Though she doesn’t come to the U.S. as often as she did during her heyday running Pauillac’s famed Château Pichon Longueville Lalande, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, who twice lived in Kansas when her husband, a French military officer, was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, still loves it when she does visit. "We were in the middle of the country, but far from everything," said de Lencquesaing, who stopped by the Wine Spectator office today. "So we traveled when we could, often to Napa to visit wineries." Her love of wine paid dividends when de Lencquesaing was eventually asked by her family to return to France and run the Bordeaux property, starting in 1978.
I had a few winemakers come through the office the week before last, on their way to pour their wines at Wine Spectator's 2011 Grand Tour, which stopped in Chicago, Las Vegas and Boston this year. I sat down separately with both Chile's Adolfo Hurtado, winemaker at Viña Cono Sur, and South Africa's Neil Patterson of L'Ormarins.
Domaine de Clairefontaine sits like an oasis, tucked up in the hilltop hamlet of Chonas l’Ambellan on the eastern side of the Rhône River. Just a short 10-minute drive from Ampuis, the heart of Côte-Rôtie in the Northern Rhône, Clairefontaine is the perfect base camp for staying in the area when touring the wineries and vineyards. Family owned and run, Clairefontaine has history, but is also about to undergo big changes.
I sat down with Nicole Rolet here at my New York office the other day to get introduced to one of the Rhône's newest projects, Chêne Bleu.
Rolet is working with her husband, Xavier, to bring back an ancient estate tucked on the northern side of the Ventoux, just east of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains that define the appellation of Gigondas. Xavier found the property in 1993, before the couple was married. Now, after more than 15 years renovating the vineyards and building a new winery facility, the Rolets have released their first wines, from the 2006 vintage.
After tasting through the 2009s and 2010s at numerous domains during my recent trip through the Northern Rhône Valley, lovers of these wines will have a lot to choose from. Both are excellent years, though markedly different in style. And both are potentially classic. Here are my notes.
On my eighth and last day in France's Northern Rhône Valley, I stopped in the heart of the Crozes-Hermitage at two of the area’s most prominent family-run estates, Alain Graillot / Equis and Gilles Robin. Here are my notes on their most recent bottlings.
On my eighth day in France's Northern Rhône Valley, I began at one of Hermitage's top domaines. Jean-Louis Chave carries the weight of his family’s generations working the famed hill of Hermitage. He sees his role as caretaker, protector. For Chave, Hermitage is already defined—there is nothing he can do to improve or change it. He can only make sure it expresses itself in his wine, in the best way possible, with each ensuing vintage.
But across the river, in the St.-Joseph appellation, Chave is building, changing, evolving. Following are my notes on his wines from the 2009 and 2010 vintage.
This continues my notes on tastings and visits during Day 7 of my current trip through the Northern Rhône. After visiting Alain Voge, Pierre-Henri Morel and Ferraton Père & Fils, I headed to M. Chapoutier to taste the most recent vintages. Here are my notes.