I'm off to Châteauneuf-du-Pape again. Marvin was joking with me yesterday that he should put travel restrictions on me, as I seem to be in the Rhône a lot these days. It does seem like I was just there: My last trip was back in November, and I focused primarily on the 2005s from the northern end of the valley (big, tannic wines that will need cellaring).
This time it's Châteauneuf-du-Pape only. I know, you're probably wondering why I'm going when truffles are not in season. Normally I hit Châteauneuf-du-Pape in March, but this past March I spent over two weeks in South Africa's winelands instead. I just had to, I tell you.
In any event, I've tasted the '05 Châteauneuf-du-Papes a few times at several domaines, but have held off on any grand pronouncements. My gut tells me it's a powerhouse vintage, but I wanted to taste the wines one more time over there before I dive into blind tastings of the finished wines here in the office. (All of Wine Spectator's official reviews are generated from blind tastings.)
I'll be visiting around 20 of the appellation's top domaines in just five days, and I'll try to squeeze in a few new faces as well. I've also set aside a day to taste a horizontal of about three dozen '98s, a great vintage that's just now coming out of its closed phase. It should make for a great baseline to compare the young '05s with, though the vintages are rather different in style ('98 is an opulent, Grenache-driven year, while '05 is more of a classically structured vintage, with all of the varieties performing well).
Check back here over the next week to see where I've been, and let's hope the weather is good. The Southern Rhône in early June can be tough :) …