TN: '91 Dervieux-Thaize & Guigal CR, '90 Chave blanc, '94 Clape

I was in California last week, catching up with old friends, who generously pulled out old Northern Rhones on three occasions. What a treat!

First up was a '91 Dervieux-Thaize Cote Rotie - La Vialliere over lunch at a friend’s house in Los Altos. I’ve had way more disappointments than highs with Cote Rotie in recent years. Apart from the '10 Levet La Cavaroche I tried (and then bought) a year and a half ago, the CRs I’ve had from 1998 forward (Guigal, Burgaud, Champet, Jasmin) have each come up a bit short – in aromatics, depth, complexity or some combination.

The D-T delivered, in spades. This showed the quality of the '91 vintage in CR (overlooked by some), with deep plums and a trace of blueberries on the nose, and perhaps a shade still of reduction. Lush and silky in the mouth, with ripe plum fruit, but with just enough mature tannin and some acid to it was refreshing. Popped, decanted and poured. Singing from beginning to end. 94-ish. (Albert Dervieux-Thaize was a relative of Rene Rostaing – father in law? – and Rostaing inherited the vineyards in the 90s, as I recall.)

A spread of meats, cheese and bread from Dittmer’s Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus in Los Gatos (which I’d never heard of) was fabulous and a great match for the wine.

As the conversation unfolded, we found our glasses empty and my friend went to the cellar for a '90 Chave Hermitage blanc. My, what a pleasure! I have to say that I’ve often preferred Chave’s whites to the reds. This one was fabulous – oily and rich and ripe, but with good acidity so it wasn’t flabby in any way. Lots of honeysuckle here. This was even a slightly better match for the Dittmer’s spread. In the same neighborhood points wise – 93.7-ish.

A week later at dinner at Perbacco in San Francisco another friend brought a '91 Guigal CR - Cotes Brune & Blonde. Popped, decanted and poured again. This, too, recalled the CR’s of old, with just a tad less depth than the Dervieux-Thaize. Just a pleasure, and a great pairing with agnolotti del plin in a meat reduction. Just a slight step down from the D-T overall. 92.6-ish.

In between, sometime WBer Claude Kolm served a magnum of '94 Clape Cornas with a dinner of Patricia Wells’s Provencal beef daube. Lovely, fragrant, classic nose of plums and blueberries. Thinning a tad in the mouth, so we agreed it would have been better five years ago. The acid was in the foreground, which surprised me since I owned a number of 750s of this and they always seemed plush and a little low on acid to me. Claude’s bottle would have come from Kermit Lynch while mine was bought on the East Coast, so they were likely different barrels.

In any event, this is really quibbling, because it still was a fine wine. I’d say 91.1-ish.
Rhones at Los Altos.jpg

John, who (in their right mind) would overlook 1991 Cote Rotie? I can’t think of a better vintage between 1978 and (now?).

John, the 1991 La Viaillere was indeed made by René Rostaing, his 1st vintage of this wine … only 1991/94/95/96 produced, then added to the “classic” CR …

That’s because you’re savvy and well-informed. neener

Because '91 was not as strong as '90 in Hermitage, some people overlooked CR a bit in '91 in the early years. After all, few vintage charts distinguish within Northern Rhone, and '90 was a strong year in so many places that it was easy to remember it.

I just checked the second edition of Parker’s Rhone book (1997), and he says that he had a slight preference for the '91s in CR when he first tasted, but most producers leaned toward '90. By the time the book came out, he believed that '91 was more consistent and better.

I had forgotten that the hand-off was that early. (Parker, in his book, says that Rostaing took control of the vineyards in 1990.)

Some La Vialliere bottled by Rostaing had the old D-T labels with Rostaing’s name overprinted. This one didn’t, so I assumed that M. Dervieux-Thaize was till making it. I guess I was wrong.

FYI, here’s a picture of Albert Dervieux-Thaize (left) with Claude Kolm, taken during a visit in 1988. I remember that we crossed the road after he bid us adieu, then heard him calling “Messieurs!” as we approached our car. He ran across the highway wielding a bottle by the neck in each hand, and seemed apologetic for not giving us these before we left. He was a very warm and gracious man.
A Dervieux-Thaize 1988.JPG

That is a pretty awesome set of wines.

Hey, Claude looks like a young Chevy Chase!