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stirring the lees with james molesworth

Introducing Château de Montfaucon

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 26, 2009 11:01am ET

This is sort of a belated introduction for this domaine: Château de Montfaucon has actually been producing wines and exporting to the U.S. market since the 1995 vintage, but distribution here has been limited at best. The property was just picked up by a large N.Y.-based wholesaler, however, so its profile should be a bit more prominent going forward.

I caught up with owner and winemaker Rodolphe des Pins on Day 7 of my recent Rhône trip, while tasting at Château de St.-Cosme with Louis Barruol—the two are good friends.

Des Pins, who has a rust-colored mustache and lamb chop sideburns, picked up a touch of Aussie twang to his English while working for Henschke during one harvest. He returned to the family estate and began bottling the production himself. Previously his father had been selling the grapes to the local cooperative.

The 100-acre estate includes 45 hectares of vines, mostly in the Côtes du Rhône AOC just north of and across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Though he has a few parcels in the neighboring Lirac appellation, he prefers to bottle all of his wines under the Côtes du Rhône or Vin de Pays du Gard designation.

“Lirac is well-known enough, and while there are some good wines there, I feel the appellation lacks some finesse,” said des Pins regarding declassifying his Lirac vines.

Des Pins works organically and since taking over the estate has increased the vineyards from 18 hectares to the their current total. Production now stands at 40,000 bottles annually with 10 percent earmarked for the U.S. marketplace.

The Côtes du Rhône 2007 is a blend of 50 percent Grenache along with Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan. The varieties are co-fermented in cement vat and then aged in cement for 18 months before bottling. The result is a racy, stylish wine with a lovely iron streak and lots of pastis, violet and blackberry notes. The Côtes du Rhône Baron Louis 2007 is a blend of 40 percent Grenache along with Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Counoise, also co-fermented in cement vats, but then aged partially in used oak barrels. The wine is lively and tangy, with mixed red and dark berry fruit, violet and lavender notes supported by a long, graphite-tinged finish.

A new cuvée will be introduced in the 2007 vintage, the Vin de Pays du Gard Vin de Mr. Le Baron de Montfaucon 2007. The wine approximates a blend of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, using 10 red varieties and five white grapes all co-fermented together in vat, before aging for 12 months in new oak.

“I love the taste of wood, but it has to be in balance,” said des Pins.

The wine exudes a violet aroma and drinks like a young Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with lots of fig, pastis and boysenberry notes layered with iron and black tea notes. The texture is very creamy and the finish very long.

 
As impressive as the wine is, the label is equally suave, resurrecting an ancient label of the estate, which traces its winemaking history back to the 16th century (the estate’s castle was first built in the 11th century).

There is a small amount of white wine produced here as well. The Côtes du Rhône White Comtesse Madeleine 2008 is a barrel-fermented blend of Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc and Picpoul that displays beautifully pure citrus peel, heather and white peach notes with a long, creamy (but minerally) finish.

Des Pins' terroir may not be as lofty in stature as some other spots in the Southern Rhône, but the wines are seriously good. The 2007 reds and 2008 white will be released later this year—all are potentially outstanding, with the Côtes du Rhône bottlings offering excellent value (they retail for under $20). Official reviews on the bottled and recently released 2006 reds and '07 whites will appear in the very near future.

Pauline Decloedt
canada —  March 26, 2009 12:39pm ET
I have been enjoying Chateau de Montfaucon wines for some time now and a few of their wines are in my cellar. Both the Cotes du Rhone and the Baron Louis are terrific values (even in Canada). I am also going to be purchasing their white. I found out about this wine through HouseWine of Vancouver, B.C., a consulting firm, and has been available in Vancouver at private wine stores like Marquis and Dundarave for some time now. Its great to read your blog and go - wow, I've got that!!Pauline, Vancouver
James Molesworth
March 26, 2009 12:51pm ET
Pauline: Glad to hear it.

The wines age nicely too, if you've haven't hung on to previous vintages. I tried both the '00 and '98 Baron Louis red with des Pins and both were holding up nicely...
Pauline Decloedt
canada —  March 26, 2009 2:48pm ET
James, Only have the '05 Montfaucon left - but will cellar.Just picked up Chateau St. Cosme 2004 St. Joseph on sale - and Allain Graillot 2006 Crozes - have you tried these?Pauline, Vancouver
James Molesworth
March 26, 2009 3:01pm ET
Pauline: Yes, I have reviewed both of those wines. You can reference them through our on-line database.
Federico Rossi
rome italy —  March 27, 2009 11:32am ET
James, on a wider subject... did you have time to taste Vieux telegraphe 2007 CdP?? Is it really so good like people say? I have 6 boxes of 2005 in my cellar, and I am wondering whether to add more. Thanks, Federico Rome
James Molesworth
March 27, 2009 11:39am ET
Federico: I reported on the '06 and '07 wines from Daniel Brunier during my visit there in June of '08 - you can reference the blog entry here:

http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Blogs/Blog_Detail/0,,1936,00%20en-USS_0FSCC.html

As usual, formal reviews on the '07s will be based on tasting bottled wines, blind, here at the New York office. Vieux Tele tends to release a little later than other domaines...
Federico Rossi
rome italy —  March 28, 2009 8:38am ET
Thank you James. Would you recommend this wine? I mean I know you reviewed it very favourably many times, but would you make it the center of your CdP cellar? Adding other 5 cases of 2007 would take all the room I have down there for this kind of mine, and a large part of my budget... although I pay it 30 euros a bottle, and if it rewards cellaring like you write it is a value hard to beat! Thanks, Federico
James Molesworth
March 30, 2009 9:27am ET
Federico: I can only give you my opinion on the quality. The buying decision is totally up to you...
Kyle Strand
April 22, 2009 5:42pm ET
Recently purchased the '98 and thought it was delicious - very balanced. Probably not going to get any better.

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