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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Day 10: One More Stop in Crozes

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 13, 2007 11:59am ET

Domaine Combier is now run by Laurent Combier, a third-generation vigneron. His grandfather started with a few vines along with apricot trees, and when the canal at Roche-de-Glun opened in the early '60s, he crossed the river to expand his holdings. Following that period, Combier's father was at the helm and the domaine began a more formal transition from fruit farming to winegrowing. Eventually 7 hectares of vines fell to Laurent, who took over control of the domaine in the 1990 vintage.

Combier, 42, has since added additional vines and he now owns a total of 25 hectares, mostly in the Crozes-Hermitage appellation. The domaine produces over 12,000 cases per year, 90 percent of which is red. Several hundred cases come to the U.S., though distribution is unfortunately spotty. Combier is also partners with Jean-Michel Gerin and Peter Fischer in a Priorat project called Trio Infernal.

Located on the Route National 7, just a kilometer south of Paul Jaboulet Aîné's office, Combier produces two red Crozes-Hermitage bottlings. The old-vine parcels are fermented in stainless steel and moved to barrel for their malos, while young-vine parcels are fermented in cement tanks and then moved to cement eggs for their malos. The 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Laurent Combier is Combier’s new spring cuvée, a growing trend of vignerons in the area (such as Maxime Graillot, Domaine des Hauts Châssis and Gilles Robin). It’s sourced from 10-year-old vines and is bottled after just eight months and has forward floral, pepper and cherry notes. The 2006 Crozes-Hermitage, sourced from 25-year-old vines, is silky, with a nice edgy minerality, a touch of toast and a pure, floral finish. It's longer and finer, but not necessarily bigger than the spring cuvée. The top red is the 2006 Crozes-Hermitage Clos des Grives, sourced from a single walled parcel of 55-year-old vines, and it’s a noticeable step up, with dark aromas and flavors of fig sauce and espresso, but a silky, pure, black cherry-driven finish.

Combier also produces two white cuvées. The 2006 Crozes-Hermitage White is a blend of 80 percent Marsanne with Roussanne, fermented in both steel tank and barrel before eventually being blended together. It offers lovely cream, melon and floral notes with a long, showy finish. The 2006 Crozes-Hermitage White Clos des Grives is 90 percent old-vine Marsanne from the same Clos des Grives parcel as the red, and it is fermented entirely in oak, 50 percent of which is new. It’s very stony up front, with persimmon and quince notes, before turning creamy on the finish, with a lingering hint of papaya. Both whites are outstanding.

This is a very solid domaine run by a quality-oriented vigneron. It’s a shame the wines don’t have more of a presence in the U.S. market.

Christopher Livingstone
Montreal —  November 13, 2007 1:08pm ET
James, I was looking at the Rh¿ne tasting highlights in this months issue and noticed that nothing came out of Paul Coulon's Domaine... What is happening there... Was simply ignored this year or was it a mistake?
James Molesworth
November 13, 2007 1:14pm ET
Christopher: If you're referring to the tasting report in the Nov. 30 issue, correct, there are only three wines from Domaine de Beaurenard listed.

I have covered their '05s in previous web stories (see Cellar Notes) but am still waiting for samples here in NY, as all official reviews are generated from blind tastings of finished, bottled wines.
Sean Barry
brooklyn, ny —  November 13, 2007 2:23pm ET
James,Thanks for the marvelous postings. It's great for those of us who consider ourselves "passionnes" of the Rhone wines to have the opportunity to learn a bit more about their makers. And you're absolutely right about the woeful unavailability of Combier's wines, particularly the whites. Let's hope some well-earned praise helps remedy that somewhat. A tantot!
Andrew Miner
November 13, 2007 7:07pm ET
James, Thanks for all the great info on 2005. I am hoarding as many as possible. Any ETA on when you'll receive tasting samples on Beaucastel and Telegraphe? They finaly arrived in the market and it's always nice to hear about the goodies sitting in the cellar.
James Molesworth
November 14, 2007 9:09am ET
Andrew: Those wines are due to arrive imminently...
Kelly Walker
Charlotte —  November 14, 2007 11:35am ET
James,The Grand Jury Europeen just completed a tasting of 35 top 2001 syrahs from around the world (including SQN, Guigal La Turque, etc) and the Combier Clos de Grives ranked 6th overall. Great juice.

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