A mid-winter visit to Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Southern Rhône, France

Tasted February 5, 2015 - February 7, 2015 by Eric with 2,188 views

Introduction

Dan was visiting Bern, and we decided that a quick getaway to taste some wine would be great. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was just a five hour drive away, so off we went.

We caught the height of the mistral with 100km winds ripping the region throughout our stay. With weather always near 1C, the wind cut even deeper. However this made the hearty food and wine all that much more satisfying!

With some advice from Jeff Leve on where to stay and to eat, and some Googling, I was able to contact nearly all of my favorite wineries. Everyone was very accommodating on short notice. The wineries below are some of the most traditional in the region, and it was really a dream to get to visit them all. There is no doubt that 2012 was a big and ripe vintage, and those wines will take some time. I was really impressed with some of the 2007's I tasted, all of which have really settled down.

Flight 1 - Day 1: Le Vieux Donjon (4 notes)

Claire Michel was our first stop on our trip, and it was a pleasure to taste such old school wines with her. Not flashy. Just honest, solid and very ageworthy.

White
2014 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This was just bottled two weeks ago, but it was already showing well. A blend of 50% Clairette and 50% Roussanne. Honeysuckle and some nuts on a very tropical front end. An oily mid-palate with a mineral finish. 100% stainless. They really seek to emphasize the freshness here, and it is working. Lush and fun.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Stem and berry burst from the glass. Wild aromatics with meat and licorice. The wine definitely reflects the whole cluster aspects that they generally try to retain for their Grenache (75% of the blend). White pepper, tight, pretty wound up. Very mineral.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Dark and roasted. Very powerful with a sweet and juicy core. Excellent spice. Quite structured. Rather drying on the finish.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2007 Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
An exotic nose. Soy and tar. This is really soft and pleasing, seemingly easy, but with great complexity and depth. Not at all overripe or overdone. This is the rare case of a 2007 that really works for me.
5 people found this helpful Comments (3)

Flight 2 - Day 1: Clos des Papes (the tasting room) (3 notes)

Clos des Papes was our only stop without an appointment (they said one was not available or necessary). We started with a somewhat perfunctory tasting in the tasting room.

Red
2012 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Exceptionally ripe and powerful. Roasted plums. White pepper. Very juicy and intense. A tannic finish. A beastly good wine with tons of potential.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This is more fun to drink right now than the 2012 although a lesser wine over the long haul. Smoky and meaty, really savory. Very present structure, much as the 2012. Peppery and definitely some faintly troubling alcohol notes in the mid. Very pleasing though, juicy, fresh and peppery. Quite a mouthful with surprisingly suave and sneaky tannins.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2013 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Peach and stone. Great energy, mineral and spice. Zingy and fresh, almost as if there is some trapped CO2. Melon and stone with a hint of lime zest. So much energy.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 3 - Day 1: Clos des Papes (the cellar) (4 notes)

Vincent Avril emerged from the cellar as I was in the midst of purchasing some wine after the tasting. He told us to grab a glass and invited us down. He was tasting some of his whites in preparation for a vertical of whites that he would be doing with his importer in Dallas soon, and we were the lucky beneficiaries. I was stunned at how well these were aging. Nothing shut down or awkward. Really impressive!

White
2007 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This was crazy. A taste from a half-full bottle that been open for TWO WEEKS. Almond and honey. Really dominant notes of honey. I cannot believe how fresh and full this was.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Vincent pointed out that in a difficult vintage like 2003 that the Bourbolenc was especially important. Varnish and nuts on the nose. Amazingly fresh. Spicy. With a note of dried pineapple. Wacky!
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2009 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Some very vitamin, mineral elements on the nose. Still very primary and fruity with none of the amazing maturity of the 2007 and 2003.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2010 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Loaded with tangerine. Very fresh acidity. It is impressive but a bit heavy and clumsy in comparison to the older examples. Neither primary nor secondary. Still, for a wine in an awkward phase, it was still quite nice.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 4 - Day 1: Dinner at La Table de Sorgues (1 note)

What a gem of a restaurant!

I had never had a Barroche Pure before, so I figured it needed to be tried as we saw it on the list.

Red
2011 Domaine la Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Pure France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
I cannot believe that this wine is over 17% alcohol. Piercing and, well, umm, PURE. This is wickedly intense Grenache. Sappy and powerful, loaded with white pepper. Some elements of heat peek through, but it is a truly fascinating wine.
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 5 - Day 2: Domaine du Pégaü (8 notes)

My favorite winery in the world, it was a joy to taste with Laurence. She is an endless fountain of information about the region, the vineyards, the wines, and the local politics. A tasting was followed by lunch at a nearby restaurant in town.

Rosé
2014 Sélectionné par Laurence Féraud Pink Pégau France, Vin de France
Cinsault and Grenache. A meaty nose but quite clean and bracing on the palate. Tight, citric, cutting and mineral. This will take a bit to unwind, but I am sure it will be quite clean and refreshing.
4 people found this helpful Comment
White
2014 Château Pégau Côtes du Rhône Blanc Cuvée Lône France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Brisk and fresh with lots of lime zest. Really nice acidity. Laurence loves German Riesling, and she is modeling this after a trocken Donnhoff. Nice!!!
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2014 Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Cuvée A Tempo France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This is a brand new, luxury cuvée white. 1/3 each of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Clairette. The label art will be modeled after the Cuvée da Capo. Hints of honey on the nose. Rich, powerful and mouth-coating. Incredible texture. Floral with a bit of white pepper. Oily and yet still quite fresh. Laurence envisions this as a bit of homage to a Coche-Dury, and I can see the comparison. The texture here is simply incredible. I am excited to see how this one ages.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Château Pégau Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Maclura France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Grapey and fresh with some meatiness. Mostly Grenache with 25% Syrah. Quite chewy, stemmy and peppery. Still pretty raw. This is named for a special type of tree (there is one on the property) from Oklahoma.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Château Pégau Côtes du Rhône Villages Cuvée Setier France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages
Really funky and meaty with lots of licorice. Wow this is explosive, peppery and spicy. Grippy, fun, dry and powerful with pine needle and white pepper. This really attacks your palate (in a positive way). It has opened up dramatically in the past 6 months.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
N.V. Plan Pégau Vin de Table Français Lot 2010 - 2011 - 2012 France, Vin de Table Français
Mmm, funky, animal and roasted. Meaty and tasty with sweet, ripe grilled plums.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Laurence compares this to the brilliant 2010. Big, chewy and powerful, another great vintage. Bloody, chewy, spicy and meaty with great density. Soy, pepper and licorice. A really structured wine. This will need some time to unwind.
7 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
From magnum. Dark and meaty, lots of gamey, bretty aspects. Furry animals, both raw and grilled. Wow this is really gamey. Crazy notes of licorice and white pepper, soy and venison carpaccio. This is a really ripe and especially savage vintage. In a word, AWESOME!!!
9 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 6 - Day 2: Lunch at La Mere Germaine (1 note)

Red
2010 Château Mont Thabor Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Quite traditional. Pleasing and round. Not especially explosive but clean, proper and pleasant.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 7 - Day 2: Domaine Charvin (11 notes)

Wow what treat to taste with Laurent Charvin. I have always enjoyed his wines, and now I will always have the image of all of us clambering up atop the concrete tanks. This was a whirlwind tasting in cold conditions, but it made it all that much more satisfying. I have immense respect for the man and his excellent wines.

White
2014 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Unfinished wine tasted from vat. 50% Bourbolenc, 20% Clairette, 20% Roussanne, 10% Grenache Blanc. Crisp and quite intense. The Bourbolenc really carries the day. We had a long conversation with Laurent Charvin about how much he likes trocken (German and Austrian) Riesling, and one can easily see that from this wine. Great potential here!
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône (Le Poutet) France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Unfinished wine tasted from two separate concrete tanks. The first was 1/3 each of Grenache, Carignane, and Mourvedre. Intensely stemmy, really wild. The second tank was mostly Grenache. Peppery and much more round and full.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Unfinished wine tasted from concrete vat. This was a sample headed for the CDP, nearly all Grenache. Wow, this is surprisingly approachable and polished. Quote seductive and already feeling somewhat ready.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2013 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Very present acidity. Quite round with a bit of nuttiness. It is actually a bit less fresh than the very electric (and as yet unfinished) 2014.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Rosé
2014 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône Rosé France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Wow, this can be guzzled already! So mineral and fresh with really juicy watermelon on the initial approach. Salty on the finish. Pressed versus saignee.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône (Le Poutet) France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Wild stems. Raspberry coulis. Fresh, a bit raw, but quite nice.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Darker and more brooding than the CDR from 2012. Insane notes of white pepper. Really intense and vibrant.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône (Le Poutet) France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
Quite soft and approachable. Darker and more dusky than the intense 2012. Some soy aspects, dark.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Tasted from two separate bottles. One was popped and poured and the other was open for ONE WEEK! The bottle just opened showed incredible concentration and spice. Almost oppressively so. The ONE WEEK bottle was faintly oxidized on the nose with some soy and chocolate. However the palate is so much more broad and expansive, really much more approachable.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2007 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
This was poured as a mystery wine, and OMG, I correctly guessed it as 2007 CDP. Roasted and ripe, seemingly "easy" but with sneaky tannins than really catch up to you. The 2007 guess was based on the especially sweet and pliant mid-palate and flavor profile. I love where this has ended up, and the more 2007's I taste here, the better I feel about the vintage.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Laurent popped and poured a half bottle and asked us to guess the wine. (This was before the prior wine was revealed as 2007 CDP.) My guess was that this had to be younger than the prior wine, maybe 2009 or 2010. On a roll! Super peppery but with a bit more ripe, soy aspect than the 2007. That could be due to aeration (Laurent had slow ox'ed the 2007, and this was just popped), but the 2009's are awfully ripe.
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 8 - Day 2: Château de Beaucastel (7 notes)

We finished our day of tasting with a visit to Marc Perrin at Beacastel. He toured us through the simply stunning caves showing endless walls of bottles. (They have been stockpiling about 10% of most vintages to have future stashes to be able to sell from perfect conditions.) The bottles were pristine and all the best examples I have tasted of their respective vintages.

One revelation for me is that the gamy, wild aspect I like in Beaucastel Rouge seems to have more to do with the Mourvedre in the cooler vintages. The 1999 was stunning beyond belief!

Red
2010 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Deep mineral with a raspberry core. Sweet and salty. Nice structure and minerality. Such a sweet and pure palate yet with amazing restraint.
5 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2007 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Ripe, roasted plums, white pepper and tar. Wow! Incredible structure. Very ripe nose moves to a surprisingly classic palate.
4 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2000 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A roasted nose, some soy and slightly oxidative character. The palate is really silky and harmonious.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1999 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Wowza, this gamey and meaty. Bloody and funky. Licorice and "lavender honey." Just perfect Beau from a cooler vintage. Olive and tapenade. Stunning, rockstar wine. This is why we drink CDP.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1986 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Served blind and guessed as 80's, maybe 83 or 85. Not bad. Another incredible wine. Burgundy from CDP. Game, honey, peppery and bloody. Polished and nuanced, just awesome!
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1991 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
From magnum. Smoky, meaty and gamey. "Beaucastel goes North" with more of a Northern Rhone personality. Green, some bug spray. Super pure and sweet on the core. Peppery and a bit dry on the finish but overall just stunning. Head shakingly good in fact.
4 people found this helpful Comment
White
2012 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Cuvée Roussanne Vieilles Vignes France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Nuts, marshmallow and honey. Salty, sweet and peachy. Low acid but stunningly fresh.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 9 - Day 2: Dinner at L'Oustalet Gigondas (1 note)

We finished with the Grande Truffe menu at the fabulous L'Oustalet. We were the first ones into the restaurant, but by the time we left 3+ hours later it was warm and vibrant with every seat filled. One advantage of the February visit is that we were at the height of the black truffle season. The earthy richness and decadence of these was such a fun counterpoint to my memories of a trip to Alba in November and 3 days of white truffles. So different and so similarly wonderful!

White
2011 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Cuvée Roussanne Vieilles Vignes France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Much like the 2012 but perhaps even more ripe with some marmalade. Not served as cool, and it showed more mineral depth and maturity. However it also seems to need to stay cool to retain freshness.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 10 - Day 3: Domaine Bois de Boursan (4 notes)

And the final visit of a great three days was at one of the quiet stars of the appellation. It was such a pleasure to meet Jean Paul Versino and to taste his pure wines.

White
2014 Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
35% Clairette, 35% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne, 15% Bourbolenc. The Clairette and Bourbolenc bring freshness. Lots of slate and mineral. Stone and lemon with a hint of lemon curd on the finish.
Red
2012 Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
70% Grenache. Really peppery and vibrant with lots of spicy stem character. Quite ripe with chambord intensity. Chewy and peppery. Vibrant. Actually this has great acidity the more time I spend with it. Really fresh.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Félix France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Less Syrah and more Mourvedre (25%) than the basic cuvée. Dense and peppery, loaded with garrigue. Mmm.....
Plum and pepper, sheesh the density and intensity are amazing for a wine that is still vibrant. There is some gamey, funky awesomeness on the finish that screams of Mourvedre.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Domaine Bois de Boursan Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
There is no Felix this year, so everything went into the basic cuvée. The production was also only about 50% of the normal amount. Wow, this is truly AWESOME, with amazing energy. It is juicy and fresh, vibrant and pure. This wine reminds me of the 2004 Pegau, in that it just pops on the palate with so much zing and makes me want to throw my arms up in a victory pose. I can't wait to track this down when it is bottled (in October I think). Sometimes the "small" vintages are the best ones, and this is an interesting proof point towards that.
3 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 11 - Day 3: Dinner (1 note)

After a long drive home, this was the last Châteauneuf-du-Pape of the weekend.

Red
2003 Domaine Charvin Châteauneuf-du-Pape France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
An amazing success for the vintage. Garrigue, screaming garrigue, licorice, white pepper and sweet cherry. This is a big wine, but it shows great purity.
3 people found this helpful Comment
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