After tasting through the complete lineup of wines from Michel Chapoutier and his associated labels today, I moved on to the wines of Ferraton Père & Fils.
Damien Brisset has taken over for the departed Gregory Viennois at Ferraton Père & Fils as winemaker. The estate is kept separate from M. Chapoutier.
The négociant side of the winery starts with the 2010 Côtes du Rhône Samorëns (Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault) is a pure, unadorned expression of plum, pastis and warm stones with a nicely defined finish. It's a touch more exuberant in style than the Belleruche from Chapoutier, in comparison. The 2010 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignane) delivers mouthfilling licorice and dark plum flavors with a light, tarry coating on the finish. The 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Parvis is bold and juicy, with lots of anise, briar and blackberry, and a lively peppery edge checking in on the finish. It has a nice balance between muscle and sinew and will age nicely in the shorter-term.
The 2010 Côte-Rôtie L'Eglantine (all négoce fruit from three different lieux-dits including Viallière and Champon) is sappy and inviting, with lots of blackberry and black currant notes, ripe, macerated black olive and a light pastis shading through the solid, gutsy finish. The 2010 Côte-Rôtie Montmain (sourced from the lieu-dit of the same name) debuts this year, with very vivid loganberry and crushed plum fruit, light violet and white pepper notes and a long, graphite-filled finish that has excellent intensity.
The Cornas lineup here is sneaky good, starting with the 2010 Cornas Les Grands Mûriers. Sourced from the Le Patou and Les Eygats lieux-dits, it has an intense, sappy feel to the blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry fruit, which is in turn quickly harnessed by sweet tapenade and tobacco notes on the grippy finish. The single-parcel bottling 2010 Cornas Patou is grippy from the start, with lots of briar, black pepper, sweet tobacco and crushed blackberry and boysenberry fruit all backed by a very intense graphite-filled finish. The other single-parcel bottling is the 2010 Cornas Les Eygats, which shows a chalkier, leaner profile, with bracing damson plum, red currant and cherry pit notes and a sweet tapenade- and savory herb–filled finish. It's the most old school of the three Cornas bottlings, though all show updated fruit and texture overall.
In its second vintage, 2010 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pichères is ripe and muscular, with cocoa and dark currant fruit, and a long, smoldering, loam-tinged finish that has nice underlying cut despite its hefty feel. The 2010 Crozes-Ermitage Le Grand Courtil is a rich but wonderfully polished display of plum and boysenberry fruit, with cherry eau de vie, a hint of spiced cocoa and a lingering anise note.
From estate fruit (Ferraton owns 43 acres of vines total in the Northern Rhône), the 2010 St.-Joseph La Source delivers a nice jet stream of blackberry and crushed plum fruit, with mulled spice and singed apple wood notes along the edges and ample charcoal grip on the finish. The 2010 St.-Joseph Lieu-Dit Paradis is a more powerful style of St.-Joseph, with dark plum and fleshy ganache notes, and a hefty, mocha-filled finish. The 2010 St.-Joseph Lieu-Dit St.-Joseph is a more classic, floral-led style, with a violet note followed quickly by a torrent of cassis, dark fig and pastis, offset by a iron hint on the finish. It shows more length and cut than the Paradis.
The 2010 Hermitage Les Miaux blends fruit from Dionnières and Méal lieux-dits, and shows a noticeable loamy edge, along with singed chestnut leaf, black currant and tar notes. It's slightly rustic in feel, with ample length and drive. The 2010 Ermitage Les Dionnières has a good tarry spine but relies more on succulent plum and blackberry fruit and more polished structure than the 2010 Ermitage Le Méal, which is chewier in feel but also has more depth overall, with a broader range of plum, blackberry and loganberry fruit backed by invigorating briar and anise.
Nothing is yet finished from the 2011 vintage, and it showed in the wines. Though I found many 2011 reds to be inviting and well-defined already, the set of 2011 reds at Ferraton was far more backward and awkward. This is not at all problematic—wine is a living thing and even the same wine can show differently from day to day. When tasting young barrel samples, it's important to look at the pieces more so than the whole. Length is also more important than overall harmony at this stage of the game.
Starting with the 2011 Côtes du Rhône Samorëns, the wine shows a tight, stony cloak over the succulent plum and cherry fruit notes. It has ample weight and should be another very solid value when finished and bottled. The 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Le Parvis is lighter than the 2010, with mesquite, tea, red cherry and steeped red currant fruit that has already started to knit together. It looks to be a relatively earlier-maturing wine.
The 2011 Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière is well-endowed for the vintage, with surprisingly lush plum, blackberry and black cherry fruit woven together, laced with violet and cocoa notes. It's very enticing already, like many 2011s, though obviously has a way to go until finished. In contrast, the 2011 Crozes-Hermitage Les Pichères is very primal, with still slightly sweet plum and blackberry confiture notes and toasted spice. It's rather unformed today, though the fruit is lush and ample. The 2011 Crozes-Ermitage Le Grand Courtil is also youthfully raw and undefined, with a blast of anise and plum and a violet note on the finish, but a firm edge underneath that has yet to meld.
The 2011 St.-Joseph La Source shows lots of plum skin and black cherry jam notes, with a mesquite note sitting on the back end, but it's not yet integrated. The 2011 St.-Joseph Paradis is still quite raw, with a bread dough note sitting atop the damson plum and black cherry fruit. The 2011 St.-Joseph Lieu-Dit St.-Joseph is also still coming together, but shows a wider range of damson plum, anise, blackberry, mesquite and incense, along with more stuffing and length on the finish.
The 2011 Côte-Rôtie L'Eglantine is much better-defined and more closely knit than the St.-Josephs, with bay leaf, sage, steeped black currant and black cherry notes all laid over a licorice snap edge on the finish. But then the 2011 Côte-Rôtie Montmain returns to a slightly disjointed phase, with a chalky edge sitting apart from the blackberry and bay leaf notes. It's sleek and long, but still needs to knit in the middle.
The 2011 Cornas Les Grands Mûriers is sleek and well-knit though, with a polished edge already and deliciously pure boysenberry and bitter cherry notes, laced with bay leaf and dark olive. A chalky spine weaves through the finish but it's subtle and restrained. The 2011 Cornas Patou is very lively, with mouthwatering chalk and iron along side bright, high-toned cherry, red currant and rose petal notes. The 2011 Cornas Les Eygats is very raw though, with a milky edge to the cassis and blackberry fruit, and a slightly gushy edge to the anise note which holds sway on the finish. It's well-stuffed and has length, but is a ways off from knitting together fully. Nonetheless, once again these three Cornas bottlings are among the starts of the lineup. I am a big fan of the wines from A. Clape and Mattieu Barret at Domaine du Coulet, for example. But there is more to Cornas than the names you may already know—don't pass these by if you like Cornas.
The 2011 Hermitage Les Miaux is very shut today, with cherry pit and damson plum notes and an iron twang on the finish. Its midpalate seems a bit distant today but the length is there: A better indicator of potential when tasting barrel samples. The 2011 Ermitage Les Dionnières is showing more, with dark cocoa, espresso and loam notes and a nice muscular core of steeped black currant and plum that is already melding nicely. The 2011 Ermitage Le Méal shows a light, milky whiff, though, with edgy loganberry and briar notes and a flash of red currant through the finish, as it seems youthfully awkward today. Once again the acidity is finely beaded, and there's excellent length, so it seems a matter of time for this to knit fully.
The 2011 Côtes du Rhône White Samorëns (Grenache Blanc and Clairette) is very floral and fresh, with verbena and white peach notes and a lightly stony finish that holds your interest despite the gentle overall frame. The 2011 Crozes-Hermitage White La Matinière (Marsanne with 5 percent Roussanne just in this vintage) has excellent cut, with bitter almond, lime and verbena notes, along with flashes of tarragon and melon rind on the finish. The 2011 St.-Péray Le Mialan (90/10 Marsanne and Roussanne) is a light-bodied but friendly, creamy style, with pear, green almond and green fig notes and a pure, unadorned finish. The 2011 St.-Joseph White La Source is a touch edgy still, with verbena, lime and fennel frond notes leading the way, waiting for the plump white peach and melon to fill out and catch up. The 2011 St.-Joseph White Les Oliviers is intense, with a solid beam of pear skin, green apple and green melon fruit dominant for now, while hints of honeysuckle and salted butter check in on the finish, which should fill out nicely with modest cellaring of two to three years.
The 2011 Hermitage White Les Miaux is rather lush and inviting, with mango, papaya, fig and pear flavors nicely melded already, along with fresh butter and brioche notes on the finish. The 2011 Ermitage White Le Reverdy is easily the biggest white in the 2011 lineup, with lush creamed melon and mango notes, and a long, honey-drizzled bee's wax finish that is succulent and enticing. The 2011 Condrieu Les Mandouls is bold but pure, with a blast of kaffir lime and anise, but a sleek, stone-tinged finish, where echoes of pear eau de vie and green apple granité fill in.
You can follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions