The last two days I have been in Côte-Rôtie and Condrieu, with a few more days still to come.
The 2005 reds are superb young wines, with big tannins and lots of ripe fruit. It’s going to be a great vintage for cellaring. The ’05 Northern Rhône whites are more compact, without the fresh and beautiful aromas of the ’04s, and these seem built for the cellar as well, although I normally prefer the region's whites young.
Both Georges Vernay in Condrieu and Jean-Michel Gerin in Côte-Rôtie turned in excellent performances in ’05. I also tasted the lastest wine from Yves Gangloff, a very small producer whose Côte-Rôties are really dynamic—lots of smoky fruit and black tea notes, with great power and finesse.
In addition, I've been tasting through the last releases from the ’04s. The best reds have put on weight, and show fresh minerality and acidity. It’s a very good vintage at the top end, so don’t overlook your favorite producers. There is a lot of variation in ’04 though, with hard, green tannins and tart acidity in the weaker reds, so beware. The whites continue to show beautifully, with pure, floral bouquets, loads of melon, acacia, lime, fig and peach flavors, and long, crystalline finishes.
If you’re unfamiliar with the whites of the Northern Rhône, the ’04s are a great place to start. And for value, look for St.-Péray, a small appellation that produces Marsanne from limestone soils (as opposed to the granite of Condrieu and Hermitage). The wines are fresh and accessible, and usually go for $20 or less.
On Sunday, while you were just opening the paper, I was deep into my day with Vins de Vienne partners Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard and François Villard—the three musketeers of Condrieu. Part of me could have gone for a turkey club sandwich and some chips in front of the TV to watch my Jets. But that part isn’t in control right now ….