The Northern Rhone is a unique and fascinating region. Located just south of Lyon where the Rhone River winds through steep, rocky, ancient hillsides covered with Syrah vines. Cote Rotie, Hermitage, St. Joseph, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage; these villages contain some of the oldest and most important vineyards in all of France.
Chris and I recently attended a tasting in New York to learn about very important developments here. The iconic Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine, a producer of world-class wines since 1834, was purchased ten years ago by the Frey Family. Tremendous effort and resources have been used to improve upon the already legendary estate. The immediate focus began with the estate vineyards, gradually improving the soil through sound organic techniques. The goal was to improve the wines by starting with the health of the vineyards. It's working! With each vintage produced, the effects of going ‘natural’ can be felt and tasted. We tasted through the entire range of wines, from the most basic Cotes du Rhone to a vertical of the legendary Hermitage "La Chapelle", which many experts would include in the pantheon of the worlds greatest wines. The 'basic' CdR was better than expected and the "La Chapelle" was top notch. The wine that really caught our attention us was the Crozes-Hermitage.
Although Crozes-Hermitage is not as highly regarded - or as highly priced - as Hermitage or Cote Rotie, there are some excellent examples that show the potential of Syrah with Northern Rhone terroir. The Crozes-Hermitage Rouge Domaine de Thalabert 2010 was a stunning example. Purchased in 1834, this is the first vineyard Jabolet owned, and the oldest in the appellation. The vines are 40-80 years old and biodynamically farmed. Dense purple color and textbook perfume of violets, licorice, and spice tinged black raspberry. It is seamless and precise on the palate, with lively flavors and elegant style. Drinks beautifully now, and will continue blossom with more time in the cellar.
They also produce compelling whites....
The Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Domaine Mule Blanche 2014 is an stunning example. A combination of stony minerality and rich texture make for an exhilarating change of pace. This blend of 50% Marsanne and 50% Rousanne shows an array of complexity; preserved lemon, white flowers, acacia, peach and a hint of vanilla. The wine translates site as well. The 7 hectare plot of pebbly terraced vines is also biodynamically farmed and picked early to preserve freshness and acidity. This is a style that will wake up the most jaded palate!