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stirring the lees with james molesworth

A Ghost Wine, Great Condrieu and More Côte-Rôtie

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 7, 2006 5:30pm ET

All this Côte-Rôtie is hard work. So I started my last day in Ampuis with a visit to some white wine producers—Château-Grillet and André Perret.

Château-Grillet is a bit of a ghost wine. A property that is its own appellation (à la Romanée-Conti or Coulée de Serrant), it sits in a perfect spot in the heart of Condrieu, with ideal exposure and fine-grained, sandy, granite soils that every vigneron in the appellation drools over. But the wine has all but disappeared from the U.S. market. (Only about 1,000 cases a year are produced as it is.)

The current owner, Isabelle Baratin, has renovated the small château on the site, and has been working with Bordeaux-based enologist Denis Dubourdieu for a few years now. The last vintage I reviewed officially was the 2001, and the ’04 is now current. It’s bright, with fine minerality, but comes across as ephemeral, and would be easily overshadowed in a group of other top Condrieu. Of course, technically speaking, it’s not a Condrieu, but a Château-Grillet, so in some respects, it answers to its own standard. More on this after I get back to New York.

Meanwhile just down the road at André Perret, some of the best Condrieu are (very quietly) being made. Another look at the ’04s easily confirmed their outstanding quality, while the ’05s show muscle and power. The reds here are serious too—two cuvées of St.-Joseph that merit hunting down—but wait for the ’05s.

After that, it was back to Syrah, with stops at Jean-Michel Stephan and Stéphane Ogier. Stephan is a really tiny estate, with three cuvées of Côte-Rôtie that are dramatically different. Stephan has a new importer now, after being out of the market for a little while, so you should be able to track some down.

At Ogier, Stéphane has taken over from his father, Michel, and is making plush, smoky, fleshy, modern-styled Côte-Rôties. The ’05s he has sitting in barrel right now look tremendous.

A fairly decent night’s sleep (I hope) tonight, and then I make the easy two-hour drive down to a little place called Châteauneuf-du-Pape tomorrow. I thought I’d drop in on a few folks to see how the southern ’05s are coming along. I typically make my official visit to CdP in March, but the last time I was there, ’05 was looking so good, I decided to peel away from the north on this trip for another peek at some of them. So, more later ....

I hope to find the time to stop in for dinner at La Beaugravière as well, the truffle temple of chef Guy Julien. (The wine cellar isn't bad either.) We need to try and move the truffle meter needle a bit more!

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