Foxen, Cuvee Jeanne Marie 2006
The Chateauneuf du Pape-like blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Syrah & 15% Mourvedre from Foxen is already showing beautifully. A dark, penetrating nose of cherry liqueur, pine resin, forest floor and sweet licorice turn savory and broad on the palate, as the Pinot-like fragrances become tamed by meaty, sappy layers of sweet, persistent fruit. This is a lush, hedonistic experience and should show fabulously over the next 5 years, 90 points. Are there any mailing lists that are more fun or unassuming than Foxen’s?
For the white Rhone haters:
Clos des Papes Blanc, ‘06
This vintage is notably softer and rounder than the masterpiece ’05, w/ ripe scents of lanolin, green tea, hazelnut, spicy citrus & quince paste notes. A honeyed, somewhat oily entry manages to stay spry on the palate, thanks to a nice mineral cut keeping things honest. That said, it still falls a bit short of the benchmark '05 in terms of poise and symmetry. Give her a few more years to come together (though the Avrils would argue at least a decade is necessary), 93+ points.
More from the Avrils:
Clos des Papes, 1998
As far as I’m concerned, this is a fabulous vintage for Clos des Papes and if anything, it gets judged far too quickly when it’s tasted. The perfume is by NO means a weakness, as its scents are hypnotic, dazzling w/ kirsch liqueur, black licorice, spice box, briar and freshly tilled earth scents. The succulent entry begins to thin out, seeming a bit austere in the mid palate and lacking the follow-through of the better vintages from this domaine...but just before I write it off, it fleshes out in the glass, becoming sappier and thicker, suggesting it may be a ways away from hitting its plateau and is emerging from a dormant phase, 93++ points (this was less impressive than our last go-round w/ the ’98, but airtime revealed that its future promise may be met in the cellar).
Clos des Papes ‘04
This is an explosive, thick ’04 that is crammed w/ crushed berry, violet and black tea notes that almost seem top heavy at first, but the sweet, bittersweet cocoa filled-attack maintains a suave sense of poise from start to finish. Undoubtedly creamy and full in its infancy, but there is a terrific sense of purity that is sure to take this vintage into an even more compelling stage as it enters its adolescence. Patience is a must, 95 points.
Some more from '04:
Pegau Reserve ‘04
In case you haven’t tried it yet, a fun tasting exercise in traditional Chateauneuf du Pape is pitting Pegau up against Clos des Papes, side by side. Traditional, hands off methods & old vines of the same appellation in the same vintage couldn’t be any more different! The Clos des Papes seemed much more lush and squeaky clean next to the savage, brooding Reserve, which revealed oodles of iron, blood sausage, truffle, black currant and singed herbal notes in the nose. This is NOT one for the brett-aphobes, yet it undeniably delivers the vintage’s character in spades, as crisp, focused acids push the ample cassis flavors along the generous finish, 94 points.
Such beautiful femininity stems from the glass of this pure Grenache (dressed in Burgundy clothing) that I don’t know where to begin. Vivid notions of violet, pomegranate, crushed red cherries and fresh rosemary herbs all seem to whisper in dramatic tongues that speak the essence of earth. A bright, sappy entry whistles through the medium weight, elegant frame, allowing a dusting of white pepper to chime in on the pure, mouth-watering finish, 93 points.
Vieux Donjon, 2004
I don't think it is said enough, but this is one fantastic, traditional domaine. Their '04 is a textbook example of the vintage and really personifies exactly what I look for in unadulterated, gutsy Chateauneuf du Pape, revealing a medium ruby hue in color. The bouquet is outrageously expressive, pumping out virile scents of road tar, iron, cracked pepper, red currant sauce and hearty plum cake notes that soar from the glass. The palate is medium in weight, wonderfully fresh and packs a distinctly herb-tinged, spicy punch that cackles along a fresh, mineral coated finish, 92+ points.
Usseglio Mon Aieul, 2006
To be cut and dry, I’ll say that fans of this cuvee will be ecstatic w/ this vintage. For fair balance, those that can’t stand it will likely loathe it yet again (so don’t bother scoring any bottles- save the wine for its fans!). The color is about as deep a ruby as you’ll see a Grenache wine get, paving the way for a knockout perfume of incense, rose petals, brine, fruitcake and the essence of super-ripe, crushed strawberry fruit. The palate has a rich, silky smooth entry that unfolds its layers of juicy, almost succulent fruit flavors interwoven w/ notions of anise and pepper, sending a shockwave of deliciousness straight down the spine. Long, big boned and fleshy, this dreamy Grenache has simply got it all, 96+ points.
Caillou Quartz, 2001
The Quartz is a black, black and black cuvee in '01, with enough structure to choke a horse. The scents are of the deep & dark variety, w/ melted licorice, crème de cassis, black tea, currant and bittersweet cocoa powder leading the way to a potent attack in the mouth. The palate is a full-tilt, tannic and glycerin loaded fist-full of pleasures, and while obviously in its infancy, it is fit to open today if your entrée is packing some serious heat. The sheer authority of flavor is something to behold. I'm not sure if this is the best vintage ever produced of this cuvee, but damn if it 'aint one of the vintage’s bright, shining stars then I don't know what is, 96 points.
Gigondas, for good measure:
Santa Duc Gigondas '04
I tend to find the appellation level cuvee from Santa Duc to have more typicity, immediate evolution and reveal a more approachable character than its more backward Hautes Garrigues sibling; and the '04 is no different. A mature, precocious nose of Asian spice, cedar, black pepper, hearty plum, black currant paste and fresh rosemary turn savory & hearty on the palate. Dark & brawny in the mouth, w/ a distinctively masculine profile that is surpisingly tannic & chewy, belying its pricepoint and entry-level status. Gutsy, yet pure, this '04 should sustain over a dozen more years in the cellar, yet it really shines today (but make sure you bring some serious beef to the plate for pairing), 92 points.