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Friday, June 27, 2008

Michel's larger than life line-up of whites:

Crozes Hermitage, Les Meysonniers 2007
This cuvee comes from some of the oldest Marsanne vines in the plains of the appellation. The wine is fermented in 80% stainless steel, with the balance in old oak barrels, and the color was perhaps the palest straw of the bunch. A complex, nostril tickling bouquet of hay, chamomile tea, chive butter and citrus zest shoots from the glass. The mouth-feel is absolutely bracing, w/ a lightning beam of acidity carrying the trim, yet full flavored palate to the finish suggestive of apple pie crust. While young, I imagine this infant has the potential to gain a bit more depth w/ a few more months of bottle age, 88+ points.

Deschants, Saint Joseph 2006
The Deschants bottling comes from south-east facing slopes of pure granite soils and ratchets up the intensity, as this darker hued effort reveals a nose more on the tropical fruit spectrum. Scents of ginger, salted butter, tea leaves, coconut oils, apricot and quince fruit reverberate from the glass w/ vivid complexity and shoot through a laser of acidity in the mouth. Beautifully delineated, mid-weight beams of liquid minerals jet through the finish, letting a lingering note of protea flower & bitter almond sing in the background, 92 points & one knockout value!

Invitare, Condrieu 2006
A small portion of Condrieu comes from this domaine and is perhaps one of the brightest, most high toned Viognier of the appellation (there is no oak in the upbringing, with 90% of the fruit being fermented in stainless steel and the rest in demi-muids). Light golden hues foreshadow a nose of apricot cream, peach skin, lilacs and spiced orange marmalade. While full in the mouth, the wine is extremely light on its feet, dancing suavely from cheek to cheek w/ an illusive freshness that I hardly come across from a Viognier, 90 points. While Condrieus are not known for longevity by any stretch of the imagination, I’d recommend drinking up this particularly delicate version over the next year as the ’05 I tasted was already tiring & was almost faint in terms of explosiveness when compared to the ’06.

Chante Aloutte, Hermitage 2005
I couldn’t help but bring some of this golden colored elixir back to the States. The collective line-up of Hermitage whites, to me, are the most complex, rich and terroir driven white wines in the entire Rhone region. The Chante Aloutte cuvee used to encompass the entire white Hermitage blend before Michel took over the Domaine in ’89 and fragmented the wines into their particular terroirs. The upbringing consists of 1/3rd barrique, 1/3rd old oak and 1/3rd stainless steel. The riveting, idiosyncratic aroma is full of bee pollen, lanolin, honey glazed hazelnuts, smoked figs, lime candy and floral lychee notes permeate the aromatic profile of this uncanny wine. This monster is oily and thick in the mouth, w/ unctuous flavors that are beautifully reeled in by a stony sense of liquid minerality on the finish. In spite of its broad shoulders, the multi-layered textures bring symmetry & grace to this beauty, which leaves a chameleon-like impression on the finish. While this is technically the lowest end of the price/quality spectrum from Chapoutier’s white Hermitage line-up (and is the largest in volume at 1,000 cases), it is a stunning example of the potential depth and complexities of the Marsanne grape from the granite soils on the hill, 95 points.

De L’Oree, Hermitage 2004
Marsanne was on the Hermitage hill long before Syrah, and this example of white Hermitage tells red wine drinkers who’s boss, exhibiting more power & structure than several Syrahs that I’ve tasted! The L’Oree is one of Michel’s top cuvees and is a flat out amazing tasting experience. Thrilling aromatics of buttered walnuts, honeysuckle, crème fraiche, bitter almond, candle wax, citrus blossom and minerals are simply outrageous. In the mouth, the wine is monstrously thick, w/ an almost chewy texture that piles on opulent layers of hedonistic flavor that seem to go on for days. I still can’t fathom how this much intensity & character can be crammed into a glass, yet still retain a sense of balance & poise. Anything of this other-worldly nature is bound to stir w/ a controversial wand, but to this taster, it is the stuff dreams are made of, 99 points (and the highest rated wine on my trip)!

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