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.