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stirring the lees with james molesworth

From Condrieu to CdP

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Nov 8, 2006 11:43am ET

I left Condrieu and drove down south this morning to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The drive is a bit of a drag—a little less than two hours and no vineyards from Valence until you hit CdP itself. You know you’re close though when you see Mornas, the ruins of a rugged, 11th-century castle that sit atop a striking white cliff face. You exit at Orange sud, shoot down the N7 for 10 minutes to Bédarrides and a couple of quick turns and you’re at Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe.

There I caught up with Daniel Brunier, who’s putting the finishing touches on his renovated wineries at La Roquète in CdP, and at his Gigondas estate, Les Pallières. We tasted a few ‘06 whites from barrel—no malos yet—but lots of raw material. As for the ’05 reds, they’ve been blended and are about to be racked as they head into the second year of élevage.

The ’05 Vieux Télé is tannic and tight, but shows the estate’s typical gravel, pepper and garrigue notes. The wines from La Roquète, both the regular and the new parcel selection cuvée called L’Accent are also potentially outstanding, with brighter red plum and currant fruit and a sappier, racier feel as opposed to the elegant rusticity of Vieux Télé.

As for the just-released ’04 Vieux Télé, it’s an excellent performance, and one that could possibly top the ’03—rare for most CdP estates. I think it’s probably because Vieux Télé is one cuvée, making the wine very consistent from year to year, and less susceptible to extreme vintages like ’03. My samples should be waiting for me at the office, so I can get an official review from a blind tasting soon after I get back.

Despite the morning drive and tasting at Vieux Télé I was still feeling energetic, so I dropped in on Isabel Ferrando at Domaine St.-Préfert. She’s added another hectare of vines—she tries to buy a little each year, though she doesn’t want to get too big. Talk about good timing—I was able to taste a vat of ’06 Charles Giraud which had finished its malo only yesterday. Great color and length.

As for the ‘05s, they are another set of terrific wines in the making. I preferred the Charles Giraud in ’05, as I did in ’03 (though in ’04 I thought the Auguste Favier cuvée was the better of the two). The Favier shows lots of silky plum and currant fruit, while the Charles Giraud pumps out fruit, structure and mineral notes. Ferrando's other domaine sources its Colombis cuvée from the sandy soils in the Colombis parcel. The ’05 is really rich and powerful, with more structure than the debut ’04. Each time I taste here, I’m amazed at how good the wines are in such a short time. Kudos to Isabel Ferrando.

Tonight it’s dinner at La Beaugravière, where there's a wine list loaded with older CdP at reasonable prices ....

James Molesworth
November 9, 2006 2:45am ET
Finally, I moved the truffle meter way up. Not quite on Full, but close. For an aperitif, I had a large truffle, sliced, and served on lightly toasted bread. A few grains of fler de sel and a drop of olive oil on each...

Then dinner at La Beaugraviere was a pave de boeuf, topped with a mound of chopped black truffles. Ideal with a bottle of '98 Rayas...
Valentin Gasser
Zurich, Switzerland —  November 12, 2006 4:13pm ET
You are a lucky guy. That is what comes sponteously into my mind. Enjoy or bon appetit!

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