Les Granits and Black Bart; St. Joseph and Napa; paired tastings of marsanne and syrah

Our house

Tasted August 9, 2008 by pgm with 503 views


I'd been wanting to do this for awhile: match pairs of syrah and marsanne from two wineries representing two different regions. The Veraison's Black Bart label creates a somewhat rare possibility outside of the more obvious tradition represented by St. Joseph in Chapoutier's Les Granits bottlings. All wines were from the 2005 vintage.

The Castaneda family came for dinner, and J.'s preparations featuring black tiger shrimp, corn, coconut, and pork in a variety of presentations ended up being almost ideally matched with the wines. We also started with Champagne and opened another bottle at the end of the evening.

It turned out that the chosen examples syrah and marsanne were excellent for the experiment. Interestingly, the Black Bart wines are both reported as 15.2% alc. by vol. while the Les Granits are both reported as 13.5%; however I'd guess the latter wines to be closer to 14.5, as there didn't seem to be that much difference in noticeable heat or body, especially in the two syrahs. Overall, the two marsannes were a real revelation, convincingly great examples that showed varietal characteristics in common, but demonstrated winemaking differences. In fact, the whites stole the show. Even though we're all primarily red wine drinkers (and Rhone fans, especially), the wines that surprised and delighted us most were the two marsannes.

All the wines were really excellent, with not a single disappointment among them. In fact, I'm slightly embarrassed by the sameness of these ratings, all in the 91-93 range, but there you have it: outstanding wines, none of them quite mindblowing, but all of them wines that induce a "wow, that's great."

Flight 1 - For starters (1 note)

White - Sparkling
N.V. Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Réserve France, Champagne
91 points
(Mis en cave 2000, disgorged 2007.)
Delicious, exciting, the kind of champagne that makes your guests smile unabashedly. Notes pretty consistent with the bottle from earlier in the week, but I think a slightly better showing (hmm---great week, having this twice!).
Vigorous bead with very fine bubbles, yeasty nose, apple and pear aromas and flavors, some nuts and sweet spices on the finish.
This is currently the best Champagne value I know of.

Flight 2 - Marsanne vs. Marsanne; Napa vs. St. Joseph (2 notes)

These wines were served at around 45-50 degrees F, poured from the bottle about half an hour after opening.

2005 Krupp Brothers Estates Marsanne Black Bart Stagecoach Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
92 points
Exotic nose with perfume of orange peel, allspice, and mineral oil over a core of pear and not-quite-ripe peach fruit. Rich and full-bodied in the mouth, with layered complexity, fig, lemon curd, and honey. This was the biggest hit of the night, with everyone except me preferring it to the Les Granits.
I liked this plenty, but it seemed to show its oak too overtly: I had the impression that the fruit here was amazing, but it was treated a little too much like a chardonnay... However, that's just a small reservation on a surprisingly outstanding wine.
2005 M. Chapoutier St. Joseph Blanc Les Granits France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
92 points
Very pretty peach/apricot aromas, with spice and floral notes as well. Like the Black Bart Marsanne, this also showed a rather savory richness, like honeyed roasted fig, but the Les Granits added a stony minerality on the palate that lasted into the finish. While everyone else preferred the Black Bart Marsanne, I liked this just slightly better for what I perceived to be its greater purity of stonefruit aromas and flavors, and its much more subtle oak. 92-93

Flight 3 - Syrah vs. Syrah; Napa vs. St. Joseph (2 notes)

These were both decanted about ninety minutes before they were served, and around 65 degrees serving temperature. I think the Les Granits might have benefitted from three to four hours decanting, but the Black Bart was good to go.

2005 Krupp Brothers Estates Syrah Black Bart Stagecoach Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley
91 points
Black olive notes right off the bat, with campfire smoke and pepper, over a blackberry/cassis core. A mustard spice note was recognized by A. This was a quite generous and pure wine, very fruit-forward, but adding really distinctive characteristics to keep it interesting.
The group was evenly split in their preferences for this or the Les Granits. My sense was that Black Bart was showing better tonight and ready to drink, while the Les Granits needs and will benefit from some time...
2005 M. Chapoutier St. Joseph Les Granits France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
92 points
This was dense and tight, somewhat reticent nose at first, but opening up to give licorice and black currant and berry. In the mouth it was likewise tight and dense, with meat, stony minerality, and black fruit. Pretty huge tannins, but they're very fine and ripe tannins, and bode well for the future of this wine. Some espresso on the finish. This wine obviously needs time.
But despite its tightness, it still found proponents who preferred it to the comparitively generous Black Bart syrah. I'm stuck in the middle on this one: I think the Black Bart showed better tonight, but I'm happier having the Les Granits in the cellar. 91-92 tonight, but I think this will be 93-94 in a couple years.

Flight 4 - An extra at the end. (1 note)

2005 Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio Spain, Murcia, Jumilla
Opened this at the end of the night, popped and poured. In comparison to the evening's previous wines, this was pure indulgence (and J. declared it her new WOTN). Chocolate nose, coffee, dense black fruit, a few baking spice notes---the Clio we're familiar with. I had quit taking focused notes at this point, but it was another wine in the 91-93 range...
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