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Rhone Dinner: Hermitage Blancs, Pegau Flight, Beaucastel and Reynard

July 6, 2010

RHONE DINNER: HERMITAGE BLANCS, PEGAU FLIGHT, BEAUCASTEL AND REYNARD – Lupa Trattoria, San Francisco, California (6/28/2010)


Our buddy Keith was in Nepal for about a month, doing good work but drinking no wine, and came back famished. (A post-trip bout with a bug he picked up kept him from slaking his wine thirst too.) He told us of his plight and suggested we all get together for a Monday night Rhone fest at a favorite no-corkage wine dinner spot of ours in Noe Valley–Lupa. Eleven of us assembled for some tasty Rhones, including a rare flight of Hermitage Blanc, a Pegau vertical, and mini Beaucastel and Allemand Reynard verticals. I’ll comment on the flights in more detail below.

My WOTN was our ’95 Pégaü Cuvée Laurence, but the Beaucastels, the ’06 Reynard and the flight of whites were pretty special too. The food was good as always, and an excellent value. Stephen orders up a mess of dishes in his excellent Italian, and we sample them all, family style. Thanks to Keith and his weeks of wine deprivation for inspiring us to some excellent Rhone drinking.

Hermitage Blancs


How often does one get to enjoy a flight of great Marsanne like this? Not often enough. I was inspired by this flight to start thinking about a whole Hermitage Blanc-themed dinner, including some 20- and 30-year-old samples. Our oldest in this flight was a 10-year-old, the Chave which, unlike our Chapoutiers, has some Roussanne in it (usually from 15 to 20%). Since Roussanne is prone to oxidation, that may help explain why our Chave was somewhat oxidized–a problem not present at all with our 100% Marsanne Chapoutiers. Marsanne is said to be the only grape variety whose wines can live a long time–often 30 years or more–without much acidity, due to their abundant glycerol and power. That came through on these Chapoutier wines, along with the oily texture that is typical of Marsanne. In the case of the de L’Orée and Le Méal, however, they were also displaying a great deal of delicacy and ravishing floral notes. The group voted in favor of the ’07 Le Méal as its WOTF, but for me the ’02 de L’Orée had the slight edge. Both, however, were quite delicious and I was in no hurry to move on to our big reds.

  • 2000 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Light golden yellow color; nice buttery, oxidative, almond, mineral nose; oily textured, tangy, citrus, almond, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2002 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc L’Orée – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Light golden yellow color; lovely lemon polish, lemon cream, orange oil, almond nose; tasty, fresh, poised, delicate, light oily textured, lemon oil, tart orange, mineral; medium finish (94 pts.)
  • 2004 M. Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Light medium golden color; nutty, butter nose; tasty, oily textured, almond, honey, mineral palate with richness; medium finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Le Méal – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Light golden yellow color; ravishing, floral, lemon, orange blossom nose; tasty, orange blossom, floral, orange palate with good acidity, and approachable nose; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (group’s WOTF) (93 pts.)

Beaucastel and friend

A couple of terrific Beaucastels went next. I hadn’t had the ’85 for a few years, so it was a joy to be able to taste one again. This one was in very good shape and singing with garrigue and licorice goodness. I’ve had the ’98 many times, and I think it’s really opening up and beginning its solid drinking window in the past year. The ’89 Font du Loup was also great to try, as one sees so little of this Chateau in our part of the world, and it was a decent, mature CdP, but greatly outclassed by our two Beaus.

Nick, Bill and Keith

  • 1985 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Bricked medium dark red violet color with clear meniscus; leather, tobacco, touch of barnyard, garrigue nose; tasty, youthful, garrigue, cherry, tobacco, mineral, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (group’s WOTF) (96 pts.)
  • 1998 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Slightly bricking dark red violet color; garrigue, anise, black fruit, plum, dried cherry, berry nose; tasty, delicious, dried berry, garrigue, licorice, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (95 pts.)
  • 1989 Château de la Font du Loup Châteauneuf-du-Pape – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Bricked medium red color with pale meniscus; mature, iodine, tobacco nose; tobacco, earthy, mineral palate with firm, dusty tannins; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Pégaü Flight

Mmmmm, a whole flight of Pégaü from very different years. They were all great in their own way, and the ’04 shows a lot of promise. For me, however, the ’95 Laurence easily stole the show with its great complexity and depth. The Laurence is produced from the same grapes as the Réservée bottling (the estate is planted to 80% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre and other varieties), but spends an additional two to three years in oak casks (none new), giving it extra complexity, evolution and, I think, a little more concentration. I preferred both the Laurences in this flight to the almost equally good Réservées. The ’99 continues to be a vintage on a faster evolutionary track, and is quite ready to drink now.

Gary, Dee, Stephen and Sandy

  • 1995 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; lovely garrigue, herbal, dried cherry, lavender nose; tasty, au point, herbal, garrigue, dried cherry, tobacco palate with depth; medium-plus finish (group’s WOTF) (97 pts.)
  • 1999 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Almost opaque red violet color; lovely cherry, rich, kirsch, garrigue, sage nose; tasty, poised, garrigue, tart berry palate with firm sweet tannins but ready to drink now; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Opaque red violet color; slightly heat damaged, berry, herbal, plum, barnyard nose; a little tight, tart plum, garrigue, anise palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2004 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Very dark red violet color; deep cherry, black cherry, plum nose; youthful, plush, tart berry, cherry, licorice, baked plum palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)

Allemand Cornas Reynard Flight

I’ve become a huge fan of Allemand and the Reynard bottlings in the last several years, so I was delighted to get to try the ’96. The Reynard is Allemand’s bottling of Cornas from his older vines, 40 years old and older. Unfortunately Eric, who brought it, didn’t think it was up to the level of other bottles of the ’96 he’s tasted. I wasn’t getting any distinctive cork taint on the nose, but since I haven’t tasted the ’96 before, I have to defer to Eric and others at the table who thought that a bit of TCA was impacting the palate of that bottle. Since ’96 was a year that Allemand used no sulfur, I’m wondering if that played any role in letting something bacterial affect this bottle to the extent that it diminished its palate for those who’d tasted it before. The ’06 was just as good as when I’ve had it a couple times before. Beautiful, complex, delicious Cornas.

  • 1996 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
    Very dark red violet color; tobacco, cigar box nose; tasty, cigar box, tobacco, tart red plum, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (some, including someone who’d had this wine before, thought there was a touch of TCA impacting the palate) (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
    Opaque red violet color; ripe, rich, berry, raspberry, floral, black pepper nose; tasty, rich, black raspberry, berry, black fruit, sage palate with depth; long finish 95+ pts. (95 pts.)

’99 Côte-Rôtie

Our last flight was definitely an anti-climax after the glories that had gone before. Our ’99 Rostaing smelled and tasted cooked, and not at all representative of a great year in Côte-Rôtie like ’99. The Gaec-Gallet was quite tasty, with lots of pepper and complexity, but still a step down from the four stellar flights that we’d already enjoyed.

  • 1999 Rene Rostaing Côte-Rôtie – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Very dark red violet color; heat damaged, vegetal, bacon fat, stewy nose; stewy, vegetal, bell pepper palate; medium finish (82 pts.)
  • 1999 Gaec-Gallet Henri et Phillippe Côte-Rôtie – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Opaque red violet color; earthy, cigar box, mineral, tobacco nose; tasty, cigar box, tobacco, green pepper, mineral, padrone chile palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

This gang definitely enjoys their Rhones and it’s always fun to meet up with them and drink some of our favorite wines together. Since I had tasted 280 wines, virtually all Pinot, the prior three days at Pinot Days, this was also just the antidote I needed for my weekend Pinot overdose.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 12:01 am

    Great wines from great producers.

  2. keith Goldstein permalink
    July 7, 2010 7:49 am

    Fine wines, indeed. I only want to drink Marsanne from now on! But, you are too kind to those crude, rough-around-the -edges Cornas.

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