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Bonjour d’une racine pure qui donne une nouvelle feuille,
I was quite pleased but not surprised when I read over Josh Raynolds’ new Vinous reviews on the Northern Rhone 2013/2014, finding that team Down to Earth hit it out of the park across the board. Whilst I encourage you to look into the gems from Georges Vernay (I keep tellin’ y’all to check out the reds!!), Pierre Benetiere, and Cedric Parpette published therein, today’s offer showcases the hard working and profoundly good gems from the Clusel Roch family. A historically benchmark estate whose grandest of Grand cru sites les Grandes Places provides their old vine Serine, the higher acid oval shaped mutation of Syrah that is an adaptation to these crazily steep terraced vineyards, which has been celebrated and propagated over the past two decades throughout their vineyards. The reverential vision of Brigitte Roch and Gilbert Clusel to celebrate the many faces of their local viticultural history has clearly been both transmitted and taken to even greater heights under the watch of and yolk carried by their son Guillaume. Not only has he pushed the organic envelope and refined the texture of the Côte Rôtie wines of the house, but he has nursed back to health sandy and Galet (large smooth river stones) strewn vineyards in Millery and replanted in Grigny on the southern outskirts of Lyon along the banks of the Rhone, shining star examples of what is possible from this seemingly forgotten patch of earth. These wines are under the Coteaux de Lyonnais appellation (never heard of it, right?), and offer some of the most tremendous values in the Northern Rhone, as their precision, purity, and gourmandise offer just about everything one might desire for everyday Northern Rhone purposes.
As exciting as Guillaume’s new frontier in the flats of the Coteaux de Lyonnais is, the real thunder comes with their as-good-as-it-gets Côte Rôties. Insiders have long recognized just how special the ancient Serine vines and pure mother rock of the family’s Grandes Places vineyard are; it is not hyperbole to state that this site produces one of the most profound elemental nectars in all of Côte Rôtie in every vintage. I recently had a client come banging on the door after a Northern Rhone evening with friends during which many benchmark bottles were poured. He said that the 1990 Clusel Roch Grandes Places was the single greatest Northern Rhone wine he had ever tried, pleading for anything that I had left. The quantities available are always tiny, but good things come in small packages…
I inquired with Brigitte as to what I might be able to offer, fully aware that the paltry yields of '13 and '14 may result in a disappointment to the tardy. Brigitte cheerfully offered me not only a handsome parcel of their ‘13s, classical treble toned beauties that they are, but is also allowing me to dip into reserves of their last remaining 2012s, a denser vintage that is packed and stacked. Take my word for it if you don’t already know: this is as good as it gets, so tarry not! As Josh Raynolds’ title to his N Rhone article suggests: “2014 and 2013 Northern Rhone: Great Wines If You Can Find Them.”
2015 Coteaux du Lyonnais les Traboules $ - This is a unique and outrageously good example of what is possible with Gamay Noir in the sandy and Galet filled soils in Millery. Like Raynolds’ review of the 2014 below attests to, in appetizing refreshment and utility at the table, this is some TASTAY!! I’ve had plenty of customers come back shocked at how good this is. The superlative qualities of the riper 2015 vintage have had me in a tizzy since tasting a few early samples last Fall, so this freshy fresh 2015 should follow that same theme…value hunters, you’ve been told!
“(aged in all stainless steel): Pale red. Zesty red berry, candied rose and mineral aromas show very good clarity. Clean and racy, offering the weight of a white wine but real depth; juicy strawberry and blood orange flavors show a touch of white pepper. Closes spicy and tight, with seemingly no tannins and very good, taut persistence. I could drink a magnum of this wine in nothing flat and without help…” 90 points Josh Raynolds FOR THE 2014, NOT THE 2015 OFFERED HERE.
2014 Coteaux du Lyonnais L’Hecto $ - Here we have another surprising example that displays what is possible in spite of our expectations of the region. This is 100% Chardonnay whose precision and complexity would turn heads in a Macon tasting. White Burgundy lovers, take heed!
" (aged in 10% new oak): Pale gold. Fresh orchard fruits and lemon pith on the fragrant, mineral-accented nose. Juicy and refreshingly brisk on entry, then fleshier and deeper in the mid-palate, offering ripe pear and white peach flavors and a touch of anise. Finishes with very good lift and minerally cut, leaving juicy orchard fruit notes behind. This wine reminded me a lot of a serious Pouilly-Fuissé." 90 points Josh Raynolds
2014 Coteaux du Lyonnais Galets $ - This is the 100% Syrah that Guillaume produces from Millery. Like its stablemates, it is a remarkable value that transcends its appellation, on my short list for best values in Northern Rhone Syrah from anywhere…For all of these Coteaux du Lyonnais wines, they display the meticulous and hard work that Guillaume brings to the table, as well as his touch for precision and delicacy. Delicious.
“(aged in 15% new oak): Light, vivid red. Vibrant scents of red- and black currant, pungent flowers and musky earth take on a hint of allspice as the wine opens up. Juicy, spicy and focused on the palate, offering nervy red and dark berry and floral pastille flavors that deepen on the back half. Distinctly lively but concentrated as well, finishing sweet, seamless and very long, with subtle tannins adding shape.” 91 points Josh Raynolds
2013 Côte Rôtie Cuvée Classique $ - Changing gears to the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie, their entry level Cuvée Classique is a great introductory statesman to the house, displaying the succulent density, suavity of texture, intense florality, and sense of harmony that are all calling cards of the cellar. For the money, this is terrific. It will also age beautifully, if you have the patience/intention to wait…
“Deep ruby. Ripe red and dark berries on the perfumed nose, and subtle floral and peppery spice qualities building in the glass. Fleshy black currant and cherry compote flavors are enlivened by juicy acidity and complemented by a violet pastille nuance. Finishes with strong, sweet persistence and a hint of fine-grained tannins.” 91 points Josh Raynolds
2012 Côte Rôtie la Viallière $ - Now we are getting SERIOUS. From a SE facing .60 hectare parcel of 30 year old Serine vines, these steep, iron-rich micaschiste terraces yield a powerful elemental nectar that is every bit as impressive as the les Grands Places, with just a bit less pronounced minerality in youth. I think that tasted blind, it would be a toss up for many folks which one they prefer. It is far less well known as a site, with less prestige. But in substance…BOOM.
“Inky ruby. Complex aromas of fresh red berries, cherry compote, smoky minerals and potpourri, with spicecake and anise nuances emerging with aeration. Smooth, sappy and sweet, displaying very good focus to its intense red fruit p reserve, violet pastille and allspice flavors. Shows excellent energy and lift on the floral finish, which is firmed by supple, harmonious tannins.” 93 points Josh Raynolds
2013 Côte Rôtie la Viallière $ - Even more treble than the 2012s bass, this is a knockout that will age impeccably for the classicist and newbie alike. Silly good value in my book.
“Inky ruby. Heady, mineral-accented aromas of black raspberry and blueberry preserves and pungent flowers are accented by a spicy topnote. Red and dark berry liqueur flavors show excellent depth and vivacity thanks to a spine of zesty minerality and building spiciness. Finishes with impressively persistent dark berry and floral qualities, building tannins and excellent, mineral-driven persistence.” 93 points Josh Raynolds
2012 Côte Rôtie les Grandes Places $ in 750ml, $ in Magnum - This is as good as it gets, period. Get what you can, and enjoy it in youth as in the 10-25 year window. Approximately 300 cases are made each year from their one hectare of 80 year old Serine; this site is one of the most exposed to the pure mother micaschiste rock of any vineyard in Côte Rôtie, its nascent and compelling complexity beyond apparent, Grand cru class by any name…
“Opaque ruby. Blackberry, candied plum, cassis, licorice, bitter chocolate and potpourri on the complex, intensely perfumed nose. Dense, concentrated and seamless on the palate, offering primary black and blue fruit and floral pastille flavors and a smoky mineral accent that adds back-end vivacity. Finishes with broad, supple tannins, an echo of licorice and outstanding mineral-driven persistence.” 94 points Josh Raynolds
2013 Côte Rôtie les Grandes Places $in 750ml, $ in Magnum - Once again, go for it, and thank me later!!! Mags will be epic in a decade or two!!
“Vivid purple. A highly perfumed bouquet evokes ripe dark berries, allspice and potpourri, backed by smoky mineral and licorice notes. Concentrated, expansive blackberry and bitter cherry flavors become spicier and livelier with air, picking up a minerally nuance that adds back-end cut. Sappy and alluringly sweet on the strikingly long, fruit-driven finish, which shows excellent intensity and broad, velvety tannins. This bottling has become more refined in recent years and has been showing much more fruit-forward appeal than it did a decade ago.” 94 points Josh Raynolds
2014 Coteaux du Lyonnais les Traboules $16 - 19 bottles in stock
“(aged in all stainless steel): Pale red. Zesty red berry, candied rose and mineral aromas show very good clarity. Clean and racy, offering the weight of a white wine but real depth; juicy strawberry and blood orange flavors show a touch of white pepper. Closes spicy and tight, with seemingly no tannins and very good, taut persistence. I could drink a magnum of this wine in nothing flat and without help…” 90 points Josh Raynolds
2010 Côte Rôtie la Petite Feuille $39 - 5 bottles in stock
“Vivid ruby. Raspberry and violet on the highly perfumed nose. Takes a darker turn on the palate, offering black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors and a smoky herbal nuance. Shows a more serious side than it did from barrel. Closes sweet, smoky and long, with a powerful jolt of cherry-cola and gentle tannic grip.” 91 points Josh Raynolds
2010 Côte Rôtie Cuvée Classique $55 - 8 bottles in stock
“Dark ruby. Aromas and flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry and candied flowers, with a bright mineral overtone. Shows very good energy and picks up spiciness with air. Lithe and precise, with excellent finishing clarity and slow-mounting tannins.” 92 points Josh Raynolds
I can’t quite explain why these guys have flown under the radar for so long. Their work ethic is legendary, as is their Grandes Places bottling, and they continue to quietly get better and better…consider the lack of hype to your benefit!
Pre-arrival wines are offered during a one week presell, after which pricing will rise 10-15%; pre-arrival wines are to arrive in May '16. In stock goodies are offered on a first come, first served basis. Upon confirmation, payment due in full via check/Friends an d Family Paypal/CC+%
As always, with any questions or interests: email@example.com
CHEERS TO GUILLAUME, CARRYING THE YOLK FORWARD FOR THESE SUPERLATIVE VIGNERONS DE VERENAY!!