Dali-inspired wonderland (which now contained a dripping antique phone?)...the ringing continued and I finally opened my eyes. Now awake, I began to get nervous. When the phone rings 3:38am it's usually not a good thing. Resisting the magnetic urge to find out the bad news on the other end of the line, I brushed the phone off the bed-side table and it fell to the floor which, of course, activated the call.
A loud "Are you there?" was heard from the loudspeaker. I sighed, knowing in advance the call was not going to be a few minutes (I also knew it wasn't bad news). The voice was in that familiar broken Franc-lish (half French/half English) and it could only be one person.
I opened my eyes, sat up and reached for the phone - "What's taking so long?", I heard. No, it wasn't my mother with a morbid statement about a relative's untimely departure, it was Louis Barruol. Yes, that Louis Barruol (you can look up his major winery affiliations/ownership and 95-100pt reviews elsewhere).
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
"Hey, I've been reading about all of these Mystery Wine offers - really fun stuff - I need some! Sorry to wake you up (I'm sure you are Louis - JR) but I have my own Mystery Wine for you...and it's a bon vivant and it's not Cotes du Rhone!"
Now I was awake..."What is it"?
"It's Cote Rotie"
Cote Rotie? He's kidding right? At that moment, I remembered a Cote Rotie that I tasted in France last winter and I was hoping it was the same wine (from what I will now call "an unnamed winery that may or may not be owned by Louis")
Let me say this - I've had a bunch of Mystery Wine propositions over the past 2-3 weeks but they've all been from domestic sources (trying to get in on the game). Cote Rotie? It appears this little Mystery concept has found a niche of its own - one that appears to be getting broader and wider by the day. The fact that one of the most famous and accomplished vintners in the Rhone (that doesn't need help) was calling me at 3:30 in the morning is all the evidence I need.
A Northern Rhone Mystery Wine? At this price?
I think a few of you will be interested...
After another 45 minutes on the phone, I had a good understanding of the wine. The frame was further cemented this morning (after I had a cup of coffee) and had time to digest the ins and outs of the deal. Here it is:
This wine is top-tier Cote Rotie.
This wine may or may not be 2007.
This wine has beautiful aromatics of pepper, rock, flowers, thyme and fruit skins with an elegant swath of minerality left on the tongue.
This wine will have no designation, vintage or other and it will not say anything regarding any winery except for a made up label.
This wine was made by Louis Barruol from his best parcels in Cote Rotie.
The parcels include lieux-dits such as Rozier, Cote-Rozier, Champin, Cote Bodin (next to La Landonne) - all situated in the northern part of Cote Rotie with the most schist soil.
You can do the rest of the speculating.
The name of the wine (decided at 4:15am) will be "Elegie" Cote Rotie.
The obvious question is: Why?
It appears that Louis has extra Cote Rotie this year - the economy has many of his importers around the globe stalling on allocations or taking way too long to take their wine (i.e. taking way too long to pay). That may be fine for $10 Cotes du Rhone but $50-100 Cote Rotie ties up a lot of money. So, to not offend anyone, let's just offer a "new" wine without designation and toss it into the ever-growing (in popularity and it appears notoriety) Mystery Wine series.
Sounds quite enticing to me.
Like the other Mystery Wines, I can't say anything else but I do have a formal disclaimer: This wine is not intended to be anything other than Elegie Cote Rotie and there is no intent to infer otherwise.
So, if you can live with that, and live with something that may or may not be the exact same wine as a potentially famous label (at 50-75% off), may I present Cote Rotie at a price that deserves a double-take...
Elegie Cote Rotie (no winery designation, vintage or other will be on the label)