I've traded in large plateaus of Cabernet and Merlot for steep hillsides of Syrah and Viognier—now that I've finished up in Bordeaux to taste the 2010 vintage, it's time for my annual run through the Northern Rhône.
On this trip, I'll be focusing on the 2009s as well as some 2010s. I was here just about the same time last year when I got my first peek at the wines from '09, which is looking to be the Northern Rhône's best vintage since '05 for sure, if not '90. The reds are powerful—tannic yet ripe—and the good news for consumers is that yields were in the normal range. It's a rare vintage of both quality and quantity. The whites are also strong, though perhaps not as fresh and delineated as the great '06s.
Meanwhile, the early buzz on '10 is that it's another vintage of excellent quality, though this time with some of the lowest yields on record, thanks to a cool spring that hampered the flowering, followed by a hot and dry growing season. You can reference my harvest reports on '09 as well as 2010 and see the current Northern Rhône vintage chart as well.
I'll be posting my general impressions on the wines I taste at several domaines I typically visit, such as E. Guigal, Georges Vernay, J.-L. Chave, M. Chapoutier, Jean-Michel Gerin and more, plus there will be a few new faces. I'll be starting in Condrieu and Côte-Rôtie, before slowly working my way down to Hermitage, Crozes, St.-Joseph and Cornas. As usual, I won't list scores for these wines, as they are not tasted blind. As always, I'll follow up on the wines via official blind tastings of bottled samples in my New York office as the bulk of the wines arrive in the U.S. market now through the fall.
During this trip, I also take a break from visits one day to taste through a horizontal of Côte-Rôties from the 2001 vintage, to see how the wines have evolved (you can reference my 1999 Côte-Rôtie retrospective).
If you're planning to make a visit to the Northern Rhône, you might want to reference my brief notes on a few dining spots from my last trip, which also links back to more notes on additional restaurants from previous trips.
First things first though. I need to hydrate with a few large bottles of Evian and then get a good night's sleep to try and break the jetlag. I start bright and early in the morning in Condrieu, with a full day planned …. I hope you'll follow along.
Jay R Tolloti — Dover, OH, USA — April 14, 2011 10:30pm ET
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